Photo: Rock Bottom Remainders
One of few truly vetted musicians of the Rock Bottom Remainders, Ridley Pearson spent his post-college decade on the road with a folk-rock band, penning many of their songs. Good thing he quit his day job.
Pearson is the best-selling author of more than 25 crime fiction novels that have been translated into 22 languages in 70 countries.
When his daughter asked him how Peter Pan first met Captain Hook, Pearson teamed up with a longtime friend, humorist Dave Barry, to bring Peter and the Starcatchers, a prequel to J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan to life. Today, he's also the best-selling author of a wide array of young adult adventure novels, including the three more books in the popular Starcatchers series.
Before he went on the road, we asked him these 20 questions.
1. What book had the biggest impact on you? Why?
As a young boy, I read Cheaper by the Dozen and immediately became neurotic about my use of time. It taxed me severely, but only for the next 50 years. But I think it also allowed me to discipline myself to sit in the chair and be a writer, where one of the most needed qualities is patience.
My favorite novel is To Kill a Mockingbird because of its broad sweep, its tackling [of] big issues in ways that even young minds can make sense of and for the heart of the characters, who span a wide range of ages. I reread it every year.
2. Have you ever read or written a perfect sentence? What was it?
Ernest Hemingway was once asked (legend has it): "What's the shortest short story you've ever written?" One of those dumb-as-nails-questions, if you ask me. He is said to have answered immediately: "Baby shoes for sale; never worn."
3. What was the oddest job you ever had?
I watered grass seed at a sprawling real estate development in California. Me, and a million empty houses, all with bare dirt, and me with a hose and too much time on my hands. I also was a house cleaner at a hospital where I cleaned the operating room. That was interesting...
4. How did you start playing music?
In my Sunday afternoon "family band"—we all played. I was the youngest. I took up the baritone uke at 4.
5. What would your theme song be?
"Long and Winding Road" by the Beatles.
6.What is your favorite food?
7. Which individual has, for better or worse, had the single greatest influence on your life?
Three-way tie: my wife, Marcelle; my two daughters, Paige and Storey. All for very different reasons, but the back of the pack isn't close to those three.
8. What is your greatest career coup?
Having Dave Barry agree to write a prequel to Peter Pan with me. Millions of books later, we're still writing the series and preparing for an off-Broadway opening of a stage play based on the first book, Peter and the Starcatchers.
9. What is the biggest obstacle you have overcome or challenge you have ever faced?
Death presented itself to me when I was 15 and a 13-year-old friend was struck and killed by a drunk. I've been running from, and toward, death all my life, more aware of it than a person should be. Only in the past year have I finally turned that around—ironically inspired by losing my father at 90. It's been a long hill to climb.
10. What characteristic do you admire most in others?
Humility and humor.
11.What talent would you most like to possess?
12.What is your favorite film?
To Kill a Mockingbird—see above.
13. What inspires you most?
14. What is your greatest fear?
I'll tell if you'll tell...
15. What gives you hope about the world today?
So many stories. But most of all: children and schools.
16. What is one thing you have always wanted?
A different means to have a prostate checked.
17. What is your most valued possession?
I faced a fire threatening to burn down my house about 15 years ago. After spinning in circles in the hallway for three minutes, I grabbed the photographs and left. Content.
18. What is one book you've been meaning to read?
I'm about to read Scott Turow's Innocent. I've been hungry for this book since he first told me it was in the works. I'm a serious Turow fan. And now I get to play music (if you can call it that!) in a band with him.
19. What is your secret guilty pleasure?
Movies. Can't get enough.
20. How would you like to be remembered?
Father of Paige and Storey. That would sum it up for me.
Learn more about the Rock Bottom Remainders
What does Ridley Pearson say about the band?
Published on April 21, 2010