I recently had a chance to talk with Matthew McElligott and Larry Tuxbury, the authors of the Benjamin Franklinstein chapter book series. Their latest book Benjamin Franklinstein Meets the Fright Brothers has recently been released and follows the adventures the undead Ben Franklin and his companion, Victor.
GeekDad: I missed the first book in the series; could you give us a brief synopsis of what happened there?
Matthew and Larry: In the first book in the series, Benjamin Franklinstein Lives!, we learn that Benjamin Franklin never actually died, but instead found a way to place himself in suspended animation, to be re-awakened in the future when humanity needs him most. Unfortunately, something goes terribly wrong along the way and Franklin wakes up unexpectedly in the basement of Victor Godwin, a boy living in an old house in Philadelphia. Now, it’s up to Victor to help Ben discover the secret of why he has been awakened, and it’s up to Ben to help Victor build the greatest science fair project ever devised.
GD: For our readers, could you tell us what to expect in this second book?
M&L: In Benjamin Franklinstein Meets the Fright Brothers, we learn more about the mystery of why Ben was awakened, and what happened to the secret society that was supposed to watch over him while he slept for hundreds of years. It turns out that Franklin was not the only famous scientist preserved for the future. Also, Philadelphia appears to be overrun by vampires. How does it all connect?
GD: How many books could you see the series achieve? How many do you already have plots planned out?
M&L: At least three. We’re finishing up the third one right now, Benjamin Franklinstein Meets Thomas Deadison, which will bring to a close the story arc begun in book one. Still, there are many more inventors just waiting to be brought back to life and many more mysteries to be solved.
GD: Where did you get the idea for such an inventive premise?
M&L: Years ago, Matt’s son kept mixing up Franklin the turtle and Frankenstein and would pronounce the name of the monster as “Franklinstein.” Whenever he did this, all Matt could think of was an image of Ben Franklin, back from the dead, roaring like the monster Frankenstein. It seemed like a good idea for a book.
GD: What gave you the idea to mix history and science with children’s horror and comedy/adventure?
M&L: When we met in the seventh grade, we discovered that one of the things we had in common was a similar taste in literature. We read a lot of books by the great Daniel Pinkwater (Alan Mendelsohn, Boy from Mars; Wingman), Bertrand R. Brinley (The Mad Scientists’ Club series), and works by other writers who were good at combining adventure, comedy, and just a touch of science fiction. In many ways, the Benjamin Franklinstein series comes from our desire to write the kinds of books we loved when we were boys.
GD: What is next for our heroes?
M&L: In book two, they learn quite a bit more about what happened to Franklin’s secret society, the Modern Order of Prometheus, including clues about the fate of its members. As the series progresses, the Great Emergency that the society was created to deal with reveals itself. More inventors, more monsters, more conspiracy, more fun!
GD: Would you like to see this series develop into something besides books, like a television series or animated feature? Have you been approached concerning anything of this sort?
M&L: We’d love to see Benjamin Franklinstein develop into new formats. It would make a great opera, or breakfast cereal commercial. We’re not picky.
GD:Anything else you two are working on?
M&L: While we’ve been working on Book 3, we’ve also been busy creating an online presence that extends the world of Benjamin Franklinstein and the Modern Order of Prometheus beyond the book. Clues have been scattered throughout the stories and on the book’s website, www.benjaminfranklinstein.com. Those who follow the path and solve the secret are rewarded!
GD: Anything else you would like to add?
M&L: 5876 + 42176.
Thanks to Matthew and Larry for their time. The kids in my home are enjoying Benjamin Franklinstein Meets the Fright Brothers and yours probably will too. Check it out on Amazon here.
Be sure to check out the GeekDad review for their first book, Benjamin Franklinstein Lives!