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Monday 8 June 2015

ℚ Choose Your Own Death - Marianna Shek

Today we have the pleasure of meeting up with author Marianna Shek to talk about Choose Your Own Death (, Rock On Kitty, 98 pages) a middle grade pick your own adventure book, beautifully illustrated by Tara Brown.

Choose Your Own Death is currently available in paperback format from Amazon.

Synopsis | Teaser | About the Author | Review | Giveaway & Tour Stops

Hello Marianna and many thanks for joining us today at BooksChatter.

What was the inspiration for your latest book, "Choose Your Own Death"?

"I’ve always loved fairy tales, dark humour and any stories with a macabre sensibility.  The inspiration for this book comes from R.L. Stine – not just his Goosebumps series but some of his horror / mystery books for young adult readers as well."
How much of yourself is reflected in this book, and how?
"This book is written for me!  While I love the dark and macabre, I’m actually terrified of horror.  It’s a delicate balance finding this space - Neil Gaiman is perfect but Stephen King is too much.  I even had a go at Joe Hill’s comics Locke and Key and I was terrified.  So I wrote this book for people like me – who enjoy being scared but only a little."
Thank you for mentioning those comics, I was not familiar with them; I  had a quick peek and, although they do look extremely good, their imagery is very strong and rather frightening, and certainly only suitable for an adult audience.

The first thing that draws me to a book is its cover.  Can you tell us about your fantastic cover - why you chose that concept and who the artist is.

"The artist is the wonderfully talented Tara Brown!  You can see some of her works here.

The cover concept actually came last.  Tara drew all the other illustrations in the books before she embarked on the cover.  I knew exactly the art style I wanted when I wrote the story.  I’m a trained animator and scriptwriter.  In the past, I’ve produced animated short films.  Because of my background, I write visually.  As I’m fleshing out a script, I see pictures in my head.  I start to feel like I’m writing for a certain animator, illustrator or film director.  I start thinking ‘Oooh, I’d love to see this person interpret this writing and make it even better.’  So I knew straight away that I wanted Tara to work on these drawings and that it would be the right style for her."
I love Tara's work, it is truly striking.  Beside the wonderful illustrations that come from "Choose Your Own Death", there are two pieces in particular that I simply cannot stop staring at: "Wicked Eyes and Wicked Hearts", and the "Chupacabra Sugar Skull".

Why should we read your book, "Choose Your Own Death", and what sets it apart from the rest?

"Late last year, R.A. Montgomery passed away.  He was the author of the classic Choose Your Own Adventure series.  As a Chinese migrant, these were the books that taught me to love the English language.  Later, I got into the Goosebumps series.

After I read about Montgomery’s passing, I pulled out my beloved books.  I wanted to recapture the magic but I found that I’d outgrown then.  So I wanted to create my own version – more dark, more quirky and with modern illustrations."
Can you tell us something quirky about the story and its characters? For example, were the characters named after something or someone in particular?
"Hahaha!  Yes! I’m terrible with names and also characterisations.  I keep a diary with character profiles – their names, their likes, dislikes, talents, weakness, unique quality, physical appearance, sometimes I even sketch them.  Luckily, I teach at a film school at university so every year I have a new cohort of students with colourful personalities to draw from.  Jessica is actually based on one such student. I don’t know if she’d be able to pick herself if she read it – sometimes it’s just the one quality of that person that I focus on.  Both the character Jessica and my student Jessica are incredibly earnest and loyal.  It shines through their personality."
Who would you recommend your book to and what should readers be aware of (any warnings or disclaimers)?
"I think this is great for eight to twelve year old kids.  I’ve also had some adult readers tell me they thoroughly enjoyed the book and that it was not necessarily just for kids, which was great to hear.  My sister recently read it to my six year old nephew even though I told her not to.  Later he told me he loved the story but only during the day – at night, he got frightened.  I guess most parents know their child’s sensitivity level.  As an easily scared child myself, I would hate to freak anyone else out.  It’s fun to be scared but only a little bit. "
Both my partner and I loved reading "Choose Your Own Death", it was a lot of fun to die in so many different ways!

If you could / wished to turn your book into a movie, who would be your dream team ?

"Oooh! It would have to be Hoodlum studio in Brisbane – they do the quirky The Strange Calls series which very much reminds me of the oldie but goodie Round The Twist."
What do you like to write and read about?  Do you stick to a particular genre or do you like to explore different ones?
"I think all writers have a natural writing voice that they can do intuitively.  For me, it’s the young adults genre.  This is also my favourite genre to read – particularly if it’s speculative fiction.  But I do love challenging myself and part of being a professional writer is to be flexible and skilled in all forms of writing.  I’m currently doing a doctorate in digital writing so I write for many platforms.  I’ve just finished writing a project for an interactive game installation and I’m working on two story applications for the tablet at the moment."
What is you writing process?
"I have so many processes!  I’ll talk about two that always works for me.

1.  Mind mapping – It’s okay to write aimlessly, it’s beautiful and cathartic but only for the first 2000 words.  I have a rule that any project that goes beyond 2000 words, I have to physically map out my plot.  I use two boards joined together that I call my ‘I-scheme-I Plot’ boards.  I use post–its to write down each plot point and spend hours re-arranging them.

When I’m not using the ‘I-scheme-I-plot’ board for storybeating I’ll fill it with beautiful images of characters and places that inspire me.

2.  I use the pomodoro technique!  I set my timer for twenty minutes and I write non-stop until the buzzer rings.  I usually disconnect wi-fi during this time.  I do this three times and I’ve written for an hour.  Great for procrastinators."

I am definitely going to have to try both methods, as procrastination is in my blood...

Finally, what is in store next?

"At the moment, I’m working on turning "Choose your Own Death" into a story application for the ipad.  I could have gone straight to ebook which offers hyperlinks but I felt that Tara’s beautiful illustrations would work much better in full colour.  Also, we are looking at additional interactivity including a map that allows you to track your progress and tells you when you’ve ‘unlocked’ certain areas.

I’m also working on two other kids books at the moment – I don’t want to give much away but you can follow the progress on my Facebook page."
That sounds like an excellent idea.  I hope you will also make that book app available on Android, and in the Amazon apps store; with the Kindle Fire being so heavily aimed at families and children it sounds like the perfect product for that particular platform.

Thank you again for chatting to us and providing us with so much food for thought.

Thank you for having me!
All of us at BooksChatter wish you all the best for your projects and look forward to them!

Choose Your Own Death - available NOW!

UK: purchase from US: purchase from purchase from Barnes & Noble find on Goodreads