An author never creates a good book on his own. I am thankful for my entire writing team. Each reviewer and editor provided invaluable contributions to the project while keeping my vision intact.
The years went by. In May, 2013, I felt a burning desire to finish the book. Between my speaking engagements, business responsibilities, and family priorities, I filled my time with writing wherever and whenever possible. There is something sweet– and almost celestial–about burning the midnight oil while writing in the quiet space of my bungalow. Most writers and actors will understand what I mean when I say I had become personally acquainted with each of the characters. I could hear their voices and envision their mannerisms clearly and distinctly. Although, for me, writing is often a difficult and slow task, I have found that persevering through pain brings about deep joy and satisfaction. (A teaching principle for a later time.)
I took the original manuscript I had written ten years earlier and began transforming it into a novel that was true to the original and core story of Adventures of Swiss Family Robinson books that were written in the early 1800’s. Another reality about my writing is that I am not, and do not claim to be, a highly eloquent writer. Rather, I would describe myself as a persistent, determined and purpose-filled writer. (I prefer to think that I am a good storyteller; hence, my twenty-year speaking career.)
My original book idea for Return to Robinson Island had transformed from a side project I would occasionally tinker with into an important priority. As I continued to write, more ideas flowed. The manuscript eventually grew to forty chapters containing 83,000 words. Truth be told, I’ve never read a fictional book in my life besides Og Mandino’s books. Yet, here I was, writing one myself. And I was taking on a classic at that. I knew that I would need additional help. Think about it. How could I find out about the authentic behaviors, rules, expectations, and environment of the early nineteenth century? Readers of books about that era might have more of an idea. However, I had a lot to learn. Thus, my historical journey began.
For example, I had written the character of Elizabeth Cole as having long, wavy brown hair. My team of readers quickly reminded me that, back then, a woman didn't routinely let down her hair. At least, a woman who was considered sophisticated did not do so. Also, I often depicted Ernest Robinson and Elizabeth as riding in carriages and heading off on adventures alone. I learned that such behavior was not appropriate for a sophisticated man or woman during the early 1800’s.
I also hired editors to review the manuscript, chapter by chapter, and clean it up grammatically. Frankly, they ripped each page apart and made it better. Below is a picture of a few original pages.
Above is an illustration of the Swiss Family Robinson tree house from John Lovell's 1869 translation of Johann David Wyss's book.
My love for Swiss Family Robinson and the Robinson family’s adventures has spilled over onto my children. Here is a video of my sons building a “simple” three-story tree house on our property. My sons plan to add walls on each level and a large roof over the top level.
I purchased several antique and original copies of early editions and translations of Johann David Wyss’s The Adventures of Swiss Family Robinson. Some editions were published in 1818 and 1831. (Right - is a picture of some of these books.)
My goal was to stay true to the early editions of the book and not base my sequel on Disney’s version. My legal team also advised supported this strategy. I hired a rights and permissions company in New York City. They verified that the original Swiss Family Robinson concept and story was officially in the public domain. I then received additional counsel from my legal team regarding how to best proceed.
As I was growing up, my favorite movie was Swiss Family Robinson. Back then, I had a difficult time reading. Instead, I watched the beloved 1967 Disney movie version of the book repeatedly. It was later in my life that I read the book, The Adventures of Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss. In 2003, I pulled out my Disney version (on VHS). I hosted a movie night with my two sons, who were then three and five years old. We popped a little popcorn and cuddled together as we watched the movie. Both boys were glued to the screen. When the movie ended, I put my boys to bed, tucked the covers around them, told them I loved them and said good night.
After retiring for the evening, I suddenly awoke at one o'clock in the morning. In my mind’s eye, a new idea for a sequel and continuation of the Swiss Family Robinson story was unveiled to me. My vision for the idea was clear. I had often wondered what had happened to the Robinson family after being shipwrecked on the remote island. Now the answers began to flood my mind. Because the images were so vivid and real to me, I got out of bed, sat on the sofa, and began to type. I stayed up the rest of the night writing the first outline of the book. I typed as fast as I could, not wanting to forget any of the details. By six o’clock the next morning, I had typed more than fifty pages. Return to Robinson Island was born.
Over the next month or two, I continued to work on the story and eventually, I completed a 122-page screenplay. Crafting the story as a screenplay proved to be easier than writing the idea in a novel format. After I finished the screenplay, I copyrighted the manuscript and shelved it.
If you are familiar with my story, you know that this entire process took place during the time when I was initially building my business. It was a very difficult time in my professional life, when I almost lost everything. Without a financially sound strategy to convert the manuscript into a profitable enterprise, my back was against the wall. I couldn’t move forward with Return to Robinson Island. It was during that dark time when I decided to write my first book, If You Think You Can! a personal development book around high achievement. I had dreamed of writing that book for years. When it was released in 2005, If You Think You Can! instantly became a best-seller. I would later write If You Think You Can! for Teens and The Secret of the Slight Edge.
Over the next decade (2003–2013), I tinkered with Return to Robinson Island when time allowed. At one point, I hired a ghostwriter to adapt the screenplay into a novel. After a few months, I realized that no one could complete this project for me. I needed to write it on my own.