Secret GardensOur new book Secret Gardens launches at the Lakes International Comic Art Fair this weekend. It’s part-comic, part-illustrated story book, for all ages, and it’s a choose-your-own-adventure.

The idea to produce a choose-your-own-adventure came when we met with Anna Saczek at Lowther Castle, the setting for Secret Gardens. She was keen that we explore the landscape of Lowther, looking at the amazing gardens through different lenses and finding new histories and mysteries there. We were also inspired by Knight and Dragon, published by Improper Books, a comic book choose-your-own-adventure which reminded us of how much we used to love reading them when we were younger.

Let’s get to the complicated bit:

First, write four stories

Yes, there are four stories in Secret Gardens, each of which takes you on a different route through the Lowther landscape and each of which has a separate set of characters and actions.

Make each story into an adventure

A choose-your-own-adventure means choices – making sure that each individual section of story offers the reader something to do next. This could be choosing between two, three or even four options, and then figuring how those options loop back to the main story (if they do!).

Writer Lizzie Boyle: “At this point in my life, I had about 150 paragraphs, each of which had a code number (A1, B4 – things like that). And it all made sense!”

Decide the order for your stories

Lizzie Boyle says: “This is where it got hard! Trying to weave together four stories in 60 pages, making sure that you don’t have too many pieces of each story on an individual or double page, balancing where the illustrated pages would be, and making sure that there was enough “jumping” between pages so that the reader never knew quite where they were going to go.”

The process looked a little bit like this:

IMG_5993Each narrative was in a different colour. The easiest way of following them in sequence: putting down Scrabble tiles in alphabetical order… (hey, who said comics had to be high tech??)


Once everything’s in order, then it gets renumbered, in the order that it’ll appear in the book (so A1 becomes number 37, B4 becomes number 112, something like that).

Writer Lizzie Boyle: “I’m a spreadsheet obsessive. For Secret Gardens, the spreadsheet has original numbering for each section and final numbering, plus descriptions of what’s on each page, whether it’s illustrated, whether it has options for the reader to choose from. Oh and working page numbers and final page numbers. And a lot of different colours.”

Check everything and check it again. And again.

Even with three pairs of eyes checking everything multiple times, we are now living in absolute fear that the numbers are wrong. If so, we’ll have a very empty table at the launch next week…

But if we’ve got it right, then Secret Gardens will be available for £5 from the Disconnected Press table in the Comics Clock Tower in Kendal on Saturday 17th and Sunday 18th October (on the first floor, close to the stage!).

You can also order a copy from us by emailing hello@disconnectedpress.co.uk or from our online Comicsy shop at http://www.comicsy.co.uk/disconnectedpress/store/products/secret-gardens/.