Maleficent with Ridley Pearson
Everyone's a fan! Photo courtesy of the Ridley Pearson facebook page

A while back I posted my interview with fellow Disney Mom Margaret and she mentioned her love of the Kingdom Keepers series. Imagine my surprise when I received a comment on that entry from none other than the author himself, Ridley Pearson, thanking Margaret for the KK love. I figured I shouldn’t let that bit of providence go to waste, so I emailed Mr. Pearson to ask if he’d be interested in answering a few questions for ZannaLand readers. He responded that he’d be “pleased and honored” to do so. As a fan (of both Ridley’s work and young-adult fiction in general) and a wanna-be-writer, I was a bit excited at the prospect.

What follows are my silly questions and Ridley’s wonderful answers; sharing a bit more about himself,  the writing process and his Disney-themed work.

Zanna: What made you first decide to take the leap from a successful adult thriller writer to the young adult genre?

Ridley Pearson: The most obvious change was having children.  When my two daughters were little I would tell them a different story every night before bed. Every night.  My wife and I would read to them as well, no less than an hour a night.  At some point, as a writer, you just start to think: “Why am I not writing for my kids?”

Z: Did you head into The Kingdom Keepers thinking Walt Disney World would be a great setting for a book or did you decide to bring the Disney aspect in after the fact?

RP: Actually, Disney did a remarkably generous thing for me (and for Dave Barry) the result of which was a thank you phone call that ended with me and an editor, Wendy Lefkon, discussing working together.  She proposed I use my crime-writing skills to develop a series set inside the Disney theme parks that the Disney “attorneys would approve.”  It was a challenge I couldn’t resist.

Z: Had you always been a fan of Disney parks?

RP: I LOVE the Disney parks, but came to it late.  (That was the generous gift Disney gave me (and Dave Barry): 3 days with our families as VIP guests in Disney World!  It changed my (publishing) life.

Kingdom Keepers IIIZ: Did you anticipate the Disney fandom appreciating how you handled the parks and becoming so passionate about your books (and every detail)?

RP: The reader reaction caught me and my publishing team at Disney TOTALLY by surprise.  The first book Disney After Dark sold well, but not phenomenally.  Then, after a few months, this groundswell began and tens of thousands of readers (later, hundreds of thousands) “got the bug.”  It was a so much fun for me, as a writer, because it meant more books — and then, once those books caught on, they way they did, we set a series length (7 books) and I could create a large “arc” for the entire series.  It’s been a very special part of my work.  I treasure the KK series and its readers.

Z: As a guitarist in the band of published authors, Rock Bottom Remainders, who are some of your musical inspirations? Do you listen to music while writing?

RP: On my iPhone you’ll find everything from opera to U2.  Nickleback to Scott Hamilton.  Jazz, rock, soft rock, “oldies” — having played music for years now I take it any way it comes.  I love music and sometimes, though certainly not always, play music when I’m writing.  If I know the music really intimately I can write with it playing; if not, too much of my attention is taken by admiring the piece.

Z: With so many young adult books in the marketplace now, how do you ensure you’ll capture a reader’s attention? Do you have any advice for aspiring authors to set themselves apart?

RP: I try not to think about all the other books (although I read them! I love Eoin Colfer and Rick Riordan, Carl Hiaasen).  I just try to write a compelling, fast-paced story with fun characters (that’s tough enough).  I think the key to new writers is “have fun.”  If you have fun writing, chances are the reader will too.

Z: Do you have a definite end in sight for The Kingdom Keepers? Will there be a part 4 or beyond? Any hints? (Thanks to my 11 year-old for this question!)

RP: I sure do!  See above.

Can’t wait to see what happens next! Huge thanks to Ridley Pearson for taking the time out of his incredibly busy schedule to talk with us today! I know I loved learning a bit more about the process and how Kingdom Keepers began. If you’d like to check out Kingdom Keepers III: Disney in Shadow, his Peter serieswith Dave Barry, as well as all his adult fiction, head over to the Ridley Pearson author page on Amazon or his official website You can also follow Ridley on twitter @RidleyPearson and  “like” him Pearson on facebook, where he updates regularly about his work and appearances.

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