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Author, Mark Peter Hughes

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The biggest Disney Channel film to come along since Camp Rock is Lemonade Mouth. The man behind the story is one Mark Peter Hughes, the author of Lemonade Mouth's book and its sequel, Lemonade Mouth Puckers Up. I was recently given the opportunity to interview Mr. Hughes for Teen Ink.

I hope you enjoy hearing about the creation of the hit story, and about it's creator.

Rachel- Would you please tell us a little about yourself?

Mark Peter Hughes- ...About myself?... Hm. Well, I'm about 5'11. I like ...lasagna. {laughs} I'm sorry, I don't mean to sound facetious. I'm in one of those moods!

I have three kids, who are aged 14, 12 and 9. So my wife and I are very busy with them. I spend a lot of my time writing, and I hang out with friends, and just do normal regular things.

I don't know how interesting an answer that is, but that's what I got!

RH- How did you first become interested in writing?

MPH- I've always been interested in writing! I've written since I was very young; too young to remember. I've always told stories, and things like that. (I have boxes of very bad writing.) So, you know, I've always written and it's always something that I've done.

When I started getting serious about it, in terms of trying to get published and things like that, that wasn't until I was in my 30s. (I'm 45, now.) [The publication] ended up happening at that time.

But I've always written.

RH- What inspired Lemonade Mouth?

MPH- Well, I used to be in a band when I was a lot younger (and I still am [in a band]), so I know something about being in a band and what that's like. So I wanted to write a story about that.

Somebody had given me a copy of the book version of the Beatles Anthology, in which each of the Beatles were interviewed over a long period of time, and somebody had cobbled all of the interviews together. [Through these interviews] they told their story in that way, where they each tell a bit of the story from beginning to end. You're just going back and forth between the four of them.

I just thought, What a great way to tell the story of anybody who's working closely together, doing any kind of a project; but certainly for a band. So, I decided I would write my story that way.

And that's what became Lemonade Mouth.

RH- How did the idea of the film adaption come about?

MPH- The producer (whose name is Debra Martin Chase) gave me a call, and said that she had read the book, and that she loved it and wanted to make a movie about it. But she, at that time, did not have a deal with anybody on it. So she just said that it was something that she was going to work on.

So, clearly it was a happy call for me, but it wasn't one where there were any guarantees. But then, as time went by, obviously it has happened. So [Debra] was true to what she said in the first phone call.

But it was just a very exciting thing for me, where the people with the ability to make a movie got a hold of my book and made it happen.

RH- What part did you play in bringing your book to the screen?

MPH- In bringing it to the screen?

Well, let's see... Disney has their own sort of team of folks. I was shown an early draft of the script, and they asked me for my comments which I gave to them. I had several phone calls with the producer and the director, and the screenwriter e-mailed...

But I wasn't central in terms of the actual making of the movie itself.

I'm actually in the movie! I have a very brief cameo role in the scene... (I don't know if you've seen the movie but) There's a scene that's a Halloween dance. If people look at the principle and look over his shoulder during the “Determinate” song (which is the big song for the movie), there's a guy dressed as a bee (once again, it's a Halloween party) just over his shoulder. That's me! {laughs}

RH- Did you get to pick your costume?

MPH- Yeah, sort of! They wheeled out this rack of costumes, and they said, “Which one would you like?” I initially reached for a cow costume, because, you know, if you have an opportunity to be in a movie made of your book, and you get the chance to do that dressed as a cow? You know, it's a no brainer! You go for it.

But the folks at Disney were standing nearby, and when they saw the cow costume on me, I think the feeling was that the udder was inappropriately placed for a family feature. {laughs} So, we went with plan B.

Get it? Plan bee? {laughs}

RH- {laughs}

MPH- But it was fun. It was a lot of fun doing that!

RH- Did you have any input on the casting?

MPH- No. I mean, I wasn't involved in the actual casting except to the extent that the character that I had created were being casted for. But in terms of choosing who was in the movie, no, that was Disney.

RH- Were you pleased with the final result?

MPH- Yes! Yes. I mean, the thing you have to keep in mind is that the book is 300+ pages long, and the script is about 100 pages long. So anytime you're doing any adaptation of a book like that, [turning it] into a movie, you know, it's gonna be a different thing. There's a lot of condensing.

But I knew that going into it. Now I'm very impressed with the way that they were respectful of the story.

[Lemonade Mouth] is about five high-school freshman who are outsiders. They meet in detention and discover that they have something in common, which is music. They join together and form a band called, Lemonade Mouth. Then they change the world.

In the book, you get a lot more back story on each of the characters. But to the extent that [Disney] had to cut quite a bit in order to fit the story into a movie, along with all of the songs and all that. They really did a admirable job of it. They certainly implied a lot of the stories that were there, and they left a lot of the heart in it.

Part of what happened during the movie-making process was the producer, Debra Martin Chase, the director, Patricia Riggen and the writer, April Blair, each communicated with me separately. [They each] told me that they had loved the book and that they were determined to be respectful of it; to make sure that it retained the central heart of the story, which they very much did. I appreciate that.

RH- Will you have any part in the sequel?

MPH- Yes! Yes, I am. Like in the first movie, I mean, the story is mine. And that's happening with the second movie as well.

RH- What are you hoping for in the second film?

MPH- Well, it's my story, so I don't have to hope too much. I know what it's gonna be. {laughs}

I can't really talk about what the story is going to be, but I can say that it's going to continue Lemonade Mouth's journey. It's going to, you know, be a lot of fun. We're gonna see a lot of the same characters again, and follow their path.

I'm very much looking forward to it.

RH- So will you be working on a sequel to it, or will you just be working on the sequel film?

MPH- I have already written a book sequel to it, which will be coming out in (I believe) early 2012, and [I've been working on] the story to the sequel film, as well.

RH- So just to clarify, will the movie sequel be based on the book sequel?

MPH- I am not at liberty to talk about that.

RH- Alright, okay!

What has been your favorite book to write?

MPH- Well, my standard answer to that is, and it's gonna sound insincere, but I promise you it is sincere... [My favorite book to write is] whatever book I'm writing [at the time]. The reason why that is the case (and will always be the case) is because if what I'm writing isn't the most exciting thing to me right at that point, then I don't want to write it. It's not going to be exciting to the reader if it's not exciting to me.

I was absolutely burning up the pages when I wrote my first published novel called I Am the Wallpaper, and I loved every minute of writing Lemonade Mouth; I was in a whole different world when I was writing A Crack in the Sky. I loved the passion of returning to the Lemonade Mouth characters in Lemonade Mouth Puckers Up. As I return again to the characters in A Crack in the Sky for the sequel there, again I'm just very invigorated by it. The whole thing is wonderful to me. I love what I do.

So it's really true when I say it's whatever I'm writing now is my current favorite.

RH- Who do you count as your inspiration, author- or book-wise?

MPH- Oh, there are just so many!

I love Kurt Monaghan [sp]; that's just a random one that comes to mind! (I happened to be looking at my bookshelf.) But I absolutely love [him]! I love Dr. Suess. (I mean, the Sneetches? Come on! The Lorax? That's good stuff!) David Sedaris (big fan), M.T Anderson (big fan), Nancy Werlin...

I mean there are just so many good ones out there!

RH- What projects are you currently working on?

MPH- Well, I'm working with Disney at the moment on the new movie. I'm doing clean-up stuff for Lemonade Mouth Puckers Up, which is the book sequel. I'm also, at the same time, beginning the sequel to A Crack in the Sky.

So those are my current, big reasons to get up in the morning.

RH- What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

MPH- I suggest anybody who wants to be an author needs to write and write and write. It's the oldest advice in the world, but it's true! Until you've written a lot, you know, you're not gonna be the best writer you can be, and it's gonna show up on the page. So anybody who wants to be a writer needs to write.

I also recommend that aspiring writers get together. People should form critique groups with group of friends who respect each other and aren't afraid to be honest. You know, you need to say, “Here are some opportunities for improvement,” 'cause as a writer, that's what we all need. If you're serious about [writing], it's what you want.

It's wonderful to hear that you've written something great; we all love to hear that. But how wonderful to hear that, you know, this particular scene is kinda boring, and that particular character is not working 'cause somebody just doesn't believe [them]; how wonderful to hear [criticism], because then when you revise, you know exactly what to change.





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