Monday, August 27, 2012

Author Spotlight: Matt Richtel

When he's not winning a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting for The New York Times, or writing (under the nom de plume Theron Heir) the popular syndicated daily comic strip "Rudy Park," author Matt Richtel creates deeply absorbing and very timely fiction crafted to make his diehard fans as thoughtful as they are thrilled. In addition to collecting glowing reviews from USA Today, New York Newsday, and The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the bestselling Richtel's two novels Hooked, and Devil's Plaything, have won public acclaim from blockbuster thriller authors David Liss, Steve Berry, and James Rollins (the latter two gentlemen being esteemed alumni of the Gazalapalooza Author Spotlight that's now focused squarely on Mr. Richtel).

Richtel earned his bachelor's degree in rhetoric from the University of California at Berkeley, followed by an MS in journalism from Columbia University. Since joining The New York Times in 2000, he has reported extensively on a diverse array of cutting-edge subjects including distracted driving, Internet gambling, corporate espionage, the pornography business, video games, and mobile communications. All of these matters inform his fiction work, keeping it as fresh and relevant as today's news.

Floodgate is the title of Richtel's newest release. It's an epub original story that came out just a few days ago. Floodgate tells the story of a disillusioned ex-journalist with anger management issues confronting a computer-based conspiracy that threatens to obliterate the integrity of a hotly contested American presidential election. It's no big stretch to say Floodgate's plot sounds like something ripped from tomorrow's scathing headlines.

When he's not otherwise occupied, Richtel likes to write "not very good" (his words, not mine) songs. Without further ado, let's crank the klieg lights to the max and give the man something to sing about, shall we?

Gazala:    In my omnipotence, I've sentenced you to be stranded alone on a desert island for offenses best left unnamed. In my beneficence, I've decided to allow you a limited amount of reading material to make your stay a little less bleak than it would otherwise be. I'll spot you your religious text of preference, and the collected works of William Shakespeare. In addition to those, name the one fiction book, and the one nonfiction book, you'd choose to take with you, and why you choose them.

Richtel:    Non-fiction: The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien. Or is this fiction? That is what makes this series of connected essays about the war in Vietnam so extraordinary. It asks the question: what is real? It asks it so lyrically, so poetically, with such force, conviction, truth, that it will change the way you see writing, reading, life. If you don’t count this as non-fiction, make it The Executioner’s Song, by Norman Mailer. Was that crime fiction or the craziest love story you ever read?

Fiction: So many to choose from that it’s not fair. To make a point, I’ll pick The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger. My point: great fiction, to me, is about seamless character evolution. I’ve never read anything, not even close, in which the character evolves, goes through a transformation, and you can’t point to a single moment, not one, in which the author tells and doesn’t show. You can never actually say, "Aha! That’s the moment Holden Caulfield goes insane!” And then, seamlessly, he’s utterly transformed.

Gazala:    Your latest book is an excellent and gripping short epub thriller titled Floodgate. I've read it. I enjoyed it immensely, and recommend it highly. Shockingly enough, however, from time to time my bare recommendation doesn't always motivate a book's potential reader to become a book's actual reader. Tell us something about Floodgate, and why its potential reader should make the leap and become its actual reader.

Richtel:    I’ll give you three reasons: 1.What’s happening in the book is happening to you. Possibly right at this exact moment. 2. At the end of Floodgate, there’s an excerpt from The Cloud, my next book, which comes out in February, 2013. In that excerpt, dear reader, I am setting you up for the most emotional twist I’ve ever written in a book. It was a creative risk, one I couldn’t escape taking, and one that my early readers told me blew them away. It’s all packaged in a swift-moving thriller but, at its core, this is a deeply personal, emotional journey. 3. It's 99 cents!

Gazala:    What are books for?

Richtel:    To make us feel like children. My children, both toddlers, like all children, love to explore the world. What’s on the top of the book shelf? What’s in the glove compartment? If only I could see what is in the freezer, life would be grand! When we read, we get a chance to experience that childlike sensation: if only I could see what is behind the next page – behind the door, inside the closet, on top of the next shelf – everything will make sense! We go on a childlike discovery, temporarily believing that when we get to the point of discovery, everything in the world will be okay.

Gazala:    W. Somerset Maugham said, "There are three rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are." Do you agree, or disagree, and why?

Richtel:    There is one rule for writing a novel and Somerset, in spite of himself, has illustrated it. Be interesting. If he thought for a second, I’m sure he could’ve come up with three rules. But he was interesting enough, provocative enough with the set up, to get you thinking. At least, he got me thinking.

Gazala:    I have to go get my game face on. Ask yourself a question, and answer it.

Richtel:    Q: Can anyone write a book? A: Yes. Without a doubt, you (the reader) are a story teller. You tell yourself stories all the time. You imagine you won the lottery, or that the beautiful woman/man across the aisle in the bookstore flirted with you, or that you saved the airplane from terrorists on 9/11. Give yourself permission to ask: What if? Now, get a pen. Or a laptop. Write down your fantasy. What makes my fantasies and internal dialogue/storytelling any more interesting than yours? Nothing. I just gave myself permission to write to indulge my mind wandering, play it out, write it down, and try to serve it up to you. Be audacious. Ask: What if?

There's no guarantee a "not very good" song Richtel writes about his Author Spotlight will enthrall you. On the other hand, with the November presidential election looming large in front of us all right now, Floodgate is sure to captivate you. You can capture your own copy of it from Amazon by clicking right here.

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