This summer I had the opportunity to read and review Ridley Pearson's newest Walt Fleming novel, KILLER SUMMER. But this man is busy, busy. He also has a young adult novel coming out next month and a young reader novel in January...whew! He just doesn't stop. But, in addition to contributing to the six-word memoir project, he was kind enough to pause briefly and chit chat with me about a few things, including his research, teaching TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, upcoming projects and his love of music. Today I get to share that chit chat with you. So let's get to it y'all!
Q: Your new novel KILLER SUMMER centers around a rather high class wine auction where wine believed to have been owned by John Adams is one of the gems available on the auction block. Are you a wine aficionado? How did this particular event wind up as the center of your novel?
Ridley: I conduct a good amount of research to help create as believable a world of fiction as I can. I came across a Wall Street Journal article about some counterfeit bottles "from" Thomas Jefferson's collection. Combined with the real-world wine auction in Sun Valley, it seemed like a good marriage.
Q: And you’re well known for your in-depth research when it comes to your novels. What did you find yourself having to do to prepare for KILLER SUMMER? What would you say has been your most fascinating research endeavor?
Ridley: I have many, many stories about research I've done for the books. The most rewarding was a sub-plot I used in a novel (Undercurrents) that was later read by law enforcement and has gone on to be used to solve three real life homicides. Research is the meat of good crime fiction; it puts the reader in the shotgun seat.
Q: KILLER SUMMER has been out for awhile now and is being well received. In October you have your young adult novel, PETER AND THE SWORD OF MERCY, coming out. This is a busy year for you. Do you know what’s beyond October? What can your fans anticipate next?
Ridley: It's a BIG year for me. Killer Summer is out in bookstores now. Peter and the Sword of Mercy (co-written with Dave Barry) publishes in October. Then, early in January, 2010, the book I'm most excited about: a younger reader novel, Steel Trapp: The Program will publish. It's a book about a 14 year old with extraordinary powers of memory. And the much anticipated Kingdom Keepers 3: Disney In Shadow publishes in April. But my focus right now is on the newest Walt Fleming novel. I've just finished it and am heading into rewrite. I think it's the most powerful yet.
Q: PETER AND THE SWORD OF MERCY is part of the Starcatchers series that you collaborate with Dave Berry on. Can you talk a little about the differences in writing when you’re collaborating as opposed to writing solo? What do you prefer about each style? What happens if you disagree on and element of the book?
Ridley: Dave Barry and I have a great time writing our collaborations. The process involves outlining the books together and then one of us writing a first draft of a chapter, decided by what characters are in that particular chapter, and then editing the other's work without questions. It's a wild process, but it works. Every chapter is rewritten 5 to 8 times.
Q: You also spent some time teaching English in Shanghai. Can you tell us a little about your experience there? I understand that Harper Lee found out you were teaching TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD and was flattered to hear it. That’s exciting!
Ridley: That was/is the thrill of my career--to have Harper Lee discover I'd taught her wonderful novel to university students in China. I reread To Kill A Mockingbird at least every two years. Only Crime and Punishment gets that same treatment from me. I think To Kill A Mockingbird is the perfect novel; to me nothing else comes close. I'm collecting emails from my students and Ms. Lee will apparently get a look at them soon. What a thrill.
Q: To end, I’d like to circle around to the beginning of your career, you began your career as singer/songwriter and today you play bass in the Rock Bottom Remainders. Are you still writing music? And how did writing music morph into writing novels?
Ridley: I don't write much music right now. But I still love music. The Rockbottom Remainders just played two nights ago! Music and writing share what adult and YA novels share: story. Story. Story. Story. It's what I do. What I love.
Well, I for one am glad that story is what Ridley does and loves! I'm also excited that the next Walt Fleming is well on its way to publication. But I sure don't know how he juggles all those different projects!
Many thanks to Ridley Pearson for taking time to chat with me. You can find out more about Ridley at his website. You can also follow him on Twitter (@RidleyTheWriter). And for those of you planning in advance, Ridley will be attending the 2011 Bouchercon in St. Louis as the Toastmaster.