Happy Thursday all!
I’m so excited about today’s Q&A with Kate Abbott, author of DISNEYLANDERS. Early last month I reviewed the book on THP and I haven’t been able to stop raving about it to whoever will listen. To refresh your memory: the DISNEYLANDERS is about a 14-year old named Casey on summer vacation with her parents. She’s reeling from a “break up” with her best friend, and also nervous about starting a new school in the fall. Casey likes to think of Disneyland as her safe haven, and when she bumps into Bert, a boy she feels like she can really talk to and enjoy the park with at her own pace… her vacation takes on a whole new meaning. Abbott injects her own love for Disney into the parks, and gives readers a well-balanced glimpse in Casey’s head.
In a few words: it is so so good.
Kate was gracious enough to answer some of my questions about the book, her Disneyland experiences, and also some of her own experiences that inspired the feelings in her May release. I hope you enjoy listening to Kate’s answers!
EH: I loved so many details in Disneylanders. One of my favorite things was the family dynamic. I’m sure everyone can relate to those childhood trips with their parents and just everyone driving each other nuts at times. Was this based on one of your own experiences?
KA: Thank you, Estelle! It was based on many car trips I took with my parents while I was a kid. My parents didn’t like to fly (I think I’ve finally got them hooked on it now), and so we always took long car trips when we went on vacation, and that included a lot of 8-hour drives to Disneyland. When I was a kid, it was OK, but I vividly remember getting a little older and feeling utterly trapped and exasperated by being stuck in the backseat, listening to their music, stopping at places they wanted to go….Story-wise, I thought being stuck in a car with her parents was a way to show the conflict Casey was starting to go through, and how she felt trapped.
EH: There’s a great balance in this book: it’s perfect for someone who is totally obsessed with Disney but it would also really work for someone who just wants to read a book about a girl’s summer vacation with her parents before a big change happens in her life. Were you conscious of your audience when you were writing?
KA: Aw, thanks. You are so kind. I think I wrote the book for my 12-year-old self. I wrote the book I would have wanted to read at that age. I tried to keep my pre-teen self in mind while I was writing–I wanted to make it interesting, but not include anything I thought would have embarrassed me to read at that age. But as I was writing, if I thought about anyone else actually reading it, I think I would have been completely terrified and unable to write anything!
EH: What is your ideal Disneyland day?
KA: Well, ideally, the park would be completely empty all day long and I wouldn’t have to get out of bed early! Then again, my five-year-old probably wouldn’t cooperate with that. So once I was at the park, I would like to get an iced coffee and bagel in New Orleans Square, go on the Haunted Mansion and Pirates, wander over to Fantasyland and ride Dumbo and other rides with my son, and go back to New Orleans Square for lunch to have a three-cheese Monte Cristo and mint julep at Cafe Orleans. You’ve got to stop at the Enchanted Tiki Room, of course. I’d like to go back to the hotel for a nap, and then come back to watch the Electrical Parade and fireworks that night.
EH: Would you consider writing another book set in Disneyland? Maybe continue Casey’s story or do something completely new?
KA: It was really fun to get to feel like I was in Disneyland every day I worked on the book, and that would be great to do again. It was a blast to be in that environment, even if it was only in my head. I’ve thought about continuing Casey and Bert’s story when they’re older, maybe after graduating college, but I’m not sure. I’ve also thought about doing another Disneylanders book with completely different characters–showing the many kinds of people who find meaning in Disneyland. But right now I’m working on a completely different sort of book, a memoir about my postpartum depression called Walking After Midnight. Very different from a middle-grade novel set in Disneyland–although I do have a chapter in the memoir that takes place there, too! Disneyland is such a big part of my life, it always seems to pop up no matter what I’m working on.
EH: At 14, Casey is wondering if she is “too old” for Disneyland. Do you think everyone goes through a time when they feel like they might be outgrowing something they loved in their childhood? (Maybe even as adults, we feel this way.) Did you ever feel like Casey did?
I definitely did. I questioned it a lot when I was growing up, about all kinds of things–stuffed animals, TV shows, Disneyland. I think that feeling of not being a little kid but also not being old enough to be confident in enjoying kid things is really tough, which is where Casey is sort of stuck at the beginning of the story. I think as I got older, I got more confident that what I liked was just fine. Although other people still question why I like Disneyland so much. Now I can just give them the book and they’ll figure out why I still love it, all the details and feelings they create that make it such a special place.
EH: Favorite Disneyland attaction?
The Enchanted Tiki Room. I love the immersive experience, of feeling like I am leaving Disneyland to retreat even further into a fantastical world. I admit I am always a little surprised at the end of the show to go outside and discover it’s no longer “raining”! Of course, it’s all made even better to experience it while you’re enjoying a Dole Whip float.
EH: I must mention the romance going on in the book too. It’s never over the top between Casey and Bert. They really just get each other and are able to talk a lot. I love that so much. Did you model any of their “dates” after anything you’ve done in DL?
Unfortunately, I never met a boy at the park I got to run off with! I guess the closest I got was when I was in my late teens and early 20s, and my then-boyfriend (now husband) would come on my family trips to Disneyland. We would love to run off by ourselves at night. I tried to capture that same giddy feeling, of being with someone you like, away from your family and friends back home, when I thought of Casey and Bert together. I think that feeling of being deeply in crush with someone translates no matter the age, and that vacation feeling of freedom is universal. Now I want to have another date with my husband in Disneyland!
A huge huge thanks to Kate for hanging out at THP today!