I Spy: Indie Book and Mobile Game Take Aim at Young Readers
They made the choice to self-publish the tie-in novel after, Deemer says, they couldn’t get an audience with traditional publishers. So far, the book has been greeted with positive reviews.A project several years in the making, The Stormglass Protocol is a popular mobile game with a middle-grade indie book tie-in, a product of the unusual team-up of brothers Pete and Andy Deemer, and Hugo Award-winner Tim Pratt.
As the creators explained, the concept -- that of a secret school for young spies, intended as a multimedia project involving a game, books, online spy classes, even physical gadgets -- originated with GameSpot co-founder Pete Deemer and his son, Felix. Pete recruited Andy (a filmmaker, photographer, and blogger) and Andy brought in Tim Pratt to handle the fiction side of things. For Pratt, the decision to get involved was easy. He’d been thinking about writing books aimed at younger readers, in part so his own son would have something he could read and enjoy as he grew up. So while the Deemers fleshed out the world and began work on the video game (available online as The Stormglass Protocol: Room Escape), Pratt brought the setting to life.
According to Pratt, “The Deemers had a rich and well-developed game world, and wanted to explore it in fiction. They came to me with all that backstory and some ideas about what they wanted the book to accomplish -- a focus on resourcefulness, and cool gadgets, and action -- and I started thinking about possible plot lines and characters. My favorite idea involved genetically engineered weaponized killer bees, and when I pitched it, they loved it; we were all on the same page immediately in terms of enthusiasm for the project.”The Deemers and Pratt contributed equally to the evolution and development of Stormglass, working out the details of a secret organization that recruits children to employ futuristic gadgets and vehicles as they save the world from the sinister Vindiqo corporation and other threats. As Pratt explained, “Andy brought me the whole world of Stormglass, its back story, most of its gadgets, and some of the background characters. I came up with the viewpoint characters, some of the other agents at Stormglass HQ, and the plot, with lots of great input from Andy. I wrote a draft, then worked with children's book editor Ruth Katcher to make it better. After that, Andy did substantial work on the book, making additions and cuts to bring it better into line with the game world as it actually developed, so the final product is as much his as mine.” Meanwhile, some of Pratt’s creations made it into the game, while others were held back for possible sequels.
While the book and game are capable of standing alone, they tie into each other, with numerous shared elements, themes, and recurring tropes. In the game, you take on the role of a Stormglass agent who must escape Vindiqo by solving increasingly difficult (to the point of fiendish) puzzles in 16 rooms. The novel focuses on the recruitment of a 14-year-old boy into Stormglass, and his first perilous mission. As Andy Deemer explained, both the book series and the game are open-ended, with sequels intended for both, with Pratt definitely interested in continuing, possibly even writing from a villainous point of view at some point.
They made the choice to self-publish the tie-in novel after, Deemer says, they couldn’t get an audience with traditional publishers. The plan was to publish it with hopes of attracting support further down the road. So far, the book has been greeted with positive reviews from Publishers Weekly and Kirkus, among other venues.
Writing Stormglass, Pratt says, was also a great excuse to re-visit some of his favorite spy stories.
"I slipped in lots of references to classics of the genre and to actual spy history." he says. "If the kids who read this find themselves drawn to to John le Carré and John Buchan and The Third Man and Three Days of the Condor when they're a little older, I'll be a happy writer.”
Added Deemer: “We really should send a copy to le Carré. While so many reviews are calling this series 'a Bond adventure for kids,' I'd say it's just as much a Smiley for kids.”