We know the book is partly about a mysterious and magical house. Can you tell us more?
I really wish I could, but I'm reluctant to give away too much of the plot at this point. I just want it to be a surprise. It's a large-scale fantasy-adventure novel for young adults that was a bit too ambitious in scope for me to conceive as an alternate piece of entertainment for film or television.
Could you at least compare the novel to some of your movies?
The closest thing from my earlier work would be something like Gremlins or The Goonies. It's also got a connection to Young Sherlock Holmes and a bit of Harry Potter.
Has working with child actors helped you write for young adults?
Part of that helps just spending time on sets with kids. That stretches to my own family as well. I did the Potter series basically because my 11-year-old begged me to read it. I did the Percy Jackson movie because of my youngest child. Now that my kids are getting older, they're convincing me to make more adult-oriented fare, so you get The Help [which Columbus produced]. I still have a big passion for epic fantasy-adventure films, and this novel is one way to get it out of my system.
Why is a novel the best medium for this story?
Writing a novel is liberating in a sense. I don't have to worry about budgets, casting, actors, or time constraints. That being said, I feel there's a really strong film series here as well.
Do you want to be the one to direct the movie?
It depends on what my appetite is. If that time comes, I don't know if I'll have a sense of ''been there, done that.'' If I give it to another filmmaker to adapt, hopefully I'll have learned some valuable lessons from Jo Rowling, who was gracious and giving of her time yet very understanding of what needed to be edited. She taught me how an author needs to be involved and open as well. Hopefully the filmmakers will keep me involved, but you never know. [Laughs]