My latest interview is with author Rick Chesler, who was kind enough to answer my questions!
Books & Writing: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself.
Rick Chesler: Hi Jacco, thanks very much for having me as a guest on books-writing.com! I have two novels published by small presses, both thrillers in my Tara Shores series: WIRED KINGDOM (2010, Variance Publishing) and kiDNApped (2011, Chalet Publishers). Later this year the third novel in the series will be published: SOLAR ISLAND. I have a degree in marine biology, and when I’m not writing I work as a project manager on a research study.
Books & Writing: What got you interested in writing? Were you inspired by someone?
Rick Chesler: Reading! I grew up reading lots of books, and eventually gravitated toward the thriller, suspense, action-adventure and mystery genres. I was inspired by the early works of Clive Cussler, Michael Chrichton, Tom Clancy, Stephen King, and many, many others. Also, I have always been interested in the ocean and the natural world, and enjoy speculating on environmental and scientific topics in my books.
Books & Writing: Can you tell us a bit about your short story in the anthology, The Game?
Rick Chesler: The anthology consists of stories that are in some way inspired by or based on the classic original short story by Richard Connell, The Most Dangerous Game, in which a hunter pursues human prey for sport. In my first novel, Wired Kingdom, I consider the role of reality TV in society when a whale tagged with a web-cam broadcasts a murder at sea. In my story “The Most Dangerous Reality,” in The Game, from Seven Realms Publishing, I again turned to reality television to explore what would happen if a person volunteered for a hunt to the death in return for the chance to win a suitable reward.
Books & Writing: Can you tell us a bit about your book “Kidnapped”?
Rick Chesler: kiDNApped is a technothriller about a geneticist who is supposedly lost at sea on a research expedition to gather DNA from the ocean. Here’s the official description:
A priceless biotechnology, an FBI agent, and an unspeakable act of familial betrayal collide in a tropical kidnapping more twisted than a DNA double helix.
When a renowned scientist with a solution for global warming is kidnapped at sea, FBI Special Agent Tara Shores must unravel a high-tech trail of S.O.S. messages encoded into the DNA of living cells. As each decoded message brings Tara nearer to the missing genius, it also takes her farther from help than she ever thought possible.
Books & Writing: How did you come up with the story for the book?
Rick Chesler: The story for kiDNApped is loosely based on a couple of different real-world technologies, including work by several teams to encode messages into the DNA of living cells. For example, one group was able to encode the lyrics to the song The Star Spangled Banner into the DNA of a bacterial population. Then, when the population expanded through cell division, the new generation of cells also contained the encoded lyrics! I thought that was fascinating, and if song lyrics could be engineered into a cell’s DNA, then why not S.O.S. messages?
The other inspiration for the novel comes from the real life work of Dr. Craig Venter, who is best known for being the first person, with his company Celera, to decode the human genome. But after that, he embarked on an extraordinary ocean voyage to collect samples of DNA from seawater around the world.
When I combined these two background interests, the basic plot for kiDNApped began to take shape for me.
Books & Writing: Can you tell us something about the main character FBI Special Agent Tara Shores?
Rick Chesler: At the start of kiDNApped, she’s a 6-year FBI veteran assigned to the Honolulu, Hawaii Field Office. She has a fear of water. She’s a single gal and lost both of her parents to a car accident at a young age. She’s highly dedicated to her work.
Books & Writing: Is she based on someone you know?
Rick Chesler: No, she’s sort of a cross between Clarice Starling and Lara Croft!
Books & Writing: What motivates you to keep on writing on a book?
Rick Chesler: It’s both the challenge of seeing if I can create something that lives up to the excitement of the original spark of an idea in my head, and the satisfaction of contributing in some small way to the genre of novels that has given me so much entertainment over the years. I always love to hear what people think about my books, good or bad!
Books & Writing: Are you working on something new at the moment?
Rick Chesler: I’m putting the finishing touches on the third Tara Shores novel, SOLAR ISLAND:
A madman uses a floating energy production platform as an opportunity to establish his own rogue nation. After the FBI receives an alarming and unusual call for help originating from the artificial island, Special Agent Tara Shores goes undercover as a reporter in the South Pacific. Once there, she uncovers a tightly run dystopia reflecting the distorted visions of the island’s reclusive creator. As a powerful hurricane bears down on the island, cutting her off from support, Tara must find a way to bring a murderer to justice while saving herself and averting an international energy crisis.
Look for it later this year, with an announcement to come on my website before too long!
Books & Writing: Where do you see yourself in a couple of years in relation to writing?
Rick Chesler: Hopefully still doing it! I’ve got some exciting new ideas outlined for Tara Shores that I can’t talk about just yet, but I hope to keep it provocative, exciting and fun. I’m also working on a standalone suspense novel that does not feature Tara Shores. Above all, I hope that I will still be engaging with my readers online!
Books & Writing: Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
Rick Chesler: Know what you’re writing—if you complete what you set out to do, on what shelf would it sit in a bookstore? Within those parameters, write about something that interests you intensely. Write at least a little bit every single day. Read a lot. Keep going. Finish what you start.
Books & Writing: Where can people go and read your work?
+ select physical stores (If it’s not in your local bookstore, ask them to order!)
Books & Writing: Where can people find you on internet?
Below is an excerpt from the book kiDNApped!
Offshore Waikiki Beach, island of Oahu, Hawaii
9:37 A.M., Sunday, June 14
Down here an hour already. Where is this damn thing? Dave Turner took another giant underwater leap as he considered the question. A puff of sand billowed from the impact his foot made as it landed on the seabed. A trail of similar disturbances marked his path for about a hundred feet behind him, the limit of his visibility. He still wasn’t used to the heavy boots, but he managed to avoid falling face first into the sandy bottom by extending for balance the metal detector held in his right arm. Although Dave was an experienced scuba diver, the recent marine biology graduate was unfamiliar with the equipment he now used. Feeling the tug of the yellow air line from the boat anchored above, Dave was reminded that he wasn’t scuba diving. He was practicing a form of commercial diving where air was fed to him through a hose from above, rather than carried on his back in a tank. The lead-soled boots kept him upright while he walked along the bottom, sweeping the metal detector in front of him as he went. In his left hand he held a tool known as a sand scoop - a metal pole with a mesh basket welded on one end, for digging objects from the sand.
So far, Dave had found a whole lot of nothing. Not even junk. He was seventy-five feet down, far off the beach. There was not much boat traffic here, the nearest harbor being a couple of miles away. The outrigger canoes, kayakers and paddleboards were much closer to shore. Dave gave one sharp tug on the rope that wound around his air tether. The rope was connected to a bell on his support boat’s deck, the low-tech signal to his employer to give him more slack. The water gradually became deeper as he walked out to sea away from the boat. The headphones he wore, which delivered the metal detector’s audio signals to his ears, also took some getting used to. But after a while Dave grew to like the cumbersome new gear. It was not unlike being a moonwalker with some exotic space equipment, he imagined, trudging down a gentle slope that he knew eventually led into the serious abyss that was the midPacific Ocean.
Dave felt the air line slacken, increasing his freedom of movement. At least the old guy hasn’t fallen asleep up there, Dave thought. It wasn’t a comfortable notion. He was alone on the bottom of the ocean, his feet encased in lead boots. For whatever reason, if a problem should develop, he couldn’t swim to the surface as he could with the more mobile fins and air tank used in scuba. He had to be lifted to the world above in what they called The Elevator—a stainless steel rectangular contraption that resembled a shark cage, but without cross-bars on the sides.