Ritter was born in small-town Kansas and bounced around America growing up as his father, a university professor, changed jobs. He earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Kansas and worked as a reporter at two upstate New York newspapers. He spent a year editing copy at the Arizona Republic before hiring on as one of the founding staffers at start-up USA TODAY. He spent 30 years there as an editor and reporter, the last 15 as a Bay Area-based national correspondent. He left journalism in 2009 to write fiction and currently splits time between the Bay Area and Southeast Asia.