By Todd Ritter
After reading my first mystery, DEATH NOTICE, my father asked me the question that I knew was coming. “Where on earth,” he said with obvious worry, “did you come up with that?” He was referring to the plot of the book, in which a taxidermy-obsessed killer sends the local newspaper obituaries of his victims — before they’re killed.
I gave him my standard answer about how the main idea came to me while working at a small newspaper, where one of my duties was to type and proofread obituaries. One night, I came upon an obituary that mistakenly listed the deceased’s date of death as being the next day. That was enough to get my imagination running and the rest of DEATH NOTICE grew from there.
I didn’t have the heart to tell my father that he was also one of my biggest inspirations.
No, my dad isn’t a serial killer. In the eyes of woodland creatures, he’s worse. My father, you see, is a taxidermist.
He’s not a full-time one, mind you. Stuffing animals is something he has done as a hobby since before I was born. I’m not sure when or how he discovered this particular talent. All I know is that I grew up in a household where the limp bodies of animals moved from the large freezer in the basement, to his workshop, to the walls of our home, where they gazed down at us with glass eyes.
Growing up, this all seemed perfectly normal. It wasn’t until high school that I realized not every father indulged in this particular pastime. To my classmates, this was bizarre, creepy and, yes, somewhat cool.
So when it came time to give the villain of DEATH NOTICE a hobby, taxidermy was the only thing that popped into my head. I knew it would make readers feel the same way as my old school chums — creeped out yet oddly fascinated. I also knew that it would require no research on my part. Professors tell budding authors to write what they know. Well, thanks to my dad, I already knew a lot.