RATS Interview

Q: When is your next book coming out?
A: I’m always working on the next book, literally, every day. But I’m lousy at predicting when the ideas will come together. The best way to keep up with what I’m doing is to sign up for my newsletter. It’s not-more-than-monthly, and often less, so you won’t hear from me much. But you will be informed of the latest happenings.

Q: When were you first drawn to writing?
A: I have clear memories of two childhood books: Four Wheel Drift by Richard Hough copyright 1959 (writing as Bruce Carter), and The God Machine by Martin Caidin, copyright 1968. These two set up key interests in my life: machines that move, and machines that appear to think. I was in awe of the way words could carry my young head away on my porch on a sunny afternoon—and wanted to learn to do that too.

Q: What’s the first thing you ever wrote?
A: I  remember a book report on Catcher in the Rye that I wrote in the voice of the protagonist, Holden Caulfield, as if he were reviewing the book. My teacher was quite supportive after she stopped laughing. I recently saw on Wikipedia that Catcher has sold over 65 million copies, so I’m not alone in appreciating its raw wisdom.

Q: What prompted you to write RATS?
A: I read a story about a 4-year old child who found a piece of war ordnance. He wanted to see it explode so he repeatedly threw it against a piece of plywood leaning against a building. Eventually it went off and damaged him for life. There was just so much that felt wrong in that story it got me thinking about what wars leave behind for future generations to discover.

Q: Is RATS your first novel?
The first I’ve published. I wrote for some time to learn about the craft before bringing the first book into the light of day.

Q: You came to writing from software engineering? That seems unusual.
A: Many engineers are big readers, especially of novels that include cause-effect connectivity: mysteries, thrillers, science fiction. We care about how life can be enhanced by inventing new technology. It’s great fun, unless you get bogged down in finances, which can happen easily on large projects. As a result, I’ve been thinking about how technology forms our world, and how we form technology, for years. I thought about it for so long writing about it seemed a natural next step.

Q: What books do you like to read?
A: I alternate between fiction and non-fiction. Books from the latest New York Times bestseller from Lee Child or Michael Connelly to Yoga Body, which is a well-researched history of where yoga really came from, to The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal, or a book I read recently called How the Hippies Saved Physics that tracks the quantum revolution.

Q: Why motorcycles in RATS?
A: The motorcycle is a fast, agile machine that can do things a man, car, or plane can’t. It’s more an extension of the rider than a vehicle. I employed those capabilities to drive the plot. When riding you don’t really think about the bike, you think about the action: squeeze, push, lean, twist—the bike then carries your body through space as if you have superpowers. At the same time, the inherent lack of protection and instability of the machine demands the concentration of a Zen master. Many people don’t realize this, but the rider barely sees the bike, just the space in front. Think about moving 100 mph seeing only empty space in front of you.

Q: Your detective mystery Mash Up is, well, a mash up of a lot of stuff: technology, Silicon Valley, college musicians. How did it come about?
A: I was working as a software executive and a good friend wore a T-shirt to work with the Napster logo on it. I mentioned the word copyright and we were off to the races. It got me thinking about the entire ecosystem of creative work, how artists are compensated (or not), and who in the chain is really necessary in this digital age we live in.

Q: Your third novel is called Missing Mona. What can you tell us about the inspiration for Mona?
A: At a writer’s conference I heard a best-selling author talk about books he had written decades ago, and how people walk up to him and ask why such-and-such a character doesn’t have a cell phone. Of course, there were no cell phones when the book was written. He lamented a bit about how there was more possiblity for personal interaction when people weren’t always glued to cell phones. That got me thinking about young people today and the technology choices they are making. One thing led to another and I decided to try a mystery novel in the first person. Tommy Cuda, his grandfather’s car, and the mysterious redheaded Mona, are the result.