An Interview with Douglas E. Richards: On Hitting the New York Times Best Seller List

Nov 13, 2011 by

Michael F. Shaughnessy
Eastern New Mexico University
Portales, New Mexico

1) Douglas, first of all, congratulations on your adult biotech thriller, WIRED, becoming a New York Times and USA Today bestseller.  I also understand that you are now the second best-selling kids author on Amazon.  Can you provide us with some details?

Thanks!  I’m proud to say that my PROMETHEUS PROJECT series of science fiction adventures for ages nine and older have been widely praised by kids, parents, and educators. The first book, THE PROMETHEUS PROJECT — TRAPPED is used as a read aloud in numerous 4th,5th, and 6th grade classes, and teachers and educators have reported that the series is a hit with boys, girls, reluctant readers, and advanced readers alike.

While the paperback versions are still $7.95, the eBook versions were lowered to 99 cents recently as part of a special promotion. This gives teachers an easy way to evaluate the books to determine if they should be used as read alouds or included on class reading lists. Now that all three books are part of the Accelerated Reader program, they have become even more appealing to schools.

This promotion has gone over so well that all three books are now in the top 5 in the Amazon category “children’s science fiction” and in the top 15 of all books for ages 9-12.”

2) Douglas, can you tell us a bit about your books and the audience that they are geared toward?

WIRED is an adult thriller with science fiction elements, that many have compared to the type of book made popular by the late Michael Chrichton.

The PROMETHEUS PROJECT books are fast paced science fiction adventures with accurate, mind-blowing science, and plenty of twists and turns.  I made sure to have most of the chapters end in cliffhangers to keep kids racing through the pages.  While there are now many popular dystopian books for kids, my young heroes are bright and well adjusted, and the tone of the books is optimistic and upbeat.

3) I’m a big fan of your PROMETHEUS PROJECT books myself — but could you provide a snapshot of these books for our readers?

The Prometheus Project is an ultra-secret team of scientists exploring the greatest discovery ever made: an abandoned alien city, filled with advanced science and technology—as potentially deadly as it is wondrous.  In the first book, Ryan and Regan Resnick inadvertently discover their parents are on the team, become trapped in the city, and must find a way to save their mother’s life against impossible odds. In the second, the city is captured by a brilliant alien and his team of mercenaries, the adults are taken hostage, and Ryan and Regan must find a way to free the prisoners and outwit the alien. In the third, the kids are stranded on a hostile planet.  But even when they miraculously survive and return to Earth, they must defeat a ruthless adversary who controls an unstoppable alien weapon.

Because the books contain accurate, mind-expanding science, they have been endorsed by the California Department of Education, the AAAS, and state science teacher associations across the country (but whatever you do, don’t tell this to the kids ☺).

4) Now, is it Wired or Weird ? I have not read that one, but I promise to get to it as soon as possible.

WIRED is my first foray into adult thrillers, and I couldn’t be happier with the reception it has gotten. For over a month it was the number one bestselling book on Amazon in both the “science fiction” and “thriller” categories, and then went on to become a New York Times and USA Today bestseller a few weeks ago. Like my kids books it contains accurate, mind-blowing science, a breakneck plot, and plenty of surprises.

5) How did you first get started writing?

When I was a kid I was a voracious reader of science fiction. In those days, science fiction was often written by accomplished scientists. Not to take anything away from my teachers, but I became passionate about science, not from learning about the water cycle or mineralogy in school, but from the mind-blowing ideas found in the books I was reading: ideas like Einstein’s theory of relativity, quantum physics, and nanotechnology.

When my own kids were growing up, I looked for the kind of fast paced, mind-expanding sci-fi adventures that I had loved as a kid, but with little success. I found lots of great fantasy, but very little science fiction in the tradition of Asimov or Clarke.  Since I had always loved to write, I decided to write my own. My goal was to write books that would keep kids glued to the page while sending their imaginations soaring. When the first book came out, I had no idea if it would be loved or loathed. Happily, the reaction from kids and adults alike has been positive beyond my wildest dreams.

6) Doug, it seems you have pretty heavy competition from Rick Riordan who is in the number one slot. Have you ever met him and what do you think of his work?

Yes, Rick takes up about the top 8 spots on Amazon and then my three books follow (sometimes one of mine sneaks in there at number 4 or 5).  I’ve read the first book in the Percy Jackson series and enjoyed it quite a lot. This is another example of the excellent fantasy available to kids today.

In 2010, I was elected to be a “special guest” at San Diego Comic-Con International, where I signed books and gave a presentation on how to write can’t-put-down thrillers for kids.  This same year, Rick Riordan was also invited as a special guest, but believe it or not, we were both so busy signing books that we never had the chance to meet.

7) I guess a lot of authors get asked this question- but where do you get your ideas from?

I speak at school assemblies quite often, and one of the topics I cover is how to create good plots.  I tell kids that sci-fi has been called the literature of “What if?” and that asking this question is a great way to come up with plots.  I give them broad “what if” themes and ask them to guess the plot that grew from these “what if” questions.  What if toys came to life when no one was looking? What if dinosaurs were brought back to life? What if aliens invaded earth (which could give you War of the Worlds, Independence Day, etc. etc.).

I used this concept when coming up with the plot for THE PROMETHEUS PROJECT.  I asked, what if a vast alien city was discovered on earth, crammed with alien technology thousands of years ahead of our own?  Then, as I explain to the kids, I had to ask, and answer, a series of additional questions to finally get to the plot.  Who found the city? Were aliens living there? If so, what were they doing there?  If not, why did they leave? The answers to questions like these finally led me to all of my plots.

8) Where can people find out more about you and your books?

They can visit my website,  I’m also now on Facebook at Douglas E. Richards Author. I have to admit, it’s far easier for me to keep my Facebook page current than to do so on my website — so I encourage anyone interested in my work to Friend me on Facebook.

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