DA Kentner writes the column THE READERS' WRITERS for the (Freeport) Journal-Standard and GateHouse News Service. My alter ego KevaD lives under a stairway of dreams where he writes stories and grumbles about everything. Click the pic to visit KevaD's blog.
Drop me a line at dakentner@yahoo.com

I invite you to read my award-winning short story posted on Calliope Magazine's web site.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Author Todd Ritter

New Jersey journalist and editor Todd Ritter is a fan of Walt Disney and Alfred Hitchcock. Raised surrounded by forests and open fields in Pennsylvania by a bank teller mother and a father who dabbled in taxidermy, it seemed only natural such a unique blend of life experiences would influence Ritter's debut novel. But any chemist will tell you certain mixtures can be volatile. "Death Notice" exploded onto the literary scene, serving notice a fresh and exciting new voice had arrived.


In "Death Notice," Ritter captured the benign in a net of intrigue, and within the laboratory labyrinth of his mind morphed the commonplace into a community wrought with secrecy, characters we won't soon forget, and of course, nightmarish murder. Naturally, such a powerful and blood-chilling tale leaves the reader wanting more of Todd Ritter. Fortunately, the next addictive dosage, "Bad Moon," is forthcoming.

Therein lies the true quality of Ritter's work. Todd Ritter is a storyteller. Every word is utilized to its maximum proficiency to entertain the reader. And entertain he does. "Death Notice" is un-set-a-side-able. www.toddritteronline.com.

Q) You discovered being a published author isn't an easily pursued career. During the 2+ years of searching for a venue for "Death Notice," what pushed you to keep going and not give up?

A) At the risk of sounding unbearably egotistical, I knew I had a good story on my hands. Those who read “Death Notice” — both inside and outside the publishing industry — really responded to the concept and the characters. That input spurred me to keep working on it and to fix all the parts of the book that didn’t work. It took a lot longer than I thought it would, and there were times when I was very close to just throwing in the towel and moving on to something else. But I kept going because I loved my story and I loved my characters. I wrote the book that I wanted to read. And deep down, I knew others would want to read it, too.

Q) Describing your writing, you once used these three words: Morbid. Surprising. Sympathetic. Why those choices? And would you use the same words today?

A) I would still use those same words. I like to think that’s exactly what my writing is like. Clearly, all mysteries are a tad morbid. And hopefully they’re surprising, as well. “Death Notice” deals with pretty gruesome themes and goes to some very dark places. But I try to balance all that by respecting the characters and making them as real and believable as possible. I think some thriller and mystery writers forget that murder leaves behind a lot of collateral damage, not only for the victim’s family but for the people investigating it. That’s where the sympathy comes in.

Q) "Death Notice's" Police Chief Kat Campbell has a child with Down Syndrome. Experience has taught me, when a writer inflicts a child with such a disease it is because said disease has impacted their life. How did Down Syndrome play a role in yours?

A) To be completely honest, it didn’t. When I first started writing “Death Notice,” I wanted to introduce readers to characters they might not have seen before. I knew I was going to have a woman police chief, and I wanted her job to be only one aspect of her life. That’s when I got the idea for James, her son. Originally, I thought it would be a great way to humanize Kat while simultaneously showing her strength. Because raising a child with special needs is tough. The mothers who do that have more strength and patience than I ever will. But as work on the book progressed, James became less a story device and more of an interesting character in his own right. In the follow-up to “Death Notice,” I develop his character even further, in a way that creates new challenges for Kat.

Q) Your influences are Disney and Hitchcock, yet Hitchcock obviously won out. Why?

A) Because I love being scared and being on the edge of my seat. Hitchcock was the undisputed master of that. Growing up watching his movies, I knew I wanted to do the same thing. There’s something very cool about telling a good yarn and giving readers a nice fright. Judging from some of the e-mails I’ve received from readers, I’ve done just that. There’s no greater feeling than hearing that someone couldn’t put “Death Notice” down because it was so suspenseful.

Q) As a journalist and author, writing follows your every step. What do you like to do when you need to get away?

A) I love being a couch potato. I tend to avoid the dark dramas and go for something funny and smart, like “Modern Family” or “Parks and Recreation.” I also like to cook, which is another great way to escape. I can just turn off my brain and chop, mix and stir. There’s something very therapeutic about that.

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