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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