This weekend Disney literary world author Ridley Pearson will be attending the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books at USC. Inspired by Disney to write about some of the most beloved characters and places from the Mouse House, Ridley is known for his Peter and the Star-Catcher and Kingdom Keepers series.
This year at the annual book Coachella, Pearson will be appearing to talk about his return to his theme park adventure universe with A Kingdom Keepers Novel: The Return Book Two, Legacy of Secrets. He is scheduled for in booth autographing Saturday morning from 10-11AM in the Disney Booth (#595) and will participate in the Middle Grade Panel: Epic Adventures on Sunday the 10th at 10AM at the Seeley G. Mudd building (Room 123).
That’s it LA was able to correspond with Ridley before his Book Fest appearance about his excitement to return to the Disney literary universe and his thought on why audiences gravitate to more stories about iconic places and characters.
With how much the expanded universes are becoming a part of Disney through Marvel and Star Wars after your series, as well as the other books that go into the stories of beloved Disney characters, what do you think is the appeal to have more tales readily available outside of the films/park experiences?
Ridley Pearson: I think there are those of us who enjoy having a director and actors show us various universes within and without of Disney, Marvel and Star Wars, but as a reader I also see the appeal of allowing that creativity inside the reader’s mind – the opportunity to draw one’s own images, characters and pace of story that is unique to the reading experience.
In terms of story, I think it cuts both ways: it’s fun and interesting to see these characters and these universes in new and different ways. But I also think too much can be too much – so it’s always a work in progress.
It’s really great to see fans of various areas of Disney lore be able to craft more stories out of just anything that’s loved in the mythology. Can you talk about the process of finding a story within an existing universe? Whether it be part of a film, parks, or Walt Disney’s vision of the future.
Ridley Pearson: I can only speak for myself – and that is that I’ve had a couple of moments that have just made the stories happen. When our daughters were younger, we read to them all the time. One night I was reading to one of them and she asked me how Peter Pan at Metcalf info – that became the series co-written with Dave Barry.
Another time I was leaving the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World; it was late at night after the fireworks and there were thousands of us leaving. Among us there was not a single Disney character, and it occurred to me to ask myself what those Disney characters were doing in the park for the 12 hours we would be gone. That led to the Kingdom Keepers.
At least speaking for me, I have not gone into these different worlds looking for my own angle on them. I’ve just been lucky enough – or crazy enough – to have some wild idea pop into my head and later see that it could be a book or a series of books.
How do you stay true to your idea for the story without getting lost in whatever you uncover during the research?
In an effort to suspend the reader’s disbelief, I have for years been using research to put fact into my fiction. The trick is to not be overly impressed by your own research. It’s a vehicle of fact that serves a purpose in the storytelling, but storytelling always comes first. Typically, I end up cutting a lot of the research pieces out of my stories. But without them, I wouldn’t of been able to shape the story – so it’s all about balance.
Tell us what’s inspired this return to the Kingdom Keepers universe and what’s the plan for this part of the series?
I wasn’t convinced there was a second Kingdom Keepers series. But then I received a terrific email from a 10-year-old reader – named Nick – who suggested the idea of the Kingdom Keepers traveling back to opening day of Disneyland in 1955, and he even suggested the way it would happen! The idea of the Kingdom Keepers being able to meet some characters from the original series, but now when those characters were teenagers, or to work hand-in-hand with Walt Disney, just proved to tempting!
The surprise was the huge amount of library and archival research that had to go into these books – there will be three in all. I had, prior to this, done on my research on the ground and in the moment. But now I found myself sifting through archival libraries and thousands of photos, interviewing people alive during that time and having to rediscover what the park was like 60 years ago.
Out on Book tour last weekend, I had the privilege of spending an entire day with Judy Blume. She was in Disneyland that first week, 1955!!
Find out more about Kingdom Keepers this weekend at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books taking place on USC’s campus for readers of all ages!