James Schannep - Letting Readers Pick Their Poison

James Schannep - Letting Readers Pick Their Poison
author of the day

James Schannep suffers from creativity overload. His brain can't seem to stop overthinking things and new ideas for his stories just tend to get out of hand. Which is why writing choose your own adventure books are so perfect - with multiple characters and over 50 endings, the possibilities are endless. Schannep mostly writes funny, happy stories about noble heroes -- that is, if his readers don't make the most twisted choices, sending him down some very dark, evil paths. As our author of the day, Schannep explains who he imagines his audience to be, how modern technology makes CYOA books even better than before and how his superheroes are different from others.

Please give us a short introduction to Superpowered

SUPERPOWERED sets you up in an experiment with two other subjects. Depending on the "pod" you choose, you'll receive one of three superpowers. Then...you make more choices. You can end up allied with the other characters, or bitter enemies. Trying to conquer the world, or trying to save it. And you can re-read the book to do all of these things. Over 50 endings!

Have you always suffered from creativity overload?


...he said, using irony to answer the question in the least creative way possible. Then he ruined it by over-explaining himself, and what's worse, he did so in the third person. For you see, I (he) overthinks everything, including ideas for stories. Well, not everything. Not "whether or not the dishes should be done" -- that, sadly, receives little to no thought.

What inspired you to create a choose your own adventure book?

I loved CYOA as a kid but kind of forgot about them until a few years ago. I wanted to read a grown-up version of the books, but couldn't really find what I was looking for. BOOM--niche found.

Why make your readers choose between being a hero or villain? Doesn't everybody want to be the hero?

What a cute question, you little cub scout, you. No, not everyone wants to be a hero. At least not forever. Sure enough, you start out wanting to be Luke Skywalker, but a few years later and all the kids want to play the role of Darth Vader. It's fun being bad! Only much later do you realize Han Solo is the most interesting character -- because he's both bad and good. And there are those paths in the book too. 

Do you have a set of rules for your multiverse? Is there a process you go through that helps define these?

Each book makes its own rules. For example, you won't really find zombies stumbling around or people flying through the air in MURDERED (my mystery/thriller, and the most "grounded" of my books). Instead, you'll find common characters and locations referenced in all the books. Not to give anything away, but SUPERPOWERED is sort of the multiverse glue. You'll see what I mean when you read it.

How are your superheroes different from your regular, run-of-the-mill superhero?

I drew heavily from superhero tropes and traditions, but I gave myself two major writing challenges that make these characters stand apart.

1) the three powers have to compliment each other. No invincible Superman or wussie Robin will be seen flying/running through these pages.

2) Their motivations are nuanced, so there's a bit more to your decision choices than, say....save the day? Yes or no?

Which audience did you have in mind when you created these books? Or did you write them for yourself?

These are not children's books. I have teen readers, but -- Parental Discretion is Advised. The children's books series already exist. I'd say they're written for those born in the 80s and 90s. And while I have a lot of fun writing these, they're not for "me." They're for "you." I make the characters gender/age/race/orientation neutral so just about any reader can feel at home making the decisions. 

How different is a choose your own adventure book in ebook-form from the paperbacks one used to get?

It's more streamlined. You click your choice, the book progresses automatically, and the story continues. No pausing to flip pages. That said, paperbacks are available for my Old School readers.

What do you have the most fun with when writing your Poison books?

That has to be what I call "Going down the rabbit hole." By that, I mean following the logical conclusion of a choice into further choices. I start with a skeleton outline, but the flesh grows and fills itself in along the way. I never know where some of these choices are going to lead. What's more, some of these can go fairly dark, and if you pick these choices as a reader -- that's on you. If you want to be Evil (with a capital E), go for it, but don't blame me. I only give you the choice; you're the one that decided to pick the most [email protected]*%-ed up option. Seriously, some people...

What are you working on right now?

I'm currently working on a zombie western screenplay. Can't say too much about the possibilities of that one yet, but suffice it to say, they're exciting. I also can't stop talking about Star Wars, so I think I'm going to "reboot the prequels" as a writing exercise. And I'm gearing up for a new Click Your Poison book too. I'm calling this one CLASSICALLY MAROONED and it'll be a mix of real-life survival choices with classical shipwreck stories. So you might meet Ishmael or Robinson Crusoe while you figure out how to start a fire.

BONUS QUESTION: Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?

Bonus indeed! This is a great week to discover Click Your Poison books. 20-25 September all four titles will be on sale for $0.99 on Amazon Kindle. Aside from that I have a blog and a newsletter that you can find at www.jamesschannep.com and I'm active on Facebook and Twitter. Just search for "Schannep" or "Click Your Poison." Can't miss it.

This deal has ended but you can read more about the book here.