By Jason Tanamor
“Peter and the Sword of Mercy” is the final book of the Starcatchers series written by two notable authors – Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson. But this type of book may not be something you’d expect from the best-selling authors. That’s because, Barry is mostly known for his humor columns and hilarious fiction novels. And Pearson, well, his stories have more of a crime aspect to them. How did the Starcatchers series come about? Zoiks! Online magazine recently found out.
Q – Most people know Dave (Barry) as a humor columnist who wrote a very funny novel called “Big Trouble.” As for Ridley (Pearson), readers know you for crime related fiction. Why not come out with a series of books similar to those of the late Donald Westlake - funny crime stories?
DB - Maybe we will, some day! But a big part of the appeal of writing the Starcatchers series is having a younger audience. Kids are the BEST readers: they love what they love, they hate what they hate, and they let you know either way.
DB - Plus, Ridley enjoys dressing as Tinker Bell. Please do not publish this fact.
RP - Are you making an offer?
RP - In fact, we've never ruled out any idea. It just has to grab us both.
Q – So then, how did the idea of the “Peter and the Starcatchers” series come about?
DB - I'll let Ridley answer that one.
RP - I was reading J.M. Barrie's “Peter Pan” to my then 5-year-old daughter and she asked me, "How did Peter meet Captain Hook in the first place?" I answered, "That's its own story, no, that's its own book!” And I left her there reading while I rushed off to my office to take notes.
Q – In the first book, Peter and Molly fight off pirates and thieves. The second book, “Peter and the Shadow Thieves,” Peter leaves Mollusk Island for the ‘dangerous streets’ of London, to which he and Molly fight off Lord Ombra. In the third book of the series, “Peter and the Secret of Rundoon,” the two find themselves in the Land of Rundoon, only to come across Lord Ombra in a struggle to save themselves and the planet. Are Peter and Molly really just troublemakers that get themselves into trouble?
DB - They don't MAKE the trouble. But they definitely attract it.
RP - As a Starcatcher, Molly is specially qualified to know the doings of the Others (they are the troublemakers!). If you knew a boy who could fly and never grew old, who would you ask for help?
Q – The fourth and final book, “Peter and the Sword of Mercy,” due out October 13th, is the finale of the series. When a series is successful, why do authors choose to end it instead of continuing it?
DB - Well, I thought Rundoon was the finale, but then we had all these readers asking for another one, and we had an idea that we liked a lot, so we did “Sword of Mercy.” So I can't really say that we won't write a fifth book. I'll say only that we won't write a fifth unless we have another good idea.
RP - It's a quadrogy right now, and it may be a pentology before long. We received so many emails from young readers wanting the series to continue, that when Dave stumbled upon the existence of a trio of swords kept in the Tower Of London, we were off and running.
Q – Is it hard being taken seriously for a children’s series when most of your readers are used to a certain type of genre?
DB - The kids don't really care about our careers as writers of books for adults. They really don't care about us at all. They read the Starcatchers series because they love the stories. And they definitely take them seriously.
RP - Are we taken seriously? By whom?
Q – The characters take a look back to Peter Pan’s earlier years. It seems that classic stories influence much of today’s literature. What stories influenced the two of you in terms of writing style or how you approach a project?
DB - My influences were mostly humor – “Mad Magazine,” Robert Benchley, P.G. Wodehouse and a LOT of television and movie comedies. I worked for a long time in newspapers, so my writing style tends to be journalistic - pretty much straight ahead and action-oriented.
DB - I won't speak for Ridley except to say that although his style is different, he's also action-oriented. When we outline our books we think in scenes, movie-style; we want something exciting or scary, or at least ominous, to happen in every chapter. We do NOT want it to ever be boring.
RP - I've always enjoyed stories - reading them, watching them as movies, listening to my grandfather recite epic poems. And being a writer, it's what we do.
Q – Along the same thread, which authors influenced the two of you throughout your careers?
DB - The ones I named above. Robert Benchley is my idol.
RP - Rudyard Kipling was an early favorite as was Edgar Allan Poe.
Q – I ask this question because Dave (Barry) was someone I looked up to when I began writing. I even wrote you a letter for advice to which you responded, “F-you kid!” No, I’m kidding, you were gracious and wrote me back with advice on how you got started. What advice would the two of you give to future authors in this day and age where technology, and not books, seems to rule the world?
DB - People still like to read, and they still enjoy stories. The electronic media and the Internet are replacing print, but they still need writers. I think there will always be a place for us, although right now it's not so clear how we'll be paid in the future.
RP - Read. Then read some more. Write anything you want, anytime you want. Don't take it too seriously. Have fun with it: your readers will, too.
Q – I once tried writing a story with a writer friend of mine. I don’t think we had the right chemistry. What were the difficulties co-writing a project together? I mean, who is McCartney and who is Lennon?
DB - McCartney is the cute one, right? So that's definitely Ridley. Especially in the Tinker Bell costume.
RP - Writing with Dave requires face exercises because you smile too much. I'm the luckiest guy in the world; what he sees in this relationship is anybody's guess - maybe he's getting senile.
Q – Then who is Yoko?
DB - Captain Hook.
RP - She is John Lennon's widow.
Q – Speaking of musicians, the two of you are in a band called, Rock Bottom Remainders. How was the band formed and how did you discover that various writers and authors have a talent with instruments?
DB - Who said we had talent?
RP - We have no talent whatsoever, but we have no talent for good causes. So hopefully that forgives it.
Q – Getting back to “Peter and the Starcatchers.” What do you want readers to take away from the final book of the series? Is there a message or lesson?
DB - We're not preaching; we're entertaining, so mostly we want our readers to enjoy the ride. If there's any message, it's that ‘the right thing to do isn't always the easy thing to do, but you have to try.’
RP - "Never call your book series "a trilogy" when young readers have access to email."
Q – Thank you very much. Good luck with the final book.
DB - Thanks.