Author Q&A: Eric Bower- The Magnificent Flying Baron Estate
Our story begins, as many stories do, with a talking squirrel dream . . . The year is 1891, and Waldo “W.B.” Baron has just woken up to find his house flying—no, wait, floating?—floating a thousand feet above the ground. His inventor parents have transformed their house into a flying machine, which they’ve entered into a race around the country. Unfortunately for W.B. (who knows less about science than the average tapeworm), that means missing a show staring the hero of his favorite adventure novels, Sheriff Graham. The incomparably klutzy W.B. gets his own taste of the Wild West when his family’s flying house is hijacked by Rose Blackwood, the sister of Sheriff Graham’s greatest nemesis, the vilest villain, the cruelest criminal, Benedict Blackwood. Rose forces the Barons to continue the race, so that she can steal the prize money and break her brother out of jail. With the help of an unusually tiny friend and aided by a baffling interpretation of simple scientific concepts, W.B. is finally given the chance to be the hero, instead of the kid who reads about the hero while eating too much pie.
The Magnificent Flying Baron Estate is the first adventure in the highly desired series, The Bizarre Baron Inventions! This book is a quirky, steampunk masterpiece that kids and adults will love. Readers will devour each whacky page and love each moment spent with the delightful characters. The Children's Book Review says, "The Magnificent Flying Baron Estate is an enjoyable old-school Western with a contemporary feel, thanks to the steampunk addition of Ma and Pa’s inventions."
We sat down with the witty author of this series, Eric Bower, to talk about his creative inspiration, favorite moments, and general silliness.
EB: I’ve always found the gunfights in old western films to be really funny. When an old-timey western villain is shot, he usually just goes rigid, makes a face, clutches his stomach, and then topples head first into a barrel full of sludge. I love the cartoonish version of the Old West depicted in films from the 1930s, 40s, and 50s, which then became really popular with the “Spaghetti Westerns” of the 1960s. They’re fun, engaging, and I strongly believe that everything is more exciting when a character is forced to race for his or her life while on horseback. My interest in Jules Verne comes from the fact that I enjoy science, but I have no real aptitude for it. I love that many of his books include fantastic inventions, but he didn’t bog down his reader with too much explanation of how they worked. Which is good, because I would have been lost.
AJ: What is your favorite joke or silly moment during Waldo Baron’s adventure?
EB: W.B. and Rose’s confusion regarding time zones and time travel is based off an actual conversation I witnessed when I was in grade school. A kid who sat next to me was convinced that people in later time zones should be using their knowledge of the future to save those who are living in earlier time zones—the teacher couldn’t convince him that this wasn’t possible, no matter how hard she tried, which made me laugh very hard. I’m also a fan of all the banana cart jokes, though I’ve been told that I’m alone in that.
AJ: How did you come up with the various items that W.B. and Rose are told to pick up during their competition?
EB: My great, great grandfather owned a general store in Pennsylvania, and I found that to be fascinating when I was a kid. I once asked my father what sort of stuff my great, great grandfather sold at his general store, and he told me “general stuff”. My revenge for my father giving me a silly answer was to steal his bad joke and use it in my book. I chose the various items based off the research I did when I was trying to determine what my great, great grandfather would have sold in his store. To be fair, it was mostly general stuff.
AJ: Will the furry empress make an appearance in future books?
EB: She’s not interested in appearing in my work. I suppose she has standards.
Animals play a huge part in the series, though. Squirrels, monkeys, sharks, eels, worms, rats, skunks, flies, and horses—they’re all pivotal to the storyline. I actually find them to be more compelling characters than some of the humans in the series.
AJ: Can you give us a teaser of the second Baron adventure, The Splendid Baron Submarine?
EB: After conquering the skies, it only made sense for the Baron family to conquer the bottom of the sea next. Aside from the titular splendid submarine, readers will be introduced to the world’s evilest monkey (a common squirrel monkey, obviously), a pirate’s curse, a pair of ape-like goons, royalty from around the globe, and a weasel-faced man with an accent that sounds like a combination of Scottish, Chinese, German, and the way you sound when you can’t breathe through your nose.