After 10 years of starting his own internet companies, A.G. Riddle “retired” and dug into extensive scientific research to produce his passion project: a novel. The result was 2013’s The Atlantis Gene,a techno-thriller about the origins of humankind that Riddle released himself. With just one blog review and a Goodreads giveaway, The Atlantis Gene struggled to find readers, but greater visibility thanks to Amazon’s Hot New Releases list created an instant runaway success—the book has now sold more than 1 million copies worldwide. Since then, Riddle has signed a deal with HarperCollins for 2015’s stand-alone mystery Departure,which is currently in film development at 20th Century Fox. He continues to release titles in his Origin Mystery and Extinction Files series independently.
What finally convinced you to leave your internet companies and go into writing full time?
Love of reading. It's what I looked forward to most in my life (at that time). I had a few story ideas, and I knew if I didn't take a chance on writing them, I would always regret it.
Are there any particular authors or books that were very influential for you?
Some of the stories that have stuck with me are Hyperion by Dan Simmons, Hatchet by Gary Paulsen, and the Harry Potter series. When I began writing, Stephen King's book On Writing was incredibly helpful. It's part memoir, part writing advice.
What do you like about blending sci-fi elements into your thrillers?
I think the mix of genres and elements makes for more unique stories. They're more likely to surprise the reader and stay with them longer.
There is a lot of research backing up your books—did you already have a deep interest in the science, or did the ideas lead you to the research?
Both series explore subjects I'm extremely interested in: human origins and our future, especially extinction-level threats. I don't think I could have written the books without a deep personal interest in the subjects. It's a lot of work. My process is to start with a question that intrigues me. For the Atlantis series it was: Why are there 7 billion humans on Earth and no Neanderthals or members of extant human species like Homo erectus? To me, it’s an incredible mystery.
Why do you continue to self-publish some of your work?
I like the flexibility; you never know what the future holds.
What have you done to maintain your fan base and keep readers coming back?
Quality books. I think that's the best marketing you can ever do. If your book stands out for a reader, they're more likely to write a review or tell a friend.
Can you give us any news about the upcoming film adaptations?
I don't have any information I can share publicly, but things are progressing. It's incredibly exciting to be even a small part of that process. It's very different from writing, where I can create without that many constraints. Film/TV requires a lot more coordination and teamwork. I have a ton of respect for folks working in the industry (and can see how it would drive someone crazy).
What can fans look forward to next? Another release in the Extinction Files series?
For me, the Extinction Files is complete. I'm working on something new that I'm really excited about. Wish me luck.
Rhett Morgan is a writer and translator based in Paris.