Katherine Paterson once planned to be a missionary. She was born to missionary parents in China and spent four years in Japan as a missionary herself. But after returning to the United States to continue her education—and after meeting and marrying a young Presbyterian minister—she gave all that up and became a writer.

Some of her early novels reflect her love of Japanese culture, and some of her nonfiction books reflect her religious background. But she's probably best known for Bridge to Terabithia, a story about two children—a girl named Leslie and a boy named Jess—who create an imaginary kingdom in a secret grove.

Terabithia won the Newbery Medal in 1977 and was recently adapted into a movie now showing in theaters. (See the film review at ChristianityTodayMovies.com.)

Paterson spoke to CT Movies critic Peter T. Chattaway about the book, the film, and the meaning of "story." (Warning: This interview includes plot spoilers for both the book and the film.)

Did you ever envision a movie coming out of this book?

No. I thought it was such a private book that my editor probably wouldn't want to publish it; and if he wanted to publish it, I thought nobody would read it; and if they read it, [I thought] nobody would understand it. I was shocked to realize that teachers were reading it out loud in schools. It just seemed like a very, very private, personal story.

How involved have you been with the new film?

I actually haven't been all that involved, because I gave the rights to my son David. It was actually his friendship with, and the death of, his best friend when he was eight that caused me to write the book in the first place. So when he asked me several years ago if he could do a screenplay and try to market ...

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