Author Mark London Williams creates “Potter’s” replacement in Children’s literature
By April MacIntyre Sep 18, 2006, 21:35 GMT
In the truest sense of underground classics, a children's series of books has been growing in popularity by the best possible advertising: Word of mouth.
Author J.K. Rowling is winding down her prolific "Potter" series, as is the fictive “Lemony Snicket” and it will leave a void, one that writer Mark London Williams hopes to fill with his time-traveling protagonist, “Danger Boy,” 12 year old Eli Sands.
Williams, a San Francisco Bay area native, made his publishing debut with an inventively twisted time travel tale, the first in his Danger Boy series, Ancient Fire.
Set in the not-so-distant future, 2019, hero Eli Sands physicist parents are in the midst of conducting time travel experiments when Eli's mother is blasted back in time. Eli discovers his own time-traveling abilities and soon finds himself at the Library of Alexandria in ancient Egypt.
In 2019, 12-year-old Eli begins his narrative just after his move to Sonoma, Calif., with his father from their hometown of Princeton, N.J., where his father, Sandusky, experimented with "spacetime spheres." There he successfully changed the electrical charges of particles so that he could accelerate them through space and move them backward through time.
After Eli's mother disappeared in an explosion while working on a related experiment, Sandusky abandoned his project, took Eli and headed west. Yet his nefarious boss tracks him down at his new residence and insists that he carry on his work with Eli as the subject of his experiments. "I was going to be twirled around in time and history, like a smoothie in a great big cosmic blender," says Eli.
Eli's first-person narrative alternates with those of two other youngsters he meets in his time travels: Clyne, a good-natured dinosaur from another planet who gathers information for a school assignment, and Thea, the daughter of the last librarian at Alexandria, the ancient Egyptian city, who is accused of being a witch.
William's intrepid creation 'Eli" is the son of a Jewish mother and an Episcopalian father. The second book in the Danger Boy series, Dragon Sword, takes place during World War II; the third book Trail of Bones, is set along the Lewis and Clark trail, with Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings thrown in for good measure, and the soon to be released City of Ruins is set in the rubble of ancient Jerusalem.
The latest book is noteworthy for explicitly tackling religious themes. "I always assumed Eli was a bit of a mutt, just like me. I have a Jewish mother and Episcopalian father, and our family traditions go in both directions. I never considered what that might mean in terms of the series until the second book, which revisits aspects of the Holocaust.”
Mark London Williams writes the "Danger Boy" books, as he puts it "in the wilds of Los Angeles, while contemplating dinosaurs and keeping a careful eye out for wormholes."
Even then, though, religion was never as central a theme as it is in the newest book, City of Ruins. "In that book, the time travelers find themselves in the ruins of ancient Jerusalem, after another invasion and harrowing war." Says Williams.
Williams is also a columnist for the Hollywood Trade paper Below the Line, where he writes about Hollywood, labor issues and politics. Williams recently taught a “storytelling for executives” class at one of Hollywood's most famous entertainment combines and he is still a self confessed ink-slinger for Variety and the LA Times among many other outlets.
Williams will not be pigeon holed as just a novelist. A published poet, he has a slew of produced plays under his belt in venues ranging from California to London.
Mark's "Danger Boy" inspiration came from his own two sons. The Danger Boy series for young adults is published by Candlewick Press.
The latest Danger Boy review for City of Ruins will be posted prior to its release near the holidays.