Happy HOLIDAY HIGH blog post to all! I’m very excited to share my interview with Blake Harris, author of the MG debut HOLIDAY HIGH, and my multi-talented screenwriting pal.
Blake and I go wayyy back, as you can tell from this photo, so I’m very excited to share his MG debut novel, HOLIDAY HIGH: We Witch you a Merry Christmas co-written with Jennifer Tocquigny (Holiday High, 1 /Genius Cat Books).
Meet Blake Harris:
Blake Harris is too humble to tell you (so I will) that he is a hard-working writer/director and most importantly a make-believer with projects on platforms like Disney+, Netﬂix, and Paramount Plus.
He has developed original and branded IP and content for companies like Warner Animation Group, Cartoon Network, Hasbro, and Star Wars (International), working with top talent and brands from across the world, with original high-concept heartfelt properties for kids & family entertainment.
Fun fact: Blake and I are the ghost-writing team behind an increasingly popular and awesome brand which has recently branched out into children’s books.
And (drumroll, please) HOLIDAY HIGH is Blake’s debut middle grade novel–with more to come!
About the book:
HOLIDAY HIGH is a magical school that exists for those who believe in holidays the most and Eve December is finally old enough to step foot on the Christmas Campus, like the Decembers before her.
But wait– Eve is placed into the haunted Halls of Halloween High instead! This can’t be happening. And she has only ONE chance to earn her way back to the Christmas Campus !
Can Eve lead a misfit crew of ghouls, monsters, witches, and costume keepers to reignite a forgotten All Hallows’ Eve tradition in time?
No spoilers, friends.
Read HOLIDAY HIGH and find out!
Oh, and did we mention that Blake Harris is the co-writer of the Emmy nominated Hocus Pocus 2 ?
Let’s ask some questions!
Q 1. Where did the idea for HOLIDAY HIGH: We Witch You A Merry Christmas come from?
Blake Harris: Wonderful question, Erin! Holidays have always been my favorite. Maybe it’s something about the magic of them from childhood… how they’re one of those magical things that can truly carry over — or it’s the collective energy of celebration around them, but there’s just something to those days.
They bring us together. They ignite a feeling of joy. And I thought how fun would it be to celebrate that year round… to have entire campuses dedicated to Halloween, Christmas, whatever your favorite might be. The terrains are forever fall or endless snowflakes illuminated by twinkling lights. There you study the history of the holiday and learn how to harness real holiday magic.
I for one, would love a class on how to cultivate pumpkins that speak, or how to fly with winter reindeer. Thus, Holiday High was born. A school for those that believe in the magic of holidays most.
The Power of an Idea
Q 2. How is your work in film & TV, as a writer on projects such as Hocus Pocus 2, The Little Mermaid, and 12 Dates of Christmas, similar to your work as a Children’s Book author? How are these two paths different?
Blake Harris: Oh wow… both film and books have that core similarity that all begins with the power of an idea. They’re both story, characters, and world building. So with writing, that DNA is the same, which for me, always come back to tales you want to fall into or simply be moved by.
But the journey of bringing a story to life can be very different between the two mediums. So much of the wonder of books comes from being within the character’s mind. It’s more tell than show in a lot of ways. You’re telling how a character feels, how they are thinking, and letting a reader’s imagination be the camera.
Whereas film can be the opposite. You often show more than tell. You sorta have to think of the camera as your narrator… not so much the placement of it, but rather what it’s going to capture. So often instead of hearing what a character is thinking, you’re describing the action that a character’s thought creates.
But each maintains the same goal of bringing you into a character’s overall journey, which is why books and movies have shared such good synergy for ages (Thanks Georges Méliès, and you too, wonderful Wizard of Oz).
Q 3 Can you tell us a bit about the journey of this book, from concept to publication?
Blake Harris: As you can probably tell through Hocus Pocus 2 and 12 Dates of Christmas, I love holiday movies and the very real magic audiences create through them. The original Hocus Pocus had a profound impact on me growing up, as did movies like Home Alone and Miracle on 34th Street. HOLIDAY HIGH started off as a film project. There was a pitch for it that created a lot of intrigue, but the Film/TV world had shifted more to established IP based projects at the time.
ED Note: IP refers to Intellectual Property.
BH: About that same time, I got my start working in children’s books, so I thought, why not try building the IP with a book first and really highlight the aspirational world of it?
A Magical Meeting
BH: With Hocus Pocus 2 on the horizon, I met Karen Kilpatrick, Founder & CEO of Kaypin Media and Genius Cat books, and shared what I had written for HOLIDAY HIGH. Karen is an incredible author of many beloved books, but also an incredible publisher who believes in building story brands in inventive ways, and she really resonated with the project.
World Building + Teamwork
BH: Because I had already created the Holiday High universe/story for film and had previously discussed that with my talented friend Jennifer Tocquigny — who shares in my affinity for holidays — when the chance came to create a book series based on that world, I thought why not have extra fun with it and work on book 1 (We Witch You a Merry Christmas) as a team?
The idea of working together on something creative was extra compelling with everything going on in the world, and it was also motivating in a time of so much change. So I’m very lucky to have both Karen and Jen as partners on it, and I’m glad they are both legacy honor graduates of Holiday High.
Writing Moments and Mentors
Q 4. Which was your favorite chapter to write?
Blake Harris: I think my favorite chapter was Up, Up, and Away! No spoilers. We promise.)
It’s when Eve December has just been placed into Christmas Campus and we get a glimpse of different types of magical holiday transportation that takes you to the school your heart has chosen. Halloween has an old, haunted hay-ride, Christmas of course has a giant flying red sleigh (although a certain North Pole train might work too). But I just love seeing that come to life and the wide-eyed wonderment of not just these super themed rides, but that first taste of magic that awaits at Holiday High. It’s also a glimpse into just how many holidays there truly are.
Q 5. They say each book is a tiny bit autobiographical. Which character in HOLIDAY HIGH: We Witch You a Merry Christmas is most like you?
Blake Harris: You know, there are actually a lot characters in the book that I really relate to, but most of all would be Eve December. She loves Christmas, but also has this wild heart for Halloween. She can see (or at least learns to) that even though the two holidays are different in nature, they are also so similar — from the joy they can create through night, to the element of giving (be it candy or presents), to the childlike wonder of dressing up or waiting for Santa.
They are both rooted in the word BELIEVE. And like Eve, I’d be the one standing right between Christmas Campus and the haunted Halls of Halloween High, probably holding a pumpkin in a Christmas sweater. My favorite holiday would actually be both Christmas and Halloween at once, which explains a lot of this book. Also Eve really loves and sees the majestic spirit within animals (black cats, dogs, reindeer, and more) so we have that in common too. Which I know you can relate to as well, Erin.
Q 6. Are there any mentors or people whose work has inspired your creative journey?
Blake Harris: Absolutely. In addition to so many amazing teachers and librarians that top the list, I grew up in a southern diverse family hearing tales over the campfire from both Western and Eastern cultures. That really led to a love of animation from all over the world and Saturday Morning Cartoons may as well been a national holiday to me.
David Kirschner, whose brilliant imagination conjured up Hocus Pocus originally as a bedtime story for his kids, ran Hanna-Barbera in the 90s and I loved so many of his stories, and still do to this day. There’s always this incredible aspirational element to them (such as the ultimate Halloween night) but it’s always rooted in heart. I was able to partner with him on Hocus Pocus 2, and it’s forever a dream come true…
He, like those teachers, librarians, and family campfire stories of childhood, really helped shape my approach to story as wonderment.
Q 7. What’s next for you – in kidlit and/or film?
Blake Harris: You know, if I could, I’d make a holiday project every year. And Holiday High has so many stories to explore, so more books are in motion there, along with some film/tv hopes.
If holidays are magic to you too, you can festively follow along or represent your favorite campus over at MyHolidayHigh.com.
I also have my first picture book coming out next year called A BOY & HIS MONSTER that’s very dear to me, and a chapter book that’s really in honor of Librarians.
On the film side, everything there has such a unique runway and there are some potentially fun things I can’t talk about just yet, but some are notoriously holiday themed and I’m hopeful for those… and hopeful for all the wonderful future stories that’ll come from your blog guests and readers.
Speaking of this blog, not only do I have some secret projects in the works with you, Erin, but also I want to thank you for all that you do for books around the world. You’re not only an award-winning author with many adored works to your name, but you also champion all stories from all people. You believe in them, and just like that belief in holidays, it is magic.
Thank you, Blake for these kind words, and for sharing your MAGIC with us on the blog.
To learn more about Blake and his work go to:
And look for his web site, going live VERY soon: BlakeBelieve.com
PS: You will be hard pressed to find him on social media but you can try!