After four books in Walt Disney World and two on the Disney Cruise Line (really?!), the Kingdom Keepers have finally made it to Disneyland for their seventh and final book.
Author Ridley Pearson spent his April Fools Day and the day of his latest book’s release at a Barnes and Noble in the Americana at Brand shopping center in Glendale, California for a signing. Before autographing copies of Kingdom Keepers VII: The Insider for eager fans, Pearson took some time to talk about his experiences writing the series.
Pearson spoke of the unprecedented access he received while writing the Kingdom Keepers series, which included private after-hours tours of all the attractions by Disney Imagineers. He explained his process saying, “I’ve gone into the attraction when they’re shut down... and I walk around them taking furious notes... and then the Cast Members come and turn on the attraction for me, and I ride them 5, 8, 12 times,” he said, adding “and then I go home to my little cubby hole and write a chapter about what happened to me, because, inevitably, I get scared out of my wits when I’m in there.” Pearson estimates that he’s embarked on such adventures over 25 times now.
When Pearson first conceived his plan for Kingdom Keepers, he figured it as a five book series, with each Disney Resort (Disneyland, Walt Disney World, Disneyland Paris, Tokyo Disneyland and Hong Kong Disneyland) being covered in one book. This changed, however, when Pearson realized the scope of Walt Disney World itself. “Oh my gosh! This could be War and Peace on it’s own,” he said.
Because of this, the Keepers move to Disneyland took a bit longer than expected. The route they took to Anaheim also changed throughout the process. Pearson explained, “I had always envisioned, in my outlined and in my mind, that I would do that by putting the KingdomKeepers... into Disney on Ice. I thought that would be the coolest way to cross the country.” Unfortunately, legal agreements prevented his plans from becoming reality. “Disney on Ice, at that point, was licensed by a different company and they wouldn’t allow it”, he said. After a temporarily stall, a decision was made to instead put the Keepers on a Disney Cruise, which then expanded into books five and six.
For this book seventh book, Pearson worked with a company called Coliloquy to create KingdomKeepersInsider.com. Each week, Pearson would put up an outline for a chapter of the book, and asked the fans to choose which characters they’d like to see in the scene, what rides they’d like to be included, and other such details which Pearson would then take into consideration while writing the chapter. During the first week, the site had 400 users. By the end, the site had 55,000 registered user. About a third of the book was written this way.
On top of that, Pearson ran fan-fiction contests, where he would read works young writers would create using his characters and world. A few excerpts of some of these pieces actually made their way into the book.
Also making it into the book was a strange coincidence Pearson never could have predicted... except he did. A few days before the event, Pearson was staying at the Disneyland Hotel when his room began to shake. As it turns out, an earthquake had struck La Habra, California. Incidentally, in The Insider, which Pearson had written months before, he included a scene where an earthquake rocks Disneyland and the city he set his fake quake in was none other than La Habra.
Ironically, the name of the prelude to book seven was titled Unforseen — a novella Pearson published via KingdomKeepersInsider.com to fill in the gaps between book six and book seven. When asked if he’d write any other such novellas, Pearson said that he was working on one that would bridge the Kingdom Keepers series to his next series. While Pearson didn’t full explain what this series will be, he confirmed that the Keepers characters will be in it. “There will be some park stuff in it, there will be some Imagineer stuff in it... that should be this week next year,” he said. So while The Insider marks the end of this successful series, it’s not the end of the Keepers themselves.