Neal Shusterman and Eric Elfman introduceTesla's Attic, the first book in their new trilogy, and the real-life inventor who inspired it.
Do you feel like Nikola Tesla is finally getting his due as a scientist and inventor of so many things we take for granted?
Neal: Tesla was not a name I remember hearing in school--I was introduced to him by a friend in college who was adamant that he was the greatest inventor of all time. After reading about him myself, I had to agree. I had always wanted to write something that somehow incorporated Tesla.
Eric: I never learned about Tesla in school, either. I first heard his name on a track by performance artist Laurie Anderson (“Dance of Electricity,”on United States, Part One), and she focused mainly on his feud with Thomas Edison (wryly observing that it seemed partly a matter of clashing styles). Then, when Tesla became Edison’s competitor, it was the monstrous way Edison responded that stayed with me.
As Neal and I learned more about Tesla’s contributions to our everyday lives, how he invented, discovered or developed things most of us take for granted--AC power, the electric motor, radio, radar, X-rays, remote controls for heaven's sake--the more we wondered why more people didn’t know his name.
Is that what inspired you to write the novel, Tesla’s Attic? To set the record straight?
Eric: Actually, the book began with the idea of a kid finding all these old, rusty appliances in his new house and selling them at a garage sale--only to find out later that each object has an amazing and dangerous power. So why do these devices have these powers?
Neal: The only reasonable explanation we could come up with was they must be the discarded inventions of an eccentric inventor--and we instantly knew that it had to be Tesla!
Eric: The novel really belongs to the kid who finds the lost inventions, Nick--and we had to answer the question: Who is he? Why did he move to a new town…and everything else grew from there. And we knew it would be a lot of fun to write.
What’s your favorite thing about the book?
Neal: The characters. They’re all fun, and quirky, and came to life when we were writing. My favorite character would have to be Petula, this irascible girl who’s a force of nature, and whose pigtails are pulled so tight, we suspect it may be affecting blood flow to her brain.
Eric: More than anything else, I love the humor we put in the novel. It still makes me laugh out loud when I read it.
Can you give us a teaser about the book?
Eric: Our main character discovers that Tesla had a far-reaching plan that involves him and all of his friends… and may inadvertently bring about the end of the world.
Neal: Or it may not. You’ll have to read it to find out!