I am so excited to have today’s guest on the site, because this is seriously a project unlike any I’ve ever seen. Major Detours by Zachary Sergi is an interactive YA novel releasing from Running Press on September 7th, 2021, and today we’re not only revealing the cover, but we’re giving away three galleys with a different beautiful cover, and, because I had to know WTF it means that it’s an interactive YA novel, I asked Zach to share a little more about the process of making this happen!
But first, the book:
It’s the summer before college and four best friends—Amelia, Chase, Cleo, and Logan—are on the first leg of their road trip inspired by the unique tarot deck that Amelia inherited from her grandmother. However, their trip full of visiting occult shops, bonding, and sightseeing quickly takes a major detour when they discover that their tarot deck is more valuable—and coveted—than they could’ve ever imagined. Suddenly pursued by collectors who are after the legendary “lost” work of an infamous cult-following artist, the four friends will discover the fortunes that await those who unearth the deck’s four missing cards.
As the reader, you’ll get to make actual choices to further the friends’ road trip adventure in this first-of-its-kind interactive novel. Will you help the main characters, Amelia and Chase, learn and grow? How will you navigate Amelia’s steamy budding romances and overcome the challenges facing Chase and Logan’s queer-teen relationship? Will you uncover the mysteries of the tarot deck? The choices are yours to make!
Major Detours is more than the branching-path books from your childhood. Instead, this fresh format bridges the gap between nostalgic choose-your-own-adventure and the modern style of digital interactive fiction, with choices that always lead you forward in the story and feature four diverse, queer characters navigating relationships and self-discovery. In Major Detours, the reader can interactively engage in two queer romances (from 2 alternating POVs), between the challenges facing a teen cis-male monogomous long-term relationship and a budding discovery of pansexual and nonbinary identities.
And because I cannot keep this epic cover from you any longer:
**Art by Karl Mountford | Design by Marissa Raybuck**
And, as promised, here’s Zachary Sergi to talk about the creation and inspiration of this novel!
As with any novel, the links in the chain that led to the creation of Major Detours could take us decades back, but I’ll start us more recently: after years of writing digital interactive fiction novels for Choice of Games (Heroes Rise and Versus, which have found the most devoted and lovely readerships) and almost selling two TV pilots (one about a youth cult and another about tarot cards—sound familiar?), I decided to focus my energy on returning to my very first dream: writing and publishing a print novel.
That story spans several years (and includes writing a more straightforward YA supernatural horror novel), but this intention ultimately put me on the path to meeting my agent, Lucy Carson, and eventually my editor at Running Press Kids, Britny Brooks-Perilli. It turns out Britny had read my novels for Choice of Games and wanted to know if I was interested in adapting my unique style of interactive fiction for print.
Of course, the answer was yes. Though really, I had never set out to write interactive fiction. The first Heroes Rise came about similarly: a manager asked if I’d pitch Choice of Games as one of my first opportunities out of college (this was before iPhones had become popularized, so writing a novel that would live as an app for a brand-new publishing company was…a leap of faith, to be sure). As it turns out, like many others, I’m uniquely suited to write interactive fiction, having made up RPG games and stories my whole life (with my ever-growing action figure collection). As RuPaul often says, sometimes you have to let the dream dream you. I always dreamed of being a writer—and as the universe would have it, I’m meant to be an interactive writer.
Needless to say I was very up for the challenge of adapting the complex, coded style of modern IF for print. Britny and I then embarked on a very non-traditional process—perhaps fitting for a very non-traditional print debut. Britny (who has turned out to be my creative soulmate) pitched me a concept: road trip with a potential genre twist. I then pitched tarot cards, a subject I had spent lots of time researching and knew had hidden depths not reflected in pop culture yet. We talked style, then I drafted a full proposal, complete with a sample chapter and a totally new interactive format—one designed to feel as reader-friendly as possible.
After many months of additional drafts and conversations, Britny’s team approved the novel. After years of work, I had arrived at this dream-come-true destination—by taking lots of unexpected detours. But now I actually had to write this novel we had proposed…
Interactive fiction was born out of the interactive novels of the 80s and 90s: most think of the Choose Your Own Adventure line, but I actually grew up reading the Goosebumps: Reader Beware…You Choose The Scare line (I even tried building my own interactive slasher novel in the 3rd grade…so again, detour or destiny?) The novels written for Choice of Games, however, are all grown up: with sophisticated plots and characters, including complicated choices that are tracked by built-in coding and statistics (born out of early adventure video games). How were Britny and I going to replicate this digital/app-driven medium for print?
With lots of creativity, it turns out. The format we invented for Major Detours has three cornerstones. First: a more novelistic style. The original interactive print novels are what we call “bushy,” with lots of short story branches that end quickly and jump all over the book, then send you back to the beginning. In Major Detours, the choices always lead you forward and follow the spine of a linear plot—plus there are callbacks to choices you’ve made along the journey.
This leads us to the second cornerstone: a reading guide in the backmatter, where you can write in your choices using keywords. This unique system keeps track of your choices in a simple way, but once finished reading, you can then plug your choice-keywords into several reader personality profiles. Of course, the choices you make further the plot and branch scenes, but primarily these choices focus on shaping the interior lives of the two protagonists: defining their relationships, their struggles, and their beliefs. In doing so, you also build your own personality profile, choice by choice.
Third, the tone here is no longer middle-grade adventure; instead, we’re dealing with contemporary YA characters and their emotional, steamy, drama-filled coming-of-ages. Oh, and our teen crew is on a spooky tarot adventure, on the run from a maybe-cult of thrilling antagonists and answering deep questions about the meaning of life via the tarot. Some choice themes you will encounter: Can you predict the future or is there no such thing as destiny? Are spirits real or do we only ever haunt ourselves? How can long-term relationships survive going to college on opposite coasts? Is it better to fall for the mysterious good one or the seductive bad boy? Perhaps most importantly, these themes offer several queer romances to navigate… but saying any more about these would definitely mean spoilers for the alternate endings.
The Choices Are Yours
Interactivity, road trips, the tarot, cults, spirituality, queer joy—welcome to Major Detours, an interactive novel unlike any you’ve read before. We truly cannot wait to share it with all you readers!
How cool is that??
BUT WAIT. THERE’S MORE.
The galleys for Major Detours actually have a different cover, though it’s every bit as striking, and the Running Press team is giving three of them away here!
To enter, just leave a comment below! Let us know what you think about the cover, tell us about a choice you made (or wish you’d made), tell us your favorite game, or just acknowledge that this is really damn cool. Giveaway is open to U.S. recipients age 18 and over, and winner will be selected on Thursday, April 1st. Void where prohibited, and please allow for shipping delays due to *gestures around at the world*.