Q WHY IS YOUR BOOK CALLED THE MOUNTIE IN THE HOUSE?
A: The house was my childhood home in Nova Scotia. And the Mountie was my dad who emigrated from Ireland to become an RCMP officer in Canada. That was a life-long career for him and an endless source of dinner table stories for me.
Q YOU WORKED WITH MICHAEL JACKSON IN HOLLYWOOD. HOW ON EARTH DID THAT HAPPEN?
A: It all started with a movie idea that my Hollywood agent thought Michael would respond to. In short order, I was in Burbank at Columbia Studios shaking hands with the biggest star in the world.
Q: HOW DID MICHAEL COME ACROSS UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL?
A: I'm 6'1", but in his bowler hat and boots, Michael was taller. Shaking hands with the Gloved One was like being gripped by a small bag of chicken bones--very skinny. The story "Moonwalking with Michael" is all about that experience. The oddball we all saw in the mass media circus was not the Michael Jackson I worked with in the early 90's. He simply wanted to make movies, like his hero Elvis. He saw my story as his ticket to the big screen.
Q HOW DID YOU COME TO OWN THE HOTEL CALIFORNIA AND BECOME "THE CALIFORNIA DUDE"?
One day I got too much sun on my head. As a careful Nova Scotian, I saved my pennies from the studios and production companies in Toronto and Hollywood and put it all into LA real estate in the late 80's. I bought a cool old beachside hotel in Santa Monica with a famous pedigree. The nickname followed me and here we are.
Q ARE THESE STORIES BASED ON FACT OR FICTION?
There are 14 of them. They''re all based on fact, but if you want to sue me they're all fictional! There was an old TV series called The Naked City set in New York where hey said, "the names have been changed to protect the innocent." In The Mountie in the House the names have been changed to protect the guilty.
Q: AS A WRITER, WHICH DO YOU PREFER: FACT OR FICTION?
A: I prefer a fact-based personal life and a fictional literary life. A little schizophrenic, perhaps, but it works for me.
Q: YOU HAVE LIVED OVER HALF YOUR LIFE IN THE UNITED STATES AND YOU HOLD DUAL CITIZENSHIP. HOW CANADIAN ARE YOU THESE DAYS, EH?
National identity is our cultural DNA. You can leave home, but your DNA goes with you. It has a habit of popping up in my dreams and stories. If I suppressed or denied it, a whole herd of ghosts from the past would come down very hard on me. Don't want any bad Canadian karma, eh? I'm quite fond of the place, actually.
Q: LIVING IN NEW YORK OR L.A. MUST BE VERY DIFFERENT THAN LIVING IN SMALL-TOWN NOVA SCOTIA.
It's rather like John Lennon says. He loved New York, of course, and he said, "Everybody in New York complains all the time about the place, but nobody ever leaves." In small town Nova Scotia, I've noticed everybody from there says how wonderful it is--the people, the environment, the safety, the down-home humor...but nobody ever stays.
Q: YOUR FIRST THREE NON-FICTION BOOKS IN THE 190'S WERE PUBLISHED BY DOUBLEDAY AND IRWIN IN TORONTO. WHAT DREW YOU TO WRITING FICTION?
My wonderful editor at Doubleday, Betty Corson, told me one day, "Congratulations, Rick, your books are best sellers!" What Betty didn't mention is that these Canadian bestsellers were making me broke. Not long after that, I left for to Los Angeles with my first wife and our six-week old son to pursue a career as a screenwriter. Everything then started to change. That return Toronto-to-LA flight became a one-way trip and a huge adventure.
Q: WHAT'S YOUR NEXT PROJECT?
I'm regressing, apparently. It's a children's book: The Little Man in the Big Dog Suit. Inspired by our 8 pound French poodle mix, Mr. Bailey. He's the curly little dude who walks and talks like a Froggie. He's promised to make me famous with the young readers the world over. Mr. Bailey is a delight and an inspiration. Every writer needs a muse!
Q: TWO OF YOUR STORIES FEATURE THE MISADVENTURES OF A FAMOUS MALIBU FILM DIRECTOR AND A CELEBRATED CANADIAN WRITER WHO MIGHT BE LESS THAN HAPPY WITH THE PORTRAITS YOU'VE DRAWN. WHAT WILL YOU SAY TO THEM IF THEY CHALLENGE YOU?
I'm driving down the fiction freeway on an artistic license. Writers and directors should understand that, no? As a Mountie, my dad had a soft spot for all those miscreants who kept him in work. I love every character in my stories, even though it may not always appear so. After all, where would Shakespeare have been without his cast of real-life murderers, lovers, schemers, and dreamers? He found them in Renaissance England; I did my research in small town Nova Scotia and Hollywood, California. A writer is well-advised to stick to what he knows.
Interview conducted by Rachel Bennett in Manhattan