Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Rick Chesler steps up his game

First of all, Rick Chesler’s “kiDNApped” has nothing to do with the Robert Louis Stevenson book of the same name, though I can’t rule out any influence here since Rick’s books tend to involve the ocean in some way. After all, he is a marine biologist.

But Rick’s books involve science, as well. Where WIRED KINGDOM was a tale of a whale-cam (influenced by Herman Melville, perhaps?) that accidentally records a murder at sea, this one involves a kidnapping at sea which is also recorded, but in a rather ingenious way—with living DNA.

kiDNApped starts with a bang when a diver’s employer is murdered and the body sent down to the depths—right next to the diver. Then the boat is stolen, taking his air supply with it. Not a good situation, but he manages to save himself with some old-fashioned ingenuity.

FBI Agent Tara Shores from WIRED KINGDOM marks her return as she tries to solve the riddle of what happened to a scientist who creates something almost as incredible as the cure for leukemia. Some not very nice people would like to get their hands on that creation and they’ll do anything—including murder, and lots of it—to gain singular control.

But the scientist left clues to his fate in a place no one but his own scientist daughter would think to look. You guessed it—inside a DNA sequence.

After her high-profile case in the first book, Agent Shores is transferred from Los Angeles to Hawaii, where she meets the family of the missing scientist. Like any good mystery, there are a lot of plot-twists that will leave you wondering who’s on which side. Suffice it to say that everyone in the family is not what they seem to be.

The thing about Rick’s writing is that he has the knack of putting you in the story. As a marine biologist, and I would imagine also an experienced diver, you’re right down there in those claustrophobic ocean depths. The descriptions of Hawaii are strikingly detailed and really made me want to go there for a visit.

WIRED KINGDOM was a great techno-thriller and with kiDNApped I think Rick stepped his game up a notch. Fans of Michael Crichton would probably enjoy this book. He has a new publisher this time out (Chalet Publishers) and some really great cover art by Stan Tremblay. I look forward to seeing more from Rick Chesler.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Author Rick Chesler: Writing for the thrill of it

Rick Chesler, author of the techno-thriller WIRED KINGDOM and the just-released kiDNApped talks about my favorite subject: What it takes to write a good thriller!

First of all, many thanks to author Toby Tate for having me as a guest on his blog!

So I’ve been asked, what does it take to write a good thriller? Good question. I try to write something I would like to read myself—a story that has some familiar elements culled from the books I liked, but with a unique premise, plot, style, and a voice of my own. But how to actually get there?

First of all, I think it takes a solid premise of some kind, or maybe a what-if scenario, that has the potential for lots of serious conflict. Sometimes these are inspired by real-life events. For example, several years ago I read a news report about a team of researchers who successfully encoded the lyrics to the Star Spangled Banner into the DNA of living cells, essentially turning living bacteria into a data storage medium, just like your hard drive--except that they’re alive, and every time they reproduce, they reproduce your message. From there I read about how some companies with potentially valuable gene patents were encoding their patent numbers right into the genetically engineered cells. I kind of put those two things together and came up with:

What if a scientist working on some ultra-lucrative applied genetics was kidnapped and held for ransom…and the only way he could send a message for help was to encode it into the DNA of the very cells he was working with? That was my starting point. I had to ask and answer a lot of questions along the way (How would he get into that situation? Who would kidnap him? What exactly was he working on? What happens to him in the end?)

The result was kiDNApped, and starting March 1, 2011, it is available for purchase here:

kiDNApped on

The process was similar for my first novel. One day, many years ago, I had a thought:

What if a whale tagged with a webcam were to broadcast a murder at sea?

That’s the premise of my debut thriller, WIRED KINGDOM, which was published in May of 2010. I started with that simple premise. From there, the questions multiplied like rabbits: who gets murdered? Who kills them and why? Why does the whale have a web-cam tag on it? How would that kind of technology even work? Who would be tasked with solving the crime? The answers to each of these questions lead down multiple paths of their own, and once I realized I could no longer mentally keep track of them all, I had to start typing them into the computer. After a few months of thinking about it like this, I had a solid opening, a general ending, and a couple of stepping stones in between. With that I began the first draft. The end result can be seen here:


Characterization and setting are also extremely important: believable personas with palpable motivations battling it out in exotic settings is what I shoot for, but there’s no one correct way to handle it.
Of course there’s more to writing a great thriller than only the premise, plot, characters and setting. The devil, as they say, is in the details, and so the execution of your idea needs to be as flawless as possible. Give ten writers the same short descriptions like those I started with above, and you’ll get 10 different books. The importance of exactly how it’s executed is what truly makes it your book.

Thanks for reading,


Twitter: @rickchesler
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