Local author Anne Marie Pace gets a nod from Disney

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The "Vampirina" animated TV series debuts this spring on Disney Junior. Photo: Keith Alan Sprouse The "Vampirina" animated TV series debuts this spring on Disney Junior. Photo: Keith Alan Sprouse

For the past 15 years, Charlottesville children’s book author Anne Marie Pace’s life has been marked by a series of leaps. First, she made the move to leave her job as a high school English teacher and become a full-time mom for the first of her three children. Then, in 2001, after her husband had an unexpected kidney transplant, confronted by life’s ephemerality, she decided to pursue her passion: writing.

In love with the stories she’d read her small children, Pace began working on children’s books. Eventually, after penning a couple of custom titles for Scholastic Books, in 2010, she sold the first of an original series, Vampirina Ballerina, to Hyperion Books, an imprint of the Disney Book Group. Six years later, the series’ wily, succeed-against-all-odds female protagonist has become a fantastic success. So much so that, earlier this summer, Pace got a call from her agent—Disney Junior had decided to transform Vampirina into an animated television series.

With the show set to premiere this spring, we asked Pace to tell us more about what’s in store.

How did the Disney Junior series come about?

Originally, after the first Vampirina book was published in 2012, Disney Junior approached my agent, Linda Pratt, asking about the option to develop it into an animated series. However, just like publishing a picture book, these things take more time than you might expect—it’s a business of waiting. Linda and my film agent, Eddie Gamarra, handled all the details over the years, and the deal was finally announced this past spring.

How did it feel to get the news?

Well, the way in which I found out the deal was a go just might be the craziest coincidence of my entire life. It was my 50th birthday, but my husband had to work, so we didn’t have any particular plans. As the day went on, I felt a little bummed not to be celebrating, so I put a notice on Facebook for any of my friends who could make it to come over and have some cake. I spent the afternoon baking and, that evening, as my friends were literally preparing to sing “Happy Birthday,” my agent called with the news. I wouldn’t have answered the phone except that, considering she never calls outside of business hours, I figured it was something big. And it was. It was absolutely amazing—and not too embarrassing—to have a room full of friends watching me scream and jump up and down. And the best thing was, we already had champagne and cake there to celebrate!

What’s the process of the show’s development been like?

The show develops independently of the book series, so I can’t really give you a full picture. Even though I don’t know many details, the team working on “Vampirina” is stellar. Chris Nee is the executive producer, and she’s working with the Oscar-winning animation studio, Brown Bag Films, the folks behind Disney Junior’s show “Doc McStuffins.” I have great confidence they’re making something wonderful for kids. I haven’t met or talked to Chris, but she drops intriguing details on Twitter every once in a while. I follow her there, and I’m always anxious to read the newest tidbit.

What does this mean for both your career and the Vampirina series?

I know that the third Vampirina book, Vampirina at the Beach, which comes out this spring, will have a sticker on it that says, “Soon to be an animated show from Disney Junior.” I love doing school visits and book festivals where I can meet readers and we can talk about wonderful books—either mine or any other books they love. So if the show affords me more opportunities to connect with kids and readers, that’d be terrific.

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