Houston Author Crafts the Interactive World of My Darklyng

32 year-old, West University-raised Laura Moser is still trying to write the "Great Houston Novel," but she may have already tackled the "Great Internet Novel." She and her collaborator Lauren Mechling have, over this summer, published a serial novel for young adults called My Darklyng, about a teenager addicted to vampire novels. The final chapter was published last Friday at Slate.com, which describes the story as "a juicy summer read for vampire lovers (and haters)." My Darklyng is unique, not just in its episodic nature, but also in the way it exists beyond Slate. Moser and Mechling created online personas for specific characters, allowing fans of the story to watch the characters' lives unfold over Facebook. It's been a hit. Moser and Mechling will participate in a Q&A this Friday at Slate.

Art Attack chatted over the phone with Moser, who now lives in Washington D.C.

"It's not a vampire novel. It's about fandom. We wanted to write a semi-satirical play on that kind of Twilight thing, which I don't fully understand."

On My Darklyng's online presence:

"So many e-books being published right now--they're not e-books. We wanted to have something that you couldn't get in a spine/hardback book. Like, how could we give this book a real online identification? People are buying a lot of books for their iPhones and Kindles, but is there anything actually additional? Because it was teenagers we were writing for, they were on Facebook. That's how teenagers communicate with each other, so we thought, 'what could we do to communicate with them?' It's been great."

"There's so much about writing that's a grind and really boring--comma checking and endless outlining and stuff. The reason people go Facebook is because it gives them a break form their actual jobs and lives. So it was fun. It was like the alternative to real work. We still maintain it, we do it every day. It's good work--better than working."

Moser and Mechling "cast" the girls in the Facebook profiles, and then took control of the status updates.

"We would say, 'We need a picture of you guys on an elevator wearing winter clothing,' and then they would do that. In the videos, we would say, 'OK, here's what happens in this section; act it out.'"

Uncharted territory:

"Book publishers don't quite know what to make of it. It's a question that's very interesting to watch publishers grapple with. They're interested, but they don't quite know how to make it [work]. I think in five years, e-books will be something different. You'll still get your DaVinci Code on e-book, but I think there's going to be a more interactive type of e-book that's about to come into existence. I think it's going to be an Apple, or a Google or an Amazon that actually figures out how to create original content for these new devices. Publishers just don't get it."

The audience interaction and the next big thing:

"Our idea was that her life would go on during the days between [episodes]. We ran every Friday. Details altered but the basic idea didn't. I don't think that we would let audience participation actually alter the plot. Though I do think that's a big, new thing that's going to happen soon, sort of "choose your own adventure." We know that's the next great idea, but we haven't quite figured out how to do it. Like an iPhone app that would let you ... it'd be amazing. That's a great million-dollar idea. I'd like to be the one to market it."

On her Houston novel:

"I just never have time to finish it. It's been eight years since I started it. It's a West U. novel. I'll say no more. I don't want to curse it anymore; doom the enterprise."


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