After becoming an executive in the biotech world—and getting a virus named after him in the process—Douglas E. Richards decided to apply his knowledge of scientific advancements to his first passion, writing. After coming close to deals with several major publishers for his first book, Wired,Richards turned to the burgeoning world of e-books. In 2011, Richard’s thriller involving a scientist engineering superhuman intelligence went viral, becoming a New York Times and USA Today bestseller and reaching over a million readers. With subsequent sequels to Wired,additional series, and stand-alone novels all transforming real, cutting-edge science into suspense, Richards has built an impressive fan base that earned him a spot at San Diego’s Comic-Con.
After building a career in biotech, why did you turn to writing?
I had always dreamed of being a novelist, but when the science of genetic engineering emerged, I was smitten by it. But after a successful career as a biotech executive, I decided it was time to pursue my first love.
How do you think this scientific background has impacted your writing?
I strive to write fast-paced, action-packed thrillers with plenty of twists and surprises but also ones in which accurate science and technology play critical roles. My graduate training in molecular biology taught me how to be thorough in researching scientific issues and how to think deeply about them.
Are you more of a pessimist or an optimist about future breakthroughs?
The suspense in my novels may come from the dangers of new technologies, but I also explore the promise of these technologies. The more powerful the advance, the greater the ramifications for society and humanity. Rapid and transformative technological change isn’t hard to imagine anymore. What’s hard to imagine is the lack of such change.
In my Mind’s Eye series, the hero has electronics implanted in his brain that allow him to surf the web with his thoughts….But if we could surf the web with our minds, how many traffic accidents would we have? How addicted would we become? And what if we were hacked? The list of possible dangers goes on and on.
In general, though, I tend to be an optimist.
After working with a traditional publisher for The Cure, what are some advantages you still appreciate about publishing independently?
First, as an indie author, the time from finishing a novel to getting it into the hands of my fans is days rather than months or years. I also have total control of content and pricing, and I’ve found indie authorship to be more lucrative.
This being said, I have just entered into an agreement with Permuted Press, whose books are distributed by Simon & Schuster. This is an innovative publisher who was willing to acquire paperback-only rights to Wired….I’m excited that Permuted Press is willing to make a concerted effort to capture a larger audience on the physical book side.
What advice would you give those who are just starting out with self-publishing?
Alas, no matter how compelling your novel, as an unknown, it will be extremely difficult for you to break out of the pack and will require a healthy dose of luck. My goal was to do whatever I could to acquire and grow a fan base and worry about making money later. I would advise all those considering indie publishing to do the same.
My other advice would be to spend your time writing new novels rather than killing yourself to ignite a novel that doesn’t seem to want to catch fire. If breaking out from the pack is like winning the lottery, the more tickets you have, the better.
Can you tell us what you’re working on next?
I’m about to publish Time Frame, a stand-alone sequel to my novel Split Second. Split Second has been my second most successful novel ever, after Wired, and I’m hopeful that Time Frame will be equally well-received.Rhett Morgan is a writer and translator based in Paris.