Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Author Interview with Director/Producer/Screenwriter Chris Columbus

Chris Columbus has done a bunch of really awesome stuff, including writing the screenplay for The Goonies (I devoted an entire post to The Goonies last month), and directing the movies, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Having written HOUSE OF SECRETS (Balzer + Bray) with co-author Ned Vizzini, he is now officially a children's book author as well.  

I got to interview Chris Columbus face to face when I attended his author talk last month at the San Jose Public Library. The event was hosted by Hicklebees, a fabulous kidlit bookstore. 

HOUSE OF SECRETS, a MG fantasy novel, is about three siblings who discover that their new house in San Francisco can drift straight into the stories written by the home’s former owner, an author of books with occult themes. While combating live skeletons, creepy pirates, and the evil Wind Witch, the kids are also on a quest to find the The Book of Doom and Desire, a wish-granting object. HOUSE OF SECRETS captivated me with its twisty magic, non-stop action, and occasional warm and fuzzy moments between siblings who need to fend for themselves without the protection of their parents.  

From my interview with Chris Columbus: 

How did you write your story?
It’s a matter of figuring out the characters, the storyline, and doing a summary for the book. This started out as a screenplay in 1999. I did 90 pages. It felt too big for a movie- it would be too expensive- so I put it in a drawer, and I went off to direct the first two Harry Potter movies. When I came back to America four years later, every couple of years, I’d take the manuscript out of a drawer and try to figure out what to do with it because I loved the story. Two years ago, I decided it’d make a great novel. So I hired a co-writer so I could still make films while I was writing. It took us two years to finish writing this. It all worked out, and we’re happy with the book and proud of it. We hope this book will help get kids into reading.

What is your philosophy on writing about magic?                                            
The rules of magic are the rules you set up. I don’t look at books about the occult or anything.

How do you develop your characters?
I’ve had 23 years of experience raising children so I base a lot of these characters on my own kids. You want the characters to feel real, to be three-dimensional. Character growth and development is essential.

Is there anything else you’d like to add? 
We’re hoping the book is successful enough so that kids would read it and tell their friends about it. My goal is to have kids walking around on the beach reading this book during the summer.   

From Chris Columbus' author talk:

On how he gets his dialogue-  He listens to his four children talk during dinner time.

On having J.K. Rowling critique his writing- After reading one of his drafts, J.K. Rowling gave him the advice to slow down with the writing and reveal more character, and that’s what he worked on during his revision.

On films he is most proud of working on- He's happy he got to direct the Harry Potter movies and Rent, and produce The Help.

On getting to direct the HARRY POTTER movies- He sat down with J.K. Rowling for two hours at a cafĂ© where he told her his vision for the movie. After she heard what he had to say, she said that was her vision too.

On dealing with writer’s block- He runs every day.

On his favorite books from childhood- He loved comic books. He read a collection of Ray Bradbury short stories, and it changed his life. He also liked THE AVENGER series by Kenneth Robeson, stuff by Charles Dickens, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, and THE CATCHER IN THE RYE.

On attending New York University’s film school at Tisch School of the Arts- His parents were both factory workers and he knew when he went to film school, he didn’t have any choice but to make it and carve out a career for himself in film making.

On why he hasn’t written a sequel for The Goonies- Chris said, "If they’re 35 years old, and they’re still riding around in bicycles looking for treasures, that’s pathetic. If [people] want more Goonies, then they should read HOUSE OF SECRETS.”

...As for me, I'd still consider aging Goonies as the cool kids, even when they’re playing Mah Jong in pajamas with their dentures put on wrong.


Jeff Hargett said...

Well, I'm just jealous. But at least you got to interview him. Good questions and interesting answers. Hearing the author of Harry Potter say she agreed with his vision for the movie must have been awesome. I'm sure she felt relief.

Natasha Hanova said...

Congrats on scoring such an awesome interview, Cynthia! LOVED The Goonies and so do my kids. Great tips on how to tap into characters using real life.

Anonymous said...

Cool interview! I love listening to kids talk. It is a great resource.

Natalie Aguirre said...

Loved the interview. I can't wait to read this and it's on reserve at the library.

Lynda R Young as Elle Cardy said...

I keep expecting a remake of the Goonies, lol.
Wonderful interview!! And House of Secrets sounds brilliant!

Tonja Drecker said...

Would the Goonies be so old by now? Wow, guess they would. Great interview. Sounds like a good book.

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

Enjoyed this interview! I love how the original idea was a for a movie. I bet now that it's a book, it will ultimately be made into a movie anyway. :)

And imagine having J K Rowling critique your work?!

Pat Hatt said...

That is awesome you got to meet him face to face, if the book sells it will be made into a movie anyway haha An old Goonies could work if done right.

Unknown said...

Great interview-- JK Rowling's advice is very good. She obviously knows what it takes to attract and retain readers.

I also like that he based his ideas on his own kids-- what better way to know what they will like!

Mark Means said...

Awesome interview and I think he's right about a Goonie's sequel. Sometimes, it's better to just let things be.

House of Secrets looks very cool, too!

Mike Louie said...

Love the interview, Cynthia.

Wonderful advice about listening to one's own children during dinner time. Besides grabbing gems of great content, he is actually LISTENING and spending quality time with his children. Successful children's book writer AND dad.

I shall do the same... umm... when my twins can speak complete sentences.

Sherry Ellis said...

What an awesome looking book! I think it's really cool that JK Rowling critiqued your manuscript. She gave some really good advice! I really enjoyed this interview!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Ray Bradbury and comic books - that is just awesome.
Too cool you got to interview him!

Unknown said...

Lucky you!! Amazing interview and very cool insight into such a creative talent. I am going to have to check out his new book. It looks fascinating!


Elise Fallson said...

Excellent interview! Must have been great sitting and chatting for hours with JK Rowling. I also like the cover design for House of Secrets, very eye-catching. The book sounds like it has all the elements for success. (:

John Wiswell said...

Neat that you got to meet someone whose work you so admire! I love his answer on 23 years of experience watching characters develop. I don't often think about child development as a one-to-one study in characterization.

Carol Kilgore said...

Cool interview!

S.P. Bowers said...

Goonies is a classic! Great interview, and good luck on the book! Awesome cover.

Misha Gerrick said...

Great interview. :-)

How awesome is it to have J.K. Rowling crit your work?!

Jay Noel said...

House of Secrets sounds so good.

Big Goonies fan here!

Julie Dao said...

This was a fantastic interview! HOUSE OF SECRETS sounds exactly like the type of book I would enjoy and recommend. I really enjoy what he said about the rules of magic being the rules that you set up - in an author's book, it's their world, their rules. I'm one of the people who often get sidetracked and slowed down by wanting to be true to a culture or a philosophy... but in the end I'd really rather come up with my own and see what happens. Thanks so much for sharing!

Unknown said...

Great interview! Loved the questions and all the fun flash-backs to the Goonies--though I was old(er) even when that came out.
Sad but true.
~Just Jill

Lynn Proctor said...

one of my boys favs--super interview!!!

Anonymous said...

Holy man - writing advice from JK Rowling. Now that's a perk of being Chris Columbus :)

Nicole said...

Awesome interview! A book that's like Goonies - what's not to love? ;)

Cynthia said...

Thanks for the comments, everyone!

Ashley said...

"The rules of magic are the rules you set up." — I love that line!!

Also I think it's so cool that he shared his vision about the Harry Potter movie and Rowling had the same vision!

Great interview! :)

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