I recently sat down with (and by "sat down", I mean that I assume we were both sitting as we emailed) Shannon Gilligan, publisher of the relaunched "Choose Your Own Adventure" series.
Our adult readers probably remember these books from when they were kids. Our teen readers might have read some of the relaunch titles. Personally, I LOVED these books. So much fun!
The Choose Your Own Adventure (CYOA) series was originally published by Bantam in the 1970s/1980s but is now published by Chooseco, a company started by two of the original writers, R.A. Montgomery and Shannon Gilligan.
Please welcome Shannon Gilligan!
AB: Which was your favorite title that you wrote?
SG: I would say Case of the Silk King. I have family in Thailand that I am very fond of and I just love the Thai spirit and heart. It was funny because years after I wrote this, I actually became friends of one of Jim Thompson’s nephews. Unbeknownst to me at the time. Jim Thompson of course being the Silk King in question!
AB: How did you get your start?
SG: My start as a writer? My first book was a CYOA called The Search for Champ. We recently re-issued it as Lake Monster Mystery with four color illustrations. Before that I wrote a couple of dreadful children’s books about talking bears who fought in the French and Indian Wars. They were dreadful and thankfully never published.
AB: What can you tell us about the relaunch of the series?
SG: We had to do it ourselves to get it right. It’s been a big effort but we are really glad we did.
AB: Why did Chooseco decide to relaunch the series?
There was this demand developing among the original fans who were having their own kids. It was a demand that we were uniquely privy to. One of the reasons we published ourselves was that we could never get an editor to understand how big this demand was. I remember when we were shopping it around, we got an offer for four books to be published over two years. And I said, “What!?! Four books? For this big handsome sexy series, four books?!!” That was when I knew we were going to have to do it ourselves.
AB: Is Chooseco going to add new titles to the series, or are you only reissuing the classic titles?
SG: We have added a couple of new titles in both our classic series. These are Forecast from Stonehenge by R.A. Montgomery, Track Star! Also by R.A., and the just released Zombie Penpal by Ken McMurtry. There weren’t as many original titles to choose from for our younger readers’ imprint so there are more brand new books for that one. They include Your Purrr-fect Birthday, Always Picked Last, Return to Haunted House and the upcoming Monsters of the Deep by R.A. Montgomery and Your Grandparents are Zombies by Anson Montgomery.
We also have experimented with a longer form of interactive story with CYOA: The Golden Path. Volumes 1 and 2 are out and Volume 3 is still being written. The series is by R.A.’s son, Anson, who is a tremendous writer.
AB: Are you accepting submissions?
SG: We get contacted about that all the time. We will look at a proposal once a writer has signed a release. You can download the form from our website cyoa.com, or contact us for a copy. Other than that, we can’t look at unsolicited material for reasons of legal protection. We are about to make an offer on the first proposal from a brand new writer who came “over the transom” shortly.
AB: How is the next generation of readers responding to books that their parents read?
SG: I don’t see a big generational difference in the response, but I must admit to being much more moved than I used to be when someone comes up and tells me that the reason they learned to read was CYOA.
AB: Do you find that the CYOA concept works well for a generation that has grown up playing on the internet?
SG: Yes, if anything it’s more obvious to them. It makes perfect sense that you can control the story!