Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Andrea Buchanan: Using Multi-Media to the Max

Andrea Buchanan, known as Andi, is a New York Times bestselling author, writing for both children and adults, fiction and non fiction. I know her as the co-author of the popular Daring Book for Girls series. Her new young adult novel, Gift, hit Barnes and Noble's top ten in Teen Books at the end of May. Let's hear all about it!

Andi, first tell us about Gift.

High school student Daisy Jones has a secret, unpredictable power—one only her best friend, Danielle, knows about. But when Daisy tries to help a mysterious classmate in crisis, she soon discovers that her new friend has a secret of her own. Can Daisy and her friends work together to untangle a ghostly mystery before it's too late?

How did you initially get published?

My first book was published in spring of 2003. I've worked with traditional publishers all along the way, whether writing about motherhood and feminism, girl culture, or fiction like GIFT.

Is your book available in print format? Which came first and why?

GIFT is available in print this summer, but it was published first this March as an ebook -- primarily because I wanted to take advantage of the possibilities presented by the digital format. In the iBooks edition of GIFT, the story comes alive with music, art, and text events that are integrated into the reading experience. In the print edition, and in some of the more basic ebook formats, these elements exist in the form of static images, or links to music videos. But in the iBooks edition, music (composed "by" one of the characters in the book) plays when a reader reaches one of the four main sections of the book, a music video is embedded in a chapter in which a character sings a song he wrote for the main character; spooky images appear at certain points in the narrative that, in the end, the reader learns are drawings from another character's graphic novel, which retells the story from her own perspective at the end of the main text; and words disappear from the page as the reader confronts messages seemingly written by a ghost.

What were your initial thoughts about e-publishing? Have those initial thoughts changed now that you’ve done it?

I read ebooks almost exclusively these days, and it's rare that I even consider buying print. Which is something I was surprised to realize, seeing as how I grew up in a house with thousands of books, and I have just as many books in my own house right now. What I've realized is that to me, reading is reading, whether I'm using a codex or a screen. And so publishing GIFT as an ebook primarily, with a print edition to follow, just made sense. It's a format -- and an interesting one, at that -- and I'm always curious about the possibilities of new technology. So it felt like a natural choice for me.

As you got into e-publishing, have you discovered unexpected things? Has anything happened that you wouldn’t have predicted?

One thing I hadn't fully realized until I watched my publisher's team tackle it was just how fragmented, still, the ebook platform is. Different devices have different formatting standards, and what works beautifully on one device won't work at all on another, or what seems elegant in one format appears clunky in a different one. So that's a challenge, especially if you're trying to do something that pushes the boundaries of what's possible, formatting-wise.

The other surprising thing for me was discovering that lots of boys are reading the book. One of the things I did to help launch the book when it first came out was to commission a playable adventure map of the book in Minecraft, which is an incredibly popular, incredibly wonderful videogame. The map is free, and anyone who has Minecraft installed on their computer can download the file and then play the game in the world of the book. Everything from the book is in there -- the geographical details, the locations and settings; even the ghostly dream world and the underworld from the more paranormal parts of the book. There are even "skins" the player can download of the four main characters, in case they want to play as one of the characters from the book. There's an adventure component to the map that is separate from the book, and you don't have to have read the book in order to enjoy the map -- but if you have read it, you might have a better sense of where to look for things in the map, based on plot points from the story. Anyway, due to the map, and the large number of teenaged boy Minecraft players, GIFT has found an audience with boys. Which is just great, I think. 
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Learn more about Andrea and her books at her website, or by following her on TwitterGoogle+ or Goodreads.  And Gift has its own Facebook page.

Visit again on Saturday for an interview with author Kristy Evans, and to check the updated Kids' EBook Bestseller List!