by Jay Wilburn
It is hard to fully capture what James Schannep has accomplished with his work. His Click Your Poison series of books is the thing you didn’t know you were looking for. He has done a mystery, a superhero story, and two zombie apocalypse Choose Your Own Adventure style books. His zombie books Infected and Pathogens are everything a zombie fan and reader could possibly want. The attention to detail and the wide possibilities for the adventures are unreal. The choices are great, fun, and seemingly limitless. I loved Choose Your Own Adventure as a kid reading Fantasy and Science Fiction. Click Your Poison recaptures that magic, takes it to a new level, and delivers for zombie fans of all types. The choices start very early including the starting point itself. You have the options in each book to pick entirely different characters to play. This is something special.
I can tell from playing the books myself that this was no thrown-together work. This was something more than I had ever seen before. I asked him what went into creating these works of art. He said, he does lots of research and plotting first. He likes to keep the details real and factual where he can, and he has his major plot points and twists fairly laid out before he begins. Once he has this skeleton, he moves forward, allowing himself to be surprised by keeping the choices organic and natural. “What would your choices really be, in this scenario?” That kind of thing. He keeps notes for rewrites based on these changes. Also, flowcharts, he says, lots and lots of flowcharts.
In terms of the formatting differences between e-book and paperbacks, he called the series Click Your Poison, because they’re designed to be read digitally. The choices are hyperlinked and take you to the next section automatically once you’ve clicked your choice. He call my paperbacks “e-aversion versions” and he has to go back and create those formats once the digital book is completed. They are a lot of fun and face-paced in the e-version for sure. I’ve enjoyed them. Part of me still wants to grab up the paperback copies for that feel of the book in hand as you turn to page whatever to see what happens next.
I asked him what possessed him to even try something of this magnitude. He said, honestly, it was a random conversation with a friend. “Remember Choose Your Own Adventure books? I wonder if anyone has written those for adults?” He couldn’t find anything like what he was thinking, so he figured he had found an underserved niche. It works well for him, personally. If he has a gift as a writer, it’s an overactive imagination. All those “possibilities” come together nicely in this format.
I was curious about the response to these books. I had an immediate connection. I asked him about other readers. He said, some people are hesitant to try something different or think that it might just be a gimmick, but overall the response has been very positive. He writes these books in such a way that they couldn’t be read linearly, really using the format to its fullest. They’re fun to write, (which he thinks makes them fun to read!), and he keeps at it until he has something he’s quite proud of. He believes that level of attention to detail is something his readers really appreciate. I would have to agree.
I asked about differences in constructing the zombie stories versus the other genres in the Click Your Poison series so far. He said, he loves that this format gives him the freedom to genre-hop, but there are certain expectations within different genres. A murder mystery has much different pacing than a superhero adventure, and their flowcharts bear this out visually. Looking ahead to new books, he said, he’s currently working on one called Classically MAROONED, an adventure set in the golden age of sail. There are storylines where you join the Royal Navy, end up in a survival situation on a desert isle, or even play as a pirate!
I hope I have made the case for James Schannep. Check out Pathogens or any of the other books linked above.