Behind the Veil: A Look Inside HAUNTED

Come with me into Tansky House, where I’ll give you a behind-the-scenes peek at the world and inspiration for the book. Reader Beware: SPOILERS follow!

First, let’s judge a book by its cover. The house on the cover art was inspired by the historic Carson mansion in California, which Wikipedia calls, “the most grand Victorian home in America.” I knew I wanted Queen Anne style architecture for my story, and the house has already served as inspiration for several haunted house digital models, so it fit my needs perfectly.

But what about the interior?

This piece of inspiration came from another real-life source: a house listed for sale, that had a secret jail hiding inside its walls. A former sheriff’s residence, now an inconspicuous single family home.

You’ll notice that kitchen door looks very familiar…

As for the events of the story itself? Well, at the start of the book, it’s claimed that “the following horrors are inspired by true events.” While this is an overt nod to horror films where even the most outlandish story is claimed to be true, it’s also not a lie…

Many of the events in the book are taken straight from the headlines.

For example: the man who found a woman living in a crawlspace in his celling.

In addition to story moments ripped from the headlines, I binged horror movies, books, and television shows. The one that left the most profound mark on my own story has to be the one that arguably started it all: The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson.

The Haunting of Hill House was my favorite read while I was researching and diving deep into haunted house stories. It’s safe to say, part of what I loved was the ambiguity. You, as the reader, had to choose what to believe. Was the main character losing her mind? Was the house truly haunted? Or was she manifesting the paranormal herself?

On the whole, interactive stories let the reader choose what to believe while reading: and thus make different choices. There are many different possible explanations as to what’s happening inside the house for HAUNTED, and I left bread-crumbs for you to collect based on your own beliefs. I have my own version of events, as will you. I’m excited to hear what people think they’ve experienced while exploring Tansky House.

Have you gotten HAUNTED yet? Let me know your thoughts below. Haven’t jumped in yet? Consider this your official invitation to spend three nights in the most haunted house in America…if you dare!

-JS

Chillingly Good

This review of HAUNTED posted on the eve before my birthday was a lovely gift. You don’t have to write a review this thorough, but I’m sharing because I think it represents the book nicely.

Have you gotten HAUNTED yet? If so, reviews are most welcomed. If not…don’t wait until the afterlife!

https://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-reviews/R1C65T5GULFLTJ/ref=cm_cr_dp_d_rvw_ttl?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B09JL76H72

HAUNTED: Contest Time!

The conceit behind HAUNTED is a contest of sorts (“Can YOU spend three nights in a haunted house for $1M?”), so…why not a contest for the book launch?

I’ve printed five copies of this exclusive map of the severely haunted Tansky House. That’s all I’m making. I’m keeping one, I’m giving two away to friends who helped me create these maps, and I’m giving two away…to YOU!

Poster you can win!
Actual historical floor plan used for reference.

The contests are being run on social media; one poster given away to Twitter followers and one given away to Facebook fans. So, follow the Click Your Poison official Twitter account or go like the Facebook page to see the full rules on how to win.

Here’s what the poster will look like on your wall. Good luck, everyone!

Get HAUNTED!

3 Unique Storylines. Over 50 Possible Endings. Just one question… 
Can YOU be Scared… to Death?

You have been invited to join us in Tansky House:

Today’s the big day! HAUNTED is currently available to purchase in all formats.

Still need convincing? Check out this trailer on YouTube:

The most frightening day of the year isn’t Halloween. It isn’t Friday the 13th. The scariest day of the year, in fact, is today–because today is the day you enter… The House.

PS — There are soon to be other launch events, promos, and prizes. Make sure you join up on Facebook and Twitter so you don’t miss out.

Are you still here? What are you waiting for, the afterlife? Get HAUNTED today!

Infectious Laughter

People seem to be drawn to the humor in INFECTED. As such, I was asked to create a list of the funniest zombie novels by a new book discovery site called Shepherd.

So, I did.

You can check out my list, why I chose each book, and browse the site itself, here:
https://shepherd.com/best-books/drop-dead-hilarious-zombie-books

What do YOU think?

I mean, I know you think my book is the funniest on this list, but other than that.

What else do you think?

The Best Books of 2021 (JS List)

The Best Books of 2021 (according to author James Schannep)

Of course, this list is incredibly subjective, but these are the books that resonated with me in 2021. What were your favorite reads (or listens) of the year?


Best Debut

The Island of Dr Moreau by KJ Shadmand

The first book on this list comes from a teacher who grew up as a fan of interactive fiction and gamebooks. He blended his love of classic literature and branching path narratives to create this impressive first gamebook in what the author intends to be a series of reimagined classics focusing on the works of HG Wells.

Most Impressive

Dracula: Curse of the Vampire by Jonathan Green

This modern master also took inspiration from the classics to create a momentous accomplishment. Unlike the last entrant, Jonathan Green has been entrenched in the world of gamebooks for decades, and brings that expertise to bear in this impressive tome. Greatly expanding upon Bram Stokers mythos while gamifying the story and creating several playable narratives in one.

Best Graphic Novel

Captive by MC & Manuro

Published by Van Ryder Games, this is part of a series of interactive graphic novels. The navigation system is ingenious, and is so visually based, it’s no wonder it has been translated into several languages (it was originally written in French). I played this book with my wife and we made the choices together. Great fun.

Best Classic

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

While plotting and researching HAUNTED, I read and listened to myriad haunted house stories, but one stood out among the rest–a forerunner and standard-bear of this medium, and well deserving of its reputation. Part horror, part psychological drama, you’ll likely see inspiration pulled from Hill House should you choose to enter the Tansky House in HAUNTED.

Best Audiobook

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

Like most of the audio-listening world, I fell in love with Andy Weir’s The Martian narrated by R.C. Bray. I’m pleased to have partnered with this award-winning narrator for my new version of INFECTED and I’m also happy that Andy Weir has returned to survival space drama. I didn’t quite connect with Artemis as much as I’d have liked, but with Ray Porter narrating, it feels like Mark Watney is back in this new book.

Best Nonfiction

The Believing Brain by Michael Shermer

Another book I listened to while deeply immersed in ghost stories; I found Shermer’s insight into why we as humans believe what we believe incredibly useful. I’d add Carl Sagan’s The Demon Haunted World as an honorable mention in this category of books that highlight how thinking skeptically is actually a learned behavior, while being quick to believe comes naturally.

Best Bookish Podcast

Instadeath Survivors Support Group with Brian Hazzard

From neonate gamebook fan to expert interviewer, Brian Hazzard used the past year to dive deeply into the world of interactive fiction. He blends author interviews with playthroughs of branching-path books to bring a compelling podcast into this growing community. Yours truly is featured in an interview and it was a pleasure.


And that’s my list for 2021! But speaking of books… there’s still time to get signed and shipped Click Your Poison books before Christmas if you missed my Holiday Sign & Ship announcement. If you’re reading this blog post prior to December 20th, reach out to me and we’ll make it happen!

As always, thanks for reading. Let me know in the comments if you have any books that you fell in love with this year. Until next time, I remain…

Your author,

Holiday Sign & Ship ’21

Signed books for Christmas! Or any holiday. Or birthday. Or no special occasion; just because you want to buy something for that special someone (who could be you!). 

It has now been over two years since my last in-person book signing, and I miss you guys. But — that means my garden shed is overfull with paperbacks ready to be signed and shipped directly to your doorstep! This is my first major signing event since releasing SPIED, and likely your first chance to pick it up with personalized graffiti on the inside cover. Want me to scribble an encrypted message for you?

“On the sixth day of internet shopping, my true love gave to meeee….”

Shipping rates have gone up in recent years, so here’s the new deal: $25 flat rate for a signed book anywhere in the US. Shipping can be combined on any order above four books. Once you go above four titles, it becomes $20 per book. That means if you get five books, one is essentially free. Plus, if you do happen to order the whole series, I’m going to throw in a little something extra…

  • One book: $25
  • Two books: $50
  • Three books: $75
  • Four books: $100
  • Five books: $100
  • Six books: $120

Shipping rates are fairly obscene elsewhere in the world right now, but if you’re not put off by the thought that you might pay more for shipping than for the books themselves, feel free to contact me for an international quote.

What’s more, I still have some first editions of PATHOGENS, so if you act fast, you can choose your cover art. Or, if you’re a super collector like me, you can get both:

The only book I *can’t* offer to sign and ship to you is the new 10th Anniversary Deluxe Hardcover Edition of INFECTED. Unfortunately, hardback books are more expensive to produce, and I can’t get author copies the same way as paperbacks. But I do want to remind you that you can get it off Amazon, because (signed or not), this would make an amazing holiday gift.

That’s it for now. Want some signed books? Reach out to me on my contact page and we’ll make it happen.

Merry happy,

Hauntings, New & Olde

Happy Halloween! In this blog post, I’m going to give you an update on HAUNTED (a ghostly & ghastly Click Your Poison book), but first: an announcement.

I’ve been trying to crack audiobooks for the better part of ten years. AND I’VE FINALLY DONE IT. Look at this:

Partnering with award-winning narrator R.C. Bray (that’s his voice in the teaser) and the fantastic team at Cubus Games, I give you Click Your Poison: INFECTED. The first audiogamebook of its kind, designed for your smartphone.

It’s available now on iPhone/iPad and Android devices.

AppStore: https://apps.apple.com/us/app/click-your-poison-infected/id1590501949

GooglePlay Store: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.cubusgames.cyp

If this project is successful, there will be more. So, if you like it, share the hell out of it. Here are those links again:

AppStore: https://apps.apple.com/us/app/click-your-poison-infected/id1590501949

GooglePlay Store: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.cubusgames.cyp


Now then. I can’t quite give you my haunted house story for Halloween, but the first draft is done! And you can pre-order HAUNTED now if you want to make sure you get your copy.

The book will launch on 2sday. 2/2/2022, which is exactly one year after SPIED. I had hoped to get HAUNTED out to you before Halloween (or hell, by Christmas), but this old house needed extensive renovations. I’m starting my rewrites next week based on some early feedback, but I think you’ll love it when it comes out.

Praise for HAUNTED:

  • “One helluva ghost story.”
    -Shirley Jackson, author of The Haunting of Hill House
  • “I’d seal my enemies in a cellar with a copy of HAUNTED, but that would be too good for them.”
    -Edgar Allen Poe, creator of the horror genre
  • “Decent story. Could’ve used more gables. ★★★”
    -Nathaniel Hawthorne, author of The House of Seven Gables

Here’s how it works: You, Dear Reader, are the main character of this story. The House will change and mold itself to your fears — based on your own choices. 

Go ahead over to that pre-order page now, just so you don’t miss it and Happy Halloween!

-JS

The Gamebook Revolution

Interactive Fiction and Gamebooks are becoming increasingly popular every day. The artform peaked and declined in the 80s and 90s, but now more and more authors are emerging who use this as a preferred storytelling medium, rather than as a gimmick. I’d argue we’re at the cusp of a new golden age for branching path narratives.

One such emerging author is Greg Hickey, who recently reached out to me as part of an article he was writing with a central question: Why do interactive fiction writers do what we do? What makes juggling multiple storylines worth the extra effort? He interviewed several such authors, including some bestsellers, and I was happy to add my $0.02. Here’s what I had to say:

Click Your Poison books are, at their core, a form of collaborative storytelling. By letting the reader choose brazen action or reserved caution, for example, you get to create your own story world unlike any traditional novel. My books are meant to be re-read over and over again, with clues gained from earlier reads informing future decisions. This peel-back-the-layers approach of interactive storytelling allows for a unique experience only available to gamebooks. The immediacy of playing the role of protagonist changes the dynamic from shouting at a character, “Don’t go in the house!” to wondering, “Should I go in the house? Are the rewards worth the risk?”

-Author James Schannep

Greg has completed his article and compiled a list, which includes answers from the other authors he interviewed. I’m pleased to be able to share their wisdom with you here:

You can also read Greg’s article over on his site: 10 Contemporary Interactive Books for Adults.

Introducing, “Friends of CYP.”

Additionally, I’ve added a new section on my website. Think of this as an “other books you may like” section for the interactive fiction genre. Check out the Friends of CYP page now.

Are you an author or publisher interested in becoming a friend? Send me a message on my contact page.


What do YOU think?  As a reader (or writer) of branching path narratives, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Leave a comment below to join in the conversation.

Clarifications

First, a quick point of order. It has come to my attention that in the new 10th Anniversary illustrated hardcover edition of INFECTED, the first choice on page 2 should go to 176. The paperback and Kindle edition are unaffected. This was an error in the code from formatting the manuscript to the new hardcover page count, but I’m told by my formatting team that this was the only error. Here is the replacement page:


With that out of the way, it’s time to talk briefly about author intent. I’m not normally someone who responds to reviews of my work. I generally assume that everyone is entitled to their opinion, and not all readers will synch up with an author’s point of view. However, I recently heard some comments that implied I had an issue with different body types based on depictions in the zombie path, and I wanted to address that.

INFECTED has been criticized for being too macho/militaristic by some readers, but also for not rewarding hardened lone wolf survivalists enough by others. I believe readers often bring their own perspective into a book; which is especially true in collaborative fiction like a branching path book. If you want a calloused, uncaring character, you’ll find a path for that. If you want to work as a team and see the best in others, you’ll find something for that as well.

Reader critiques are valid, however I want to emphasize that I did intend some of these elements as satire. After looking deeply into the genre with my research, I played off a lot of tropes that zombie stories are known for. One thing I found consistently across zombie fiction was that the apocalypse can bring out the worst in us. Summed up as: “terrible people making terrible choices.” We are the true monsters in some of these stories. Yet it’s not all bad. We can also find unlikely heroes in our midst.

On the large, societal scale, zombie stories started as a metaphor for rampant consumerism, and I took that one step further by adding a critique of unregulated capitalism. The concept in INFECTED is that a beauty product starts the apocalypse (after corporate greed speaks louder than a scientist who wants to do more research). When “you” become a zombie in the story, you start to embody these societal woes, to include some of our hang-ups on beauty. But I don’t want to paint these sections as something they’re not. The gross-out factor was intentional. It’s not pretty to become a zombie.

I don’t think that needs to carry over into real life. I have no problem with “different” people. I’m different. You’re different. Our differences make the world worth surviving. Of course, authorial intent does not always carry over into reader interpretation and a lot has changed in the ten years since I’ve written this book, to include me growing as a person and improving as a writer.

Part of this came to the forefront when the book was featured as a playthrough on the Instadeath Survivor Support Group podcast. You can listen to that episode now (and I recommend checking out all of this excellent podcast).

After I listened to his playthrough, I asked if I could record an introduction. Here’s what I added for the podcast:

Hi, Survivors. Author James Schannep here. Brian let me listen to an early version of this episode, and we thought it might be best to record a disclaimer up front. What you’re about to listen to contains gore, violence, body horror and gross-out humor, sometimes at the expense of living people. The zombie genre has a long history as satire, and in INFECTED a beauty product starts the apocalypse. The hungering zombies are a dark reflection of our society, to include some of our hang-ups on body image. I don’t want to spoil the episode for you, so I’ve written a blog post with my full thoughts which you can find at jamesschannep.com/blog or take a look into the show notes where Brian has included a direct link to the post. My books don’t have a “one true path” and part of the fun in collaborative storytelling is that your character can be as noble or ignoble as you choose to make them. I hope you have as much fun listening to Andrew’s choices as he did making them. Enjoy the show.

What do YOU think? Have you read INFECTED? Did you listen to the episode? What did it mean to you?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.