Welcome back to The Pop Quiz at the End of the Universe, a recurring series here on Tor.com featuring some of our favorite science fiction and fantasy authors, artists, and others!
Today we’re joined by William Ritter, an author with degrees in English and education with certificates in creative writing and folklore. He currently teaches high school language arts, including reading and writing, mythology and heroes. He is a proud husband and father. When reading aloud, he always does the voices.
William’s debut novel, Jackaby, is available September 16th from Algonquin Young Readers. Described as Doctor Who meets Sherlock, the novel features a detective of the paranormal as seen through the eyes of his adventurous and intelligent assistant in a tale brimming with cheeky humor and a dose of the macabre.
If you could choose your own personal theme song to play every time you enter a room, what would you pick?
The instrumental theme to Fraggle Rock.
Bad news: you’re about to be marooned alone on a desert island—name the five things you would bring along.
2) Bottled water
3) A blanket
4) Canned food
5) A backup fully operational luxury ocean liner
Do you have a favorite word or etymology?
I enjoy that the present tense GO and past tense WENT each survived and became attached, even thought their original partners were lost to antiquity. I like to think of GO as a kindly old widow, and WENT a gentle widower. They found each other later in life, after both of them had laid to rest their first loves. GO does not think of her old life anymore, preferring to live in the present, but occasionally WENT will catch a voice in the wind. “Wend my way…” someone will say, and he will remember. He will always remember.
Strangest thing you’ve learned while researching a book?
In Malaysia, there is a legend about a cricket-demon called a Pelesit known to bore into its victims’ heads and cause them to rave wildly about cats. It feeds only on blood from the tip of a fourth finger and saffron rice. Also, prior to 1895, chocolate truffles did not exist. So…basically my characters have it rough all around.
Two roads diverge in a yellow wood: one leads toward a mysterious laboratory in which a mad scientist is currently ensconced. The other winds its way toward a tower inhabited by a powerful wizard. You could really use a snack, and it would be nice to have somewhere to crash for the night—which road do you choose?
I’ve got to go with the wizard. Plenty of people inhabit places, but nobody has ever been ensconced anywhere without being up to some bad biz. I would, however, like to roll “check for traps” first.
What would your Patronus/familiar be?
A lemur. They’re named for the ghosts of Roman mythology, so they’ve got this whole dark, ominous thing going for them, but then when you’re least expecting it…BAM! ALL of the adorable. All of it.
Name your three favorite fictional villains of all time.
Baba Yaga (Russian folklore)—because she’s creepy, but not 100% wicked. She’s a marvelously unpredictable villain, because you never know if she’s going to help save the day, gobble up children, or maybe just ride in on her mortar and pestle and count all the spoons in the house.
Lucifer (Paradise Lost)—because Milton’s version of Satan makes sense. Faith is about believing, and Lucifer believes. His rhetoric is frighteningly convincing because he doesn’t just want everyone to believe it; he believes it himself. The scariest demon is the one that still sees itself as an angel. Which leads us to…
Mrs. Umbridge (Harry Potter)—because she is a villain who demands more of her protagonist. She’s technically in the right. She’s lawful. She’s an authority figure in an institution you want to respect…and yet she’s clearly horrible. She can’t be beaten by a traditional hero, only by an antihero, by someone willing to question authority and break the rules.
If you were secretly going to write fanfic (or, even better, slashfic) about any two characters, who would they be?
You want some slashfic? Aw yeah, now we’re talkin’. Ginny Weasley and Hermione Granger slip away into a quiet corner of Hogwarts Castle where, away from the prying eyes of their teachers and fellow students, they…pass the Bechdel test and prove themselves dynamic and well-developed female characters and not just vapid sex objects. All…night…long.
If you, as a ghost, could regularly haunt one celebrity, author, or literary figure, who would it be?
LeVar Burton. I’d just bum around and tell him how much I liked Star Trek until he would shut me up by reading me children’s books. All…night…long.