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Unhappy returns


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Local author DeAnna Knippling took a bit of a different path when it came to Choose Your Doom! Zombie Apocalypse! But, then, perhaps that's appropriate for a Choose Your Own Adventure-style book.

Knippling didn't struggle for years to assemble a story, with all the usual drafts and edits, and then begin the journey to find an agent and a publishing house. No, she sent a résumé to Tampa, Fla.-based League Entertainment, seeking freelance work. And as it turned out, she was just who they were looking for.

According to Knippling, the guys who interviewed her said, "So, you kind of have a wrong sense of humor, don't you?" Knippling — who also writes murder mystery party games — admitted to them she did, but didn't know where exactly the question was leading.

They then asked her opinion on the old Bantam Books Choose Your Own Adventure series. She told them, "You know what? I liked the endings where they die better."

Their answer: "Oh, really? Have we got an idea for you."

With that, Knippling began work on Zombie, which she set in her adopted hometown of Colorado Springs. Like many of today's 30-somethings, the writer, now 36, grew up on the second-person-point-of-view interactive books.

"I was kind of a nerd about them," she says. When she picked up a new title, Knippling obsessed over finding the multiple endings. "I'd draw out these little pathways and I never got them to come out quite right, but ..." she says, trailing off laughing. "I was just trying to get all of them."

This childhood habit may have come in handy when plotting out Zombie, though Knippling says, "If somebody ever builds a magic tool that will let me graph this out without having to deal with PowerPoint, I will pay them money and bless them."

While the Choose Your Owns of the '80s and '90s were designed for younger readers, the tongue-in-cheek and rather gory Zombie is better for young adults. Knippling let her daughter (a big zombie fan) read it, and though the girl made a couple of passes through, she got frustrated.

"She's 8," Knippling says. "And she kept dying. And she's like, 'Mom! I keep dying!'"

The name of the series isn't Choose Your Doom for nothing. "Everybody's gonna die," she says. "Well, not everybody ... but definitely the main characters are going to wipe it."

In Zombie, they wipe it at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo and The Broadmoor. In one story thread, "dead bodies, both human and zombie" fill the Penrose Room. "I haven't been there," Knippling says of the five-star restaurant. "You know what? If this book sells really well, I'll go there. It would be the greatest thing in the world."

Knippling's currently brainstorming the plot for the series' second book.

"We were going to do a vampire one, but then we were like, 'No, wait, next year, it'll be 2011. You know what happens after that.' If we're going to publish this before the world ends, we better get kicking."


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