Interview with The Mystress Weaver of CYOA on an exciting new collaborative writing project about to be launched.
Give our readers a brief descriptions of what this project is.
12 weeks, 9 writers, 4 editors, 3 beta readers across the globe, working in smaller teams, using skype video chat to conference call and collaborate on a Choose Your Own Adventure style story.
Choose Your On Adventure? Those tacky little kids books from the 80s?
Most of the writers have fond memories of those books. Most of us discovered a love of writing when we tried to cheat out way through them by re-writing some of the endings. A few things became clear to us. The characters tended to be two dimensional and generally masculine – and we died alot. It became a mission to equalise the sexes of the main character ( Series 1 is predominantly strong female characters; where as although Series 2’s main character is male, many of the strong secondary characters are female)
It was important to the team that characters were presented with depth and shades of emotions. Every character has a rich background filled with secrets. It depends on which thread the reader takes as to which secrets they uncover. The series is designed to be read a number of times in order to pick up different clues; some making it easier to ‘win’; others will cloud the readers judgement or lead them astray.
Collaboration? Across the globe? Sounds a bit frantic.
I am passionate about collaboration. Nuances grow to new story lines in the breadth of a conversation. The sum is always greater than the individuals. The ability to bounce ideas off other creative minds is something that can only be created if you were all in one spot a the same time. With the gift of Skype video chat – we could sit in our pyjamas and attend brainstorming sessions with a group of writers across the globe. As a group – we came up with amazing ideas and insights – things that one person couldn’t do by themselves – and it was all built upon as the stories were written.
We used google docs to collate research and to plot ideas, but the real time chat was the most valuable in nutting out characters, motivations and threads of the story.
So how did it all work?
We had three teams – each consisting of an editor, a beta reader and three writers. With a time line for stories to be written, edited and then discussed, it was an intense time for all involved.
So you had a plot drawn up of the story and you just got writers to write the chapters?
Not at all. At most stages of the writing, no-one had a clear idea of where the story would go, the turns and twists it would take. I wrote the premise – the first story, leaving a few options for the main character to take. Each team took one option and carried the story on – after collaborating on characters and ideas. The story was handed round, discussed and written over 12 weeks; after which it was handed to me to be further woven together to create a real spider web of intrigue.
So you didn’t know where the story was going to go – or what the main character was going to do?
Thats right – The main character had a murder to solve – but as you read on – you also find out he is there for another reason and the town is not as innocent as it appears.
This sort of collaboration is about trusting the characters, trusting the process and trusting the writers to do the best by the group and the characters. There was alot of sharing of characters and discussion on specifics, which built these people as real in our minds.
I basically wrote the premise and waved the characters farewell while they went and visited other writers pages.
Its a sort of murder mystery with cowboys ?
I guess thats a close approximation. The writers attempted to stay true to the western genre, without making it cheesy. CYOA is a working, living project, intended to stretch the abilities of writers and editors. The people involved were pushed out of their comfort zones and hopefully this has assisted in their journey and craft.
But you knew who the killer was didn’t you?
Thats the beauty of this project and the way the collaboration was structured. Writers explored characters with the brief that each of them had the motive and ability to kill the character who had died. Each of the wrote a kill scene – where it was revealed that their character was in fact the killer. These were voted upon in small groups, and then another round of voting happened as a team to decide which character and story had the strongest case.
But you had the last say?
Not at all. I had a vote just like everyone else. I had my favourite characters whom I’d hoped were chosen as the killer, but in the end was surprised which person the group agreed upon.
What does this sort of story offer a reader?
There are literally hundreds of combinations and threads that the reader can take as they read the story. Some will lead you on a wild goose chase, others will give you an insight into a character or motivation. Even after the main character has died and the reader starts again, with the amount of options available and the variety of very different stories, this is a rich reading experience.
Who is is suitable for?
Although we say that the story is for adults, it would appeal to the higher end of the Young Adult spectrum. There are a few swear words and blood is spilt on a number of the stories (whats a Western without knives and shoot-em ups?) but on the whole, its a pretty ‘clean’ story. Even the ‘romantic’ scene is glossed over without much detail. With the way the ratings are going – it probably holds a PG!
Where did it all start?
I wrote a Western themed short story several years before this series came to fruition. It was meant to be a stand alone short story written as a response to The Cat Empire’s song “Voodoo Cowboy” and as part of a musical prompt challenge I was involved with.
I had been keen to continue with the characters and the possibilities, but had been held back by one thing or another. Little did I know, that it wasn’t until Series 2 was assembled that the story could be told. However, it didn’t quite fit and other events and characters demanded more attention, so another story was written around the events of the first story. Readers can find the original story as an easter egg on one of the threads.
Oh you know – its a geeky bit of trivia, snippets of information, extra stories or insights to enrich the reader’s experience. There are a number of stories which have one of these Easter Eggs – readers will find the links at the bottom of the stories.
Where do I start to read this?
The series will be launched at 9 pm AEST on Friday 29th of July with a special events page on Facebook. There will be ‘passes’ given way over the weekend and each of the team members are running a competition on their own blogs or facebook to give away a pass into the series. Pop over to http://chooseyouronlineadventures.com/read/dust-and-death where readers can check out the great book trailer or read some teasers.
Parallel stories, written by some of the writers from the series, which will introduce readers to some of the characters and concepts held within this series. These are free to read and are available right now.
So how does this all work?
When its launched, readers will be able to pay for a key – or a password, which will unlock the whole series. They will be able to access Dust and Death for a year, able to read it at their leisure. basically, the reader reads an episode and will be presented with a few options at the bottom of the page. They click on an option – which takes them to another episode. There are literally hundreds of combinations and stories.
AUS $4.50, US $4.99, UK 3.00 – payable through paypal. Once paid, the reader will receive an email detailing how to gain access.( a password)
Aren’t you worried that people will just share that password around and not pay?
You can’t fail safe everything. Our team’s wish is for their work to be read, for their contributions to be recognised and for our work to be enjoyed. Whilst it would be disappointing to find that someone has done this – isn’t it better that our work is read rather than slumber behind doors? Besides – its not much – seriously… and its all distributed amongst the team members on their own journey to making millions!
What are the plans after the launch?
Phew! Have a bottle of champers! I plan to formulate the series into an ebook (with hyperlinks) and get it ready for smashwords or similar. I’d love to see it in a printed version, but one step at a time.
Any other Series in mind?
Oh Heaps!! There is another series to be launched by October entitled History’s Keeper. A sort of feminist Sci Fi, time travelling mystery.
Next year, I will be heading the next series – a zombie themed one – so keep your eyes out for that!
For more information on the series – check out
or invite yourself to the facebook launch party
Are you running a competition?
Prize – a pass into Series 2 – Dust and Death
1.Choose as many of the options to get an ‘entry’ into the competition as you like.
2.Come back here and post a comment with the amount of entries you are submitting and a link or some evidence you have done what you have said you did.
3. enter as many times as you like.
4.On Friday 29th July, all entries will be tallied and placed into a big bowl.
5. Winner will be chosen by my 6 year old thrusting her hand inside the bowl and grabbing name
6. Winner will be emailed with a pass.
How do I earn entries?
5 entries – copy and paste this interview onto your blog
3 entries – run a competition on your blog ( contact me with the winners name and I will supply them with the pass)
2 entries – join the launch party
2 entries – become a fan of CYOA on Facebook or google +
2 entries – tweet a link to this interview
1 entry – tweet a link to the interview on your blog
1 entry – use the hashtag #dustanddeath or (and)#CYOAauthors
1 entry – follow @cyoaauthors on twitter.
1 entry – mention @cyoaauthors in a tweet.
*remember – add up how many entries you earn and POST a COMMENT below!!!!*
Ok – and for those ‘in the know’ – yes – its a bit weird and ‘split personality’ to interview yourself on your own blog…. but this is meant to be sent out to the team so they can post it up on their own blogs..
Do you have any other questions you’d like to ask?