The Cliftopolis Chronicles

Frequently Asked Questions with Grant P. Ferguson

Q: Of all the places G and his friends could hang out, why did you choose Cliftopolis?

A: While walking my dog, Rango, I often thought about the tunnels that crisscrossed under my feet. The small town where my wife and I live has many century-old buildings, and I could easily imagine how an 11-year-old boy and his friends would feel if they found an entrance. Discovering an unknown world lurks just below your feet is exciting but creepy, too. The urge to explore overrides caution, drawing G and friends into the most exciting adventure of their young lives.

Q: What did you find challenging in writing from the viewpoint of an 11-year-old genius?

A: Preston Gustoffagus—G to his friends—seems like he’s got it all together. Smart and friendly, his parents furnished him with a lab and encouragement. But no matter how buttoned up he seems, G has an array of problems to solve. Instead of a challenge, I enjoyed writing from his viewpoint, especially when he encountered difficulties, including relationship issues.

Q: Are you anything like G?

A: First, let me emphasize, G is the genius, I’m not. But growing up, I did have my share of problems to overcome. And like G, I’m a “maker.” I love to build things, and I’m not afraid to experiment, even if my idea fizzles. G is more determined than me, and with his extra brain power, he usually finds a way to make things work.

Q: Many people are creeped out by monsters! Did you have to get over your fear of strange creatures to write this story?

A: I grew up reading fables, which included a good number of trolls. I read science fiction, which often threw in generous amounts of aliens. I also watched my share of the old movies about Frankenstein, Dracula, and mummies. A couple of years ago, I came across a book about troll legends, which got me to thinking, What if trolls came to America with the immigrants around the 1860s? Also, zombie stories and films remain popular. One thing led to another until the monster became a mishmash of trolls and zombies, which I found fun rather than scary.

Q: While growing up, did you have friends like Wyatt, Luke, Trish, and Zack?

A: Yes, but all of the characters in the Cliftopolis Chronicles are fictional. I blended various personality and physical traits from dozens of individuals, including some from my brothers.

Q: Have you ever felt like an outsider in a strange place?

A: I’ve felt like an outsider many times in my life. A new setting, such as moving to a different town and school, intensified that feeling. But as the years rolled by and I visited additional places and encountered fresh experiences, I began to see patterns, reminding me that whatever I initially thought of as unfamiliar would soon become familiar. That knowledge helped me relax and enjoy life. Over time, I noticed how repeating patterns also applied to meeting people, taking on projects and accepting more responsibility.

Q: The Cliftopolis Chronicles is about G and his friends doing everything they can to save their families, friends, town, and just maybe, the world. What else can you tell us about this struggle?

A: Even a genius needs help. Learning when to lead and when to follow are essential lessons. Also, becoming a leader requires a heart for people, listening to suggestions and employing their wisdom. Throughout the Cliftopolis Chronicles, issue after issue confronts G, demanding resolution. But first, G must learn when to lead and how to bring out the best from his team. Yes, the story includes inventions, time travel, villains, and monsters, but G and friends must answer the core question: how can they combine their wisdom, talents, and skills to claim victory over the ever-increasing forces pitted against them.