by Alison Flood)
A threesome, sex with a stranger or work on a porn film: the choice will be yours, as HarperCollins prepares to launch an erotic version of the Choose Your Own Adventure books which were wildly popular in the 1980s.
This time, though, rather than pretending to be a deep-sea explorer searching for the lost city of Atlantis, or a space traveller born on a spaceship travelling between galaxies, "you" are a woman who has been stood up in a swish hotel bar. When a stranger mistakes you for a high-class escort, slips you an envelope full of cash and invites you to his room, the first of many choices begins.
Follow Your Fantasy, which will be out just in time for Valentine's Day from the publisher's digital romance imprint HarperImpulse, is written by the pseudonymous Nicola Jane, and is pitched as "a new type of erotica which gives the power back to the reader". There are 44 chapters, said HarperCollins, 22 of which "include hot sex of some kind, 18 advance the story and only four take the reader out with no action, leaving them free to go back and choose again".
Erotic adventures could include "enticing two young men into a memorable threesome", "dinner with a stressed-out executive involv[ing] more than food on the table", or a visit to a porn set. "Remember, even if you choose submission, the control is still all yours," says the publisher.
Jane writes textbooks and journalism under another name. This is her first erotic novel, and she says the idea for an interactive erotic experience first came to her "in bed – alone".
"My mind was wandering around the idea that erotica is often sold in anthologies of short stories and that the Choose Your Own Adventures that I'd loved as a child were actually that – several short stories around a central branch. I had to get up in the middle of the night and trawl the internet to see if anyone had done that. And they hadn't," she told the Guardian.
She immediately "brainstormed a flow chart", she said. "I almost couldn't get it on paper quickly enough. Then I had to see if I could write erotica as I hadn't done it before. Once I started, I kept track of paths using index cards all over the floor, colour coding them and ticking off boxes on the original flow chart. I added a couple of branches while writing and deleted some that I just couldn't get into. Dominatrix for instance, just didn't come out erotically."
All the choices, she said, are the reader's, and "the more risqué the initial choices, the more the mood of subsequent options changes. So, if you take a risk, the pay offs get racier. Each story comes to its own conclusion – chosen by the reader. You can always go back if you find yourself in hotter water than you wanted … Another day you might pick it up in a different mood and get yourself into a completely different encounter."
The concept of letting readers choose their own erotic adventures is also being experimented with by the publisher Little, Brown, which launched A Girl Walks Into A Bar last summer. Published under the name Helena S Paige, and written by three friends, it asks: "Will you spend the evening drinking tequila with a rock star? Or perhaps the suave and charming millionaire businessman is more your style … Maybe you want to head home instead - to your sexy new neighbour ... The power is entirely yours in this fully interactive, choose–your–own–destiny novel." Two more novels in the series, A Girl Walks Into a Wedding, and A Girl Walks Into a Blind Date, are due out later this year.