Originally published on The Nerd Daily.
About the book: After a career disappointment, a young woman travels to Hawaii where she meets a mysterious man over coffee, and in a moment their lives are irrevocably changed. Moments Like This is the first instalment in the From Kona With Love series that releases March 9th 2021 from Rosewind Books.
Kristoffer Polaha is an actor/producer whose movies include the forthcoming Wonder Woman 1984 and Jurassic World: Dominion. He is popular with Hallmark’s fanbase and played opposite of Meghan Markle in Dater’s Handbook. He is also known for his long starring role in the critically acclaimed CW Network series, Life Unexpected.
Anna Gomez is CFO of Leo Burnett Group, one of the largest advertising agencies in the world. Born in the Philippines, Anna is an #ownvoices and diverse author. She was recently named as one of 2020’s top female executive role models by Yahoo Finance.
I’m so inspired about Moments Like This, the first in your new Hawaii-set series, From Kona with Love. Can you tell me a little more about the inspiration behind the story?
Anna: I originally wanted to write a love story that was light and fun and set against the breathtaking backdrop of Hawaii. The first book, Moments Like This, was difficult for me to write at first, just because I had never written something set for a specific audience. Kristoffer entered the partnership just when I was starting to put things together: I wanted a strong protagonist who was multi-cultural and real. And then Kristoffer came in with so many great ideas, plus the fact that he used to live in Hawaii – the book turned out to be more than just a light and fun story. On this, we built a series that is going to be entirely different and meaningful.
Kristoffer: The inspiration behind the story was entirely Anna’s, but she had created this world and filled it with characters that I immediately responded to. It was so easy for me to piggyback on her idea and use it as a launching point for my own contributions, which were plenty having lived in Hawaii, because I have a treasure chest of stories to tell about the islands. Writing this book with Anna became the perfect opportunity to share them.
Anna, what’s it like to write with an actor as a co-author?
Anna: Well, I’ve written a few books under my pen name, Christine Brae. They were more women’s fiction type stories that depicted a journey in different stages of a woman’s life. So, I have that under my belt. I’ve never collaborated with anyone before, let alone opened up anything I’d ever written to someone else until full edits have been complete. So, this is a completely new experience for me. Kris is the ultimate creative – whether he is writing a book, producing a movie, or acting in it. So, the only experience I’ve had with him as an actor, is adjusting to each other’s schedules and trying to make it work! We both recognize that shifting gears from our other careers (my full-time job, his acting, producing) takes some effort, and so far, we’ve really been willing to commit as needed.
Kristoffer, how do you hope to bring the characters of Moments Like This to life on screen?
Kristoffer: About six months before I meet Anna I was shopping at the supermarket and saw books that were being sold alongside of the magazines, mostly women’s fiction, and I took down five names of authors that I was going to cold call and ask if they’d like ever consider collaborating. Over the past five years I have built a wonderful relationship with my audience, an audience that loves women’s fiction, so it seemed like a smart move. Plus, I had recently hung my shingle as a producer and there is no greater advantage when selling an idea then when one owns the IP. If you created it, you own it. But I never made those calls. Then I met Anna and Providence made my dream of collaborating a reality. Once we have a built in Kona Series audience with the publication of our books, turning these stories into films will be an obvious next step, especially for a studio that knows the value of a built-in audience.
You’ve both mentioned how excited you are to work with one another. How did the two of you first meet?
Anna: We were introduced by someone I worked on one of the not for profit Boards I’m involved in, who was Kristoffer’s neighbor. Seriously, when it was mentioned to me that Kristoffer was interested in speaking to me even just about presenting the scripts that I had already written for my previous books – I really didn’t pay much attention to it. One Zoom call later, and we were planning to write five books together. Still don’t know how it happened, but I’m not questioning it at all!
Kristoffer: That’s funny, because I always thought that Anna was the one interested in turning her books into films and that she was curious about talking to me to see if I could help her do that. I think we both owe Javier a debt of gratitude for playing match maker. My neighbor, Javier, mentioned he had a friend who was somehow involved in launching a new romance imprint and asked if he could send me her info. He did, I looked at her past books, explored what Rosewind Books was wanting to accomplish regarding taking IP to screen, and it seemed like all the pieces just fit together. The best part of our story, I think, is that during our very first zoom call I pitched the idea of collaborating with Anna and she immediately said yes. In fact, she told me she was working on a book series and then asked me if I’d like to collaborate with her on all five books! It was my turn to immediately say yes, which I did, but I insisted she take the weekend and think about it and talk it over with her husband, Bill, but on Monday she stuck to her guns and we made it official. The rest is quickly becoming history.
Co-authoring a new book—let alone a new series!—is challenging on its own. Then, there’s a pandemic to throw into the mix. How have the two of you been successfully collaborating during COVID?
Anna: Our collaboration has been pretty great during COVID, obviously because I am working from home and Kris has had to quarantine for weeks while filming his projects. We’ve been quite good about staying in touch weekly, throwing ideas out, writing and making sure we are sharing the same vision. We’re actually well into writing our second book (title is still a secret!) and are doing all we can for a November 2021 release date! I never expected a project as huge as this to be so easy. Most of the time, I forget that we haven’t met in person.
Kristoffer: Agreed, this collaboration is one of the easiest and most pleasurable artistic endeavors I’ve ever worked on. Anna is endlessly open to ideas and very collaborative. We’ve also agreed to throw every idea into “the pot”, not keeping track of who wrote what. It’s as if we are playing an enjoyable game of “writers’ tennis” with each other. She writes a chapter or two then hits it back to me where I build off of what she wrote, then I hit it back to her. If there are things that need to be reworked or sanded down to make the pieces fit, we are both happy to make those changes. And let’s make no mistake, this is Anna’s world, so there is quite a bit that I let her take the lead on. She is whip smart and she’s easy to follow. As for Covid, the pandemic has made zoom a normal thing, which is how we’ve kept in touch the entire time. We zoomed while I was in LA, we zoomed while I was working in the UK, and the same while I’m working in Canada. Our biggest conflict has been keeping track of the time zones and when to schedule our zoom calls.
I have to admit that I absolutely love the book cover! Do you have any insights or perspectives you’d like to share on the inspiration behind the cover art?
Anna: OMG, this cover is definitely a labor of love. We had so many iterations of it and had to pick the perfect one that truly reflected our story. Hang Le did a terrific job, listening to two very passionate people go on and on about their concept – and she nailed it beautifully. The cover is subtle and serene; we wanted our readers to feel Andie and Warren in their moments together and to use their own imagination in visualizing the beauty of Hawaii, Oahu in particular.
Kristoffer: Yes, a lot of thought went into this cover. Hang Le just listened to Anna and I talk for about 45 minutes one day on zoom and came up with two totally different options for us that both spoke to the idea of transporting our reader to a far-off place. My biggest concern was that I was wanting a book that will look beautiful on your bedside stand or the coffee table in your home. This book has had three covers, all were special, but the one we ultimately chose evokes personal memories, has texture, and transports you when you look at it. We also have a special treat planned for the readers who will collect all five books of the series.
Originally posted on The Nerd Daily.
Before Suzanne Collins (Hunger Games), before Stephanie Meyer (Twilight), even before J. K. Rowling (Harry Potter, in case you’ve been living under a rock for the past twenty years), there was R. L. STINE.
Few things say “horror” to 90s kids like recalling memories of curling up in front of the TV on Saturday night to catch an episode of Are You Afraid Of The Dark?, the Canadian horror fantasy-themed anthology Nickelodeon series that made spooky campfire stories a weekly event, and reading Goosebumps books, usually harvested from those most magical of school day events: the Scholastic Book Fair. At a time when girls in my peer group were busy reading series like The Baby-Sitters Club and Sweet Valley High, rare would have been the occurrence to find eight-year old me without my nose stuffed deep in the pages of a Goosebumps book (the very first installment, Welcome to Dead House, residing squarely beside the quintessential Stine classic, Night of the Living Dummy, as my personal favourites). Nothing horrified my mother more than finding me still reading in bed past midnight, armed with a flashlight and shivering with eager dread under a blanket as I sped through the pages of a Goosebumps novel. “You’ll give yourself nightmares,” she’d often warn, and I did—I’m still a little uneasy around ventriloquist, er, dolls—but I also kept reading.
I wasn’t alone in my fascination with these books, with their neon covers and catchy harrowing titles like A Scarecrow Walks at Midnight and The Werewolf of Fever Swamp. The Goosebumps series—along with myriad spinoff series written by Stine, including Goosebumps Series 2000 (1998 to 2000), Goosebumps Gold (never released), Give Yourself Goosebumps (1995 to 2000), Goosebumps HorrorLand (2008 to 2012) and Goosebumps Most Wanted (2012 to 2016)—have sold more than 400 million copies since 1992. During a particular prosperous time in their mid-90s heyday, Goosebumps were flying off the shelf at a rate of 4 million copies per month, a speed unmatched until we met Harry Potter in 1997.
When the first Goosebumps movie hit theaters in October 2015, I found myself curious, excited, and frankly a little nervous. While the recent remake-revival of everything 80s and 90s was fun at first, I will concede it started getting a little hard to watch when Lisa Frank merchandise reappeared at Hot Topic and a remake of The Magic School Bus showed up streaming on Netflix. I watched the trailer for Goosebumps (2015) and thought to myself, please Hollywood, you’ve taken my sticker collections, trapper keepers, and Ms. Frizzle, please don’t destroy my childhood books, too. (Much of my anxiety was relieved when I saw that Jack Black had signed on to portray Stine himself. I don’t know why, but I think it had something to do with every Jack Black movie ever made.)
Of course, I went and saw it, dragging my then-nine-year-old son along with me. He was, admittedly, disinterested, going along with it only because it “might be cool.” In hopes of converting my son into a Goosebumps-kid, I picked him up a tattered old copy of one of the newer installments--Zombie School, I believe—at a secondhand bookstore, and although it had never left the bookshelf since it arrived at our house, I was still hopeful. We saw Goosebumps, and it was everything my childhood self could have ever dreamed it would be. All the classics came out to play, led as you might expect, by Slappy himself. There were twists, emotionally resonant characters, and just the right amount of absurdity and nail-biting. I loved it.
And then came the sequel.
I was terrified. Not in the Goosebumps kind of way, but in the holy crap they’re going to remake the remake and they’re going to ruin it kind of way. My son, now 11, however, saw the preview and demanded we see it at once. I balked. Read some early notes. Checked to see if Black was still involved with the project. Whined a little about how sequels destroy dreams. Then, one day as I was organising my son’s bookshelves I came across that secondhand copy of Zombie School. Its pages were falling out. The cover had detached itself and was now hanging off the book’s spine like the decaying flesh of one of the title characters. There were dog ears and highlighted passages, the kind that only appear after you’ve read a story a whole bunch of times and fallen completely in love with it.
At long last, my son, who has morphed into a sternly devout reader of series limited to Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Spy School, was becoming a Goosebumps kid. We went to the bookstore, and in the kid’s section—one I rarely visit—I was amazed to discover a massive stand of all-things Stine. Standing at that blissful kiosk I almost forgot that I am a fully-grown woman who reads Stephen King anthologies for breakfast. I had to stop myself from going home with a few old favorites, even though I really wanted to read Ghost Beach again. I started to feel hopeful about the remake-sequel of Goosebumps. The next week, the book fair came to school, and my son came home with a copy of the novelisation of the new film.
I quit fussing and bought the damn tickets.
If the first Goosebumps film was the thing all of us 90s kids’ had been waiting for, Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween was the thing we all worried about. The overly silly storyline was busy desperately trying to be original while still borrowing as many iconic Goosebumps characters as it could. If managing that messy kludge of doom wasn’t already bad enough, all of this was forcefully shoved against a Halloween backdrop like an unwitting kid in a school portrait, ignoring any potentially better suited plot that might have been leveraged from the 150+ actual Goosebumps stories. One particular standout scene—which usurped a ridiculous amount of screen time—involved a small army of demonic gummy bears that congealed themselves into one fanged gummy beast. It remains a mystery whether this goofball scene got so much real state because someone ran out of ideas to fill the hour and a half film, or because some writer had a particular fascination with the idea of a herd of little squishy candies blobbing together into one very large, very toothy gummy blob. In fact, that may be the single best way to sum up the movie itself: a lot of gummy fang instead of any real bite.
Silliness aside, there were some pretty decent scenes in the film—like when Slappy calls upon various Halloween decorations, from rubber rats to zombie masks, languishing on a discount department store shelf to come to life—and some pretty decent spooks for a family film—like (again) Slappy creeping into the bedroom of a sleeping girl, his shadow towering over hers with questionable intent. The most enjoyable aspect of the film isn’t found in the plotline itself, but perhaps in its character cast—though Black himself was only allotted a measly and completely unnecessary ten minutes to revive his role as Stine, sigh. From a single-mom, to an unassuming and vaguely nerdy main character, an entrepreneurial best friend who is equal parts comedic relief and the friend we all wish we had, a stereotypical bicycle-gang of preteen bullies, and a teenage sister navigating everything from bad boyfriends to college applications, this group might have been lifted directly out of any real world neighbourhood and put into a twisted, over the top scenario that is too silly to be scary but still manages to give you—dare I say—goose bumps—assuming you’re eleven years old.
Realisation hit me walking out of the theater. While I was busy rattling off reasons the film failed cinematically, why it didn’t live up to the expectations set in the first, why it just didn’t remind me of my childhood love affair with R. L. Stine, my son turned to me and asked the question I had been waiting to hear ever since I caught him reading in bed with a flashlight: “What’s your favourite Goosebumps book?” he asked. “Maybe I’ll read it next.” Sweet, shivery bliss filled my heart, and a sinister smirk even Slappy might have approved of crossed my face. I looped my arm around my son’s shoulders and steered him back toward that Goosebumps book kiosk waiting for us in the children’s section of the bookstore.
Suddenly, I found myself really, really happy with this nonsensical, Jello-for-storyline movie because while it didn’t do right by us old school readers, it did something I think might be even better. It’s reinvigorated a new generation of kids to pick up a Goosebumps novel, hide under bed sheets with a flashlight, and enjoy a case of the shivers. After all, Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween wasn’t made for us 90s kids to relive our Goosebumps glory days. It was made for the kids of those 90s kids. To let them worry just a little bit about stuff that goes bump in the night. To scare the ever-living hell out of them every time they look at a ventriloquist doll. To give a new generation of readers goose bumps.
Lindy Miller Ryan is an author, editor, and spooky things enthusiast who occasionally makes crafty things and bakes.