Exclusive Interview and Giveaway with “The Return” Author, Ridley Pearson

From the Disney Insider

Author of the incredibly popular Kingdom Keepers series, Ridley Pearson, is back with a brand new book that we are seriously excited about! The Return: Disney Lands follows five teens who have to protect the Park after hours…from Disney villains. Yeah, we know. It sounds awesome. We got to speak with Pearson about his love of Disney, what inspires him, and what we can expect from the new book:

The story of how Pearson came to pen the Kingdom Keepers series was made in Disney fan heaven. “I’m a writer (like so many) who seems to have more ideas than time to write them! The first time I visited Walt Disney World with my wife and two (very) young daughters we were leaving after the fireworks in Magic Kingdom and I realized not one of the characters was leaving with us. That’s all it took. A world and a massive story exploded in my imagination.” So where did Pearson’s imagination take him? Well first to writing seven Kingdom Keepers books, and now a new take on the idea: What would happen if a group of teenagers ended up in the Disney Parks after closing? And what if there was something there that they weren’t expecting?

“It literally took me years of planning and visiting the parks after hours and talking to Imagineers to find this particular story,” Pearson told us. “In the meantime, I came up with three or four others ‘big Kingdom Keepers stories’ — but typically either the five characters OR the parks, not a combination of both. The more I interacted with readers, the more clear it was that my readers want BOTH.” How great that Pearson listens to reader feedback!

Writing a series that takes place in Disney Parks definitely has its perks. Pearson told us, “I have been allowed into all of the parks (and onto the Disney Cruise Line) to visit attractions after hours over 2 dozen times. I have been so fortunate on many of these research trips to be accompanied by one or more Imagineers. These have been the experiences of a lifetime! I am allowed to walk the attractions when they are ‘dark’ and not operating — I spend hours doing this, taking notes. Then Cast Members are called in and they start the attractions, and I ride them — OVER AND OVER. It’s just the most fun experience EVER!!! And it makes for great research.” Color us jealous!


So why do Disney fans of all ages need to read this book? Well, without giving too much away, The Return series involves Disney history. (Hint: ever wondered what Disneyland was like on opening day? Well, Pearson has!) He told us a few fun facts about that momentous occasion: “There were upwards of 14,000 counterfeit tickets used on opening day in Disneyland, swelling numbers to three times what the Cast Members expected. There was a major water problem (you will read about that!). Women’s high-heeled shoes became stuck in fresh asphalt! And on and on…”

It’s not only Disneyland of yore that makes its way into The Return, In fact, the book opens with a scene at the D23 Expo! Why? Because Pearson himself is a huge Disney fan. “The more I experience Disney, the bigger the fan I am.” He said. “I’ve often thought that by getting a glimpse backstage and learning how much of the ‘magic’ is created, that my interest might be lessened. In fact, it’s been quite the opposite: I’ve never been a bigger Disney ‘geek’ than I am right now! We just want to be his friend.

Lastly, Pearson was nice enough to offer some advice for aspiring authors. “If writing a story of any length, you must remember to think through the beginning, middle and end. Sounds simple, right? It’s anything but! It needs careful working out. Also: pick a time, once a day, a week? where you write and do NOTHING else. No music. No texts. No email. Just write. You’re on your way!”

Thanks so much to Ridley Pearson for taking the time to answer our questions! The Return: Disney Lands is now available to own, but head to our Twitter for a chance to win a copy!(See official rules here.)

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