To mark the release of Peter and the Secret of Rundoon (Disney Editions), the final volume in Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson’s saga about Peter before he was Pan, the authors kicked off a national tour, beginning with an appearance this week in Barry’s hometown: Miami, Florida.
What can audiences expect from you two if they come to a bookstore appearance?
Dave Barry: We launched both of the previous books at Books & Books, which is our favorite stop, and which sets the bar very high. They pull out all the stops. They have people dressed as pirates, or maybe they’re actual pirates because it is Miami, but in any event, there are a lot of large and well-armed people there and we’ve had a great time.
Ridley Pearson: We had pirates in Seattle as well. They arrived in a Dodge van that had been converted into a pirate ship with a working canon. Those pirates had real swords.
Dave Barry: It was a little scary.
Pearson: They were hanging around the table where we were signing.
So a reader should expect a lot of large people with weapons?
Dave Barry: Well, we do read from the book, but we like to involve the audience as much as possible. This time, we’re going to do a little Q&A, but the audience will be giving the answers. We’ve worn costumes, given out eye patches…
Pearson: We really try to make it entertaining.
Dave Barry: It’s gotten easier and easier because so many of the kids are so familiar with the books now. Some of them actually know the books better than we do.
Pearson: It’s taken me two tours but I’ve learned to just sit down, enjoy myself, and let Dave handle everything.
Your tour takes you to mostly independent bookstores, but I also see you’re having an event at the St. Louis County Public Library.
Pearson: I have a home in Idaho, but we’re in St. Louis for the school year [Pearson has two daughters, Storey and Paige] and we did an event there for the last book, too, that was amazing. It was sponsored by Germex, which is a disinfectant hand lotion.
Dave Barry: So the room sort of smelled like Germex, which is not a bad smell.
Pearson: There was a huge crowd, and the Germex people were handing out samples of their product that had special labels with Dave and I’s pirate photo on it.
Dave Barry: And people were using it! They were asking us, ‘Is this like a requirement before we get our books autographed?’
Pearson: Our sponsor this time is an insurance company, so they’ll probably make them buy insurance before they come near us.
Dave Barry: Which makes so much more sense!
When you say a huge crowd, what kind of numbers are you talking about?
Pearson: Well, we probably had four to five hundred at Books & Books. St. Louis, I think, 950 people.
Dave Barry: But one to two hundred is typical. Actually, I think what Rid is remembering is signing 400 to 500 books.
Pearson: That might be right. We had both grown accustomed to signings for adult books where you’re lucky if everyone who comes buys one book. For the Peter and the Starcatcher books, it’s not uncommon for people to be buying multiple copies, four and five copies, for some reason.
Dave Barry: Which we think is wonderful. But, to get back to the crowd numbers, a lot of the events have to be off-site because the crowds are too big, although we love to do the bookstores. It’s so much fun when everybody crowds in, but it can get a little crazy.
This is your third tour together. Are you two tired of each other?
Dave Barry: You’ll have to ask the attorneys about that.
The first two books spent a lot of time on various bestseller lists, begging the question: can two sequels really be enough?
Pearson: You never know. We agreed this was going to be the last book, but as we were writing it, things did come up that we realized could be addressed in future books.
Dave Barry: We had to resolve a lot of plot issues and I think we did that. But we didn’t feel like we were necessarily done with these characters. It’s a very fun world.
But when you finished this one, did it feel like you were done, at least for a while?
Pearson: Dave wrote the last chapter and I, a 54-year-old man, am not ashamed to say I cried at the end of it.
After writing three books, totaling more than 1,500 pages, in three years, were those perhaps tears of relief?
Dave Barry: Actually, this is the most fun writing experience I’ve ever had. Anybody who writes books for a living knows how lonely it is. It’s wonderful having someone to do it with. Everything that’s difficult, you have another brain to help you solve it.
Pearson: So I think, even if we are done with these books for now, there could be another book, a different topic, a different world.
So your experience of writing for kids has been positive.
Dave Barry: Two things have really made this rewarding and fun. One is meeting the kids. I take my daughter to school every day and there was a girl a couple of grades ahead of her that I saw every day carrying a copy of Peter and the Shadow Thieves. Each day, she seemed to have gotten a little farther ahead. So one day I tapped her on the shoulder and said, ‘Hey, y’know, I wrote that book.’ She said, ‘Oh, good,’ and went back to reading. Kid readers don’t care about you. They only care about the story. And that seems to be the best compliment of all.
Second, when you write for adults, unless you happen to write some kind of transcendent classic, it’s pretty much forgotten within a few months. But kids read a book, and tell their friends, and tell their brothers and their sisters, and they read it again. There’s a lot longer shelf life.
Pearson: Dave didn’t mean to imply that we haven’t written a timeless classic, by the way.