Author Ridely Pearson enthralls Merrimack students with animated talk
Merrimack recently had an author’s visit sponsored by Barnes & Noble in Nashua. It wasn’t just any author though; this was Ridley Pearson – a New York Times best seller over and over.
Pearson has written 48 books including adult crime books, Peter and the Star Catchers series along with Dave Barry, and the Kingdom Keepers series. At the Nashua schools earlier in the day, he came to Merrimack to talk about, The Kingdom Keepers – Disney after dark – a series of books that follow the adventures of some teens as they battle the “bad” characters that come out at the Disney parks at night. The last book in the series, “Kingdom Keepers VII: The Insider,” has just been released and he was on tour to promote it.
Disney, bad characters, teen heroes – it’s what kids love, right?
Pearson is what some would call an aerobic presenter. It was near impossible to get a photo of him as he didn’t hold still for more than a fraction of a second. Fully animated, he walked his audience through some of his experiences in the Disney parks after hours where he and his family had been granted full access.
He told and acted out one story of being in the Small World attraction where, when the lights are dimmed “the dolls look very menacing” and how he swore he saw two of the dolls actually move.
After being told that was impossible by the ride attendants, Small World dolls that moved became incorporated into one of his stories. But two became four became six until he decided to write about 40 dolls moving and attacking after dark.
A self-described storyteller, Pearson recounted tales of being on a Disney cruise liner and having the opportunity to walk inside the enormous refrigerators needed to provide all the food required for the ship’s trip. He also told of climbing the outside of the Matterhorn ride at the Disney park and he shared the secret that inside the mountain is a basketball half court specifically for the employees use.
The kids were enthralled and listened intently as Pearson spun one yarn after another.
After his presentation to the seventh graders, Pearson gave another to the eighth-grade students and then headed back to the Nashua Barnes & Noble for a book signing.
Always interested in sharing his experiences and knowledge, Pearson answered student questions during his presentation and he also responded to questions submitted before his visit by email to the Journal.
MJ: I am curious to know how different it is to write with a partner (Dave Barry) versus on your own? Were there ever times that boundaries/roles become blurred?
Pearson: Dave Barry and I divided our writing by character. So one or the other of us would write a first draft of a chapter (depending on character) and the other would then edit that chapter. The process of editing continued until each of us was happy with the chapter (six to eight times). You need to work with someone you trust when taking this approach, but we got the book(s) we wanted!
MJ: Also how different is it to write for the young adult market versus adults? Does it affect the process?
Pearson: The goal is exciting story lines with interesting, believable characters. One doesn’t write to audience (I think that sounds a death knoll). Younger readers are, in fact, more critical than adults! I suppose for the younger novels there may be slightly less complication, and certainly the language and the “situations” are tamed from my grown-up writing. But story and character are king.
MJ: When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Pearson: A marine biologist or oceanographer. Then, James Taylor or Paul Simon. Finally, a writer.
MJ: Where do you find your inspiration?
Pearson: Writing is a profession for me. If I waited for inspiration, I’d have written two books instead of 48. It’s a privilege to earn a living from writing and I never take it for granted. I work long hours doing something I love. There are days I do it poorly, of course, but professional writing is all about rewriting. The writing of the book (draft 1) is the easy/fun part!
MJ: Any advice to young writers?
Pearson: For fiction: You must know your beginning, middle and end before you start. You may go elsewhere, but you need a destination or your story will likely fall apart. Having a “good idea” for a story or a book is not enough. Read, read, read: it’s the only real tool that improves your writing.
A resident of St. Louis, Mo., Pearson is also a best-selling crime novelist of more than 25 titles, which have been translated into 22 languages and distributed in 70 countries. He was the first U.S. citizen to be awarded the Raymond Chandler/Fulbright Fellowship in Detective Fiction at Oxford University.
In 2013, Ridley was awarded Missouri’s Quill award and inducted into that state’s Writers Hall of Fame.
For more information on Ridley Pearson, visit his website at http://ridleypearson.com.