A French magazine recently asked if I’d had to choose between becoming a writer or an adventurer. But whether it’s through illustrating or writing, storytelling has always been my desired adventure. As a storyteller, I can travel to distant lands and get bitten by exotic insects and be rushed to questionable hospitals and then, while withering away in an infirmary, look over my notes and begin the story. And that’s how I like to do it.

I collect little pieces of The Doldrums everywhere I go. For two years, I lived in a four-story brownstone that belonged to Teddy Roosevelt’s family, which became the foundation for Helmsley House. Later, I stumbled across the name Harry B. Helmsley emblazoned on a massive plaque outside my dismal Manhattan office building. Harry Helmsley, it turns out, was a prodigious real estate mogul who owned New York City’s Villard House, an Italian Renaissance style building, which was the inspiration for Adélaïde’s Parisian Brownstone. As for Adélaïde herself, well, a pleasant stay in Paris was spoiled after I was unexpectedly and undeservedly assaulted by a pigeon.

This collecting process carried through to The Doldrums and the Helmsley Curse. Archer’s grandparents disappearing was based on my own grandfather who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and who I watched slowly vanish. For Archer, his grandparents return and he is taken into their world. It’s a secretive world of explorers headquartered in a building called the Society, which is based on Manhattan’s Explorer’s Club. And in a funny circling of fate, during my maiden voyage into the Explorer’s Club, I discovered one of its most famous members was Teddy Roosevelt. 

Of course, adventure is about journeying into the unknown and there’s plenty in these books that I’ve had no experience with. Unlike Ralph and Rachel Helmsley, I’ve never been the victim of a botched murder attempt. (Not to my knowledge, at least.) I’ve also never had any association, public or otherwise, with a peculiar botanist named Wigstan Spinler who has the ability to make people behave their opposite. And while there’s a tiny, three wheeled exterminator truck that frequently and heroically whizzes past my Brooklyn apartment, unlike Archer, Oliver, and Adélaïde, I’ve never stolen that truck and driven it into a blizzard in order to salvage my family’s name.

As with book one, friendship remains the heart of The Doldrums and the Helmsley Curse. Archer and his friends are knee-deep in snow, searching the iceberg-like streets of Rosewood, collecting clues that don’t seem to fit together, and trying to make sense of it all. Much like their benevolent dictator. Yours truly,

And with gratitude,