104: Gaming Shakespeare – Interview with Ryan North

Hey there Word Nerds! Thanks for joining me for today’s awesome DIY MFA Radio interview with author Ryan North. When one of my contacts over at Penguin told me Romeo and/or Juliet and asked if I wanted to bring the author on the show, my immediate reaction: “Shakespeare meets choose-your-own adventure? Yes please!”

The fact that the play being parodied was Romeo and Juliet clinched it for me. Why? Because Romeo and Juliet is perhaps Shakespeare’s most overrated (and ridiculous) play. On one hand, this play features one of Shakespeare’s most complex, interesting and all-around badass characters (i.e. Mercutio). On the other hand, this play also centers around the star-crossed lovers–Romeo and Juliet–who might just be the two most banal, boring characters in all of literature. (In case you haven’t noticed, have very strong opinions about Shakespeare.)

I simply HAD to see how Ryan was going to apply his choose-your-own-path model to this particular play. Let’s just say, the result did not disappoint. In fact, it was even more awesome than I anticipated.

If you aren’t familiar with Ryan North’s work, he is a NYT bestselling author and cartoonist, and his first choose-your-own-path Shakespeare book, To Be or Not To Be, became Kickstarter’s most-funded publishing project when it first launched. Now with Romeo and/or Juliet he has crafted a story with over 40 quadrillion possible journeys for a reader to take. It’s sort of like a book-meets-video-game with over one hundred possible endings and original illustrations from amazing artists.


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In this episode Ryan and I discuss:

  • The power of memorizing poetry
  • Choose-your-own-adventure and the art of storytelling
  • Shakespeare’s big mistake
  • Keeping track of everything when your story has many moving parts
  • Making sure that your characters have choices that feel real and have an impact while coping with the reality of the world they live in.
  • Engaging readers in with the text

Plus, Ryan’s #1 tip for writers. Romeo And/Or Juliet

In this choose-your-own-path version of Romeo and Juliet, you choose where the story goes every time you read! Romeo and/or Juliet has over 40 QUADRILLION possible journeys for a reader to take. Readers can choose to play as Romeo or Juliet, as Romeo and Juliet together, as Juliet’s nurse, or even as an unlockable fourth mystery character. All of the endings—there are more than a hundred—feature original illustrations from incredible artists.

Written with the unique humor that fans of Dinosaur Comics and the Adventure Time comics know and love, Romeo and/or Juliet turns the Bard’s beloved play into fodder for madcap comedy. Shakespeare has never been this entertaining, or this weird. We can’t think of a better way to… “celebrate” the 400th anniversary (2016) of Shakespeare’s death.

To learn more about Ryan, visit his website or follow him on Twitter. If you want to get your very own copy of Romeo and/or Juliet (and you totally should because it’s hilarious!) we hope you’ll do so via this Amazon affiliate link, where DIY MFA gets a small commission at no cost to you. Thank you for supporting DIY MFA!

For more info and show notes: DIYMFA.com/104


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