BY ELIZABETH BROWN-WORTHINGTON
Boca Ciega High
Author Ridley Pearson has published 45 novels, most of them best sellers, including two wildly popular series for young adult readers, Kingdom Keepers and Peter and the Starcatchers (cowritten with Dave Barry). Pearson will be speaking at the 21st annual Tampa Bay Times Festival of Reading on Saturday about his latest book, Choke Point, second in the adult series Risk Agent.
But he also loves talking about what will be the seventh and last Kingdom Keepers book, due out in April. He's endearing his fans even more by soliciting their input for this last story at kingdomkeepers- insider.com. Readers who contribute and whose suggestions get the most online votes will be mentioned in the credits of the book. Pearson, who sometimes works 70-hour weeks, spoke recently with tb-two* via Skype.
"Ridley!" Pearson exclaimed as the webcam flashed on.
Pearson has lived the fantasy of many Disney World fans: He has experienced the Magic Kingdom after hours — 25 times, to be exact — after the last fireworks crackled out, after all the crowds trickled out.
It was his first such tour with a Disney Imagineer that sparked the Kingdom Keepers series. As he watched the park grow empty, it hit him, he said.
"The characters didn't leave. Where'd they go? What did they do? Did the good characters fight the villains for control of the park?"
Pearson said this is where his imagination lead him. "It is very creepy during the night, it's dead quiet, and there's no one else around."
For the seventh book, Pearson is letting his fans help him write the book, "as a small way of saying thanks" for their devotion, he wrote on kingdomkeepersinsider.com.
"We will write KK VII together, week by week, chapter by chapter. You will guide the direction of, and contribute actual writing to chapters that will be in the final, published novel!" he wrote on the website.
Pearson would post polls asking questions such as "What should happen next? Who? When? Where? How?" and he would post answer choices for his fans to vote on. Occasionally he would post "Describe what you think would happen if/when…" and his fans were asked to submit a paragraph. Pearson would pick the best. "I have so many amazing writers and fans of all ages," he said.
Even though he's probably been asked the question around 10 million times, Pearson doesn't mind sharing what tips he has for aspiring writers.
"There are three top tips that every good writer needs to keep in the back of their mind," he said. "Number one, it is very important for writers to understand that every story needs to have a beginning, middle and an end.
"Next, every writer, no matter what their level of experience, needs to take time every couple of days to just sit down and write, or brainstorm, or even just read.
"You don't get any better at writing if you don't read all the time. Read, read, read," he said, before the Skype chimes signaled Pearson was getting back to work.