Interview: Richard Hacker, author of Die Back: Book One of the Alchimeia


I don’t want to move, but I’m not in control. Up and over the mud wall of a trench, the weight of a pack straining my back, the rifle heavy in my hands. A man to my left flies backward as if jerked by a cable, his cry muffled by explosions, his chest ripped open, organs spilling into the muck. I, we, plod forward through mud. A rhythmic takka-takka-takka, tat, tat, tat in the distance and more explosions vibrating through my feet.”
–From Die Back: Book One of the Alchimeia by Richard Hacker
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.


Book Description:
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 defending the time continuum. After his father’s death, Addison inherits a mysterious pen,
accidentally inking himself into the consciousness of a man who dies on a muddy WWI battlefield in France. Hoping to make sense of his experience, he confides in Nikki, his best friend and unknown to Addison, an Inker. Keeping her promise to Thomas, she discounts Addison’s experience.

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.

Interview:

Welcome, Richard!  Your new fantasy/thriller series sounds thrilling! Can you tell us how you came up with the idea?
Richard: This might sound odd, but Dieback started with a fountain pen. I was holding a fountain pen one day and my mind wandered to the power of words. Human beings have been naming things since the beginnings of language. It’s how we find our place in the world and in some cases I think, gives us a sense of control. Or at least the illusion of control. So, what would happen if a character had a pen filled with alchemical ink that when he wrote the name and a date for someone living in the past, his consciousness would be transported into that person? What would he do with that astounding capability? And as with most technology, what if someone decided to use the alchemy to acquire power and control time itself? How would the protagonist fend off this attack on the time continuum and reality as he knows it? And then I put the fountain pen down, pulled at the laptop, and started writing.
Can you tell us a little about the main characters?
Richard: The protagonist, Addison Shaw, is a complicated guy. He has a deep guilt and sense of responsibility for the death of girl friend when he rolled their car on a mountain road in a snowstorm. He carries the scars of that night, emotionally and physically with a damaged knee requiring him to use a cane to walk. He went from school athlete to disabled loner. As the story progresses he will face even greater challenges and will have to find a way to heal himself enough to move forward. He’s also a bit of a smart ass, a little compulsive, more shy than he’d like you to think, and willing to act even when he’s terrified.
His parter and off and on girlfriend, Jules McCullough, is a strong and courageous woman, full of life. When Addison first meets Jules, her presence intimidates. Her ebony hair swept tightly back from her face, exploding into a Mohawk of red-tipped spikes. She had piercings in her eye brows, a silver nose ring, and white bone spiraling through her ear lobes contrasting against mocha skin. A tattoo ran the length of her right arm, a twisting vine of green leaves and yellow, orange, and pink flowers, disappearing into the short sleeve of a black Ramones tee shirt. She wore a khaki utility kilt with a silver studded belt slipped over her hips and black combat boots. She looked like a woman from another time and place—a fierce female Maasai warrior from the Tanzanian Serengeti. They will live…and die, many times over to protect the time continuum.
Cuthbert Grimwalde, a 15th century scryer and mystic befriends Tobias Faryndon, the founder of the League and the perfecter of its alchemy. But Grimwalde’s dark heart soon turns against Faryndon as the scryer realizes he can use the alchemy to not only change the past or the future, but to control and master the world for all time. By the time Grimwalde encounters Addison, he has sojourned across a thousands of years and has taken the name, Kairos. He considers himself the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the Master of the Space Time Continuum.
They say all books of fiction have at least one pivotal point where the reader just can’t put the book down. What is one of the pivotal points in your book?
Richard: Several points come to mind, but I think readers will have a difficult time putting the book down during the Inca encounter. Ethan Inks into the consciousness of the 16th century conquestador, Pizarro, in a desperate attempt to save his partner, Jules. Attacked in the present, she inks into Cuxirmay, the child bride of the Incan Emperor Atahaulpa. Addison struggles to maintain control of Pizarro and the passions and violence of both Pizarro and Atahualpa. If he succeeds, both Jules and Addison live to fight another day and the time continuum remains stable. If he fails, Jules will be trapped in 16th century Peru, the outcome of Pizarro’s encounter with the Inca is altered, and the future will change in a thousand unknown ways. And I think the outcome will surprise you.
Do you proofread and edit your work on your own or pay someone to do it for you?
Richard: Both. I always proof and edit my work, but at some point, I’ve been standing in the forest for so long, all the trees look the same! It’s remarkable how I can read something a hundred times and in my mind, I’ve corrected the typo, but on the page, the typo remains. So I always have others comb through the manuscript. They’ll point out typos and grammar issues, as well as continuity issues, and make suggestions. And then I make decisions based on their feedback.
Do you believe a book cover plays an important role in the selling process?
Richard: Absolutely. These days, most people are shopping for the next read online, which means they’re looking at a thumbnail image of the book. The cover needs to be something that catches the eye and then draws the reader in for a closer look. The title, which gives you pause, is easy to see in thumbnail. The image of a young man floating upward captures the idea of both the inking—when he uses the pen to enter the mind of someone in the past—and the dieback—when he dies to re-enter his own body. I think the publisher did a great job taking that image and then designing the front, spine, and back. Hope you think so too.
What did you want to become when you were a kid?
Richard: Well, like a lot of kids I wanted to be many things. The first time I saw Louis Armstrong on the Ed Sullivan Show (okay, I just dated myself!) I wanted to be a jazz musician. When I was in the third-grade I started writing short stories which I read to the class for show and tell. Why I did that, I’m not so sure. My squirrel skeleton in a shoebox had been a hit, but I think having the class respond to my stories got me hooked on writing. And then in high school I gravitated towards medicine. As an adult, I dabble in jazz, I know how to rip open a bandaid wrapper, and I write novels.
Do your novels carry a message?
Richard: When life looks hopeless, when everything seems to be turned upside, the people who make a difference are not super heroes, but people like you and me, who persevere in spite of the odds.
Is there anything you’d like to tell your readers and fans?
Richard: Thanks so much for providing this opportunity to share my work with your readers. I hope they enjoy reading Dieback as much as I enjoyed writing it. 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.

0 comments:

Post a Comment