Wednesday, March 16, 2005 | What if you sat next to an adolescent J.K. Rowling in third-period French during high school? Or carpooled with Stephen King to little league? Some of Alyssa Huckleberry’s teenage peers could be making similar boasts at future dinner parties. Huckleberry, 17, is a lot like the other seniors at Scripps Ranch High School – busy with college applications, the women’s varsity basketball team and the upcoming graduation. But how many other 12th-graders are juggling that hectic schedule while transforming their self-published, 276-page mystery-adventure novel into a film manuscript?
Copies of Huckleberry’s fiction debut, “Rescuing Racei,” have been available on Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com since November 2004. Huckleberry has been presenting the book and her own story to local schools and she recently held a book signing at a local Barnes and Noble in January. “Racei” is the first in a series of four adventure books she plans on completing, but a new plan to convert the book into a feature film – on top of all that other teenager stuff – has kept the young author pretty busy lately.
What kind of time commitment did you give to writing “Rescuing Racei”?
When I was writing it, probably seven hours a week. It took me about eight months to actually write it and a year to publish it from when I finished.
You’re working on turning “Rescuing Racei” into a film manuscript. Do you think the movie is ever as good as the book?
If they stay to the book, it will be. I absolutely loved the book “Ella Enchanted” [by Gail Carson Levine], but they changed the story around so much in the movie. I know they do that with a lot of different movies. The “Daniel Deronda” and “Harry Potter” movies were good, except for the last movie – I didn’t like the new director.
What book should everyone your age be reading?
I think people my age should be reading everything from their favorite “Harry Potter” book to some of the classics like “Anna Karenina” [by Leo Tolstoy] and “Daniel Deronda” [series by George Eliot] – those are my favorite books right now.
Does a high school author get groupies?
Not really. I have my friends and stuff, but nothing that’s official.
You’re telling me there’s not an Alyssa Huckleberry fan club?
I get fan letters, which is kind of fun. I’ll make speeches at local elementary and middle schools and people will come up and talk to me afterward. I’ll give them my e-mail or, if I make a connection with them, my actual address. Between those, I’ve gotten some fan letters, which is pretty cool.
Do you remember the first book you read on your own?
“Goldilocks and the Three Bears.” I remember my parents got mad at me because they were trying to teach me how to read. I read the book so many times that … I had memorized the story and started making up my own little parts. I’d see something in the picture and add it into the story and they’d realize I wasn’t really reading it.
Was there ever a book that you picked up but could not finish?
“Jude the Obscure” by Thomas Hardy. We read it in English this year. I’ve never used CliffsNotes before, but for the very end of that book I had to because I wasn’t feeling that book. With me, all the books are basically shaped around the characters, and the characters just frustrated me a lot. There wasn’t that much substance to the book.
If you could be any author in history, who would you be?
I would be Laura Ingalls Wilder. Those were my favorite books growing up and I read the whole series four times, starting with when my mom read them to me.
Where is your favorite place to read and write?
Outdoors. It’s not the most practical because I have to re-type everything I’ve written, but if I had my choice I’d just go out to a park and find a shady spot under a tree. I love to do that.
What’s the hardest part of your day?
Balancing everything that I do can be really difficult. Sometimes I forget to do things because I have a lot on my plate.
You’re a basketball player: Kobe or Shaq?
I’ve heard that Kobe’s not very nice, so I’d have to say Shaq.
You write fantasy right now, but do you want to expand into other genres?
I started writing a historical fiction book, because I’ve always loved those kinds of books, but I kept coming back to fantasy. I think for right now I’m going to stick to fantasy until I finish the series. After that, I’ll see what happens.