Saturday, September 4, 2021

GAMEBOOK ACADEMY _____ Meet Bart King, author of the new CYOA gamebook Time Travel Inn, which bestselling kidlit legend Jeff Kinney finds "mind-blowing" and "heart-stopping"!

NOTE: This is part of a series that explains how to create your own simple gamebooks. More articles here.

Please introduce yourself!
Hi! My name is Bart King. I'm an author in Oregon, and I just wrote a book for Choose Your Own Adventure called Time Travel Inn. Also, I can't resist sharing that Jeff Kinney (author of “Diary of a Wimpy Kid”) recently described my book as having “mind-blowing adventure and heart-stopping thrills!”

So THAT was pretty fun.

Some of my other books include Bad Dad Jokes: That’s How Eye Roll and the funny science-fiction novel, The Drake Equation. Oh, and I like turtles!

Do tell us about your new Time Travel Inn gamebook.
Time Travel Inn shares the adventures of Astrid, a character whose family just moved to a remote motel in Wisconsin. Astrid’s mother and father disappear at the motel, so Astrid and her two new friends start investigating. They quickly discover that the inn is an epicenter for time travel research gone very, very wrong in a variety of unexpected ways. One motel room has a time machine that sends them back 30 minutes in time, but others lead to the reader facing off against gladiators, dinosaurs, and the Grey Council of Wizards. But the trickiest room might be the one where time starts running backwards as soon as you enter.

And ooh, this is cool: Time Travel Inn is coming out in a larger format than Choose Your Own Adventure has published before. I’m pretending that this is because my book is THAT good, so please don’t pop my bubble with any facts that dispute this!

Time Travel Inn came about after I wrote a little about time travel in a different book. At that point, the story really “opened up,” and so I wanted to write a new story that began with that sense of wonder and explore how wide open a story's possibilities might be.

The answer was VERY wide open—Time Travel Inn  even has a fun multiverse thread that goes into worlds where magic exists and the dreaded Jabberwock is on the loose. What I found was that if I imagined something funny or outrageous, the odds were good that I could figure out a way to work it into the story.

And the fun thing about this book is that it has humor, action, science fiction, and even a bit of horror. So there really is something for everyone.

How did you come to work on a CYOA title?
When I was asked if I might like to try writing a CYOA title, I jumped at the chance like a puppy for a squeaky toy.

That’s because I’d been given a superpower: I got to write a high-interest book where I could do almost anything I wanted to make the book un-put-downable. (Yep, that’s a word.) So I wanted to write like I was daring the reader to find an excuse not to read the story, because it’d be that good.

I know that’s a ludicrous goal, but it helped keep me on my toes.

When did you first get interested in gamebooks?
Well, speaking of time travel…
Waaaay back in the 1980s, I enjoyed playing a text-based interactive video game named Zork II: The Wizard of Frobozz. It was a low-tech funny adventure. As you played, it presented scenes that you had to type responses to. For example: 

A volcano gnome seems to walk straight out of the wall and says, "I have a very busy appointment schedule. I have little time to waste on trespassers, but for a small fee, I'll show you the way out."

Here, you might type in something like "Offer gold piece" and hit <Return>. Then the volcano gnome might take your gold piece and give you information. OR it might be offended at the small amount and leave in a huff. OR … you get the idea.

Anyway, I loved that interactive element, and when I later discovered that Choose Your Own Adventure books had been coming out for years, I thought they were sheer genius.

What's your gamebook development process?
The key is figuring out the story endings. Once I have those, I can work backwards. So my book plot diagram looks like a basketball tournament graph, in reverse.

What else are you working on?
I’m having fun writing a possible Choose Your Own Adventure that involves cryptozoology. That’s the study of animals whose existence is disputed, like the Loch Ness monster or armadillos. So one of my story’s important characters is a Pacific Northwest tree octopus.

And I just finished a scene where a mob of highly intelligent apes invades a room, and one of my characters cries out, “It’s a chimp-ageddon!”

(That’s like an Armageddon with chimps … and why am I explaining this?)

Thank you so much for the chance to share about Time Travel Inn, Gamebook Academy!


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MEET THE AUTHOR: JOSEPHINE CHIA, author of Queen of the Sky, published by Penguin Random House SEA

Note: This showcase features five kids’ fiction authors, all proudly published by Penguin Random House SEA. When the pandemic is over, we'll get back to in-person book launch events. But for now, enjoy this virtual version. More info here.
Please introduce yourself!
I am Josephine Chia. I am a Peranakan and am from Singapore. I’ve always been a closet writer and used to write short stories which I didn’t show anyone. Finally, when I was in my twenties, I summoned enough courage to submit a short story to SINGA, now defunct, the literary journal of Singapore. It published two of my short stories. My next big break was in UK in 1992 when my short story was long-listed, then shortlisted, then came in the top twelve for the UK Ian St James Awards. It was published in an anthology by Harper Collins UK.

The publicity resulted in two Singapore publishers approaching me so my first collection of short stories was published by Angsana Books and my first novel was published by Landmark Books. After I returned to Singapore to live, I wrote about my kampong Potong Pasir. This book, Kampong Spirit, Gotong Royong won the Singapore Literature inaugural prize for Non-Fiction in 2014. My YA novel, Big Tree in a Small Pot won the 2019 Publishers Book Award. Altogether, I’ve had 13 books published, both in UK and Singapore.

Tell us about your book.
Queen of the Sky is my first Children’s Novel. I had a Children’s Non-Fiction book and YA novel published before this. In my years of growing up, little girls, especially those from poor villages could not fulfill their ambition due to lack of funds and schooling opportunities. I wanted to write a book about a modern girl who can fulfill hers. The main character, nine-year old Amelia, wants to be a jet-pilot. Her mother does not approve but her Great Grand Mother (whom she calls GGM) encourages her.

GGM had a brief encounter with the famous American aviatrix Amelia Earhart who had flown into Singapore’s Kallang Airport in 1947, before her plane disappeared. Ms Earhart spoke about flying so eloquently that GGM had always wanted to experience flying. But her hard life took over so she couldn’t. Now that her great grand-daughter had expressed her dream of becoming  a pilot, GGM was very happy to encourage her and she told her the story of her meeting with Amelia Earhart.

I wanted to bring in a slice of Singapore history that not many people know about and weave it into my novel. Amelia Earhart was called the Queen of the Sky as she was a pioneer for women pilots, hence I thought it would make a good title.

What was your creative process like?
Though I had read about Ms Earhart’s stop-over in Singapore in 1947, I was not born during that period so I had to research the facts. However, I did know about the kampongs, ie attap villages that were situated along the Kallang River. This was the location where I set the scene of Ms Earhart going for a quiet walk, away from the airport, and she encountered GGM.  I also had to research the first female pilot in Singapore, both for jets and commercial planes. I also had to research the oldest person who sky-dived.

Once I had the facts, I created a modern girl Amelia who dreamt of being a pilot. She has a special relationship with GGM who was about to celebrate her 90th birthday. Since her family asked GGM what she wanted as a birthday present, GGM said she would like to experience a tandem sky-diving which horrified her family. Only little Amelia understood her GGM’s dream.

Has the pandemic affected your book promotion?
Luckily, PRH did manage to have a book launch pre-Covid. I also managed to include this book at my talk to Dulwich College where there was a club or something called Amelia Earhart. But other than that, all my school visits were cancelled during the Covid pandemic which made it impossible to do readings.
Any advice for aspiring writers who want to write or launch a kids' novel in the coming year?
First of all, make sure you read lots of Children’s Novels. Second, don’t treat kids as stupid. They are very intelligent and can cope with big words (though they are not always necessary) and complex ideas. Thirdly, make the story exciting and entertaining. Kids love adventures and thrills. Make sure there are some challenges too. Fourthly, introduce some pathos, some pain or suffering. If you enjoy reading your own story, the child will too!


You can check out the other four authors here, they’re all eager to tell you about their lovely books.


Thursday, September 2, 2021

MEET THE AUTHOR: DAVID SEOW, co-author of Raffles Readers, published by Penguin Random House SEA

Note: This showcase features five kids’ fiction authors, all proudly published by Penguin Random House SEA. When the pandemic is over, we'll get back to in-person book launch events. But for now, enjoy this virtual version. More info here.
Please introduce yourself!
I'm David Seow and I've been writing children's books since 1998. To date I have had 45 picture books and one middle-grade anthology book published.

Tell us about your book.
I first conceived the idea for Raffles Readers over a decade ago. I thought it would be fun to collaborate with some authors on a series of stories set at the hotel over the course of a century. Readers will find themselves thrown into a world filled with monsters, missing silver, spies, ghost brides and zombies! 

What was your creative process like?
In 2014 I asked aspiring authors Linda Fitzpatrick, Simon Wray, Emma Nicholson, and Claire Thamboo to come onboard this project. Writing is a very solitary process, so I thought it would be fun to do something as a group. I specifically wanted the expat authors to focus on the pre-independence years and the local authors would focus on the post-independence ones. Once we had chosen our preferred time periods and the plots for our stories, we began writing them.

Has the pandemic affected your book promotion?
Our publishing date was pushed back but we did have a launch at the Raffles gift shop in September last year. Unfortunately I was unable to attend as I had just gone for a Covid swab test and I was quarantined at home for three days. Thanks to our publisher Nora and Nicky Ransome for arranging the launch.
Any advice for aspiring writers who want to write or launch a kids' novel in the coming year?
Not really because everyone's experience is different. There are no shortcuts when it comes to publishing.

Twitter: AuthorDaveSeow
Instagram: Authordavidseow
Facebook: David Seow, Children's Book Author

You can check out the other four authors here, they’re all eager to tell you about their lovely books.


MEET THE AUTHOR: DARYL KHO, author of Mistbound: How to Glue Back Your Grandpa, published by Penguin Random House SEA

Note: This showcase features five kids’ fiction authors, all proudly published by Penguin Random House SEA. When the pandemic is over, we'll get back to in-person book launch events. But for now, enjoy this virtual version. More info here.

Please introduce yourself!
I work in the regional TV industry where I sell other people's stories and ideas for a living. I live in Singapore with my wife as well as the heroine of my book - my daughter. I'm originally from KL, but my paternal grandpa was from Indonesia, whilst both my grandmothers were Peranakan (paternal was Singaporean Nyonya, maternal was Penang Nyonya). So I guess I'm pretty much Southeast Asian. Until this book, I'd actually NOT been writing anything other than business emails and Whatsapp texts. Not since my student days which was over two decades ago when I used to churn out poems, songs and plays.

Tell us about your book.
It's about a young girl named Alexis who has to go on the journey of her life in a race against time to save her Grandfather's broken memories. His memories had been shattered by a terrible spell, and the only thing that can put them back together again is a potion called Memory Glue. But to make Memory Glue, Alexis needs to gather a bunch of weird ingredients: stuff like some drops of a duyung's (Malay for mermaid) sweat and strands of nose hair from a Baku (Japanese dream eater ). So not exactly stuff she can easily find in Sheng Siong or NTUC Fairprice. Not even Amazon. No, to get them, she has to travel with of all people, her no-nonsense strict Grandma, to a whole different world. One where magic exists, and where the mystical creatures from all the folktales and fairytales that her grandpa used to tell her, are alive in the flesh (and mostly flesh-eating too). And she has to do this before the start of Spring, or else her grandpa's memories will be lost forever to the mists within his mind.

My book is a fairytale for families, based on a true story about a family: mine. It was inspired by our experience with dementia, which my father suffered and eventually passed away from. The story's implicit themes about dementia, inter-generational relationships and the importance of family (which keeps us glued together, hence the term "family bonds") are why organizations like Dementia Singapore, TOUCH Community Services Singapore and the Alzheimer's Disease Foundation of Malaysia have partnered with me, to raise reader awareness and kickstart conversations within families around these salient topics. Not least, Mist-Bound is also a celebration of stories and storytelling, as it is peppered with folktales, fables and magical creatures predominantly from Asia. There is much space for more stories from Asia for Asian kids. And hopefully this novel will help spark curiosity amongst kids to learn more about mythologies from our own backyard, and from within the memories of our elders.

What was your creative process like?
For the most part, I had no process and that was why it took me so long to complete this book. Powered by adrenaline from the initial spark of inspiration, the first full draft took about six months to complete. Thereafter I had a 3-year-long writer's block. Time and everything else in life just flew by with little progress made book-wise, whilst I moped around waiting for the next bolt of inspiration to strike. I received a kick in the pants again when my father passed away. That's when I realized my procrastination had gone too far, as he was one of the key people the book for meant for in the first place. That’s when I drastically altered my approach, and treated this book like a second job instead of a side hobby. I laid out a firm routine and got organized.

Seven months later I finally completed the second full draft, which after a round of edits, was submitted to and finally signed up by my publisher, Penguin. My epiphany was that you can't passively wait around for the spirit of inspiration to visit: you have to actively schedule that meeting with her. Book writing is like running a marathon, or sticking to a diet. You can't just rely on muses or mood for motivation. It requires discipline and routine: it needs to become a habit.
Has the pandemic affected your book promotion?
For me I think book-wise, the pandemic brought more upsides than down. Sure, it caused publication to be delayed by maybe a year, and significantly affected the bookstore rollout schedules. Also I wasn't able to do a physical launch with fireworks, champagne and lion dances. But on the plus side, it was a boon not having to travel for work. Otherwise, I definitely wouldn't have been able to do all the immense pre-launch legwork like setting up a website, strike partnerships with TOUCH and Dementia Singapore, set up and run a pre-order campaign etc. It'd also not have been possible to work on and complete all the many pieces of chapter artwork with my illustrator. The increased digitalization brought about by the pandemic has also enabled more avenues for marketing, including being able to do Zoom sharing sessions and Instagram Live chats in Malaysia without having to leave my house or put on proper pants.

Any advice for aspiring writers who want to write or launch a kids' novel in the coming year?
Learn digital marketing! Gosh, I'm still trying to figure out Instagram.

Author website:

You can check out the other four authors here, they’re all eager to tell you about their lovely books.