Christopher Healy: A Dastardly Plot Q&A

Go big or go home, that’s my motto when it comes to promoting a book I love. Which is why today is our THIRD time hosting a stop on the official blog tour for A Perilous Journey of Danger & Mayhem by Christopher Healy. We’ve had an absolutely hilarious guest post from Chris featuring some truly outrageous (and real) inventions, and my review of this fantastic book.

Today, Chris stops by for a Q&A — and his responses are not to be missed!

I love to hear the origin stories of books. What is the nugget that inspired A PERILOUS JOURNEY?

It was a painting. Specifically, this one, which shows the grand opening celebration for the Brooklyn Bridge in 1883:

There are fireworks going off, and enormous explosions everywhere, and a parade marching across the bridge, and giant balloons in the sky, and even the balloons are shooting fireworks! I saw that picture and immediately thought, “Wouldn’t it be awesome if there was a chase scene across the Brooklyn Bridge while all of that was going on?” And that’s the scene that ended up on the cover of the book.

Even though your book takes place in the past, it still touches on themes that are relevant right now. Did any real life or current events inspire the book, and if so, in what way(s)?

Unfortunately, the obstacles to success that face women and people of color are perennial issues. They’re always relevant. Back when I first started planning out this story three years ago, however, I didn’t realize just how front-and-center those issues would be in today’s headlines. As I was writing, and I saw certain elements of the story echoing current events, I made a conscious decision to put more emphasis on those elements. The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, for example—which many readers may not even know about, but which has so many echoes in the immigration policies of today—went from being a background element of the plot to having a real impact on the lives of the characters.

Chester A. Arthur & his fabulous sideburns

A PERILOUS JOURNEY features some significant real-life figures, even if the events of the book are made-up. What sort of research was involved in creating these fictionalized versions of famous historical figures?

I took a lot of liberty with the personalities of the historical figures in my book. I basically approached them the same way I approached the classic fairy tale characters I used in the Hero’s Guide series—I took tiny elements from their stories and used them as seeds to grow wholly original characters. When I found out that Alexander Graham Bell had been fascinated by talking automatons, I knew I wanted to give my Bell a robot obsession too. When I kept reading things that referred to Thomas Edison as a “superstar” or “celebrity” of his day, I decided to give my Edison a Hollywood-sized ego. The real Margaret Knight was an incredibly prolific inventor with well-over 80 patents to her name, so my version of her literally always tinkering on some project or other—even during big action sequences. I based my proper, etiquette-conscious Josephine Cochrane on real Cochrane’s status as an event-hosting politician’s wife (before she switched gears and became an incredible inventor). And I forged my overblown version of President Chester A. Arthur entirely from this portrait of him decked out in fur coat and pinky ring. (And those sideburns, of course. Oh, those sideburns.)

Did you learn anything surprising while researching or writing this book?

Tons! Like how Washington Roebling, Chief Engineer on the building of the Brooklyn Bridge, got too ill to work, and his wife, Emily Warren Roebling, took over his job and finished the construction without him. (That’s an amazing bit of history that I had to cut from the book, so I’m happy to get to share that here now.) Also, there was a notorious criminal gang in New York who went by the remarkably non-threatening name of the Dead Rabbits. Oh, and Thomas Edison kept shark teeth in his Menlo Park laboratory. Shark teeth! What was up with that?

A PERILOUS JOURNEY is filled with all sorts of crazy inventions — and we know from your guest post recently that people have patented some truly outrageous ideas. What’s something you wish would be invented to make your life easier?

I would love someone to develop spellcheck software that can distinguish between the words I genuinely mistype and the ones I intentionally make up. Also, a hat that scratches my head when it’s itchy.

So … candy corn. Was this whole book really just a ploy for telling an elaborate candy corn joke? Do you really detest this seasonal favorite that much? Tell us more about your feelings on candy corn.

You know why candy corn is associated with Halloween? Because it is a tool of the devil.

By Christopher Healy

It is 1883—the Age of Invention! A time when great men like Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, Nicola Tesla, and George Eastman work to turn the country into a mechanical-electrical-industrial marvel: a land of limitless opportunity. And it all happens at the world famous Inventors Guild headquarters in New York City—a place where a great idea, a lot of hard work, and a little bit of luck can find you rubbing elbows with these gods of industry who will usher humanity into the bright promise of the future.

Unless, of course, you’re a woman.

Molly Pepper, daughter of brilliant but unknown inventor Cassandra Pepper, lives with her mother in New York. By day, they make ends meet running a small pickle shop; but by night, they toil and dream of Cassandra shattering the glass ceiling of the Inventors Guild and taking her place among the most famous inventors in America. In an attempt to find a way to exhibit Cass’ work at the 1883 World’s Fair, they break into the Inventors Guild—and discover a mysterious and dastardly plot to destroy New York. The evidence points to the involvement of one of the world’s most famous inventors, and now it’s up to Molly, Cassandra, and a shop hand named Emmett Lee to uncover the truth—even if no one will ever know it was they who did it.

Christopher Healy, author of the acclaimed Hero’s Guide series, returns with the first book in a rip-roaring adventure about the inventors history remembers—and more than a few that it’s forgotten.

In stores 9/24/18 | ISBN: 978-06-234197

Christopher Healy is the author of The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom, a New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice, as well as its two sequels, The Hero’s Guide to Storming the Castle and The Hero’s Guide to Being an Outlaw. Before becoming a writer, he worked as an actor, an ad copywriter, a toy store display designer, a fact-checker, a dishwasher, a journalist, a costume shop clothing stitcher, a children’s entertainment reviewer, and a haunted house zombie. He lives in New Jersey with his wife, two children, and a dog named Duncan. You can visit him online at

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