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Look out, ‘Twilight’: Here comes digital ‘Mortal Kiss’

In what’s being described as a “brave new world” in book publishing, a serialized paranormal romance aimed at teenage girls is being released online in snippets that will keep being updated between now and Halloween.
/ Source: TODAY staff

In what’s being described as a brave new world in book publishing, a serialized mystery novel aimed at teenage girls is being released online in snippets that will keep being updated between now and Halloween.

The paranormal romance, titled “Mortal Kiss,” aims to capitalize on the popularity of all things vampire-related and social-media-related at the same time. It’s the brainchild of Stardoll, an online games and fashion community for teenage girls, and Random House Children’s Books.

Readers who get hooked on the story will be able to do a whole lot more than simply read it. They’ll be able to vote on plot points and affect the story’s outcome, delve into an interactive map of the story’s setting, create story-related images, participate in writing contests tied to themes from the book, and — cha-ching — buy items from the story in an online store. The venture also has its eye on making money through advertising and subscriptions.

The project relies heavily on social networking. A press release about the venture explains how it works:

“The four main characters (Liz, Faye, Finn, and Lucas) will have character Stardolls, complete with profiles and outfits to dress up in — all drawn from the events of the story. The main story hub will be the place for Stardoll users to catch up with ‘Mortal Kiss,’ gathering all the events into one central locale and providing back-story as the mystery unfolds.”

The first installment of the story went live on Sept. 6. It included the sinister-sounding prologue “Blood in the Snow.” Early chapters of the book are now available free of charge online.

The plan is to continue introducing about 3 to 5 minutes of reading material each day, culminating in a cliff-hanger each week. At key moments, fans will get to weigh in on the direction the story should take.

Over an eight-week period leading up to Halloween, the entire 80,000-word book will be released.

“ ‘Mortal Kiss’ is breaking new ground in teen publishing as we explore imaginative ways to interact with this digitally savvy group,” Gail Rebuck, chief executive of The Random House Group, said in a release. “Teens will always be engaged with great storytelling, and we are delighted to partner with Stardoll on this innovative concept to create new ways of reaching young people and encouraging them to read.”

Stardoll chief executive Mattias Miksche said the project “combines the engagement of contemporary media with the printed page to the online game,” and Random House Children’s Books publisher Fiona Macmillan called it “a brave new world” in publishing.