My Interview with Ridley Pearson
My guest today is Ridley Pearson, author of The Risk Agent, an excellent thriller coming out today. Please scroll down for our interview.
Who is Ridley Pearson?
Ridley Pearson is a New York Times best-selling author with more than 40 novels published in 22 languages in 70 countries.
Ridley began his career as a singer/songwriter for an acoustic rock band and spent nearly a decade on the road.
Following attendance at Kansas University and Brown University, Ridley’s songwriting led to script writing, and script writing to novels. His first work, Never Look Back, was published in 1985.
Mr. Pearson, thank you for this opportunity to be interviewed for my blog. Grace Chu and John Knox are the two main characters of The Risk Agent. How did you go about creating their characters?
While living in China in 2008-9 I became interested in the big contractors servicing the troops, and providing security in the Iraq and Afghan theaters. There were stories of truck drivers out of Kuwait being paid $80,000 a month to make resupply deliveries into Iraq. Creating a character who was willing to take such risk for such fortune interested me. John Knox was born.
At the same time, I was teaching juniors in university (creative writing) and witnessed firsthand the ambition and drive of young woman in a new generation of Chinese. That close up experience inspired Grace Chu.
When did you know you wanted to become a writer and how did it happen?
I have been a storyteller from a very young age. Both my grandfathers took me on their laps when I was little and either recited epic poetry or told me firsthand adventure stories from their youths. It instilled in me a sense of wonder, and I’ve been wanting to pass along that same sense of wonder ever since.
You are world renowned for a series of young adult novels, as well as thrillers. How difficult is to switch between the two? Which ones do you prefer to write?
Books like THE RISK AGENT have been at the core of my writing for nearly 30 years now. I enjoy the challenge of crafting tightly-plotted, richly characterized fiction (a constant challenge, I might add! Always trying to get better!) A good story has to start with character and those characters have to be put into believable but extraordinary circumstances. As a father of two, I began writing for younger readers as well, but to my delight nearly half of the books I sell in this “category” are to adults. Hopefully, the only difference between these books is the degree of complication to the plots and the level of intimacy in the characters. The aim and intention is to write hard-to-put-down fiction for any age.
Your first work, Never Look Back, came out in 1985. Looking back at your career, how satisfied are you with your writing and your achievements? Any regrets?
I am a re-writer by nature. Any book of mine that is published has been rewritten multiple times (typically 4-6 full drafts). I think I could pull any of my books off the shelf and rewrite it again. And again. It’s never achieving anything close to perfection that keeps me going.
A word of advice for new writers?
Don’t count on living off your writing. You will know if you are a writer in that you will continue to do it every free moment you get. Selling a piece is never the goal — it’s getting is just right.
What is your typical writing day?
I am on an airplane from NYC to St. Louis writing these answers. I was up this morning before two interviews in NYC writing, and will write before I go to sleep tonight. Because I’ve taken on multiple projects and end up writing nearly 3 books a year, my schedule is write, write, write. My priorities are father-first; husband-second; writer every other second.
What other books are you working on at the moment?
The 6th book in the Kingdom Keeper series; I just finished a 2nd draft of the next Knox book; I’ve just started the first in a trilogy, co-written with Dave Barry. I’m devising Kingdom Keeper Quests for the Disney Parks, both retail and educational; I’m working on two possible television series. Busy times.
What do you like to read and what are you reading now?
I love reading! I try to find the best of the best. I also review books for publication and I try to read books for possible endorsement. Right now I’m reading Wolf Hall and loving it.
What can readers expect to find in The Risk Agent?
Risk Agent pits small time import/export merchant, John Knox, who has a background in high risk security work, with a very clever and ambitious forensic accountant, a Chinese national, Grace Chu. Together they are hired by a major international security firm to deliver payment in a hostage situation in Shanghai, China. The reader, like Knox, is a fish out of water, entering the streets of Shanghai (which I know quite well from my year of living there). Non-stop action carried out by a pair of interesting new characters keeps you glued to the page. At least I hope so! Welcome to Shanghai!