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Dan Poblocki – Shadow House Interview

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Dan Poblocki 2016

Today Dan Poblocki, one of our favorite authors, joins Awake at Midnight to discuss his unique new multi-format series, Shadow House.

Poblocki’s work picked up where his major influence, John Bellairs, (the greatest pioneer of children’s horror,) left off. His newest book takes Poblocki’s creepy storytelling one step beyond as the backstory of a gang of kids is explored in depth… through an mobile device app! Dan and the editor of the Shadow House project, Erin Black, answer questions about the new series and tell us about the development process.

From the dustjacket:

The books tell the story of five kids who have been invited to the sinister Shadow House for what they thought were innocent reasons—but once they’re inside, they realize they’re being haunted (or hunted?) by five ghosts who have lived in the house before.


 

Awake at Midnight:
How did the concept come about for Shadow House’s groundbreaking new app-integrated format?

Erin Black, Shadow House Editor:
Scholastic started its multliplatform publishing program in 2008 with the groundbreaking The 39 Clues series. The original series had 10 books and was written by many bestselling authors including Rick Riordan. In addition to the books themselves, there were cards which readers could use to unlock clues to solve the mystery alongside the characters, and an online game where readers could go on missions and uncover more secrets, as well as interact with one another (and sometimes characters from the books) on the forums.

And The 39 Clues series was just the beginning! Scholastic’s multiplatform publishing program now includes Infinity Ring, Spirit Animals, TombQuest, Shadow House, and the upcoming Horizon series helmed by Scott Westerfeld. Since 2008, there have of course been huge changes in the technology that’s available, like tablets and smartphones, and changes in the way kids play games and go online. Since an increasing number of kids have been visiting the Scholastic sites using different devices, Scholastic wants to meet them where they are. Shadow House is the first multiplatform project that was designed as an app. And of course, there’s still a website where kids can find out more about future books in the series, listen to audio book samples, find out a little about author Dan Poblocki, and chat with one another, sometimes characters from the book and even the Shadow House itself!
 

Dan Poblocki 2016

Awake at Midnight:
What kind of additional material can we expect to find within the app? How much backstory for the Larkspur Institution’s masked ghosts and its director will it offer? How do choices made in the app alter the progression of the story for a reader? I’m hoping the ink on the page won’t actually change during the night…

Erin Black:
The story in the app stands alone, as do the books, but they come together as part of one bigger adventure. So, the closer you pay attention in the app, the more material there is! With each new book’s release, we will launch a new piece of the Shadow House app. Each piece tells a different part of our house’s (Larkspur) backstory. Readers will steer characters through ghost stories, and make choices that take them down different paths each time they play through. There’s also bonus material in the form of text, images (which sometimes move), and audio. It’s such a cool, different way to tell a story!

 

Awake at Midnight:
Can we still enjoy the story if we don’t own an iPhone? Does the app have a lifetime?

Erin Black:
The app is available across both Apple iOS and Google Android mobile devices. It is available NOW in the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.


Get the Shadow House App!
Apple App Store
or
Google Play

 

Awake at Midnight:
Were the visuals in the app designed with storyboards like in a movie? How big was the production team?

Erin Black:
We always start with the story when designing the game experience. So, for Shadow House, there’s the bigger story we’re trying to tell in the first part of the app, working off of Dan’s initial history of Larkspur, and then we divide that up so readers get a chapter at a time. Once the story chapter is outlined, the team working on the app comes up with the artwork to accompany each section. As a fun fact, the core production team who created the app and online community includes well over a dozen people across all departments!

 

Awake at Midnight:
How was writing for two different platforms different from a standard outline-to-draft novel?

Dan Poblocki:
The process of writing standalone novels feels very different from the work we’ve done for the Shadow House series, mainly in terms of figuring out how to divide our singular story into three satisfying and thematically distinct parts, as well as allowing the characters to grow and change throughout all the books. What helped was outlining the entire series first. As Erin mentioned, early on I created a large document about the history of the haunted estate, the people who lived and died there, and the house’s many dark secrets. So while I’ve told the present day story which involves the main characters Azumi, Dash, Dylan, Marcus, and Poppy, the multiplatform team at Scholastic has taken my notes and run with them, creating smaller stories within the app itself. It’s fun to see how twisted they’ve been, building insanely scary images and additional shocking tales that were once only inklings in my brain.

 

App Logo

 

Awake at Midnight:
How was the format influenced by books like
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and Asylum? Do you think it came about as a natural progression from the Internet videos of Patrick Carman’s Skeleton Creek series?

Dan Poblocki:
These books show that there is certainly an audience for this genre in children’s books and Shadow House is for middle grade readers, so contributes to the genre for that age range. The books in the series incorporate artwork throughout and because of tech capabilities the Scholastic team working on the app was able to take that idea a step further. It was a natural progression to move from Internet videos to being able to carry around an interactive book app in your pocket, to play with, read and explore, wherever and whenever you want.

 

Awake at Midnight:
How do you see this kind of multimedia reading experience evolving in the future?

Dan Poblocki:
What’s exciting about technology today is that the possibilities are endless!

 

Monsters & Mischief

Awake at Midnight:
Your stories abound with mysteries and puzzles (as we saw in The
Nightmarys and The Mysterious Four series). Can you explain more about the sigils hidden within the app and how they fit into the overarching mystery of Shadow House?

Dan Poblocki:
The sigils are different shapes found throughout the books that are a fun, bonus way to link the artwork to the corresponding stories in the app. Readers are challenged with tracing the sigils they find in the books into the app. As readers make their way through the app they will get to see something fun when all the sigils are put together… Just a quick hint though, while most of the sigils are obvious, some are hidden and take a keen eye to uncover.

 

Awake at Midnight:
The Gathering starts out creepy and builds to a crescendo of horror that amounts to one of the scariest children’s books I’ve read. How did you use technology to bring out the frightening elements of the Shadow House experience?

Erin Black:
That delicious thrill at the end of The Gathering isn’t due to any technology-– that’s all down to amazing writing, edge-of-your-seat pacing, and Dan’s incredible imagination! The app continues the story in a way that’s a little different. We’ve taken images from the books and created stories that center on those images from different perspective. For example, when Dan writes a chilling scene that takes place in one of the haunted hallways in the Shadow House, we can actually have readers “walk” down that hallway as a different character. They can see other things like shadows that move, or, wait, are those glowing eyes behind you…?

The technology brings out frightening elements of the Shadow House series in other ways too-– readers are already chatting in the Shadow House forums on the Scholastic site. You should see what they are writing with just one image for inspiration, let alone a post from one of the Shadow House characters or a writing prompt as a jumping-off point!


Shadow House 2 is slated for a release in the Spring of 2017 and Book 3 the following Autumn!

Dan’s first interview with Awake at Midnight is about writing horror for kids:   Dan Poblocki Interview

 

The Gathering (Shadow House #1) by Dan Poblocki
 
You don’t just read this ghost story. You step into it.
 
Some houses are more than just haunted . . . they’re hungry.
 
Dash, Dylan, Poppy, Marcus, and Azumi don’t know this at first. They each think they’ve been summoned to Shadow House for innocent reasons. But there’s nothing innocent about Shadow House.
 
Something within its walls is wickedly wrong. Nothing–and nobody–can be trusted. Hallways move. Doors vanish. Ghosts appear. Children disappear.
 
And the way out?
That’s disappeared, too…
 
Enter Shadow House… if you dare.


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2 Comments

  1. I love your shadow house series, I just can’t seem to find book 3 of the series, which made me think that you haven’t made one yet, wanted to know if this is true and if it is true then when is it going to come out?????????
    Thanks!

    • Hi Kade! This isn’t Dan Poblocki, I just interviewed him for Awake at Midnight. But to answer your question, Shadow House II (You Can’t Hide) just hit the bookstores in December; Book Three is scheduled to be released this Autumn (2017), hopefully just before Halloween!

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