By Stephan Lee
Updated October 24, 2012 at 06:01 PM EDT
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House Of Secrets Cover

When Shelf Life announced film director Chris Columbus’ YA project House of Secrets back in January, the plot was still tightly under wraps. We now know a little bit more about the first novel in the trilogy (Apr. 23, 2013), including what the cover will look like! The novel is jointly written with YA superstar Ned Vizzini (The Other Normals), who is currently writing for the ABC series Last Resort. See the cover below, along with a quick chat with Vizzini about writing House of Secrets with Columbus.

House Of Secrets Cover

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: We haven’t been told that much about the plot — can you tell us a little more what House of Secrets is about?

NED VIZZINI: House of Secrets is about the three kids in the Walker family — Cordelia, Brendan, and Eleanor — who have to find a new home after their father loses his job under mysterious circumstances. They move into a beautiful old place in San Francisco that used to be owned by an extremely creepy writer named Denver Kristoff. (Think H.P. Lovecraft mixed with Robert E. Howard.) Shortly after they move in, they realize that one of their neighbors has sinister plans for them. But before they know what’s happening, they are banished into the world of Kristoff’s books — and they have to find their way home through pirates, sharks, and all manner of fantastical adventures.

Columbus is a big movie director and you’re writing for a TV series — did you find your writing to be very visual and cinematic when you were collaborating on this book?

If writing is good, it’s always visual, always sensory. We have a character in this book named Fat Jagger who has really bad body odor (and it’s especially bad because he’s as tall as a skyscraper); Chris nailed that by comparing his B.O. to that of Brendan Walker’s third-grade science teacher. (I don’t know why, but smelly science teachers really do have a particular smell.) That for me is an example of cinematic writing, but really what’s more important is emotional writing. There are parts of this book where I feel like I’m reading about my own family because we bickered all the time like the Walkers do. It always took a crisis for us to admit we loved each other.

Is House of Secrets something you could have seen yourself writing even if Chris hadn’t come to you with it? Or does it feel like new territory for you?

House of Secrets is new for me and I wouldn’t have done anything like it without Chris. This wasn’t a case of someone with a marquee name coming up with an idea and handing it off. We worked together every step of the way, in quick hand-offs, chapter-by-chapter. I used to whoop with glee at the stuff that Chris sent me and carry my computer into the living room and read it to my wife. I think it was new territory for both of us.

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