An Interview with Douglas E. Richards: WIRED OR WEIRD?

Aug 26, 2011 by

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

1) Douglas, before we delve into recent events with your middle-grade/YA sci-fi series, your new adult novel, WIRED, has become the number one bestselling technothriller on Amazon after only six weeks. Congratulations. Tell us about this.

Thanks! I couldn’t be more ecstatic about the reception it’s getting so far. WIRED is a biotechnology thriller. Like my kids books it contains accurate, mind-blowing science, a breakneck plot, and plenty of surprises. Initially, WIRED will only be available as an eBook, so that it can be priced at just 99 cents for the first few months. I never imagined it would climb the Amazon bestseller lists so quickly, but the feedback from WIRED readers has been so positive it’s been a little surreal.

2) Switching to your acclaimed middle grade/YA science fiction adventure series THE PROMETHEUS PROJECT, I understand that all 3 books have been adopted by Renaissance Learning’s Accelerated Reader Program. Tell us about this.

Books in the Accelerated Reader program are assigned precise reading levels, and quizzes are written for them; quizzes that member schools can access. Kids can select from a list of books on the program, and get points for reading them and passing the quizzes. The program has become a huge force in the education world, and I’m really excited that my books are now a part of it, especially since there isn’t much hard science fiction available for this age group.

3) Do you intentionally write for struggling readers- or to engage kids who don’t care to read?

Educators and parents have told me my books are a hit with boys and reluctant readers, which is very gratifying. But my goal really was to write adventures with numerous cliffhangers, breakneck action, mind-expanding science, and tight plots; hopefully making it very difficult for anyone to stop reading them, regardless of their age or passion for reading. What I’m most proud of is that the books have been embraced by schools around the country for their appeal to boys, girls, reluctant readers, and advanced readers alike — which I’m told is somewhat rare.

4) Do you have a formula that you follow? Or do you try for originality in each book?

The plots of each book are vastly different, but they share huge commonalities. The protagonists in my books are bright, well adjusted kids, and the tone is optimistic and upbeat. I take great pains to deliver intelligent, tight plots with complex mysteries at their centers. My books are all fast paced, with lots of action and lots of cliffhangers. And my villains are always brilliant, brilliant people who don’t make mistakes — and yet as brilliant as they are, the kids are always able to outsmart them.

5) Back to WIRED. Can you tell us what this book is about?

Absolutely. I think the best way to answer this question is just to provide the information found at Amazon and every other major eBook retailer, which I’ve done below:

“A keep-you-up-all-night thriller. Intense action, mind-blowing concepts, & breathtaking twists. Enjoy the ride.” –Boyd Morrison, bestselling author of THE VAULT.

Kira Miller is a brilliant genetic engineer who discovers how to temporarily achieve savant-like capabilities in all areas of thought and creativity. But what if this transcendent level of intelligence brings with it a ruthless megalomania?

David Desh left the special forces after his team was brutally butchered in Iran. Now he has been reactivated for one last mission: find Kira Miller, the enigmatic genius behind a bioterror plot that threatens millions. But when Desh learns that the bioterror plot is just the tip of the iceberg, he is thrust into a byzantine maze of deception and intrigue, and he becomes a key player in a deadly game he can’t begin to understand. A game that is certain to have a dramatic impact on the future course of human history. . .

WIRED is a smart thriller crammed with breakneck action, mind- expanding science, and intriguing concepts that readers will be contemplating long after they’ve read the last page.

6) Douglas – do you find more readers of your books using Kindle and Candle and ipod and ipads or are they still sticking to good old fashioned paperbacks?

Great question. I think kids are still mostly reading paperbacks, but that is no longer true in the adult world. Amazon reported for the first time this year that eBook sales were outpacing print books sales. I never thought I’d join in, but I bought a Kindle this year and I love it. I can shop for a book online, and once I find the one I want I can be reading it thirty seconds later.

The rise of eBooks has really turned the publishing world upside down. An author or eBook publisher can now find an audience, and even make a profit, selling a novel for 99 cents. Incredible! You can’t do this with a hardbound book that costs four dollars to make and ship. Bestselling authors are abandoning their publishers for creative freedom, and because it can now be at least as lucrative for them to go it alone. And self published eBook authors whose books become bestsellers are winning lucrative contracts with major publishing houses. So it is going both ways, which is remarkable.

7) I hear you often go into the schools- what is your message to kids?

I tell them that every person who has ever achieved anything has been called an idiot numerous times in their lives, and had people tell them they had no talent, or their ideas were crazy, so it is important to believe in yourself, and not let these people discourage you. I give them numerous fun examples of naysayers throughout history. The chairman of IBM who initially predicted a world market for 5 computers, or Lord Kelvin in 1895 stating that airplanes are impossible.

But I start with the quote, “It doesn’t matter what he does, he’ll never amount to anything.” I ask the kids to guess who said this, and I repeat it several times. Turns out it was said by Albert Einstein’s teacher, to his father, in 1895. “It doesn’t matter what he does, he’ll never amount to anything.” The teacher may have been just a little wrong about that. Then I say, “Here is what Einstein had to say about this,” and show the famous photo of Einstein sticking out his tongue. The kids really get a kick out of this.

8) How is your science fiction, if you will, grounded in reality?

There is a lot of great fantasy for middle graders, but far less hard science fiction — and this is the category in which THE PROMETHEUS PROJECT series falls. Hard sci-fi means that the underlying science is accurate — but it is also often mind-blowing. When I was ten and first learned, in a sci-fi book, that light traveled at 186,000 miles per second, and that Einstein had proved conclusively that time slows down the closer you get to this speed, until at the speed of light time is totally frozen, I was blown away. To me this was more fantastic than anything I could read in a fantasy novel, especially since it was true.

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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