An Interview with Douglas E. Richards: The Cure

Nov 19, 2013 by

RichardsAn Interview with Douglas E. Richards: The Cure

Michael F. Shaughnessy

1) Douglas, tell us about your new novel, The Cure

The Cure is a roller-coaster-ride of a thriller, with lots of action, intrigue, and twists and turns. But in addition, I made sure to include plenty of food for thought in such areas as ethics, philosophy, and religion — and really, the nature of humanity. The plots of my novels are also driven by accurate, meticulously researched science, in the tradition of Michael Crichton — in this case the science of psychopathy. I wrote The Cure after learning that scientists were uncovering startling differences between the brains of psychopaths and non-psychopaths.

In The Cure, the heroine, Erin Palmer, has a devastating encounter with a psychopath, so she dedicates her life to studying these monsters. When her research catches the attention of a brilliant neuroscientist who claims to have isolated the genes responsible for psychopathic behavior, Erin realizes it may be possible to reverse the condition, restoring souls to psychopaths. But to do so, she’ll not only have to operate outside the law, but violate her most cherished ethical principles.

2) Your Indie technothriller, Wired, was a New York Times and USA Today bestseller. Why did you decide to work with a traditional publisher for your new novel, The Cure?

While I was able to reach hundreds of thousands of eBook readers with Wired, I realized that the only way to truly reach the significant percentage of readers who still prefer physical books was to take this step. Since my novels fall into both the science fiction and thriller categories, Tor/Forge (Macmillan) was the perfect publisher for me, as the Tor side is the multiple award winning science fiction publisher of such classics as Ender’s Game, and the Forge side has produced numerous New York Times bestselling mainstream thrillers. Everyone at Tor/Forge has been amazing, and it has been a far better experience than I could ever have imagined (and I thought they did a great job with the cover, too)

3) What has your study of psychopathy revealed?

The most surprising thing to me was that it is such a common condition. One percent of the population can be classified as psychopathic, using a diagnostic called the Hare Psychopathy Checklist–Revised. One percent! I had thought that most psychopaths were the serial killer type, but this isn’t true at all. While 20% of our prison populations, both male and female, are comprised of psychopaths, and they are responsible for about 50% of violent crimes, the majority of psychopaths are not criminal. But even non-criminal psychopaths leave a trail of shattered lives in their wakes.

Basically, psychopaths are totally selfish, totally ruthless, cold-blooded, and are serial users. They have no conscience, empathy, or remorse. But they can also be incredibly charming, smooth-talking liars, with no shame or embarrassment, who are so good at manipulation they can fool even those scientists who study them for a living.

So–think Bernie Madoff, and not just Hannibal Lecter!

4) So might it be possible to one day find a cure for the psychopathic condition, as you speculate in the novel?

Yes, although this is unlikely, and environment plays a role along with genetics. But the great thing about science fiction is that it allows one to speculate and play with ideas, and then examine the ethical consequences. For example, even if we did find a cure for psychopathy, what then? Psychopaths are highly narcissistic. They don’t see anything wrong with how they are wired. In fact, they think they are superior to the rest of us, whom they view as weak, emotional rubes. So, they wouldn’t want to be cured. So, would you force a cure on them? Even those who haven’t been convicted of any crime? The novel addresses these thorny questions, and many more.

5) During your research for The Cure, you interviewed a scientist who goes into prisons and conducts brain scans on psychopathic murderers and rapists. Tell us about this.

It was fascinating, and most of this discussion made it into the book. In fact, the main character, Erin Palmer, is a female version of the expert with whom I spoke. I learned that the psychopathic murderers he studies are brought to him totally unrestrained. No cuffs. And no Hannibal Lecter masks. Worse still, he goes into a small room with these people, alone — without a single guard! At first I didn’t believe him, but he explained that, unlike in the movies, psychopaths tend to be model prisoners. They are great at playing the system to get better treatment and get released faster, so they will pretend to become born-again Christians, take classes, join group counseling — anything to play the system and get better treatment.

6) I spent some time in a prison ( as an instructor not as an inmate) and I have found that many are chronically angry. Is this a part of the story? Trying to “ cure “ the emotion of anger ? Or prevent it’s occurrence?

Believe it or not, chronic anger isn’t really a psychopathic characteristic. Psychopaths are impulsive and can flash into anger, but they are typically self-satisfied and cool as a cucumber.

7) Douglas, it seems that we are all rushing to the movies to see Thor, or The Avengers or Iron Man- and others are rushing to read your books. Is this all escapism?

For the movies you mention, I think the answer is largely yes. I think times have been tough for many years now, and people want to escape into fun, adventurous movies. But this being said, these movies are very well done, and we have always been highly entertained by superheroes.

With respect to The Cure, while it is fast paced escapist adventure, I’d also like to think it provides plenty of mind-expanding concepts readers will be pondering long after they’ve finished.

8) What has been the initial reaction to The Cure?

I’m gratified to report that it has been very positive. Number 1 New York Times Bestselling superstar, Douglas Preston, has been very generous in his praise for the book, and 17-time New York Times bestselling author Stephen Coonts called it, “An extraordinarily good novel that will keep you riveted. . . and thinking.” Based on the feedback I’ve received, I believe chances are high that fans of thrillers will enjoy the novel quite a lot, provided they don’t mind a healthy dose of science fiction blended in.

9) Hey do you do this Facebook and Twitter stuff and do you have a home page?

Yes. My web site is www.douglaserichards.com. While it can provide some historical information, it is under construction and not all that up to date. The best way to stay current on my activities is to friend me on Facebook at Douglas E. Richards Author. I don’t have any privacy settings engaged, so even if you prefer not to send a friend request, you should still be able to read everything on my page.

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