Elyse Salpeter’s Flying to the Fire: Book #2 (Flying Series) is told through the perspective of a grown up, teenage Danny. Danny is Deaf and communicates through American Sign Language. In the first book in the series, Danny was just a kid who happened to have a special ability—knowing what happens to people when they die. This ability attracts the attention of a dangerous scientist and when Danny’s parents are kidnapped, it is up to his older brother Michael to seek help, and outwit and outrun a mad scientist and the FBI. Fortunately as readers learn in the first book, Danny also can communicate with birds and he’s going to need them again in Book 2. The beginning of the story has Danny looking forward to his older brother, Michael coming home for a visit from college. Danny’s scientist parents, The Andersons, are safely back home and they have even had a young daughter, Katie, who is an important character and I must say one of my favorites since the time of the first book.
Weird events have been happening and Danny needs his brother’s advice. Both a teenage Danny and little sister, Katie, are having terrible nightmares that aren’t staying confined to dreamland. There is an evil black mass that appears in their dreams but when they wake there is evidence that the injuries that occurred while they were dreaming really happened. But is this monster coming for Danny or is it trying to get him out of the way to get to another family member who can’t communicate with the birds but can communicate with bugs. There isn’t much time to figure out how to stop the black mass so the entire family is going to have to work together to find a solution which means that Michael may have to stop sucking face with his new girlfriend, Charity, whom he brought home from college. And geez, will Danny and Michael ever get any brother time??? I hate to admit that Charity is also one of my favorites. She’s smart; she’s in college studying Science; and, she’s taken ASL classes so she’s able to communicate with the family. See Danny, girls are not all bad :p
|Such a serious writer!|
SP: While Flying to the Light has a great deal to do with our understanding of communication and the journey of adolescence, it is very much about the relationship of brothers. Flying to the Fire adds a younger sister, Katie, along with Michael’s new girlfriend, Charity. I love both of these characters by the way. Adding these female characters also adds a good amount of drama and tension between the brothers. What is your message to readers?
ES: This is a great question. I wanted to add a different dynamic to this novel. In Book #1, Danny was only six years old and solely relied on his older seventeen year old brother, Michael, to keep him safe. Throughout the book, Michael had to grow up and mature if he was going to be able to keep himself and his brother alive. In Book #2, I wanted it to be Danny who needed to mature and drive the story. I set it up so that Michael was no longer going to be his “out” to safety because he’s otherwise preoccupied with his new girlfriend. Bad things are once again happening to Danny and he needs Michael’s help, but now Michael is suddenly not there for him. It creates a lot of stress on their relationship.
SP: I’m much more sympathetic to Evil Scientist Samuel Herrington (and his family) in this book than I was in the last. Is it just me? His wife Marta isn’t exactly a loving character but Samuel’s sadness over her dying really struck me.
ES: I believe Samuel Herrington is inherently selfish and evil, but there was one thing in his life that meant something to him, and that was his wife. This man wants to rule the world, but he always thought Marta would be there with him, right by his side. With his interest in the afterlife, he is searching for any way to reach her and bring her back to him.
SP: Danny has a special connection to birds in both books. Little sister’s Katie’s connection to bugs includes a much different tone. Would you discuss why or how this book is much darker than the first? It’s even frightening at times! But, I mean that in a good way... some of those descriptions of the forest were chilling.
ES: I knew taking on “the opposite of heaven” was going to make this a darker story. How can you discuss the underworld without discussing the evil that inhabits it or why souls go there? When I think of the underworld, I think of “the earth” and what comes from the earth? Bugs, worms, dead things. When I created the younger sister, I wanted her to have another unique connection, one that would test Danny’s own powers and abilities beyond his limits.
SP: Flying to the Light had Michael and Danny running all over to escape Herrington. In a sense, Flying to the Fire seems more about staying put. I’m not sure if I really have a question here but I’m thinking about some themes of “grounding”. Michael is coming home but not quite himself. Danny has to bring him to in some ways…to actually ground him; the necklace from Charity has its own way of grounding; and, the family deciding to stay put during the storm.
ES: It’s true, in Book #1 I have the boys frenetically running everywhere. It was a constant “Go, go, go!” I wanted Book #2 to have the “action” actually come to them. The dark mass, the evil that lurks in their midst, can move through the air. No matter where they run, it can find them – even when they’re dreaming. I thought that would make the book scarier, as well. How do you fight something that can travel anywhere? With Danny now being thirteen and Michael twenty-four, I wanted to up the ante a bit and thought I could make the novel a bit darker.
SP: Because my focus is always on the portrayal of deaf characters, I’m curious about how Danny can hear when he’s in the other “lands”. While both of the books include issues of science, they each include religious aspects as well. What was your decision to have Danny hear when he’s in the other dimensions?
ES: This is going to be a tricky to answer because it may seem like me making Danny hearing in level fifteen means there was something wrong with him in the first place and now he’s “normal” which is completely not the case. Neither novel discusses Danny’s deafness as a disability. What I wanted to imply about him being able to hear in the other lands is that whoever you are, you go to this “land” one way, but once you’re there, “everyone is on the same playing field.” The fact is, if a character is blind, he’ll be able to see. If he’s maimed, he can walk. You are injured, shot, bleeding in our realm, you’re not hurt if you travel there.
SP: Without giving anything away, have you set up another sequel, a book 3 with the mother, Maddy?
ES: I have a working outline of Book #3 that I’ve tentatively called FLYING HOME. And yes, Maddy is definitely going to play a part – a big one. In this book, Danny is going to have to test his abilities to his very limits and possibly make some decisions that some might find startling. I’m expecting Book #3 to be more emotionally scary, to be honest.
SP: Wow, I can’t wait! Anything you'd like to add :)
ES: I’d love to say that it’s been so much fun living in Danny’s world and learning about the Deaf culture. I’ve been so fortunate to meet with students in the community to discuss these books. I met with kids from Mill Neck Manor School for the Deaf and St. Joseph’s School for the Deaf and they allowed me to pepper them with questions so I could make Book #2 as relevant as possible. Having a room full of teens who “live” in Danny’s world really helped!
SP: Awesome! Thanks so much for doing this interview.
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