Interview with Douglas Richards - Author of Wired
A good book is hard to find. Okay, good books are easy to find. Great books are hard to find. I was so thrilled to have found one in Wired.Getting this book in a giveaway contest, I really didn't know how it would be. I've learned to not only not judge a book by its cover but also not on how I get it. I've found some great books through freebie giveaways.
After reading this intense thriller, the author graciously consented to an interview. The following is the exchange between us. Read on to find out the story behind the story and more about Mr. Richards.
Wired can be described in so many ways. One is as a technical book. How much research did you have to do for all the medical and scientific scenes?
A lot! I get a little crazy with the research. I’m not sure why this is, but I think it might be because I have written extensively for National Geographic KIDS magazine, a publication read by five million kids each issue. I loved the editor I worked with there, but they were incredibly meticulous. I had to provide references for every single word I wrote. Once I did an article for them on the human brain (more about this later) and I wanted the write, “the brain generates enough electricity to power a 60-watt light-bulb.” Even after all of my references, they ended up sending the article to a neurosurgeon to review. He said that it was all accurate, but even though I had found two references to the 60-watt bulb, there wasn’t precise agreement on this, so they changed it to “the brain generates enough electricity to power a low wattage light-bulb.”
Anyway, back to my novel. I have a Master’s degree in molecular biology (aka, genetic engineering) so that part I knew pretty well, but everything else in the novel was researched endlessly. And not just the science. I researched the size and interiors of helicopters and RVs used in the book. If there is a scene at a shopping mall or minor league baseball stadium, these places all exist as described. I actually “Google map” locations so that they are all real, and if the novel points out that the drive between two locations takes three hours, this is actually how long the drive would take. If I have a scene with a military aircraft, I’ve researched how fast it can fly, when it might need to refuel, and so on.
Without giving out too much information, did you know from the beginning how it would all end up and who the guilty and innocent were?
Not at all! I had only a very general idea. For me, writing a novel is like putting together a 5,000 piece puzzle—one in which you don’t even know what the finished image is supposed to look like. Until you’ve laid some of the early pieces, you don’t know what you’re working with enough to have any hope of laying the later pieces. The more pieces you connect, the easier it is to connect others. It is unbelievably scary every time I write a novel, because I’m spending hundreds of hours on something without knowing exactly what it is—or if I’ll even be able to figure out how to end it. So far I’ve succeeded every time, but that hasn’t reduced the stress even a little . . .
The plot in this book is extremely intricate. Did it flow out this way or did multiple drafts pull this out?
Multiple drafts. As I said in the last question, I never know how everything will fit together until I’ve written a lot of a book. For example, one of the main characters was originally going to be in just one scene, but I liked him so much, I decided I had to give him a bigger role. I totally agree with Bernard Malamud, who wrote, “First drafts are for learning what your novel or story is about.” And the late Michael Crichton has said, “Books aren’t written—they’re rewritten.”
Where did the inspiration for this book come from?
As I mentioned in an earlier question, my editor at National Geographic KIDS magazine asked me to do a story on the brain, and I did extensive research. I found the human brain even more fascinating than I had thought I would. I never realized all it was doing, and that it could outperform the best supercomputers. The reason this isn’t intuitive to us is because the brain isn’t optimized to do things that computers can do. But for things like instant facial recognition, processing high definition images coming in through the eyes every waking moment, etc., the brain is unsurpassed. And autistic savants, who are wired differently from the rest of us, can outperform computers, even in math. So I wondered, what if you could optimize the brain to achieve savant-like capabilities in all areas of thought and creativity? The result of this question is the thriller, WIRED.
Is there a character that is a reflection of you?
Not really. I think there is some of me in several of the characters, but even with these, I sometimes have them say things I don’t necessarily agree with.
What did you find to be the biggest challenge as you were writing this book?
Figuring out such a complex plot was brutal, so this had to have been the biggest challenge. But another big challenge was writing the thoughts and words for characters who are far smarter than I am. If I had an immeasurable IQ (rather than my all too pedestrian one), what would I be thinking here . . .
How did it feel to see the final product and know it was ready for the public?
Great, but also very scary. You can never be sure what kind of reaction you will get to a novel. I hoped readers would enjoy WIRED, but until I began getting feedback, I was very stressed—especially since I had poured my heart and soul into writing it. Happily it was very well received, although if you would have told me it would go on to become a New York Times and USA Today bestseller, I would have sent you to an insane asylum.
Are you a writer that maps out your writing plan or just sit down and let the characters lead you?
I am constantly mapping and remapping as the story unfolds. But just as no battle plan survives engagement with the enemy, none of my maps ever survive the unfolding story.
Who or what is your creative muse?
I’m not sure I have one, to be honest.
Are you working on any projects now and can you give us a little hint?
I’m between projects at the moment, but I just launched the sequel to WIRED, called AMPED, which many readers seem to be enjoying even more than WIRED (which I am thrilled about), and a new YA science-fiction/fantasy novel that I hope will appeal to kids and adults alike. Writing a book is so all-consuming for me, that after each one I need to depressurize for a few months (and do fun interviews like this one).
Thank You, Mr. Richards
Thank you, Mr. Richards for such a great interview. It always makes the story more interesting with a little background on it and a little more familiarity with the author.
To let you know how good this book is, my 16 year old daughter just started semi-liking to read and she is beyond picky in what books she'll even glance out. She heard the plot of the book and raised her eyebrows. Later she borrowed my kindle and began reading it. She loves it! That alone should get you to read this book.
Check out my review here - http://www.abookloverslibrary.com/1/post/2012/05/wired-a-book-review.html
Purchase the book here - http://www.amazon.com/WIRED-ebook/dp/B007EWJBIE/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1338495778&sr=8-1