Richard Hacker is a longtime resident of Austin, Texas who now writes and lives in Seattle.
His writing has been recognized by the Writer’s League of Texas and the Pacific Northwest Writers Association. In addition to his writing, he provides editing services to other writers and is the editor of an online science fiction and fantasy journal, Del Sol Review. His three published humorous crime novels ride the sometimes thin line between fact and fiction in Texas. DIE BACK, his first fantasy thriller novel, has been published by Del Sol Press.
When not writing he’s singing in a vocal jazz ensemble, cooking with a sous vide and a blow torch, or exploring the Pacific Northwest with his wife and his springer spaniel, Jazz.
Website Link: http://www.richardhacker.com
Twitter Link: @Richard_Hacker
Facebook Link: http://www.facebook.com/RWHacker
About the Book:
In 272 AD Egypt, an enemy thwarts an attempt by League Inkers, Thomas Shaw and Nikki Babineaux, to obtain the Alchįmeia, a document holding alchemical secrets. Sensing his impending death, Thomas secures Nikki’s promise to keep his son, Addison, from the League, an organization
Fixated on the pen, Addison inks into a B-17 bombardier in 1943. The pilot, whose consciousness has been taken over by someone calling himself Kairos, gloats over killing Addison’s father and boasts of plans to destroy the League. As Kairos attempts to wrest Addison’s consciousness, Nikki shocks Addison out of the Inking. She confesses her knowledge of the League. When Kairos threatens to steal aviation technology, she she sends Addison and his partner, Jules, to an Army test of the Wright Flyer in 1908. Believing they have succeeded, they return to find the continuum shifted and Nikki knowing nothing about the League.
Inking back to his father’s mission in Alexandria, Addison and Jules hope to get his help in returning the time continuum to its original state. Instead, Addison’s father gives him the Alchįmeia to hide in a crypt at the Great Lighthouse on Phalos. On their return to the present a Kairos agent murders Jules, her consciousness Inked into the past. Addison follows the clues, Inking into Pizarro in 16th century Peru. He finds Jules in the child bride of the Inca emperor. His plan to find the technology and save Jules without destroying the Inca civilization is thwarted by a fleet of Inca airships. Captured, he is taken to Machu Picchu. With Jules help, they find the stolen schematics, but are confronted by Kairos. He stabs Addison, forcing Addison’s consciousness back to the present and traps Jules in the 16th Century. Addison returns to another altered world. Nikki no longer exists, the world is at war with the Inca, and Manhattan lay in ruins.
Addison Inks his father, learning the origins of the League. Thomas urges Addison to uncover their enemy with the help of his colleague, Maya. Putting suspicion on another inker, Cameron, she insists he must be killing Inkers and acquiring Pens. In a final attempt to stop him, they entrap Cameron, only for Addison to discover Maya is Kairos, his enemy. She kills Cameron, also wounding Addison. He chases Maya, who intimates that she holds his mother’s, Rebecca’s, consciousness. Confused he delays, giving her time to scrawl a name with her pen before shooting her dead.
Inked away when Maya died, Kairos finds himself, not in his intended host, Hitler, but in a German infantry soldier POW in the Ardenne during the Battle of the Bulge, WWII. Hoping to repair the shift in the time continuum, Addison brings the League Pens together with the fate of the world and everyone he loves at stake. He awakens to a dissimilar world, but Jules and Nikki exist. And with life there is always hope.
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Thanks for this interview, Richard. Congratulations on your new book! Would you say it’s been a rocky road for you in regards to getting your book written and published or pretty much smooth sailing? Can you tell us about your journey?
This one’s been a bit of a sojourn. The novel has some complexity to it—multiple time frames, multiple locations, so I had to keep track of the storyline. If I stepped away for a few days and then came back, I had to spend quite a bit of time just getting myself oriented again to begin writing. So, for this book I worked more closely with an outline and kept everything together in a program called Scrivener. After the first draft it went through three or four edits. The initial edits usually involved adding and deleting scenes, honing dialogue and description. Further down the line editing became more finely focused. So after about a year and a half, the manuscript was ready to shop around to agents and that process took almost another year. The agent had the book for another year, and while he was very positive about the novel, he wasn’t finding a publisher. The market wants what it wants. So, I took the manuscript back and started a search for a small press. After another six months I was about to self-publish when Del Sol Press expressed interest in the book. I had attended a workshop led by the publisher, Michael Neff, a few years ago. In fact, he heard an early pitch for Dieback. He liked the story idea, but wasn’t enamored with the title at the time--The Geneologist. He was right, by the way. Dieback is a much better title. When I approached him about the book, now two and half years later, he was enthusiastic about it. Del Sol Press is committed to putting out top notch fantasy novels, so I’m very pleased to be working with them.
If you were to pen your own autobiography, what might the title be?
I have many interests and love to try new things. Right now I’m learning French. Or I suppose I should say J’apprends le français.
When not writing, what do you like to do for relaxation and/or fun?
I love to cook. I’m now the proud owner of a sous vide and a blow torch. My wife’s not too keen on the blow torch (and I’m talking about a real guy blow torch—not one of those little kitchen torches), but it’s great for searing. I sing in a jazz vocal ensemble and occasionally do some solo work. Seattle is a great town for jazz, by the way. And in the last year I’ve taking up drawing. I’m hoping to hone my drawing skills enough to do sketches when I travel.
What makes your book stand out from the rest?
In the fantasy world many of the books lean, as you would expect, to the fantastical in a unique fantasy world. Dieback is has its feet on the ground, anchored in actual history and locations. There’s a sense that even though the story is fantasy, the speculative and historical elements feel very possible. I once heard someone (Ken Burns?) say the attraction of professional baseball is that, as a fan, you think you can actually play the game. But of course, it takes tremendous skill to hit a 95 mph fastball. In Dieback, readers can imagine actually doing the things these characters are doing. It seems possible. Of course, using alchemy to project your consciousness into the mind of someone living hundreds of years in the past takes tremendous skill!
Can you give us the very first page of your book so that we can get a glimpse inside?
Sure. Here you go:
I am an Inker. Without death my job goes undone. Like other Inkers, I plan for it, yearn for it while never loving it, but this time, death might well prove to be my doom. Alchemic algorithms placed my partner Nikki and I at the historic burning of the Great Library of Alexandria, Egypt, in 272 AD. We had inked ourselves into the consciousness of the right people—an arthritic librarian and his slave boy—and stole the Alchi̱meía papyrus scrolls for their rare alchemical formulas.
Our plan should have worked without a hitch. Instead, we are now faced with a severe obstacle: a massive Roman centurion in heavy scale armor, a member of Aurelian's legions currently sacking the city in an effort to defeat and demoralize Queen Zenobia. The centurion stands at least six foot three, his armor smeared with Egyptian blood, his mouth open and yelling at me, not in Latin, but with a voice oddly reminiscent of twentieth century New York:
He blocks a narrow passageway of the library, holding an infantry gladius, a short-sword with a golden hilt, sunlight from the open courtyard glinting off his blade. There is no way forward or around him. White limestone walls on my left, stonework railing and black marble pillars on my right, and a long drop over those rails into the quadrangle. We are so screwed. I speak in the librarian's Coptic dialect.
"You must be mistaken, brave centurion." I nod to my partner, Nikki Babineaux, an athletic twenty-something woman present-side, but a small, twelve-year-old boy in this passageway. In our robes and sandals, an old man and a boy, we define defenseless. "I am a librarian and this boy is my slave."
American English with a New Jersey accent. Who is this guy? I feign confusion, continuing in Coptic, hoping to buy some time. "What is this word you use? Are you a foreigner?"
"Enough, Inkahs. Gimme the satchel!"
Nikki drops the pretense, shifting to twenty-first century English, "You know killing us won't do you any good."
"The satchel, ya little prick!"
If your book was put in the holiday section of the store, what holiday would that be and why?
I think Dieback is a great Winter holiday read. Maybe you’re traveling, getting together with family, dealing with the weather. All of those things can be pretty stressful. So, having a complete diversion is a great way to get away from it all.
Would you consider turning your book into a series or has that already been done?
I’ve got a first draft of the second installment. No title yet, but I’m hoping to publish in about six months.
When you were young, did you ever see writing as a career or full-time profession?
I have always loved writing and I’ve used writing in the service of my work from speeches to manuals to business articles to technical writing. I did do some business ghost writing – a book on sales and another on real estate. But at the time, with a young family, didn’t see a path to making it a full-time profession.
Did any of your books get rejected by publishers?
All of them! I’ve got three crime novels that were published 2011-13. I shopped the first around for months and then pitched it at a conference to a publisher and they picked it up. And Dieback, as I mentioned above got rejected by a number of publishers.
What is your view on co-authoring books; have you done any?
I’d be open to co-authoring, but it would be a very close partnership, so I’d need to take care who I partnered with. However, I can see lots of creative energy coming out of that kind of writing relationship.
What’s next for you?
I’ve got a completed draft of the follow-on to Dieback—no title yet—and am hoping to publish in the Spring of 2019. I’m currently writing the third installment to the series as well, and that would hopefully come out either late 2019 or early 2020. I also have a completed science fiction novel I’m probably going to self-publish just for fun. It’s called The Bifurcation of Dungsten Crease. There’s no publication date set yet for that one. And I’ve got a couple of other story ideas I dabble with, waiting to see if one of them grabs my attention.
Thanks so much for allowing me to spend some time with you and your readers. For fun, go check out the trailer for the book. https://youtu.be/qesyHscyzNM And I’d love to hear from you. Visit my website, www.richardhacker.com and drop me a line.