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Author Interview – Douglas E. Richards

Douglas E. Richards is the New York Times bestselling author of Wired and more than a dozen other novels, including, most recently, Infinity Born in 2017. I had a chance to ask him some questions.

You’ve written thrillers, children’s books, non-fiction essays and more. What’s been the most rewarding?

It’s a bit of a cop out answer, but they’ve all been rewarding in their own ways. I began writing middle-grade science-fiction thrillers with lots of accurate science, and these were thoroughly rewarding on many levels. Science teacher organizations around the world endorsed the books for their ability to teach science to kids. The books began appearing on lists of recommended reading for advanced readers and reluctant readers, both, and books that had high appeal to boys, who tend to be less enthusiastic readers than girls. I also wrote science articles for National Geographic KIDS magazine at this time, which reached millions of kids, which was very gratifying.

All of this being said, when my first near-future science-fiction thriller, WIRED, went viral and became a New York Times and USA Today bestseller, I was unable to spare the time to go back to the middle-grade books, as the demand from my adult fans became voracious. I wish I had time to write both, but I can’t say that writing adult thrillers is any less rewarding—just rewarding in a different way.

Who is your favorite philosopher?

Rene Descartes. He mused on what we can know for certain. Can we really trust our senses? How do we know we aren’t being fooled? How do I know that I’m not in a psychiatric ward and hallucinating that I’m answering this question? Isn’t it possible that the universe is empty, except for me, and I’m just imagining other people and things? The only thing I know with absolute certainty is that even if I’m being fooled about everything, the fact that I’m thinking about the subject means that I exist. I can’t be fooled about that. I think, therefore I am. As our technology has become ever more advanced, the possibility that our senses can be fooled becomes ever greater, making Descartes’s analysis more relevant than ever. This analysis played a key role in my novel Game Changer, in fact.

How has your background as a biotech executive impacted your fiction?

All of my adult novels contain accurate science, and the speculative parts are based on exhaustive research. Way back in the day, when I was working toward a doctorate in genetic engineering (eventually dropping out with a master’s degree since I hated the lab work), I learned how to dive deep into the literature to extract key ideas. I believe this experience has served me well as I research various topics for my fiction.

Stephen Hawking or Isaac Newton?

Isaac Newton hands down. Perhaps the greatest scientist in history. Hawking is impressive, but nothing like Newton. Calculus, optics, Newtonian physics—only Albert Einstein ever came close to changing our view of the universe this profoundly.

What’s your favorite Star Trek episode?
Since I’ve watched over twenty seasons of Star Trek (ST, TNG, DS9, and Voyager) this is impossible to answer. I will say I loved the philosophical implications of THE ENEMY WITHIN. In this episode, a transporter malfunction creates two copies of Kirk, one meek and indecisive and the other ruthless and violent. This was a great study of human nature, with the ending being that there is a duality of natures in man, and both are needed for proper functioning. The meek side provides intelligence and rationality, while the aggressive side provides confidence and decisiveness. In the words of Mr. Spock:

“We have here an unusual opportunity to appraise the human mind, or to examine, in Earth terms, the roles of good and evil in a man: his negative side, which you call hostility, lust, violence, and his positive side, which Earth people express as compassion, love, tenderness. Yes, and what is it that makes one man an exceptional leader? We see indications that it is his negative side which makes him strong, that his “evil” side, if you will, properly controlled and disciplined, is vital to his strength.”

Richards grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio. He graduated from Finneytown High School, in Ohio, in 1980. He obtained a B.S. in microbiology from Ohio State University before getting a master’s degree in molecular biology from the University of Wisconsin and an MBA from the University of Chicago. He currently lives in San Diego, California, with his wife and two children.

 

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