Author Jason Price has just released a new book, Pleasant Grove, that is a tribute to the work of Amblin and films like The Goonies. Price currently works full time as a movie publicist, and self-published his second book as a tribute to his young daughters.
Pleasant Grove Description From Amazon:
Small town. Epic adventure.
What’s outside Pleasant Grove?
Welcome to Pleasant Grove, a quiet small town where neighbor helps neighbor and doors are left unlocked at night—an unspoiled paradise with one peculiar feature: It’s enclosed by a glass dome.
No one can leave. No one can enter. No one can survive beyond the dome.
But then, a visitor arrives from the outside. When 12-year-old Agnes Goodwin discovers a strange boy with no memory, she teams up with her best friends to unravel the mystery. Their extraordinary adventure will uncover a long-buried secret so monstrous it will threaten everything they know…and everyone they love.
I spoke to Price about the inspiration behind his new novel, Pleasant Grove. You can purchase a copy of Pleasant Grove here.
You have described this book as a love letter of sorts to the films of your youth, films like The Goonies. Can you talk a little bit about that?
This was my attempt at writing a book for my two girls. They are in first grade and third grade. I remember the days when I first saw a movie like The Goonies. There was nothing more magical than watching a bunch of friends go on an adventure. I thought it would be cool to write a story that captured Amblin in the pages of a book. I wanted to write something for my girls, and you don’t see books about girls on adventures – it is usually boys. I know a little bit about raising girls now, and I put that into the story.
The book is escapist entertainment. It’s a sci-fi and horror adventure story. The catalyst is definitely the girls. I was trying to capture the magic I felt when I would watch those old Amblin films.
Have you shown your girls Goonies or any of those Amblin films yet?
I just recorded The Goonies on TV to show them. They are a little bit young still. The 6 year old is a little young for it. My 8 year old is probably ready for it. I might show them. They are excited to watch it because we do story time at night. I tell them stories like Labyrinth…Goonies…Big…they really dig them. I change them a bit so they can relate. I also edit them a little. The idea is to introduce them to these stories that I still love so much. These movies inspired a whole generation. It’s fun to see their eyes light up when you share with them things like this.
It’s funny when you talk about editing the stories a bit. A lot of the 80s films we grew up watching are a little weird by the standards of today. I still love Big, but it’s a little weird that the main plot point is this young boy sleeping with an adult woman. Do you have to change a lot when you have story time with them?
Rewatching The Goonies…there is language I have to edit out if I show them the film. That’s why I recorded it off of TV because they edit a lot out. All the Mouth stuff with Rosalita (Mouth describing explicit acts in Spanish to her). I don’t need to explain that to my girls at the age they are at (laughing). You got away with a lot more back then in terms of what was considered traditional family entertainment.
As a kid, what was the thing that you think attracted you most to Amblin films?
I love what you are doing with Amblin Road. You can see your passion there and I share that too. It’s fun to have a shared experience as a kid that we all still hold on to. That’s what Spielberg does so well. He’s like a mythic poet of suburban life.
Was your childhood in suburbia? Did you grow up in a small town?
Not really. I grew up in San Jose, which is in the Bay Area of California. We are kind of considered a country town when you compare us to like San Francisco or Los Angeles. For me, I was always an introvert as a kid. Those films being on VHS, and I lived near a theater, dominated my spare time. I watched Goonies and Back to the Future over a thousand times in my lifetime. The adventure always appealed to me. I have always loved how those movies start on a normal day and then the kids are thrown into this great adventure. It was always my dream to go on an adventure like the Goonies or Back to the Future.
That’s the spirt I wanted to bring to the book. When ordinary characters face the extraordinary. My favorite scenes in Spielberg movies are the ones like Dreyfuss in Close Encounters with the mashed potatoes. Or like Scheider in Jaws with his son at the dinner table. Spielberg roots those extraordinary stories with people and situations you recognize.
Amblin is kind of a genre of storytelling now. It describes a type of nostalgia we all have for that 80s decade. Since you were making it for your girls in 2020, did you have to update that Amblin style at all?
The story is sort of out of time. The town itself is pulled from like 1950s sitcoms. It feels like Leave it to Beaver. This community fits a 1950s sensibility. But then you have this gigantic dome that is almost like 2050. I was able to avoid cell phones and pop culture references. The central mystery is what is outside of the dome of Pleasant Grove. I didn’t have to worry about updating those tropes or genre characteristics from the 1980s. I wanted the neighborhood to feel like a playground. Kind of how it feels in E.T. for the kids.
Those Spielberg films from the 80s have such a specific feel. You almost can’t describe it. They are like comfort food. The feeling is what people respond to I believe.
It is like comfort food. The stories are also rooted in domestic tension. I think that’s a trademark of those Amblin pictures. I tried to bring that element to the book with my story and characters.
They have been trying to make a Goonies sequel for ages. Since your story is so heavily influenced by that film, did you ever think about taking a crack at a Goonies II script?
I never thought about that. I would love to get the book in front of Spielberg though, because I think it is a throwback to his older work.
Be sure to pick up a copy of Pleasant Grove here.