Behind the Scenes at Anthony E. Zuiker’s Digi-Novel

By Jason Boog 

10011_alb_large_305x500_30861252978011.jpgCSI creator Anthony E. Zuiker recently launched an interactive “digi novel” entitled Level 26–a print thriller packed with multimedia stories that bridge the action. Intrigued by this new medium, GalleyCat caught up with Zuiker’s co-writer, author and blogger Duane Swierczynski.

The writer had plenty of thoughts and food metaphors for fledgling multimedia authors and publishers: “Modern readers already expect an experience beyond the book. No, they don’t expect a full-fledged movie, but they (usually) look forward to the eventual movie adaptation… and raise hell when it’s delayed, or when the ‘wrong’ director is attached to the project.”

He continued: “So what Zuiker has done here is give readers this experience…all at once. No need to wait for a LEVEL 26 adaptation; he’s given you a glimpse of the movie right here, at the same time you read the book…I don’t think the thriller of the future will need to replicate what Zuiker’s done — frankly, I don’t see how they *could*, considering how much blood, sweat and dough he’s put into this project. (That’s right: LEVEL 26 is one big gooey horror-thriller pizza.)”

“But I do think Zuiker’s showing the way, reminding us writers and editors that hey, modern readers do want more. And we’re going to have to be creative about giving it to them.

He continued: “I quickly realized that the cyberbridges (the short online films) required a different strategy. I’m of the ‘potato chip’ school of thriller-writing; when a reader finishes a chapter, he/she should be craving to turn the page for just one more. And then just one more. And just one more…

“We wanted to do that here, but we also wanted the story to reach a fever pitch where you were also *dying* to check out the bridge, as well as continue the story. In other words, we wanted to tell the reader: ‘Don’t worry. The potato chip will be here when you get back. But wouldn’t you like a nice piece of chocolate, too?’

“It was also tricky when the cyberbridges were filmed. Continuity issues are challenging in a movie, but we didn’t just have a movie here — there was a *novel,* too, that had to roll with the changes.”

He concluded: “This is all, by the way, is all part of the normal creative process. You get a better idea, you do your best to execute that idea. I change things all of the time in my own novels — and then I grumble as I plow through the manuscript yet again, fixing everything in its wake. The only difference here was that one creative change rippled across two different forms: a novel, and a film.”