R.A. Montgomery, author and publisher of the Choose Your Own Adventure children’s book series, has died at age 78 at his home in Vermont.
Raymond Almiran Montgomery graduated from Williams College and attended Yale Divinity School. After being dismissed from Yale for truancy, he began working on various ways to reach younger, learning-challenged students—first as an employee of the Wall Street Journal, and then as the founder of the Waitsfield Summer School in Waitsfield, Vermont. The experimental curriculum there included using games to teach basic math and reading, and this led to Montgomery’s development of role-playing games for the Edison Electric Company and the Peace Corps.
Montgomery began working in publishing in 1975, as the founder of Vermont Crossroads Press. There he was approached by Ed Packard, who had devised an interactive children’s book, Sugarcane Island, that Montgomery agreed to publish in a small run in 1976, as the first in a series called The Adventures Of You. Montgomery wrote and published several more titles before selling Vermont Crossroads Press to his ex-wife and taking the Adventures Of You concept to Bantam Books in 1979. Rechristened Choose Your Own Adventure, the series grew to feature more than 230 titles written by different authors—including Packard—and has to date sold more than 250 million copies worldwide, the fourth-bestselling series of children’s books in the world.
Montgomery continued writing Choose Your Own Adventure books for almost 40 years, with his final title, Gus Vs. The Robot King, published this past September. When Bantam stopped the publication of the series in 2000, Montgomery and his wife, Shannon Gilligan, formed Chooseco LLC to keep it in print. It’s sold more than 10 million copies since restarting the brand in 2003.