A webcam. A whale. A murder at sea. So begins the FBI investigations of Special Agent Tara Shores in Rick Chesler’s debut novel Wired Kingdom (released last year). Not since Ahab and the great Moby Dick has a whale been used so effectively, so thrillingly in fiction. Imagine. A murder at sea and the only witness to it? A whale. But Rick Chesler’s imagination wasn’t through with that single Tara Shores adventure. Oh no! He had to up the ante. He had to come up with something equally (if not more so) clever than the first. It’s the bane of all writers. And I can say that he accomplished the feat splendidly with his latest release kiDNApped. I mean, just look at the title, for crying out loud! See how he’s emphasized DNA in the word “kidnapped”? Ha! Genius! But that’s only the beginning of this great new thriller.
Here’s the back cover copy from by book:
A priceless biotechnology, an FBI agent, and an unspeakable act of familial betrayal collide in a tropical kidnapping more twisted than a DNA double helix.
When a renowned scientist with a solution for global warming is kidnapped at sea, FBI Special Agent Tara Shores must unravel a high-tech trail of S.O.S. messages encoded into the DNA of living cells. As each decoded message brings Tara nearer to the missing genius, it also takes her farther from help than she ever thought possible.
See? I told you this sounded like one wild ride, right?! DNA encoded messages. Very cool. But also on the cusp of actual scientific research. Rick has a way of tapping right into state of the art scientific research and mining it for great story ideas. But don’t take my word for it. Here are a few blurbs by some great authors:
“Author Rick Chesler melds science and adventure with the brilliant command of the late Michael Crichton. Delivering pulse-pounding action and a breathtaking setting, kidDNApped takes readers on a Hawaiian Islands journey they won’t soon forget.” ~ Douglas Corleone, author of NIGHT ON FIRE.
“FBI agent Tara Shores is back in Rick Chesler’s latest pulse-pounding techno-thriller, kiDNApped, an intelligent page-turner that will change your outlook on the world of genetics and keep you reading late into the night!” – Jeremy Robinson, author of INSTINCT and THRESHOLD.
And if you need a refresher on what Wired Kingdom is about, here’s the back cover copy for it as well:
When a blue whale tagged with a web-cam designed with stolen defense technology broadcasts a brutal murder at sea as part of a television nature program, Special Agent Tara Shores finds herself navigating an ocean of manipulation and deceit in a deadly race to reach the 100-ton creature roaming the Pacific before an unknown killer can destroy the digital evidence it carries.
As Shores dives deeper into the case, what she initially dismisses as a publicity stunt for the glitzy reality series soon sweeps her out to sea in a riptide of greed, intrigue, and high-tech crime.
Well, it should come as no surprise by now, but I had a chance to interview Rick about kiDNApped, Wired Kingdom, Tara Shores, and writing in general. Here’s what he had to say:
1) Your latest book is a little different than Wired Kingdom, though it’s part of the same series. Tell us, in your own words, what kiDNApped is all about.
kiDNApped is about the search for a geneticist whose yacht has gone missing at sea with all hands, somewhere off Hawaii. Prior to his disappearance, he’d been collecting marine microbes for some potentially lucrative work with DNA. FBI Special Agent Tara Shores (the protagonist from my first novel, Wired Kingdom) enlists the help of the scientists’ children—one of them a marine scientist herself—and soon learns that the geneticist is alive, and sending S.O.S. messages encoded into the DNA of living cells.
2) The plot sounds amazing! Can you tell us a little bit about the inspiration for this story? Where did the idea to use DNA in this way come from?
Thanks! The inspiration for the scientific core of the story is two-fold:
1. That DNA can be used as a data storage medium, in essentially the same way that you can store characters on a magnetic disc. This is based on real life scientific research that has been published for several years now. In fact, at the end of kIDNApped, I list these papers in a Suggestions for Further reading section for those readers who would like to know more about the science behind the story.
2. The real life work of Dr. J. Craig Venter was also an inspiration to some degree, especially his tropical ocean expedition to collect genes from marine microbes. There is a link to his work at the end of the book (literally, with the Kindle version, which I think is a cool feature of e-books).
3) Do you have any plans for other Tara Shores thrillers? Will they all contain some element of science to them? What can you tell us about plans for future books in the series?
As a matter of fact I do, and yes, each Tara Shores book is a thriller / murder mystery set inside the unique world of a different science or technology. Book #1, Wired Kingdom, focuses on wildlife tracking technology, Book #2, kiDNApped, takes on applied genetics, and I’m currently writing book #3, SOLAR ISLAND, which centers around alternative energy.
4) What other projects do you have coming up for people to look forward to? Do you have any plans for other series in the future? Any different genres you’d like to tackle?
This summer I have a short story appearing in an anthology called THE GAME, from Seven Realms Publishing, featuring stories based on the classic work The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell. There are some great authors on this one and I’m really looking forward to reading it myself!
I have an idea for a series based on the short story I mentioned above, but I’m waiting to see how that story is received before I take any definite steps.
I don’t worry too much about the particular sub-genre (techno-, action-, eco-, etc.), but I doubt I’ll ever be writing anything that couldn’t broadly be categorized as a thriller, suspense, mystery, or adventure.
5) When you’re not busy writing, what books do you enjoy reading? Favorite authors?
My classic favorites are anything by Michael Crichton or Clive Cussler, but I’ve read pretty much all the big name thriller/suspense/action-adventure novelists. More recently I enjoyed Fragment by Warren Fahy, Daemon by Daniel Suarez, and Freezing Point by Karen Dionne. I also enjoy James Rollins’ novels. Honestly, there are so many good books available out there that I’m humbled whenever anyone takes the time to read one of mine.
I always list what book I’m currently reading on my Goodreads.com shelf, so if anyone wants to get any book ideas from my, check out my shelf there (and add me as a friend, add my books to your shelf!):
6) The term thriller is a rather ambiguous term. What is your definition of a thriller? What do you think is the biggest appeal of thrillers to readers? Why do you think they are so popular today?
To me a thriller is a usually a plot-driven novel that places characters in extreme situations–circumstances you or I would never want to face in real life, but that are somehow fun and interesting to read about. Oftentimes there is the element of the ticking clock, or some other manifestation of urgency. Thrillers are great vehicles for exploring concepts and perspectives that would not be practical (or advisable) to pursue in real life.
I think part of the appeal is that people read them and think, What would I do in that situation? How would I react if that happened to me? …type of thing. Also, thrillers can be the first time a reader is exposed to some real-life idea or concept (e.g. a new science or technology, a secret society, a conspiracy theory, etc.), and at the end of the book they’ve learned a little something they hadn’t known about before.
The thriller genre does seem to be surging in popularity today; as to why I couldn’t say—I’m just going along for the ride.
7) Can you tell us a little about your writing process? How does a book like kiDNApped come about?
For the Tara Shores series, (and a lot of my as yet unwritten ideas as well) the novels start with some kind of core what if style premise, for example, with Wired Kingdom, it was ‘What if an animal tagged with a critter-cam style webcam broadcast someone being murdered?’…and for kiDNApped, ‘What if someone had to use messages encoded into the DNA of living cells to communicate?’ From there, I add some detail, (what kind of animal?…what kind of situation could necessitate someone having to communicate that way?), and again, I take it from there. By the time I begin the first draft I have, in loose outline form, a solid opening scene that propels the rest of the story, the protagonist/antagonist characters and their motivations, an idea for the ending scene, and a couple of stepping stone plot points for the middle.
Thanks Rick, for an awesome interview! We definitely wish you the best of luck!
And for you readers out there just itching to pick up copies of Rick’s books, here are a couple of links (they are both available in print, as well as Kindle, Nook, and other ebook formats):