Elizabeth Rudnick Hessler, local author, has recently published a new novel, Pete's Dragon: The Lost Years, which is a kind of prequel to Disney's 2016 remake of Pete's Dragon, which will soon come to the Orpheum. We exclusively interviewed her the other day on her new book.
What inspired you to become an author?
I've always loved reading, and when I worked at Disney I progressed and went from editing to writing. In my opinion, writing is a way to escape. I grew up in a household where TV was not the answer to everything, and we just read all day. Then I worked for school newspaper, and in college I worked on literary magazine. I always relied on written word to feel more comfortable, and when I left Disney, it gave me an opportunity to write professionally.
Did you always want to be an author?
Actually, no, although I knew I wanted to be involved in creative world. I think I always knew I wanted to be involved in books some way or another, either editing or writing. I never thought I'd be lucky enough to do it. It's a phenomenal gift to be writing, something I've hoped and wished for, but both of those were lofty dreams.
How did you come to work for Disney?
I graduated from college and got into a publishing course at Columbia University. It was six weeks total: two weeks of magazine publishing, two weeks of book publishing and two weeks of online publishing. They bring people in from the industry to do lectures, and at the end you get to create a magazine or book imprint. I met my first boss through that program, and I was offered a job at Disney. That was just a lucky series of events leading me to that
What is your favorite book that you've written?
Probably Pete's Dragon: The Lost Years. I love the story of a boy and his dragon. The adventure of it is fabulous, and it has a lot of heart. It allowed me to play in a creative way I haven't had in a long time. I just love dragons, and the chance to write a book about them made my day.
When you novelize a film, is it fun to finally see it on the big screen?
It's always fun and really interesting. Lots of things changed, even when I've got the latest script to novelize. It's cool to see it come to life on the big screen, and to see characters speak lines that I've written is amazing.
Are there any movies that you wished you'd novelized?
I really wish I'd novelized The Princess Bride, since I loved the movie. Unfortunately, that was a book beforehand. I also wished I'd written The Neverending Story, and I would have loved to do Up or Titanic.
How long does it take you to write a book?
On average, about a month. I have written books in as short as a weekend, but the most time is three months. Most everything I write is under a deadline, and the fact that it's based on films is a big turnaround. I work much better around tight deadlines.
|Pete's Dragon: The Lost Years|
Tell us a little bit about your new book, Pete's Dragon: The Lost Years.
The story is based on the movie. It's about a young boy named Pete and a dragon named Elliot. The book develops the relationship between Pete and his dragon. In the movie Pete is very young, and then there is a huge time jump six years when they have a strong friendship. In my book, I explore whether that friendship was instant, or if there was hesitation because Elliot is a dragon. They learned to communicate, but how? I got to develop their friendship and end where the movie picks up. The story will unfold further on the screen, but mine could be a story of its own. It's got a lot of heart and it's ultimately just a very sweet story. I mean, what little boy or girl doesn't want a dragon as a best friend?
Why did you decide to write the book?
I was asked by Disney to do it, partly because my editor knew how much I liked dragons. I was given the basic story guidelines, and I got to make up everything that came in between. It also had to lead directly into the film.
Do you have any other upcoming projects you can tell us about?
I am doing two novelizations of upcoming Disney films: Beauty and the Beast [Disney's 2017 live-action remake] and Pirates of the Caribbean 5: Dead Men Tell No Tales. It was fun to do because the first Pirates film was the first movie I novelized, and it was fun to go back full circle. Fans will be really excited for it because it brings back sensibility, plus we have Jack Sparrow in all of his swaggering glory.
What do you think makes a good story?
The writing and good characters make a good story. It must have strong, well-developed, believable characters who can do anything and also believe in something. Look at things like The Fault in Our Stars or Everywhere, Everywhere. Those stories in the area are sweet, and the characters make it a really strong story. It's really just all about characters. All sci-fi/fantasy novels are about strong character development and strong relationships between characters. I spent a lot of time to develop relationship between a dragon and a boy. The dragon doesen't speak, and so I wondered how to develop relationship between two characters.