Hello Mixed-Up Filers!
Hope that you’re enjoying the first few weeks of the school year as now dive into Fall!
In case you’re sad that summer is now officially over, we have a treat for you that we hope will cheer you up. We’re thrilled to have Adam Borba with us, the author of the recently-released, The Midnight Brigade from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers!
Hi Adam, and welcome to Mixed-Up Files!
JR: To start with, can you tell us a little about The Midnight Brigade and the impetus for writing it?
AB: It started as a concept for a movie. My day job is to help develop and produce movies for a production company called Whitaker Entertainment which is based at Walt Disney Studios. I wanted to find a story about a troll to adapt but couldn’t find what I was looking for. Then on a trip to Pittsburgh, I fell in love with the city, and was wowed by the number of bridges – there are over four hundred. Statistically speaking, if you have four hundred bridges, there has to be a troll under at least one of them, right? So, I started making notes for a movie. Ideas about how great it would be to be a kid who found a troll. And how fun it would be to keep that troll secret with your friends. Usually, the outlines we do for films are about three pages, and then my colleagues and I will pass those outlines off to screenwriters who will work with us while making those stories their own. But my notes for this story became more and more detailed, and eventually I realized I had started writing a novel and I just kept going until I finished it.
JR: The book has a lot of humor in it, but there are also some more serious themes. How difficult did you find it to keep that balance when writing?
AB: It’s the only way I know how to do things. When we’re making movies – no matter what it is – I’m usually the one who says things like, “Hey, doesn’t it feel like a joke should go here?” Life is funny, right? Even during the tough times. And when I’m telling stories or having an important conversation, I just can’t be serious for too long. Conversely, I don’t think I’m funny enough to write or produce a traditional comedy. Plus, my story instincts tend to steer me away from big comedic set pieces and more towards emotional or dramatic moments.
JR: Carl is an endearing main character and there’s a great dynamic between him, Teddy, and Bee, and actually, Frank, too, for that matter. How much of yourself or your experiences did you put into him?
Thank you! I think I’m a little like all of my characters. Like Carl, I was a quiet kid who spent a lot of time wanting to say more but worrying that I’d say the wrong thing. I think I was and am a dreamer like Teddy. And I was often a loner like Bee who took – occasionally too much – pride in my opinions. Lately, I’m feeling more like the troll, Frank – grumpy and tired, but I hope with my heart in the right place.
JR: Pittsburgh plays front and center in the book. What is it about that city that lends itself to stories with monsters and magic?
AB: Pittsburgh has so much character. It’s a beautiful city with over two hundred and fifty years of history, culture, and food. And its background with steel gives it a feeling of strength. But the big thing with this story is the bridges. Pittsburgh has so many bridges because three rivers flow through the city. The bridges are gorgeous, and it’s unusual for a city to have so many. And unusual leads to the possibility of the unexpected: monsters and magic, of course.
JR: So, what supernatural creatures do you believe in?
AB: I’m open to the possibility of any supernatural creature being real. Certainly trolls. And I’ve personally seen two ghosts, a griffin, and a leprechaun. Also, my cousin’s neighbor knows a guy who was trampled by a herd of unicorns.
JR: We’ll have to have you back to discuss the ghosts! You were one of the Producers on the Pete’s Dragon remake a few years ago. What were some of your other favorite movies or books with monsters in them when you were growing up?
Well, the original Pete’s Dragon was my favorite film as a four-year-old. E.T. was (and is) a big one for me. The Neverending Story, Gremlins, Labyrinth, The Dark Crystal, Willow, and The Flight of the Navigator were all on heavy rotation in my family’s VCR. In children’s literature, certainly The BFG. Alice in Wonderland, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. And I was a massive fan of rodent-lit: Mrs. Frisby & the Rats of NIMH, Stuart Little, Ralph S. Mouse, and the Redwall series.
JR: Loved all of those! Who were some of your influences?
AB: The list is constantly growing. But as a kid the big ones were Louis Sachar, Roald Dahl, Beverly Cleary, Jerry Spinelli, and Judy Blume for books, and Steven Spielberg, Joe Dante, Robert Zemeckis, and Tim Burton for films. Storytellers driven by a mix of wit, warmth, and wonder.
JR: So, The Midnight Brigade gets made into a movie. Who’s in your dream cast?
AB: The Muppets is always the correct answer to this question.
JR: I think it’s actually the answer to just about any question for that matter. Will there be a sequel to The Midnight Brigade?
AB: I like that the story stands on its own, with things wrapped up but still presenting threads for readers to guess what might happen next. But maybe someday if I come up with an idea that I just can’t keep to myself I’ll write another!
JR: What are you working on next?
AB: I’m working with my editor at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, Alexandra Hightower, on a new middle grade novel. It’s another nearly grounded story with a bit of magic. On the movie side, I’m currently in post-production on an epic live-action adaptation of Peter Pan & Wendy for Disney, which David Lowery directed. Both should be coming out towards the end of 2022.
JR: Can’t wait for both of those! How can people follow you on social media?
To purchase The Midnight Brigade:
JR: Adam, thank you so much for joining us today, and good luck with The Midnight Brigade!
AB: Thanks so much for having me!