The Lara Kingsley Series began on a whim. I came up with the idea of crowdsourcing a novel as a way to build up my audience. At the time, I was enthralled with created a political thriller trilogy and probably shouldn’t have distracted myself with yet another writing project. But I was desperate to connect with readers and didn’t want to wait until I finally published.
The idea to so something like this came from the “Choose Your Own Adventure” game books I read as a kid where readers could make choices about the direction of the plot and follow divergent pathways leading to different conclusions. Instead of producing a finished novel and then trying to get an audience, what if I allowed the audience to be part of my creative process in a fun, choose your own adventure sort of way?
I began looking into crowdsourcing as a method to see if other authors have had similar ideas. I found a few notable examples.
- In 2015, Eric Mack began crowdsourcing an entire science fiction novel, which was finished last Spring. He served as the lead writer, developed the story concept and acted as admin on an open Google Doc where anyone could provide input into the draft.
- Hugh Howey, bestselling author of the Wool Trilogy Series, also has used crowdsourcing to get ideas for his novels.
- I also discovered that Andy Weir, author of The Martian, crowdsourced aspects of his bestselling novel (which is now a movie starring Matt Damon).
Despite these prominent examples, I did not find any online courses on “How to Crowdsource a Novel” or links to many writers engaging in this practice. So I developed my own approach.
In September 2016, I set off on an experiment to crowdsource fiction and create an interactive reader experience. I chose mystery as my genre, the year 2027 in Washington D.C. as my setting, and a strong female protagonist as my amateur detective. I developed the overall book concept, created the main characters, and began writing the first scene.
The journey to publishing Bionic Bug ultimately began scene by scene. I wrote a scene, uploaded it to my website, offered my readers three options for the next scene, and gave them a week to vote. Then, I wrote the scene receiving the most votes. I am indebted to my first readers for their enthusiasm about the story and receiving one draft scene at a time—Marina Abrams, Jennifer Batts, Reneé DeVries, Min Kim, Katie McCurdy, Steve Mechels, Laura Marsh, and Cheryl Tolley. Without them, I wouldn’t have begun this crazy endeavor in the first place or completed a first draft.
In April 2017, I finished a decent draft of the book and decided to launch a Lara Kingsley Series, continuing to engage in an interactive reader experience. I currently have a group of fans who are helping me brainstorm ideas for Project Gecko, the second book in the series.
Each mystery novel is set in Washington, D.C. in the near future and uniquely blends elements of mystery, techno-thriller, and speculative fiction. Lara, her brilliant side-kick, Vik Abhay, and a vibrant cast of supporting characters are thrust into a new technological world to solve crimes involving drones, biotechnology, gene editing, robotics, microelectronics, nanotechnology, artificial intelligence, cyberspace, and 3D printing.
WARNING: This is not your grandmother’s mystery novel.