Heart's Choice Author Interview—Lauren O'Donoghue, Love Undying

Originally published at: https://www.choiceofgames.com/2024/05/hearts-choice-author-interview-lauren-odonoghue-love-undying/

Love Undying: A Kiss Before Dawn

Hunt your prey as a vampire on windswept Victorian moors! Who will capture your unbeating heart? 

Love Undying: A Kiss Before Dawn is an interactive romance novel by Lauren O’Donoghue. It’s entirely text-based—190,000 words and hundreds of choices—without graphics or sound effects, and fueled by the vast, unstoppable power of your imagination. We sat down with Lauren to talk about her work and her process.

Love Undying: A Kiss Before Dawn releases this Thursday, May 23rd. You can play the first two chapters for free today!

You came to ChoiceScript having written your own interactive fiction in the past. Tell me about your interest and experience in the form.

I first became interested in interactive fiction more than a decade ago now, around the time that the first version of Twine (open-source IF software) was released. I’d always had an interest in writing games, but until then it didn’t seem like an accessible pursuit for me—seeing the things that DIY writer/designers like Christine Love, Anna Anthropy and Porpentine were doing with text-based games opened my eyes to the possibilities of the form. I played around with different IF tools and ideas back then, but it wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I developed my first full-length game (Ataraxia). I wasn’t expecting how many doors it would open for me—since then I’ve developed text-based games for clients including the University of Leeds and Barnsley Museums, and have given a number of talks to students and industry professionals about writing interactive fiction. The flexibility of the form is so appealing to me—you can do just about anything you set your mind to, unrestrained by traditional notions of linearity and structure. Increasingly, too, with so many open-source tools geared at non-coders available, just about anyone can—and should!—be making their own interactive fiction.

Why did you choose to pitch a supernatural romance with Heart’s Choice as your first foray into ChoiceScript?

I first decided to apply to write for Heart’s Choice after seeing Rebecca Slitt’s fantastic talk “Choosing Your Happily Ever After: Choice and Agency in Romance IF” at NarraScope 2022. As a writer I’m really interested in rules—the challenge of creating work within set parameters. Rebecca talked a lot about the tropes of the genre, and what players expect from a romance game (HEA endings, etc.), and it immediately got my mind racing. What kind of stories could I tell within this structure? How could I make them compelling for as wide a variety of players as possible? When I was invited to pitch, I developed a supernatural romance concept because I’d never written anything in that genre before and I was excited to try something new. The idea for Love Undying really clicked when I decided on the Victorian setting—I write a lot of historical fiction, and combining my interest in that genre with a new, supernatural element was really fun for me.

What about the kind of design mechanics we favor did you find interesting, or perhaps struggle with?

The main difference between working in ChoiceScript compared to my previous games (developed mostly in Twine) was getting used to the structure. I had to take a step back and think, okay, how do I bring in variety and replayability when players will (for the most part) be experiencing the same events in the same order? It forced me to think outside the box a bit, which I really enjoyed. The stats-centric mechanics were much more familiar to me, and I think my favourite part of working with ChoiceScript was finding subtle ways to make the static text responsive to player choices—I wanted every playthrough to feel really unique and personal, and things like the ChoiceScript multireplace feature allowed me to create variety and texture in a really elegant, easy-to-implement way.

What other fictional pursuits of yours can you share with our readers?

As well as text-based games I also write short and long form fiction—a lot of my published work is available online for free, and there are links on my website laurenodonoghue.neocities.org (graphic design is not my passion, as you will see!) An upcoming publication I’m really excited about is Lucifers, a novelette about the 1888 Bryant & May matchgirls’ strike, that is being published as a chapbook by Blue Cubicle Press in July.

You’re now at work on a doctorate, I believe? Tell me how that’s going and what you’ll be working on for your dissertation.

I am indeed! I’m doing a PhD in Creative Writing, which is an interesting beast, as the bulk of my thesis is practice-based—in my case, a composite novel about the hillside town where I grew up. Each chapter is set in a different historical period, the stories linking together across time in a shared space. The project is allowing me to explore a lot of ideas and themes that I’m really passionate about—landscapes, social history, labour, belonging. I’m just coming to the end of my first year, and it’s been an absolute pleasure and privilege so far. My supervisors are incredible, and I already feel like I’ve grown so much as a writer. Doing a PhD gives you the freedom to play with ideas, to try things, succeed, fail, explore, interrogate your own practice, to ask yourself not only what you’re writing but how and why.

Any favorite IF you want to share or highlight as inspiration?

Absolutely! The following pieces of interactive fiction have all really inspired me and my work, and they’re all available online for free at the time of writing:

  • Digital: A Love Story – Christine Love (2010)
  • c ya laterrrr – Dan Hett (2017)
  • Tonight Dies The Moon – Tom McHenry (2015)
  • Myriad – Porpentine (2012)
  • Arcadia – Jonas Kyratzes (2012)
  • Lucid – Caliban’s Revenge (2022)
  • Heat From Fire/Fire From Heat (NSFW) – Anna Anthropy (2021)
  • Neurocracy – Joannes Truyens and Matei Stanca (2021)

And I also have to mention a few of my all-time favourite games from Choice of Games and Heart’s Choice:


I’m so excited for this, and to hear about the inspirations the author’s drawn from! I love a lot of the work mentioned here, and so I’m sure I’m going to enjoy this one. Looking forward to release day!

A true veteran of interactive fiction- she has cited Porpentine, Belle-de-Nuit and Narrascope as her inspiration- indeed, we have one more author who has now contributed to CoG’s growing library. Speaking of which, I encourage those who can afford it to attend Narrascope, physically if possible. There will be familiar faces.

I’m also keen to see how this differs from Vampire’s Kiss since both have similar plot lines. I’m all set for release and take off!


It’s out on Steam. :slight_smile:

Congrats to the author, and thank you for making my weekend with this. :heart: