I’ve always enjoyed reading the stories behind the stories that I love. Taking a look behind the curtain, if you will, to glimpse the process, struggles, and sacrifices that writers have made to create stories that have influenced and inspired me throughout my life. Reading The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, for instance, was nearly intoxicating. I was amazed, delighted, encouraged, moved to tears in some cases, and affirmed by the intimate details I read. The collection of the Professor’s letters still stands as a cherished work that I return to time and time again. And so, in the spirit of Tolkien’s letters and the many behind-the-scenes records that authors have left behind for us to enjoy, I have decided to share the story behind creating Houdini’s Silver Dollar Misfits. It’s nowhere near as grand, I know, but I hope you will find it enjoyable nonetheless.
Several years ago while I was writing The Surreal Adventures of Edgar Allan Poo Book 2 for Image, I was struck with what I believed was a fantastic story idea: a modern-time group of friends who find a magical silver dollar that had belonged to Harry Houdini. Together the ragtag friends would use the strength of their friendship, teamwork, problem solving, and the magic of the coin, to solve mysteries and help people. My head said I didn’t have the time to develop the idea due to a heavy college workload, the challenges of being a single dad of three little boys, and the pressure of writing a sequel to a successful book, but I did it anyway, because, hey, sometimes you have to make time when inspiration strikes.
After a couple of weeks I began my artist search. Now, for those who don’t know, artist searches are fun, but they can also be arduous and a bit depressing. If I had a dime for every artist who turned me down over the course of my career I’d have Alex Ross covers on all my books.
But that’s another story for another time.
After several days of searching I came across a charming webcomic by cartoonist Worth Gowell. I really liked his style and thought it would work perfectly for the story I’d fleshed out, so I sent an email and pitched the story to him. Honestly, he wasn’t thrilled with the story, so he suggested that a teenage Houdini would be the star, the story in the late 1880s, and his friends would be circus performers. My gut said no, No, NO. A period piece starring a beloved historical figure? I was already doing that in Edgar Allan Poo. And how would an audience respond to a cast of strange and unusual characters that were referred to as “freaks” in their time? I tried to reason with Worth, but, considering the fact that I believed he was the right artist for the book, I eventually conceded. Even so, I am still extremely proud of Kid Houdini and the Silver Dollar Misfits. Next to E.A. Poo, it is my favorite book I’ve created. I even intended to make a continuing series of adventures, but, sadly, that did not work out. In fact, I’m sad to say that the book went largely unnoticed. The lesson I took away from the experience was to stick to my guns when I felt strongly enough something.
So here we are. I am now a publisher, and I can tell the stories I want to tell, how I want to tell them. The beauty of the whole situation is that Kid Houdini and the Silver Dollar Misfits now serves as a prequel of sorts to Houdini’s Silver Dollar Misfits! I say “of sorts” because it is not necessary that one read the old book to “get” the new book, rather it serves as an introduction to the man (the myth, the legend) behind the silver dollar. That’s it. So one need not comb the internet to find the first book…unless one wants to. Hey, I am still extremely proud of Kid Houdini and believe it is a wonderful story that is well worth seeking out.
I cannot begin to tell you how excited I am about this project. Mathieu and I have worked extremely hard to bring you something that we believe is magical! We can’t wait to share it with our friends (yes, that means YOU)!
PS – Don’t forget to mark your calendars for February 1st when the project goes LIVE on Kickstarter!