Michael Gunter has inquired about my inspiration for Flora Dennis and the Island of Two Eyes. Good question, Michael. What got into me to write something as “overblown, self-admittedly wordy, and filled with wonderfully standard characters” as Flora Dennis and the Island of Two Eyes? 🙂 (I love that description and it’s totally going on the book cover if I ever publish it.)
Flora Dennis and the Island of Two Eyes was created primarily as both a homage and satirical mimicry of some of my favorite (and less-favorite) creative thinkers of the literary world. Yes, it’s supposed to be funny in an absurd, esoteric sort of way. If “The Truth about Hamsters” or its companion stories left you ROTFL, this story might, at most, evoke a few cringes and chuckles from academics and bibliophiles. The rest of the world will likely see this as a somewhat off-kilter but surely serious adventure story. And they wouldn’t be 100% wrong — it’s definitely an adventure story.
Think of all the things you loved about all the classics, especially adventure stories, that you’ve read; then think of all the things you hated in them. It’s all going to be there in this story. At the same time, I’ll attempt to narrate it the whole time with a straight face.
In my first chapter, my old-time author victims include Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Charles Dickens, and a hint of Sax Rohmer. (He’s one of the “less-favorites.”) They were my primary influences when it comes to that “shameless wordiness” I talked about earlier. As for the adventure itself, I drew inspiration from the mystery-adventure stories of my childhood, like Enid Blyton’s books, Andy Adams’ Biff Brewster series, and John Blaine’s Rick Brant series. And of course, who could forget Steven Spielberg’s Indiana Jones movies? (I read the junior novelizations of the movies when they came out, so that kind of counts as literary influence, right?)
Flora herself is essentially the product of Nancy Drew, Lloyd Alexander’s Vesper Holly, Marion Ravenwood (another Indy influence), and Annie from Annie rolled into one. She’s got all the makings of an awesome, plucky protagonist. She’s also a stereotypical wealthy English schoolgirl, whom I imagine having a Received Pronunciation accent. 😛
This story is likely set in a time period similar to when Indiana Jones thrived, like the Twenties and Thirties. There has to be some form of aviation and modern transportation (I want to be able to entertain the image of a moving aeroplane superimposed over a map of the world, set to exciting theme music), but I do love the sort of setting with stereotypical ladies in long, flowing dresses and gentlemen with top hats and fob watches; that setting where stuffy aristocratic people would stereotypically be all about propriety, “privissy,” and reading the latest adventures of Sherlock Holmes in The Strand. So maybe it will be little earlier, like the Teens. Either way, there will plenty of room for imagination – and anachronism!
As for the supporting characters, I’d say I’ve got an ensemble cast of the sort of characters you’d typically find in adventure stories, and a few of the ones you might not: Ella Drew, the unlikely but resourceful sidekick (picture Martha Sowerby from The Secret Garden lost in the jungle, armed with but a jump rope and broom – what happens next?); Petrie Shannon, archaeologist and world traveler in desperate need of rescue; Lord Valjean-Allerdyce, whose number-one hero would likely be Belloq from Indiana Jones if he lived in the 1980s (but that’s all I’ll say); and Miss Anna Montvale, Flora’s role model for plucky-female-character-ness and anything but your average damsel in distress. I’d say she’s also somewhat like Marion Ravenwood, but Anna Montvale is a bit more … polite and tactful. (She certainly didn’t become Professor Shannon’s assistant by punching him in the face and cursing at him. 😀 )
I have a fairly general idea of how this story will end, but much of what happens in between will be made up as I go along. But what’s great for me is that I’m having loads of fun writing this story — and I hope you’ll have just as much fun, if not more, reading it!