1. I used to love books that focused on the readers choosing their own adventures! What made you all decide to write a book like that?
David: Like you, we loved those books too! Danny approached me with the idea for the series, and he wrote out a quick proof-of-concept idea for me to get a feel for what he was envisioning. Instantly, a wave of nostalgia came over me while I read through this concept. Ideas began forming and I was immediately hooked.
Danny: As a kid, I couldn't get enough of these books! I'd hit the library several times a week, waiting for people to return the ones I'd missed. Being a computer geek, I also tried "writing" my own CYOA books by programming them in a very similar fashion as the computer game ZORK. I wanted to tell my own stories, give readers my own choices. Most of all, I wanted each story to have a single GREAT ending. That's something I felt like the original Choose Your Own Adventure books always missed: even if you went back and read every single storyline, you never really knew when you'd gotten to the "best" ending.
2. What kind of research did you for this book? How long did you spend researching before beginning this book?
David: Choose Your Adventure books are awfully complicated, so we always map out a flowchart of the story beforehand to help keep everything straight in our head. The flowcharts can get pretty crazy--some of them look like those conspiracy theory bulletin boards you see in movies, with string connecting parts all over the place! Honestly, I typically spend just as much time plotting out the story as I do actually writing it. The writing comes easy once it's all plotted out.
Danny: The story has lived in my head for a while, but the hard part was learning the process of writing in a CYOA format. It's a lot more than just writing a story: you have to sit down and graph out all the possible story arcs. Each time the reader makes a choice, that choice becomes a branch from the central story "tree". David and I talked at length about how to do this. We ended up using flowcharts consisting of "encounter" boxes that interconnect with each other in different ways. Laying out the story beforehand, as a top-down story tree, is probably THE most important aspect of writing a CYOA book. Once you have all that, sitting down as an author to actually tell the story becomes a whole lot easier.
3. How did you select the names of the characters?
David: Names are pretty random for me. Sometimes I'll grab a book of baby names and look for something unique, and other times I've got some names already picked out. For example, in Ultimate Ending #8, the two main characters are twins named Beckett and Bastion, which I named after the children of a close friend of mine.
Danny: Honestly? I google "Cool names" and "Cool last names" and things like that. But very often I'll pick the first names of people who remind me of someone, too. In book seven, the Tower of Never There, the character's first name has a very significant meaning (that I can't go into without spoiling things!) And in this book, Waif's nickname has a more straightforward meaning too: physically he's very thin and waifish, something that becomes important later on within the scope of the story.
4. Were you inspired by any other "choose your own adventure books?"
David: I read some of the original Choose Your Own Adventure series, but what really captured my interest as a kid was the Give Yourself Goosebumps series by R.L. Stine. I was already a big fan of the Goosebumps series, so his interactive fiction series grabbed my attention immediately.
Danny: Yes, there was a series of Endless Quest books that came out right after the Choose Your Own Adventure books started. These were fantasy based books by TSR, the creators of Dungeons & Dragons. Since I played AD&D, I absolutely LOVED these books! But unfortunately there were only a few of them. The Pillars of Pentegarn was my favorite.
5. What is your favorite childhood book?
David: I read Jurassic Park when I was maybe 10 years old. It was my first exposure to adult literature; I was already an avid reader, but that book catapulted me into a new thirst for reading that has molded the writer I am today. I still go back and re-read it every few years!
Danny: Had to be one of the Hardy Boys books. That was the series that really triggered reading for me. Up until then I'd be glued to the TV for Scooby Doo and Saturday Morning Cartoons. But once I realized I could read mystery stories and they were ten times more detailed and exciting than just watching a cartoon? I was totally hooked. Luckily my parents were so thrilled I was interested in reading they went out and bought me the entire Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew series.
6. I saw that this book is a part of a series! Does each volume stand on it's own or are they interconnected?
David: Each book completely stands on its own! We occasionally re-use characters (for example, the same characters from Treasures of the Forgotten City are featured in Rescue From the Valley of Chaos) but you can grab any book in the series and jump right in without needing to read the prior ones.
Danny: Yes! Each book is a stand-alone adventure, just like the CYOA books of old. So far we've written a dozen of them, and only one recycles characters from a previous book (this first one, actually) to take them out for another spin. But they can all be read individually, and in any order.
7. What book has most influenced your life?
David: I think I was the only kid in my AP English class who actually enjoyed Lord of the Flies. The way that book illustrates the descent of humanity into a more animal state when basic needs are removed affected me in a way I really didn't expect.
Danny: I'd have to say IT, by Stephen King. It seems to be my standard answer, probably because it was the first time I was truly captivated by a story. Stephen King not only writes characters everyone can relate to, but he has a knack for putting them in situations that seem plausible no matter how supernatural or fantastic. He connects with you first before scaring the crap out of you, which of course makes your fear all the more real.
8. Do you have a day job in addition to being a writer or is writing your sole job/career for the moment?
David: By day I'm a Systems Administrator (IT guy). Honestly, it makes writing more enjoyable: there's no pressure to publish often/quickly enough to support myself, so I can write at my leisure. That said, I do treat writing like a second job: since 2014 I've committed to writing at least one hour every day.
Danny: I own a few retail websites, and have a giant warehouse full of wall decals and kids' decor that my wife and I sell online. I also run a bunch of marketing-centric sites that bring in money. Before all that, I was a computer programmer.
9. What is your favorite part of these books? (Spoiler free if you can haha)
David: The Ultimate Ending, of course! The problem with the older CYOA books is that you never really knew when to stop reading. You never knew when you were done, so by the end you're just sort of randomly flipping through the book to see what you missed. With our series there are lots of secondary endings, but there's only one Ultimate Ending, and it's going to take several read-throughs to reach it. That both gives the reader a definitive conclusion, and a satisfying feeling for finally getting there.
Danny: The best part of any Ultimate Ending book is... well... the ending. It's where you have that "a ha!" moment, and the answer smacks you in the face! Once you make that final push, figure out that one last piece of the puzzle, you're thrust into the best of all possible endings. And believe, our endings are Ultimate!
Three priceless star jewels. A century-old, cryptic journal. Using only the resources left by your grand-uncle, it's up to you to find Atraharsis — the legendary lost city beneath the sands.
But the way won't be easy. Raging sandstorms, sinister traps, and a whole host of mysteries stand between you and your Ultimate goal.
Can you solve the riddles, and recover the fabled star gems in time?
Or will you — like so many who've gone before — become the next permanent resident of the forgotten city?
YOU choose your own path in this treasure-hunting adventure! Ultimate Ending lets YOU pick the story. YOU make the decisions, solve the riddles, avoid the traps and gather the clues. It's a mystery and adventure book that YOU control!
Danny McAleese started writing fantasy fiction during the golden age of Dungeons & Dragons, way back in the heady, adventure-filled days of the 1980's. His short stories, The Exit, and Momentum, made him the Grand Prize winner of Blizzard Entertainment's 2011 Global Fiction Writing contest.
He currently lives in NY, along with his wife, four children, three dogs, and a whole lot of chaos.
David Kristoph lives in Ft Worth, Texas with his wonderful wife and two not-quite German Shepherds. He's a fantastic reader, great videogamer, good chess player, average cyclist, and mediocre runner.
He's also a member of the Planetary Society, a patron of StarTalk Radio, an amateur astronomer and general space enthusiast. He writes mostly Science Fiction and Fantasy.