Author Jonathan Green wants you to help decide what happens next in Time's Arrow ... Ever wished you could have a little more input into the books you read? With Time's Arrow, the eighth novel in Abaddon's Pax Britannia series, author Jonathan Green is making the storytelling a collaborative affair. Taking the "Choose your own adventure" principle of Fighting Fantasy and playing it out on a much larger scale, the first instalment of Time's Arrow , "Red-Handed" is now available as an ebook , and it ends with a cliffhanger. How the story continues will depend on the results of a vote to decide what happens next – so the rest of the novel is in your hands.
We had a chat with Green to find out a little more about the project…
Have you enjoyed experimenting with the novel format?
It's certainly exciting to feel that we're doing something with the established novel format that's not been done for a long time. Time's Arrow partly came out of the way that Dickens would write his books piecemeal, and influenced by the popularity of certain characters among his readership. I feel that with this project we're truly taking steampunk literature back to its Victorian roots.
You've written Fighting Fantasy novels before. How has the writing of this compared? Have you approached it in a similar way?
There is a crossover element and the idea was certainly inspired by the fact that I have written so many gamebooks – and not just for the Fighting Fantasy range either. I've written gamebooks featuring Doctor Who and Sonic The Hedgehog , as well as characters from the Star Wars universe. I'm currently working on my thirteenth gamebook, which takes the grim darkness of the 41st millennium as its setting as it's for Games Workshop's publishing imprint Black Library. And I've recently had my first gamebook app, Temple Of The Spider God , published by Tin Man Games for the iDevice of your choice.
However, in general I have approached Time's Arrow as I would approach the writing of any other novel. The big difference is that I don't know how the story is really going to progress until the votes have been counted and verified. And for someone who plans his books in minute detail before he ever starts writing them, that's the challenging bit.
Is it odd writing a novel when you don't know how exactly it's going to end – and knowing you're not in full control?
Absolutely! I wouldn't describe myself as a control freak but when it comes to creating a plot and a whole world within a novel, I suppose that's exactly what I am. I believe that detailed chapter breakdowns are what have prevented me from ever suffering a case of writer's block. This time it's going to be the pressure of the deadline that's going to have to keep me going!
Would the different versions of the story be radically different?
The protagonist Ulysses Quicksilver starts the novel in a particular place and I know where he needs to end up at the end of Time's Arrow , but everything in between...? That could vary enormously. We'll just have to wait and see what the public decide.
Was there much debate over where to put the "choice" points, or did they grow organically out of the story?
My Pax Britannia novels have generally followed a familiar Three Act format so that seemed like the sensible way to go with Time's Arrow . And I always like to end each part on a cliffhanger anyway to keep people hooked and wanting to read more. Of course I'm hoping that when the story is read as a whole, the section breaks will appear to have grown organically from the story itself.
Would you be interested in doing other versions of the novel where the other choices were made?
To be honest, probably not. When people ask me which of the books I've written is my favourite, the answer's always the same: it's the next one. That's what excites and inspires me, applying the whole creative process to tease out a tale where before there wasn't one.
Going back to a story I'm done with and writing an alternative version… that doesn't sound like quite so much fun. I want to know where the characters and storyline are going next, not where they might have been if things had worked out differently.
Do you think you'll be tempted to change anything when all of the chapters are put together as a full book, or will they stay as they were?
I don't want to change anything once the story's done, otherwise I'll feel like I've cheated people. If you want the readership to be invested in a project such as this, at the end of the day you have to give them what they asked for, otherwise it will feel like you've conned them.
For good or for ill, what appears in the three eBooks will be what appears in print (bar any typos that are spotted in the meantime). However, the paperback edition of Time's Arrow will include a bonus novella. So even if you've already read the book digitally, you're still going to want to pick up the unabridged bound novel at the end of the day.
Is it something you'd like to try again?
Yes, I think I would. It's too early to say if this is the model Abaddon would want to follow with the Pax Britannia range in the future. But it would be fun to continue in a similar vein if it's what people want and they respond with enthusiasm to Time's Arrow. Maybe it could become a trademark of mine…
You can find out more about Abaddon's publishing experiment, as well as vote for how you want the story of Time’s Arrow to continue, at www.AbaddonBooks.com – you have until 11 December to have your say. To find out more about the world of Pax Britannia in general, visit www.PaxBritannia.com and to find out about Jonathan Green's latest projects, log-on to www.JonathanGreenAuthor.com .
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