What is your favorite thing about The Accidental Highwayman?
That's a tough question, because I crammed the book with my favorite things. I love magic, history, true love, animals, and swashbucking in general. How often do you get a chance to throw a baboon into a Baroque setting? Or fly a horse off the roof of Hampton Court Palace? But I must say my favorite thing in The Accidental Highwayman is the language. Old forgotten words, 18th century phrasing, dialects, made-up terms, ridiculous insults. We think in words; the world is made of them, in a sense. So there is no greater delight for me than an opportunity to take our language up in the air and see how beautifully it flies.
I know this is precious book-pitching space, but can I just point out that 'swashbuckling' probably comes to us from the 1500s? It combines the onomatopoetic word 'swash' (to swish or strike) with 'buckler', which is a small shield. The original meaning was to bluster and act warlike, as by thumping your shield. I don't think it's actually in the book, come to think of it. But 'tatterdemalion' is. You'll have to read the book to find out what that one means.
What was your inspiration for writing this book?
I've been thinking about this a lot recently. The easy answer is that I was exposed all my childhood to fairy tales, myths, legends, and the classic stories intended for all readers, young and old. This came from growing up in a household devoted to the arts and literature, especially as my father was a children's book illustrator and author. There was magic in the air; I was pickled in it from an early age.
The tough answer is that it's also an homage to what I lost as a teenager. I got cynical and angry in a hurry. I couldn't succeed at anything, was confused and miserable. All of those glittering palaces of my childhood came tumbling down. The Accidental HIghwayman is a story about a sixteen-year-old whose life is the opposite of mine: he had a grim, magic-free childhood, and now enchantment comes into his life. I was inspired by this idea because that sense of wonder can always come back to us, no matter what age we are, if we are open to it. It happened to me
How long did you work on the book?
Somewhere between one month and forty years, depending how you count it. The first draft took me a month to complete, writing sixteen or more hours per day. If you include subsequent drafts, it took six months. Add in the collaboration with my editor, and it goes up to a year.
But if you add in the gestation period, the time it took for these ideas to grow in the back of my mind from their first inklings, then the thing took me years. Everything's like that. Whatever we do, we do with the skills and experience of our lifetimes.
What's your writing ritual like?
How we write evolves over time. It's a rare writer who uses the same methods for her entire career. I used to write in my spare time, which required a great deal of mental discipline. There were a million distractions and I had to be able to write in five-minute bursts, or work in the wee hours when everything was quiet.
These days I write full-time, so I needn't be as disciplined, but I retain some of my old habits. I work at home, and typically start writing within a few minutes of waking up, often at four in the morning. Once the rest of the household (my wife and dogs) is awake, I often put on music -- mostly film scores, including a lot of Bollywood soundtracks. They're sung in Hindi, so the lyrics don't get in the way of the words in my head. I'll generally work for several three-hour heats, take the evening off, and late at night I'll write notes and fragments to prep myself for the next day. If I'm between projects I may only write for an hour or two, but I do write every day. If you're not in the chair, inspiration may decide to visit somebody else.
ABOUT THE BOOK
The Accidental Highwayman
by Ben Tripp
Tor Teen; First Edition edition
The Accidental Highwayman is the first swashbuckling adventure for young adults by talented author and illustrator, Ben Tripp. This thrilling tale of dark magic and true love is the perfect story for fans of William Goldman’s The Princess Bride.
In eighteenth-century England, young Christopher “Kit” Bristol is the unwitting servant of notorious highwayman Whistling Jack. One dark night, Kit finds his master bleeding from a mortal wound, dons the man’s riding cloak to seek help, and changes the course of his life forever. Mistaken for Whistling Jack and on the run from redcoats, Kit is catapulted into a world of magic and wonders he thought the stuff of fairy tales.
Bound by magical law, Kit takes up his master’s quest to rescue a rebellious fairy princess from an arranged marriage to King George III of England. But his task is not an easy one, for Kit must contend with the feisty Princess Morgana, goblin attacks, and a magical map that portends his destiny: as a hanged man upon the gallows….
Fans of classic fairy-tale fantasies such as Stardust by Neil Gaiman and will find much to love in this irresistible YA debut by Ben Tripp, the son of one of America’s most beloved illustrators, Wallace Tripp (Amelia Bedelia). Following in his father’s footsteps, Ben has woven illustrations throughout the story.
“Delightful and charming. A swashbuckling adventure in the vein of Robert Louis Stevenson.” —#1 New York Times bestselling author Brandon Sanderson
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
BEN TRIPP is the author of Rise Again and Rise Again: Below Zero, a two-part apocalyptic zombie saga for Gallery.
He has an upcoming trilogy of rollicking young adult novels in the historical fantasy genre for Tor, the first of which is The Accidental Highwayman. In addition, Gallery has secured rights to his first foray into the vampire genre, The Fifth House of the Heart.
Tripp is an artist, writer, and designer who has worked with major entertainment companies and motion picture studios for more than two decades. He was for many years one of the world's leading conceptualists of public experiences, with a global portfolio of projects ranging from urban masterplanning to theme parks. Now he writes novels full-time.
He lives with his wife (Academy Award-winning writer/ producer Corinne Marrinan) in Los Angeles and London.