Wednesday, August 25, 2021

GAMEBOOK ACADEMY _____ Meet Simon Tudhope, writer of the incredibly awesome Shadow Chaser fantasy adventure gamebook

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

Simon Tudhope, writer

Please introduce yourself!
Hi, I’m Simon Tudhope, and I work as a writer for Usborne Publishing in the UK.
Tell us about your new Shadow Chaser gamebook.
The initial spark for Shadow Chaser came from my managing editor, Sam Taplin, who grew up with the Fighting Fantasy gamebooks and is a huge fan. He took the idea to the directors, and then came to me when they gave him the go-ahead. He guessed that I was as much of a fan as he was – and he was right!

Of course, there’s no guarantee that children today will like them as much as we did then, but at the same time, I think the appeal of these books is quite timeless. We may not be able to rival computer games for intense, cinematic combat, but books are great for creating characters and stories. That’s why I wanted our character to feel real. They have a past, and friends and family – and also they’re young. After all, this is a book aimed at children. I’ve tried to create a feeling of real peril and mystery: your enemies are much older, much stronger, and know much more than you do.
The illustrations and page layouts look fantastic. What was the development process like?
All the full-page illustrations are also picture puzzles. This was something new we wanted to bring to the mix. But I was very clear that for the puzzles to work, they had to fit within the style of the book. In the text, everything that’s described is seen through your character’s eyes, and so the same has to be true of the picture puzzles.

What you see in the picture is what your character, Rowan, sees (except for sometimes a slight change of angle to fit everything on the page). You’re solving these puzzles as Rowan, not as a reader. And this creates a difficulty, because Rowan isn’t searching for an entry number, Rowan is searching for a way out of a situation in the adventure. So, many of the puzzles have no numbers in the picture at all, and a number is only revealed if you solve the puzzle correctly. And if there are numbers on the picture, all of them belong naturally in the scene, and none of them are the correct answer.

I actually found it very tricky to think of enough different puzzles that stuck to these rules without repeating the way you solve them. And on top of that, finding enough situations in the adventure where a puzzle fitted without feeling forced. I hope I’ve managed to achieve that, and bring something a bit different to the table for people familiar with adventure gamebooks!

How did you first get interested in gamebooks?
Rainy lunchtimes in the school library. I did grow up in Manchester, after all!
Sam Taplin, managing editor
Please summarise your gamebook development process.
I worked out the major plot points first, then started writing. I used a spreadsheet to keep track of entry numbers, and a flowchart to map my routes. All done on computer.

Any future gamebooks we should look out for?
Yes, there are two more ‘Choose Your Own Story’ books in the pipeline! One is being written by me, and one is being written by another writer at Usborne, Andy Prentice. They’re both standalone books, so not set in the same world as Shadow Chaser, but the gameplay will be the same. Mine is set in an early industrial society (I hesitate to use the word steampunk, as I know that can mean quite specific things), and it’s starting to come together nicely.


Simon has done an introduction to the book here:

And there’s a flick through of the book available here:


You can follow Usborne on social below:




Simon’s author page:

Here are the links to buy the books:




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