Writing With … Todd Ritter

Is it corny that I’m answering my own questionnaire? You bet it is. But I honestly felt that I couldn’t send these questions to other writers without taking a stab at them myself. So here goes nothing.

Q. Tell us about your latest book and what inspired you to write it.

My mystery is called DEATH NOTICE, and it’s about a small-town police chief and an obituary writer who team up to stop a killer who’s sending obituaries of his victims to the local newspaper — before they’re killed.

There were two moments of inspiration for the book, and both came in the newsroom where I spend my nights toiling with ink-stained fingers under humming flourescent lights.
The first flash of inspiration came via a crackle of voices over the police scanner kept nearby to alert reporters of breaking news. It seems a coffin had fallen off a flatbed truck and was sitting on the side of the highway, alarming everyone who drove past it. One unlucky cop had to pull over, open it and see if, God forbid, there was a body inside. It turned out to be empty, thankfully, but I couldn’t stop thinking that it would be a pretty cool way to start a mystery. Only in the fictional version, the coffin would be occupied.

The second flash arrived a few days later, when I was proofreading the obituary page — no doubt the most bizarre aspect of my job. Usually I didn’t find too many mistakes. But that night, I discovered a typo. A big one. An obituary mistakenly listed the deceased’s date of death as the next day. Again, I started thinking: What if a crazed killer alerted people to his intentions by writing the obituaries of his victims before they died?

With both ideas swirling around in my brain, it occurred to me that I could combine them into an intriguing and suspenseful read. That is how DEATH NOTICE was born. 

Q. Did you need to do any special research for the book? If so, what’s one of the most interesting facts you discovered?

I decided that my killer was going to try to embalm his victims. That meant doing a lot of research about the embalming process. It was icky, but fascinating. One of the things I learned in my research was that formaldehyde is flammable. I decided to make that a major plot point for the end of the book.

Q. Many people are content to just be readers. How did you become a writer?

I’ve always been a big reader, and secretly dreamed of writing myself. There’s nothing like being enthralled by a great story, and I wondered what it would feel like to be the one telling the story. Once I got the idea for DEATH NOTICE, I knew I had to write it. I wrote a book that I would want to read. I thought that, if it was good enough, others would want to read it, too.

Q. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I love to travel. I love going to the movies. I also enjoy being a homebody. For me, a great night is one where I can cook an elaborate dinner, drink some wine and then settle down on the couch to watch TV or a movie. Boring? Maybe. But I love it.

Q. What are you reading right now?

I’m doing a ton of writing at the moment, and I don’t like to read while I’m in the midst of writing something. But the last book I read was Laura Lippman’s I’D KNOW YOU ANYWHERE. She’s an amazing writer.

Q. If you were stranded on that proverbial deserted island, what five books would you want to have with you?


THE GREAT GATSBY by F. Scott Fitzgerald




Q. What’s your favorite movie?

I love so many. But if I had to narrow it down, I’d say Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window. It never gets old.

Q. What’s your favorite food?

As a kid, I never thought I’d say this, but sushi. I could probably eat it everyday.

Q. Cats or dogs?

Dogs, definitely. I’m allergic to cats, so that already makes me biased. But there’s something wonderful about dogs. All they want to do is eat, sleep and make you love them. More creatures should be that way, in my opinion.

Q. Name one thing that people would be surprised to learn about you.

I have a tattoo of Curious George on my left arm.

Posted on by Todd Posted in Writing With

Comments are closed.