Welcome to Jackaby Blog Tour!
Last week, I reviewed William Ritter’s debut novel Jackaby, a really fun historical fiction novel about a girl with a heavy helping of common sense and a detective who sees beyond what the rest of us do.
Here’s the official word:
“Miss Rook, I am not an occultist,” Jackaby said. “I have a gift that allows me to see truth where others see the illusion—and there are many illusions. All the world’s a stage, as they say, and I seem to have the only seat in the house with a view behind the curtain.”
Newly arrived in New Fiddleham, New England, 1892, and in need of a job, Abigail Rook meets R. F. Jackaby, an investigator of the unexplained with a keen eye for the extraordinary--including the ability to see supernatural beings. Abigail has a gift for noticing ordinary but important details, which makes her perfect for the position of Jackaby’s assistant. On her first day, Abigail finds herself in the midst of a thrilling case: A serial killer is on the loose. The police are convinced it’s an ordinary villain, but Jackaby is certain it’s a nonhuman creature, whose existence the police—with the exception of a handsome young detective named Charlie Cane—deny.
Doctor Who meets Sherlock in William Ritter’s debut novel, which 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.
To add to the fun, William has sprinkled a variety of influences and Easter eggs throughout Jackaby, and he stopped by our lockers to discuss these hidden treasures, and point you toward a few that can be found in his book.
Easter Egg Soup
by William Ritter
“Easter Eggs” are the subtle little inside-jokes and allusions hidden in a work. On the one hand, Easter Eggs are unnecessary. They’re bonus material. Readers who fail to catch the Easter Eggs can still thoroughly enjoy a story without realizing that they missed a thing. On the other hand, every ingredient affects the soup, and Easter Eggs are no exception.
Jackaby is a historical novel about a paranormal detective, loaded with folklore and mythology from around the world. While writing, I made a conscious effort to pay homage to the genres I was drawing from. Sometimes that manifested as direct references, but it also plopped into the broth in the form of one Easter Egg after another.
For the most part, these eggs can be split in four categories:
- Detective eggs.
- Paranormal eggs.
- Folklore eggs.
- And Private eggs.
Hunting for Easter Eggs is half the fun of finding them, but I’ll point the way toward a few.
The Detective fiction genre dates back to Edgar Allan Poe’s C Auguste Dupin—and so his is the framework I adopted for my mystery. A keen eye might catch Dupin’s name bobbing about in the mix, as well as a sly little “Allan,” but he wasn’t the only writer I drew from. I was influenced but Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, by Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett, by Agatha Christie and Sue Grafton. To pay a subtle tribute, I turned to my favorite masters of mystery often when naming supporting characters. As a result, my world is full of people like Inspector Marlowe (after Detective Phillip Marlowe), and Charlie Cane (after Charlie Chan).
Writing about Paranormal circumstances in a realistic world calls for a careful balance. For inspiration, I hunted out historical figures who made this world feel a little more mystical, setting the scene with nods to some supernatural celebrities. The names of most of my cities are taken from such characters. Glanville, for example, is a nod to Joseph Glanvill, a 15th century clergyman who encouraged free thought and tolerance as well as belief in demons and witchcraft. For all his forward thinking, his works became part of the current leading to the Salem Witch Trials. That egg might go entirely unnoticed by 99.9 percent of readers, but I love the very subtle spice it adds.
The world of Folklore plays a significant role in the novel, with Jackaby telling his version of several classic legends as the plot unfolds. In addition to these obvious allusions, I tucked in as many creatures, superstitions, and folk traditions as I could fit in the pot. One of these little nods made it all the way to the front cover of the book. The red door on Jackaby’s building is adorned with a horseshoe knocker, a popular good luck charm, but the door itself is even more significant. In Western culture, a red door is a traditional ward against evil, while in Eastern lore it invites good fortune. This universally potent symbol is the threshold my narrator must cross before finding herself on her proper adventure.
Lastly, some Easter Eggs are simply Private. My mother’s maiden name, my father’s middle name, my wife’s birthday. No one is expected to spot these, but they are the final ingredient—a soup made with love. While I will let most of them remain beneath the surface, there is just one I will share. The last egg I’ll mention was the first one I wrote. It is my son, Jack, whose nickname since the day we brought him home in swaddling clothes is now written in elegant script across so many hundreds of beautiful blue books all across the country: Jackaby.
Reports of William Ritter’s birthplace are unreliable and varied, placing his hometown either in a series of mysterious Catacombs in Malta or in a quiet town in Oregon. His parents, it can be confirmed, raised him to value intelligence, creativity, and individuality. When reading aloud, they always did the voices.
At the University of Oregon, William made questionable choices, including willfully selecting classes for the interesting stories they promised, rather than for any practical application. When he wasn’t frivolously playing with words, he earned credits in such meaningful courses as Trampoline, Juggling, and Seventeenth Century Italian Longsword. These dubious decisions notwithstanding, he regrets nothing and now holds 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.
Jackaby is his first novel. It was born in the middle of the night and written on two different hemispheres. It has survived typhoons and hurricanes and was fostered into publication through the patient care of many hands.
Connect with William on Twitter.
Want to win one of three signed first editions of Jackaby? Leave a comment below telling us what kind of Easter eggs you’d slip into a book if you were to write one. Three random winners will be chosen Oct. 7. Per the publisher: U.S. and Canada only, please. The giveaway is now closed.
Jackaby is available now.