Harry Potter Director Chris Columbus' New Fantasy Book Totally Not a Potter WannabeS

It's sort of amusing how up-front Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone director Chris Columbus is about wanting his new book series, House of Secrets, to be the new J.K. Rowling. Actually, the basic plot doesn't sound very Potter-ish — it's about kids living in a fantasy writer's spooky house, trying to save their parents from some horrible darkness.

Here's the official synopsis, via Entertainment Weekly:

The Pagett kids had it all: loving parents, a big house in San Francisco, all the latest video games . . . But everything changed when their father lost his job as a result of an inexplicable transgression. Now the family is moving into Kristoff House, a mysterious place built nearly a century earlier by a troubled fantasy writer with a penchant for the occult. Suddenly the siblings find themselves launched on an epic journey into a mash-up world born of Kristoff's dangerous imagination, to retrieve a dark book of untold power, uncover the Pagett family's secret history and save their parents . . . and maybe even the world.

Columbus is writing the young-adult (or possibly middle-grade) novel with Ned Vizzini, author of It's Kind of a Funny Story and various other titles. And it sounds as though the division of labor will be the usual one when a famous Hollywood person co-writes a novel — Columbus tells EW he "couldn't really devote 12 hours a day every day to writing" because of his other commitments, so he needed someone he could "bounce ideas back and forth with" and "basically bounce chapters back and forth." (Translation: Vizzini will probably do the lion's share of the writing.)

And Columbus says he's really not trying to create the next Harry Potter, but he sort of is:

I'm not presumptuous enough to say, "We're going to take over the Potter series," but I got to see firsthand how that series affected kids and how it got so many hundreds of thousands of kids into reading. You hope for just a section of that in terms of being able to inspire kids to read. And that's really one of the themes of the book – that reading is essential to your development as a child and as an eventual adult. That really has inspired us in moving forward. So I look at it primarily as working first and foremost as a novel.

My prediction: It could be as big as Tim Kring's epic collaboration with Dale Peck. [EW]