I’m thrilled to have Jamie Ridenhour here today as part of his blog tour for Barking Mad (courtesy of Kismet Tours)! He was kind enough to answer a few of my questions, and there’s also a pretty awesome giveaway, so be sure to check out the details at the bottom of the post!
Please welcome Jamie to the blog!
Jamie, have you always wanted to be a writer? Can you tell us a little bit about your journey?
Hi Kristin! Thanks for having me. I have wanted to be a writer since I was ten years old and read The Hobbit for the first time. That was in 1979, and I remember putting “writer” down for all those elementary school questions about what you wanted to be when you grew up. I wrote stories throughout my pre-teen and early teenage years. I even spent most of my twelfth year adapting The Fellowship of the Ring into a screenplay. It is not the one that Peter Jackson used for his film.
At thirteen I started playing guitar, and then I spent a while wanting to be a rock star. But underneath that I was still reading, and still writing. Writing songs, but still writing. I returned to fiction and poetry while in grad school working on my master’s in English. That was in 1998, and I’ve been writing pretty consistently ever since.
Your supernatural murder mystery, Barking Mad, features a classic English setting and werewolves! Can you tell us a bit more about it?
Why, how kind of you to ask! Barking Mad is an homage to P.G. Wodehouse, Agatha Christie, and the Universal horror films of the 30s and 40s. I have a great affection for all three, and I like the idea of everything I love happening at the same time. My protagonist, Reggie Spiffington, is a classic Wodehousian bumbler, who thinks he’s heading for a weekend in the country to play matchmaker for his old college chum Moony. He also hopes to eat heavily from the table of the master chef who works at Huffsworthy Hall. Things go awry, as they are wont to do.
And there are werewolves.
What made you decide to write a mystery, as opposed to another genre?
Well, again, Agatha Christie was one of the writers to whom I was paying tribute, so there’s that. But Dame Agatha aside, I like murder-mysteries—I like them in and of themselves, and I like the way the mystery plot demands a certain pacing of character and narrative. It gives a shape to the story, gives the characters something to do. And of course, the murder-mystery has tension and narrative drive built right in.
What are some of your biggest literary influences?
Dickens is a big one, though he may not seem obvious in this book. His humor, his plotting, the grand sweep of what he tried to do. His shadow looms large. P.G. Wodehouse’s humor, obviously. All the fantasy and horror I read growing up, especially Peter Straub. I love the elegance of Kazuo Ishiguro’s prose. I love straight-facedness of H.P. Lovecraft, that deadly serious, and ultimately glorious, overwriting that I know must lurk in my pen. And to be honest, I’d probably list Joe Strummer and Tom Waits as well. Really, everything goes in the hopper—good, bad, or indifferent.
If you could read one book again for the first time, which one would it be?
What a great question! I don’t even know where to begin. I wish I could experience Dickens for the first time again—Bleak House, which was the book which made me love him. I reread Forster every year, but not with the fervor of the convert like I did initially. But if I only had one choice, it would probably be The Lord of the Rings. I’m going to focus on the fact that Tolkien originally wrtoe TLOTR as a single book, so I’m not cheating by choosing a trilogy. The feeling I got reading those books at eleven, the sense of wonder and expansiveness, was breathtaking. And formative in a way I probably won’t ever be able to adequately articulate. I’ve read better books since then, and I’ve found writers who mena much more to me than Tolkien, but I don’t think I can ever recapture that experience, that feeling that there is a whole other…thing out there that exists and is happening and I’ve only just discovered it. That feeling that anything is possible.
What’s one of your favorite characters from a novel?
Jenny Wren from Dickens’ Our Mutual Friend is one of my favorite characters. A precocious child who makes clothes for children’s dolls for a living. She’s on crutches—because Dickens will have your sympathy, dammit—and she’s responsible for the care of her good-for-nothing alcoholic father. She’s hard as nails, and funny, and sentimental, and everything that Dickens does well, I think. I adore her.
I’ve got four or five dozen other favorite characters as well. But we’ll stick with Jenny for now.
When you’re not busy writing and playing lead guitar for your band Blind Mice, how do you like to spend your free time?
I love to cook, especially Indian and Middle Eastern food. I’ve got two incredible kids, and I love playing games with them. We’re a big game family—Catan, Carcasonne, Munchkin. I just got Zombie Flux for Christmas, and we’ve been having a blast with that.
My wife and I love watching really good TV series, usually after they’ve already gone off the air, for some reason. We’ve finally caught up to Dr. Who and are impatiently waiting for the next series.
And I read. And read and read and read.
Since you’re a musician, I have to ask… What are a few of your favorite bands?
You’re, like, the perfect interviewer! Music is the only more important to me than books. I love a really wide range—classical, jazz, punk, rock, Celtic. Favorite artists are probably Dexter Gordon, Tom Waits and Joe Strummer, both with the Clash and solo. But man, it’s hard to narrow it. Lately I’ve been digging Elbow, Laura Marling, and the newest Lindsey Buckingham album.
There is always music playing when I write. Often it’s 50s cool jazz, which I have a deep love for. Gerry Mulligan, Dexter Gordon, Miles’ first quintet, stuff like that.
Is there any other news of upcoming projects or events that you’d like to share with us?
I’ve got a short story in the February issue of Weird Tales that I’m very excited about. It’s a Lovecraft-meets-Robert Johnson story about the blues, the devil, love, desire, and the price we pay for fame. About as different from Barking Mad as it could be. And my new film The House of the Yaga is out. You can see the whole thing on my website, as well as keep up to date on what I’m up to.
Be sure to hit all the tour dates!
Monday, February 6th – Reels Well Blog
Tuesday, February 7th – A Casual’s Reader Blog
Wednesday, February 8th – Evie Bookish
Thursday, February 9th – My Bookish Way’s
Friday, February 10th – Bewitched Bookworms
Monday, February 13th – Sitting Here and Read
Tuesday, February 14th – Books and Things
Wednesday, February 15th – Books and Other Creative Adventures
Thursday, February 16th – Sweeping Me
Friday, February 17th – Reviews by Molly
Monday, February 20th – Unabridged Andra
Tuesday, February 21st – Buried in Books
Wednesday, February 22nd – Hooked on Books
Thursday, February 23rd –Glorious Books
Friday, February 24th – A Cupcake and A Latte