BONIFAY — A local author’s novel series for young readers is being adapted for the big screen as a vehicle for young actor Millie Bobby Brown, a star of the Netflix series “Stranger Things.”
Brown, 13, received an Emmy award nomination for her role as “Eleven,” a child with mental superpowers. A British actress and model born in Spain, she now resides in Atlanta and London. Brown has signed to star in and produce a feature film for Legendary Pictures based on the “Enola Holmes” series of novels by Nancy Springer, an author of more than 60 books who resides in Bonifay.
“The author is always the last to know,” Springer said. “I had a hint last summer that an important young actress was interested. … I love her. She’s going to be the perfect actress for Enola. She’s Enola’s age and build, and she does not look just like Sherlock.”
The book series was optioned as a TV series in England some years ago, Springer said, but that never materialized. It has also been adapted in France as a series of graphic novels. She’s anxious to see what the future holds.
“I’m surfing through this,” Springer said. “It’s a new experience for me. It’s not something I can call my girlfriends about and ask advice.”
She feels “odd,” knowing that there will be a movie — or a series of them — based on something she dreamed up.
“I’m starting to think about things I never would have imagined, like what to wear to the opening,” she added.
Springer said the idea for the series grew out of a discussion with her editor, Michael Green. She’d written a couple of novels based on the legends of King Arthur, and next Green wanted her to explore a story set in “deepest, darkest London at the time of Jack the Ripper,” Springer said.
“The Sherlock Holmes stories (by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle) take place exactly at the time of Jack the Ripper,” she said. “I thought, well, I can’t give Holmes a child. I think he’s still a virgin. So what about a much younger sister?”
The book series began with “The Case of the Missing Marquess” in 2006, and now spans six novels. The first and fifth volumes were nominated for Edgar Awards, the height of mystery writing.
In Springer’s tales, Enola Holmes is 14 when her older brother is sleuthing about with his friend, Dr. Watson. She was a “mistake child,” Springer said, born to the family late in her mother’s life. And as Holmes reflected Doyle’s Victorian views of women as a weaker sex, Enola is something of a disgrace to her brothers because of her independent ways.
“In Victorian England, being a woman was like being a member of a secret society,” Springer said. “There were secret messages that could be passed in the use of fans, ways to get around chaperones, sending bouquets to deliver messages. Enola knows all of these.”
Enola’s mother was strong-willed, a suffragette who trained her, taught her to ride a bike and educated her with an extensive library. When Sherlock and Mycroft, her older brothers, decide to send Enola off to a boarding school, she fears being “corseted to death,” Springer said.
“It’s not overtly feminist,” Springer added. “There no doubting I’m a feminist, and she’s a strong female character. After a while, they start to respect her.”
The books proved difficult to construct, having three intertwining plots and a mysterious cipher for readers to solve. That’s one of the reasons Springer wants to clarify that, while the main character is a teen, the books aren’t written solely for children.
“It’s intended for a general audience,” she said. “It’s about a kid, but not just for kids.”
Born in New Jersey, Springer grew up in Gettysburg, Penn., “knowing all about the Civil War and not the least bit interested in it,” she said. Visiting the Panhandle for a writers’ conference, she drove out to look at a nearby airport with her husband, an avid small craft pilot. They discovered an apartment was available, offering them a respite from frozen winters, and they moved in. They have since purchased a house just down the road from the airport.
“I love the swamps and wildlife here,” Springer said. “I’m not scared of snakes, and just love it in terms of the ecology.”
When she isn’t writing, Springer rides her bike, reads, paints faces for public fundraisers, and goes flying with her husband. Her next novel, “The Oddling Prince,” an epic fantasy in the mold of Tolkein, will be published in May.