Does Adventure Call Your Name? We hope so!

Guest Post by Janet Fogg and Dave Jackson

co/authors of Misfortune Annie and the Locomotive Reaper

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If adventure does call your name, pull up a horse for a wild ride with Misfortune Annie—the fastest draw in the 1880s west—at age 15!

What’s compelling to us is that a hero like Misfortune Annie truly could have existed. The real Annie Oakley fought amongst the toughest of wranglers and bested many a man in shooting contests. In fact, while still a teen, Annie Oakley earned enough money to pay off the mortgage on her mother’s farm.

To properly tell the origin of our Annie, we should travel back to the initial spark—George Lucas and the Indiana Jones series. It’s widely known by many Lucas fans that a rugged archaeologist character first showed up in old matinee serials, and George dusted him off for a new generation of movie lovers. When hoping to develop a story concept and character that could give Indy a run for his money, we found ourselves pondering the cowboy genre. Roy Rogers, the Lone Ranger, Gene Autry—they were huge! Perhaps our new star should have a catchy name and signature duds. He would wear a ten-gallon hat and Levi jacket. But fate threw in a wildcard.

On Christmas vacation several years ago, nearly asleep behind the wheel through flat old Kansas, Dave passed a sign that boasted, “Annie Oakley Museum.” Jolted awake, he realized he had our new hero, a tough and tenacious teen, a cowgirl known by a memorable moniker.

Not only could we hopefully create a memorable hero, one to delight the young and the young at heart, we intended to focus on a somewhat lacking niche in middle-grade/YA fiction—an action hero for girls.

As storyboarding for the first book progressed, we carefully considered our villain. The era of the Wild West merges well with and complements Steampunk, so our villain evolved into a mad scientist, a mechanical engineer bent on revenge. Research into the technology of the 1880s—blimps and electricity—sealed the Locomotive Reaper’s powers.

No action/adventure would be complete without humor and peculiarity. Annie’s southern sidekick, Beau Slokam, is borderline genius and a constant disaster waiting to happen, but his reckless quick thinking actually gets them out of several scrapes. Wontoa, her potential love interest, is the pride of the Cheyenne tribe and doesn’t understand foolish white-man ways. Not to mention cameos by historical figures such as Wyatt Earp—a perfect walk-on to spark curiosity about U.S. History.

In her secret heart, Annie has a compelling purpose: to find her father who went missing during the Civil War. (That led us to the idea for her signature look, a Union cap left to her by her father.) Annie rides, hunts, and guides folks through the Colorado Rockies. She’s tough and smart, yet it’s not unusual for Annie’s accomplishments to be overlooked, simply because she’s a girl in a ‘tough guy’ world. Yet Annie is undeterred, and we hope, a strong role-model.

We then considered future books, and developed a long cast of colorful crooks (think James Bond’s bullies) to take on the fastest draw in the west. Book Two, Misfortune Annie and the Voodoo Curse, leads Annie to New Orleans to tangle with a wicked Voodoo priest. After that, a Dragon Warrior shall render Annie’s six-shooters useless. A sinister magician will perform the ultimate trick on her and the Secret Service. Beware pirates! Look out for creatures in the woods, Annie! (Sorry. Got carried away, there.)

It’s paramount to us, as authors of our new Misfortune Annie series, that reading be fun. No slogging through a story, cookie-cutter characters, or predictable dialogue and plot turns. So there’s action galore, and with Beau and Wontoa teaming with Annie, we believe teen boys will also enjoy Misfortune Annie, just as teen girls enjoy Harry Potter.

We might end our tale of Annie’s journey to date with a quote from a recent review: “At a time when women weren’t typically adventurers, especially at Annie’s age, it’s great fun to see a story about a girl who loves an adventure, is capable, and well-respected. I think Annie is a great model for young girls, especially those who don’t like the feminine trappings, and she gives us a great story to while away an afternoon. ~ Hott Books re: Misfortune Annie and the Locomotive Reaper.

Happy trails!

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