Last Stop, Ground Floor
The Story Behind the Story and the Character of Jeffrey
As I was writing the psychological horror novel, Last Stop, Ground Floor, I had a specific inspiration for the character of Jeffrey in mind. I even held a book giveaway for anyone that read the book and was able to guess who, and what, was behind that particular character. Again, congratulations to readers Shannon Weber and Melissa Clay for their correct answers!
The truth is, the inspiration behind the character of Jeffrey was indeed the late, great Gene Wilder's outstanding depiction of Willie Wonka from Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.
And, don't get me wrong, that movie is a classic children's movie and truly one of my favorites. Having said that, Gene played the character in his own way. Giving us the idea that Mr. Wonka was not only very eccentric, but also had a twisted mind. In the performance of his character he lets you know that he was in control, in a bit of a narcissistic way. But, he also wans to teach the children, and their parents, the lessons of life. In the movie 'Wonka' seems to experience great joy from the fact that he is controlling the game of who will end up with the prize in the end. You often wonder if he likes the children, or simply enjoys seeing them punished for misbehaving, which he knows they will. And, just as in my book, there's a potential for danger around every corner and in every room.
In writing the character of Jeffrey, I visualized how Gene would delivered a line, and his mannerisms in the delivery. The 'tone' of how Jeffrey 'talks' to Nicholas was a big factor in the character, and Gene's performance provided the inspiration. Gene's 'Wonka' speaks as he should, as if talking to a child, and even the same when he speaks to their parents. But, in a way that is not only sarcastic, but also belittling, narcissistic and arrogant. Almost as if what the other person is saying doesn't matter. Always, though, trying to 'warn' the children, and at the same time teach them something.
Gene's 'Wonka', without saying it directly, tries to warn both the children and the adults that there is potential danger waiting in the unknown if they don't play by his rules, and the rules of the chocolate factory. And, he relishes in the results if they fail to listen and heed his warnings. Jeffrey is the same way. In his 'tone', he's warning Nick that there is danger around every corner and behind every door. In fact, there is a line in the book that mirror's Gene's. In the movie, when they're behind the door to the production room, Gene says, "Do you really want to see?" Jeffrey says the same thing when he and Nick are outside one of the rooms, and Nick is desperate to see what's on the other side of the door. Jeffrey says, "Do you really want to see?" In my mind, and hopefully through my description, saying it in a tone that comes with a warning, almost telling Nick outright that he won't like what's on the other side.
Again, the stories are similar in that in both the movie, and my book, there is potential danger lurking everywhere, and in the movie it's the children (and parents) themselves that drive their outcome. With Nick, his outcome in life was always within his power, which Jeffrey attempts to have him understand.
Near the end of the movie, Willie Wonka 'explodes' on Charlie in apparent anger. The same as Jeffrey 'explodes' on Nick in the 'Columbine' room. And, following this at the very end there is a reward. The difference being that Charlie obviously redeems himself and earns the chocolate factory. Nick, however, receives his special place in hell.
Probably the greatest hint in my book is when Jeffrey and Nick are talking about 'favorite movies'. Nick reluctantly responds that his is, "Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory," and the 'boat scene'.
Speaking of the 'boat scene', this was a metaphor for the 'theater on the stairs' in that you think that it's going to be a place, or experience that is pleasurable and enjoyable, and turns out to be the opposite.
Now, having said this all, I've had many happy readers interpret the story in their own way, comparing the book to stories such Alice in Wonderland, to Dante's Inferno. I think that's great! Any way that the reader interprets my book in how they see it is awesome.
I hope that now the 'secret' is revealed, there will be those who enjoy the book just that much more if they also enjoy Gene Wilder's 'Willie Wonka', and compare him to my character of 'Jeffrey'.