'TWAS - The Roleplaying Game Before Christmas

Friday, 19 October 2018

Gamebook Friday: Alice im Düsterland at the Frankfurt Book Fair

This time last week I was on my way to the Frankfurt Book Fair for what turned out to be a very special birthday weekend indeed. I was there as a guest of Mantikore-Verlag, the German language publisher of Alice's Nightmare in Wonderland, who were launching my spielbuch at the event.

I arrived at Frankfurt airport to be greeted by publisher Nicolai Bonczyk holding a sign with my name on - a first for me! After checking in to my hotel, we made our way to the Book Fair where I met Nicolai's partner in business, and life, his lovely wife Karolina, and Alex, who works as a translator and proofreader for Mantikore, and who has his own YA fantasy novel coming out next Spring.

I had a scheduled signing slot at 3:00pm for an hour, but as soon as I arrived I found myself with pen in hand*, signing books for people, and posing for selfies. I was also interviewed by various book bloggers, including DieTeenX (who was wearing an Alice-themed dress) and Susanne (a.k.a. Solaria300). You can actually watch my interview with Susanne on YouTube.

My first book blog interview was with DieTeenX.

By the end of the day, Mantikore had a slight problem, in that they had sold out of copies of Alice im Düsterland! However, there was another geek con taking place nearby and so Nicolai was dispatched to collect several boxes of books.

It also happened to be my birthday last Friday and so the Mantikore team took me to dinner, where we were joined by superstar German gamebook author Jens Schumacher and his partner Mia. I sampled the local apfelwein and some very smooth spirit or other, as well as enjoying a feast of schnitzel, pork knuckle, and a special birthday apple strudel**. (I was also delighted to discover that we had been out on Franksteiner Strasse.)

Schnitzel und apfelwein!

When I arrived at the Book Fair on Saturday, it was to find people queueing to meet me and buy the book and - after a heading off to explore and grab some food - when I returned to Mantikore's stand in the afternoon it was to find even longer queues of people, some of whom had been waiting up to two hours! It was very flattering and all a little surreal***.

Having sold out again(!) Karolina then broke out the treats she had prepared especially for the event - cans of 'Drink Me' energy drink or prosecco, and little boxes of 'Eat Me' popcorn! There were even Düsterland-themed bottle openers, trinkets, and fantastic Cheshire Cat bags.

Does what it says on the tin, so to speak.

At dinner that night we were joined by more Mantikore authors, including Dominic Schmeller, and gamebook specialists Swen Harder (he of Rider of the Black Sun fame) and Jörg Benne (author of Verax: Das Experiment). Much discussion of gamebooks followed, not only concerning how we write them and the mechanics we employ, but also how in German they have made the successful transition to being regarded as suitable for adults whereas in the UK we are still struggling for them to be seen as any other than books for children. We also talked about how we might best capitalise on the success of Alice im Düsterland.

Sunday came and with it one last book of books, all of which sold out within five minutes. I then resorted to signing postcards while people filled in pre-order forms for the book, which has had to be reprinted. Which is nice.

The Mantikore-Verlag stand at the Frankfurt Book Fair.

There was then a chance for one last look round - Frankfurt Book Fair is like the London Book Fair and MCM Comic Con all rolled into one - and pick up something for the family, before heading to the airport. I left summer sunshine, clear skies, and temperatures of 26 degrees in Germany, to return to a cold and wet autumn in England. But it's okay - I'm already planning a return visit.

Other highlights of the weekend including meeting long-time reader, and Pax Britannia translator - Michael Knarr, meeting Game of Thrones German superfans Frank and Marion, and also meeting Bulgaria gamebook author Nikola Raykov (creator of GameTale).

Michael Knarr and Yours Truly.

It only remains for me to say another huge danke schön to Nicolai, Karolina and Alex, for looking after me so well and making such a fuss of me on my birthday, as well as all the authors, who so patiently spoke English for the entire weekend because my German is so poor****, and last, but my no means least, to all the fans. Alles gut und wunderbar!

* As well as a bottle of German beer!

** That was the second time that day that a group of German people sang Happy Birthday to me.

*** The other authors on the stand also started calling me a rockstar author!

**** Although it did improve when the beer was flowing, and I now know the German for both 'Curiouser and curiouser' and 'Welcome to Wonderland'.

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