S. A. is one of quite a few authors who have decided to take advantage of the growing number of self-publishing tools to add their voices to the gamebook field. He spoke with me about his new series, the Inz Interactive Novels, and if you would like to contact him with your own questions, you can reach him through his website here. If you feel the need to talk to me for some reason, I can be contacted, as always, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Demian Katz: What inspired you to enter the world of interactive fiction?
SA: When I first moved to America in 1990, I fell in love with the Lone Wolf series. It was an entirely new concept for me because RPG wasn't big in India then. Now, I always enjoyed writing and storytelling so, it was only a matter of time before I started experimenting with the genre with my childhood works. That's basically how it all started for me.
DK: It does seem like India is one of the few large markets that was almost completely missed by the gamebook boom... though were you aware of the recently-published Witchsnare by Ashok Raj?
SA:It's funny you brought that up because your website was the first place I saw this book. I definitely have to check it out.
DK: Do you have any intention of trying to get your book distributed in India?
SA: India is an emerging market and the potential for this genre there is huge and pretty much untapped – so, yes I will be trying to get my work distributed there.
DK: How long have you been working on Inz?
SA: Counting all the writer's blocks, lack of time due to other commitments, and rewrites - about 3 years.
DK: I see from your publisher's site that Inz is going to be a four-book series. Are the next three volumes near completion at this point, or do we have to be patient?
SA:I'm currently working on the second book right now which is a good thing because I can incorporate feedback from readers of the first book. This way I will be able to make the storyline and game play more robust and enjoyable.
DK: The first Inz adventure features illustrations by Zachary Porter. What was his involvement with the project? Was he part of the development of the book or someone hired after the fact? Will he be returning to give a consistent look to the series?
SA: Zach is a great guy to work with, honestly. How the process basically worked was, I provided him the description of what the illustration should hold from a high level (characters, type of action, etc.) and then, let him add details to the scene with his own creativity. So, in this way, the illustrations really added to the story and its feel. And yes, the plan right now is to have him back for the next one as well.
DK: What are your strongest influences, both in terms of gamebooks and fiction in general?
SA: From an interactive writing stand point, I would say the Fighting Fantasy series, the CYOA series and of course, the Lone Wolf series. Now, from a purely fictional stand point, I am a fan of good writing in general - The Life of Pi, The Namesake, The Chronicles of Narnia series just to name a few. While these books are not necessarily the same genre, the one common factor here is good storytelling and in depth characterization - things I want my writing to possess.
DK: Good characterization is something that is undeniably lacking in the vast majority of gamebooks, which is a shame since the interactive format has the potential to explore characters in ways that linear fiction can't. Traditionally, gamebook heroes tend to be fairly bland in order to allow the reader to fill in the blanks. Do you have specific plans for the character of Inz, or will you be leaving him as a relatively blank slate for the reader and focusing more on the others he meets in his travels?
SA: Inz is a complex character and that facet of him is not entirely available to the reader yet – by design. So, there are definitely plans for him to go through significant changes in the coming books. These will be brought out by the events unfolding about him and internal conflicts. I want to make his progression through the series an interesting one for the reader so that they can really understand this young warrior.
DK: What inspired the fantasy/science fiction hybrid setting found in Inz? It's not completely unprecedented in gamebooks (the Skyfall series explored this territory to a small extent, for example), but it seems to be more commonly used as a video game motif.
SA: I found the hybrid setting a challenging piece to tackle and that's why I went for it. It kept me engaged as a writer. I wanted to make a memorable setting – whether it was with the fantasy/science piece, the religion, the everyday workings of Inz's region, the racial dynamics of this empire, etc. – I wanted it to challenge me as a writer and more importantly, interest readers as an interactive story.
DK: What made you decide not to include a full game system in the Inz books?
SA: I wanted to appeal to a broad market honestly. When I was a consultant, I traveled quite a bit on planes and I always wanted to be able to pick up a solo RPG book which was more in depth than the CYOA series and, at the same time, not involving dice and pencils (not condusive for flying). That want then drove me to come up with the Inz series - engaging enough for gamers while being accessible to readers of fantasy fiction.
DK: Those dice can get in the way sometimes, I do admit... Sounds to me like you're aiming for the same territory as the new Choose Your Own Adventure - The Golden Path series. Have you been paying much attention to that series or other contemporary releases?
SA: Yes, that is a series that has been on my radar. I think it's a great initiative by CYOA. And I am keeping my eyes open for other similar series as well.
DK: What do you do when you're not writing? Do you have a "day job"?
SA: Currently, I am pursuing my MBA at Pennsylvania State University. Before that, I was an IT Consultant for five years - so, lots and lots of traveling.
DK: Good luck with that, and with your books!