(I'm happy to be part of the virtual book tour for Ben Furman – continue reading for his guest post on Not Enough Books)
Okay, okay, here's the answer to one of life's mysteries, "How a former special ops and FBI terrorist chaser came to write a young adult fantasy adventure trilogy." I wish I could say it began as a back channel, black ops, one-way suicide mission to infiltrate the ranks of terrorist kids' book writers, which would certainly be much sexier than the truth – shutter, a girl was behind the whole thing!
Let's dial back about three ticks when my sister directed, "Get off your fat butt and do something with this!" She didn't bother looking back as she dangled some age-yellowed paper over her shoulder and continued poring through stuff in the closet. You've guessed it, my older sister, who didn't care that I was a leader of men and able to jump tall buildings (well, if my dog Jake's dog house could be considered tall). To her I would always be the lumbering Neanderthal capable of carrying large, amorphous things for her and strong enough to spell Mabel, our mule, when she tired of pulling the plow on the south forty. But in fairness, I must say my sister's Joe Frazier's right cross was used once to ward off unsavory mutants that had chased me up and down the football field and then had searched me out afterward at the school dance. Sorry, I wander, a first sign of brain atrophy.
I had returned home to help pack essentials my mother would need in the full care nursing facility. Every scrap of paper that had anything to do with her kids she had meticulously tucked away in stacks of labeled shoe boxes – even my drawings and scribbles.
Our small rural school, centered in the California San Joaquin Valley farm country, seldom added anyone new, and that included Mrs. Higgins the history teacher, who had the school built around her. Higgins delighted in telling me what an incorrigible (I looked it up) my father had been, and asked ad nausea why I couldn't be more like my sister, "The Saint!" Sins of the father, and she had a second crack at his son.
So, quite a buzz started on the first day of my fifth grade class when a cute girl with long red hair and green eyes entered the room and sat a couple of rows away from me. Samantha instantly became my favorite girl's name. I wracked my brain trying to come up with something to impress her. Johnny, who was sitting directly behind Samantha, refused to switch places with me. Higgins' cataracts had restricted her effective field of fire (she could zip a chalk-filled eraser with the best of them) to the first row seats, which would have provided me adequate cover, but no sale.
I could draw and spin a pretty good tale. A fantasy adventure story-boarded with drawings of the characters – that was the ticket! As the project gained speed I heard the whispers. Samantha had asthma! Asthma? Was it contagious? The "Incorrigible One" said no. I added an aspirator to the drawing that Samantha used to spray in the eyes of the villain, thus defeating him and saving Innerworld! I slipped the finished story on the real Samantha's desk and held my breath as she read it, shoved it aside, and turned to smile at Johnny, who had just pulled her hair. She never acknowledged me, and feeling like a complete dunce I retrieved the story during the safety of the next recess. Thankfully, at the end of the school year Samantha moved away, thus ending my gnawing embarrassment.
The decision to write the book was made on the plane ride back home when I read through the story and decided, "Hey, this is better stuff than I'm writing now!" The original story with the positive message was still viable, and the core characters, Sam, Buzz and Patch, made their way into the book. Besides, I knew better than to disobey a superior officer's direct order, and my sister brewed a helluva cup of coffee.