Wouldn’t You Like to Know . . . Ben Tripp
A dropout from the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design, our current author is this close to achieving “done it all” status. From his time as the youngest show designer at Disney’s Imagineering division, his work as an experiential designer for museums, urban centers, and theme parks around the globe, being an uncredited Hollywood screenwriter, and exhibiting his artwork in galleries and private collections, it’s obvious Ben Tripp would be an outstanding addition to any trivia game team. Son of book illustrator Wallace Tripp and fine artist Marcy Tripp, Ben grew up surrounded by storytellers. Now he writes — and sometimes illustrates– horror and fantasy novels for adults and young adults. Ben and his wife (Oscar-winning writer and producer Corinne Marrinan) divide their time between Los Angeles and various points in Europe. Despite all the fun they’re having, they manage to sneak in quite a bit of work. Worry not, readers, we’ve already been promised The Accidental Giant and The Accidental King, as sequels to The Accidental Highwayman. We say, “Thank you, kind sir!!”
SH: When I was a teenager, people would describe me as a: (jock, band geek, popular, goth, other, none?)
BT: I was indescribable as a teenager. “Mutant” would probably be the most accurate term. A more total outsider would be hard to invent. Thank Bog for that, in retrospect.
SH: The best/worst thing that happened to you in high school?
BT: I can’t really remember events from high school. The whole thing was awful, I know that much. What’s weird, though, is I remember vividly what it was like. I remember the confusion, the awkwardness, the hopeless crushes; wanting to belong – but not to belong there. Somewhere else. A lot of the time I thought I was losing my mind. It gave me enough material for fifteen books, but I’d never want to write them.
SH: Favorite childhood book? Favorite food? Favorite band or album? Favorite television show?
BT: The older I get, the fewer favorites I have. I think it’s because the big picture gets so much bigger. I mean Land of the Lost and Dr. Who (with Jon Pertwee) were my favorite shows when I was eight. Now when I see them, they’re quaint and friendly and kind of awful. But I love them because I loved them, you know? They were the best things going.
These days, I don’t have favorites, I have enthusiasms. Korean soap operas. Bollywood movies of the 1970s, especially starring Amitabh Bachchan. Lalo Schifrin film scores. I’m big into Shakespeare at the moment because my wife is writing on the show Will, which is about said bard’s early years in London. By this winter, I’ll probably be into completely different things.
SH: Is there a story from your childhood that is told most often, either by you *or* about you?
BT: Apparently, when I was very small, I got a bundt pan stuck over my head and the pro wrestler from the apartment upstairs hacksawed me free. Haven’t heard the story in quite a while. Things may have settled down.
SH: Was there any class in high school you regret paying too little, or too much, attention? If you could add one class to high schools across the country, what would be the topic?
BT: I paid no attention to anything in high school.
I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of the Landmark Forum, but it’s one of these self-actualization seminars you can do over a long weekend. If they taught that thing in high school, we could probably jettison fifty percent of the craziness we drag through life. It’s like learning CPR for the mind.
Do they teach CPR in high school? They should do that, too. I learned how to do the baby Heimlich. Basically, it’s the same way you get ketchup out of the bottle. Don’t whack it on the edge of the table, just thump it below the shoulder until something comes out.
SH: If you could be a character from any book ever written, including your own, who would you want to be? Why?
BT: That’s such a good question. I’ll probably squander it. Molly Bloom? John Carter of Mars? Maybe I’d settle on Prospero from The Tempest. He’s every artist, in a way, struggling with talents and imaginations he can barely control. “This rough magic I here abjure” – if you’re a creative person who takes on big projects, you know how he feels.
SH: Is there a book, besides your own, of course, that you think everyone should be reading?
BT: If somebody absolutely insists on reading something other than my stuff, I recommend Marcuse’s The One-Dimensional Man. It’s a philosophical critique of the industrialized society. Although it was written in 1964, it’s so prescient, it’s scary. I kept putting it down because I can’t handle the truth. Then picking it up again because it’s so true. If that’s too heavy, read The Deathworld Trilogy by Harry Harrison.
SH: Any epic family vacation stories? Current or from the past?
BT: We didn’t take vacations. We’d emigrate for a while. This is still how it goes. My bride is a TV writer with an EU passport, so we’re over in that neck of the woods most winters, four or five months at a time. A couple of years ago, we took a weekend off and went to Carcassonne, the medieval fortified city, but I ended up taking notes the whole time for a book project. There’s a really good crepe place up there.
SH: It’s your birthday; what is your ideal day like?
BT: My ideal birthday is identical to the previous day. Birthdays are for young children and extremely old people.
SH: What’s your biggest pet peeve?
BT: Too many to name. I love and cultivate peeves. I’m not peevish, mind you. It’s the difference between keeping ducks and being a duck. A flock of peeves can liven up the yard but you don’t want to spend all your time peeving.
SH: Throughout all of time — what do you think has been the best thing ever created?
SH: If you were running from a zombie apocalypse, where would you go and what would you take with you?
BT: I’m not telling you where I’d go. Key to survival in that situation is avoiding crowds. If I say, everybody will show up. But grab a shovel. Remember, to defeat a zombie, you only need to break the jaw. Then it can’t bite you.
SH: What three words would you use to describe yourself? What three words do you think other people would use to describe you?
BT: Erudite, debonair, and intriguing/ middle-aged nudnik
SH: You are sitting down to dinner with five people, living or dead, who you find fascinating. Who is at the table and what are you eating?
BT: This is too weird. I’m picturing myself at a table with several fascinating dead people, picking at a Waldorf salad and trying not to throw up when a slab of rotten flesh falls off Oscar Wilde’s chest.
SH: When asked what you wanted to be when you grew up, what did you say? Were you telling the truth?
BT: I stuck with “a biped” and it turned out to be true.
SH: When you sit down to write, what do you need around you? Do you prefer a certain time of day or is it more spontaneous? How do you approach the creative process?
BT: I believe that there are literally tables of infinite monkeys in my head with typewriters, banging away all day and night. They unionized a while back and that’s made it easier. The way it works is the foremonkey – they’re apes, really, but the tradition is monkeys – gets all the pages that have useful material on them. She reviews it, then hands up whatever looks promising to me, and I look it over. I’ll take the best material and start writing it out in my own voice. This goes pretty well until I run out of bananas.
SH: Do you have a phrase or motto that inspires you?
BT: This is not a drill.
SH: What one thing makes you feel happiest? What makes you sad? What scares you? What makes you laugh?
BT: Rhinoceroses/extinction/the police/my dogs.
SH: If someone wrote a book about your life: who would you want as the author, what kind of book would it be, and what title would you give it?
BT: Memoirs of an Amnesiac, as told to Gore Vidal: an adult coloring book.
SH: What is one (or more!) of your favorite features about yourself? It can be anything from an impeccable sense of style to your sense of humor to crazy long toes that can pick up a variety of objects.
BT: “. . . crazy long toes that can pick up a variety of objects”–that’s a really weird example. It’s so random.
SH: A series of choices: Trains, planes, or automobiles?
Salty or sweet? BT: Salty.
Movies, music, or books? BT: Can’t choose.
Comedy, drama, or action? BT: With Bollywood movies, you get all three.
Fancy night out or quiet evening iIn? BT: Depends. Don’t want to go to the Celine Dion show even if the seats are pretty good. Maybe stay in.
Spontaneous or planned? BT: I’m up for whatever, whenever! Just warn me six weeks in advance.
Cash, credit card, or check? BT: I’m a writer, I don’t have money.
Pen, pencil, or marker? BT: What, no sumi brush?
SH: What’s the best, surprising question you’ve been asked so far?
BT: On this questionnaire? The toe thing was pretty surprising. A variety of objects. Cigarette lighters? A piano? Lego blocks? Beetles? Spaghetti?
A reader once asked me how different a finished book is from the first vision of it. That’s a great question. I said they seem so inevitable at first inspiration, end up being something completely different by publication day, and yet, a year later, you can’t imagine them being anything else. It’s like a writerly version of confirmation bias.
SH: Is there any question you wish someone would finally think to ask?
BT: What are collars for?
The Accidental Highwayman
SH: Your artwork is fabulous. How did you decide what you wanted to illustrate? Did you add anything (or any creature) to the story just so that you could add the image?
BT: Thank you. The illustrations came afterward, except the portrait of Kit at the front. I did that one while I was writing the book. It just occurred to me that, seeing as I had been a professional artist for many years, I could use it in a novel. This was the right opportunity.
SH: Like Kit, have you ever found yourself *accidentally* on the wrong side of the law? What happened?
BT: I refuse to answer this question on the grounds that what I say might be incriminating.
SH: How hard was it to come up with the complete Eldritch Law –all the verse and chapter? Do you think you’ll ever have occasion to use all the different parts by the time the trilogy is over? Do you have a favorite chapter and verse?
BT: I wrote a few passages of the Eldritch Law, was trying to figure out the structure of it, how it was laid out . . . then realized I could just make up random citations and it would all be fine. If the series ever takes off and gets huge, I’ll have to write more of it, though. Do inspirational posters. “Remember the Eldritch Law forbids flying in areas designated for walking only: Book II, Chapter 3, verses 14-16.”
SH: Would you rather face-off against goblings, trolls, giants, faeries, pixies, ruffians, a red-coated soldier, a mantigorn, or possibly unrequited love? Why?
BT: Unrequited love is probably the best option. As horrible as it can be, it’s also sweetly tragic; you’re gazing upon the unachievable wonder of life, like wishing you could fly among the stars. At least you can gaze on their beauty. If you’re being torn apart by mantigorns, it’s pretty much just “aaaah, the pain, oh, lordy, there go my legs.” There’s no nuance.
SH: If you had a magic map, what would you want it to show you? Or maybe you’d rather have a witch’s tooth so that you could . . . ?
BT: Magic map, no question. It can show me whatever it wants. I’ll go there. Life’s like that as it is. I’m off to London in a few days. I could really use an enchanted map that tells me what’s going on with the Bond Street tube station remodel.
The Accidental Highwayman. Tor Teens, 2014. 303p. $17.99. 978-0-765-33549-4.
Ben Tripp Online
Stacey Hayman is … Wha…? Oh, hey there. Um, could you please not bother me right now? I’m reading -Thanks!