Interview: Todd Ritter
by Joseph B. Hoyos
Date: 02 November 2011
Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing Todd Ritter, author of Death Notice and its recently published sequel Bad Moon. Both novels are creepy, horrifying mysteries that are set in the tranquil, sleepy town of Perry Hollow, Pennsylvania.
Perry Hollow is the type of cozy community in which one wouldn't expect bizarre murders to occur. However, Todd modeled Perry Hollow after the fictional Washington town of the hit television series Twin Peaks. According to Todd, "Twin Peaks was mysterious and scary and suspenseful and just downright weird. I loved it, even though it usually gave me nightmares." Therefore, he designed Perry Hollow to be a small town filled with secrets and having just a touch of the bizarre around its edges. Perry Hollow was even given a sawmill like the one in Twin Peaks.
Surprisingly enough, it was Henry Goll's character in Death Notice which led to the creation of Police Chief Kat Campbell. Henry is the antisocial, disfigured obituary writer for the Perry Hollow Gazette. One day, a serial killer begins sending him death notices for people who are targeted to die very soon. Henry is a tall, muscular, extremely tormented character. For the police chief, Todd wanted someone to be the complete opposite: a short, happily-soft woman who is very stable and outgoing. Also, Todd endeavored to create a female detective that wasn't a cliché. "She's not a super sleuth who knows more than everyone else. She doesn't have mad, passionate sex with the state police detective. She's just a hard-working mom who's just trying to do the right thing for her town and her son."
Perhaps the reason why I like Henry Goll is because he's led such a tragic life. I missed him not having a role in Bad Moon. However, Todd assured me that he is working hard to bring Henry back in a future novel. All of Todd's characters elicit emotions within me. Their flaws make them seem extremely realistic. Many fans love Kat and this may have something to do with her son James who has Down syndrome. When asked if he modeled James after anyone in his life, Todd replied that he didn't. "I just wanted to add an extra layer of vulnerability to Kat's home life, to raise the stakes, as it were. But James soon became an interesting character in his own right, and I enjoyed making him play a larger role in Bad Moon." Todd likes to cook whenever his busy schedule allows him. During the week, he microwaves something healthy, like a veggie burger. However, on the weekends he actually likes big kitchen projects. "Something that requires an hour or two of chopping, slicing, and cooking over a hot stove," explains Todd. "It's very therapeutic and gives my brain a chance to rest from thinking about my latest writing project. I even enjoy doing the dishes!"
When asked if there is a special place to which he likes to retreat and write, Todd replied, "Honestly, I go to bed. I crawl under the covers, crack open the laptop and type away. Sometimes it can be very productive. Sometimes it just leads to a nap." Vicious Circle is Todd's next writing project. This novella is obtainable only in an e-book format. It features Perry Hollow's Kat Campbell who investigates bizarre crop circles in a farmer's field. When asked if Vicious Circle is more supernatural than his first two novels, Todd replied, "I can't say. Readers will have to discover that for themselves when it becomes available soon. It should be out in November, on all e-book devices."
The Star-Ledger of Newark, New Jersey must serve as the breeding ground for good mystery writers. Currently, Todd Ritter is an editor at the Star-Ledger. His friends, Brad Parks and Wallace Stroby, both highly successful authors, have also worked there. Todd says, "Both are great guys and fantastic writers who have gone out of their way to welcome me into the mystery writing community. It's been great to see their growing success. They completely deserve it."
Having read and reviewed novels by Brad and Wallace, I can attest to the fact that these men are indeed fantastic writers. I wish Todd and his friends much success in all of their writing endeavors.