"Penpal" Author Dathan Auerbach: From Anonymous Reddit Poster to Published Novelist

Subverting Traditional Storytelling Methods

"I didn't have the unifying name Penpal until I was done with the entire thing. I came up with that name because NoSleep does an audio podcast through iTunes for some of their stories; they have a contest every month to pick winners who get to read. The guy who runs it, David Cummings, was putting together a collection of his favorite stories, and he used 'Footsteps,' 'Balloons,' and 'Boxes.' He then wanted to do the whole thing once I was finished with the entire project. It needed a title. 

"I didn't know how long I would hold people's attention and how often they would come back for more chapters, so I knew that each story had to be self-contained. Each story had to have a real ending. I didn't want to do something that seemed gimmicky. I wanted to enable people to stop at anytime; I didn't want to do that 'Come back next week to see what happens!' kind of thing.

"I didn't want to be cheap about it, and I knew that I couldn't necessarily assume that people who read the third story had already read the first two. They all needed to work on their own. I'm happy that, in the end, it works well in a book format, but that wasn't the initial plan. I wasn't thinking that far in advance."

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