Saturday, March 2, 2013

Author Interview: Andrew McAllister Discusses Amazon Top-Rated Thriller Unauthorized Access

I am always honored when I’m asked to give an author interview. In this case Reenie’s Book Blog was kind enough to host a discussion in advance of the Free Promotion on Amazon for Unauthorized Access, which is coming up later this week. Reenie asked me to suggest actors and actresses who would fit the lead roles if the book were to be made into a movie. What a blast! I've included pictures below. Here’s how our conversation went:

[Reenie] What made you decide to give the book a fresh new look? Who designed the cover?

I work with Thomas K. Matthews Illustration out of San Diego. The original book cover for Unauthorized Access was purposely designed to have the look and feel of an old-fashioned pulp fiction paperback, with an edgy feel to it. After doing numerous book signings and other public events, however, I decided I would rather present a modern look and feel, more consistent with the story and with today’s thriller genre. I couldn’t be happier with the result! And so far reader response to the new cover has been amazing.

[Reenie] What was the process like?

The process was amazingly interactive, despite the fact that I live 3,000 miles from San Diego. First we brainstormed a few general concepts that we thought might work on the cover, basically drawing from scenes in the book. We thought of a young woman running through the woods at night, for instance. We finally settled on an urban look because that matches the story. Then Tom Matthews worked up several concept covers, using different images, color schemes, layouts, typefaces, and so on.

We settled on the one we liked the best and then had a series of interactive work sessions. That was a blast! Through the magic of Skype and email we were able to work as if we were in the same room. We fiddled and tweaked the details until the result satisfied both of us. The process took a few weeks but I believe the result is well worth it!

[Reenie] Do you have any other novels or plans for one in the works?

Absolutely. I try to avoid saying too much about my works in progress because I have a tendency to think out loud and paint myself into a corner. I don’t want to decide I’d like to go in a different direction with some part of the story, and then feel like I can’t because I already mentioned a particular detail publicly. I can say the new book is another thriller, a follow-up to Unauthorized Access. There is plenty of raw emotion, action, and uncertainty over how the characters can possibly end up okay. The main character is a college student who reaches out over the Internet to someone he has never met, hoping this stranger can help him out of his situation. His message? “I think someone is trying to kill me.”

And it turns out he’s not just being paranoid.

[Reenie] What inspired the novel Unauthorized Access?

Some number of years ago the itch to write a novel became so great that I couldn’t possibly ignore it, so I started spending my idle moments wondering about story ideas. Besides being a writer, I am also a computer scientist, so I had a vague idea that the story should have an information technology angle. They say to write what you know, right? Then one day I was listening to an interview with an Internet security expert on public radio. “Can you imagine what would happen,” he said, “if someone managed to take down the systems at a bank?” His remark got me imagining exactly that scenario, and Unauthorized Access was born.

My first decision was that the book wasn’t going to be a story about the cyberattack, but rather about the people affected by the attack. I was thrilled when one reviewer commented on this, saying that Unauthorized Access “…may have a computer-based premise, but the novel is entirely the story of the protagonists, not their computers.”

[Reenie] When did you begin writing?

For me, writing began as a natural spinoff of reading. I was a voracious reader growing up, and I still am. The idea of writing didn’t occur to me, however, until I was an adult. Then one day the idea just strolled fully formed into my brain. “You’d like to be a novelist,” the idea informed me. I agreed, and we’ve been partners ever since. I started the way most writers do, with short stories, writing contests, and writing classes. I’m still quite fond of the short-short story that was a contest winner with Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine.

Then one day I decided to take the plunge and write a novel. After that initial effort crashed and burned, I picked myself up, dusted off my ego, and had another go. Before long I was working on Unauthorized Access.

[Reenie] You are an avid reader. Can you share your biggest literary influences?

I’m an omnivore when it comes to books. I’ll read just about anything if it has conflict and can hook me enough to keep turning the pages. I have to admit, though, that my fave reads are action and suspense. I love World War II history, so authors like Alistair MacLean, Jack Higgins, and Ken Follett are naturals for me. In fact, an audio book version of Follett’s The Key to Rebecca is currently plugged into my car stereo. Other notable reads that come to mind are Jaws by Peter Benchley (which I read in a single sitting), The Godfather by Mario Puzo, and everything by Stephen King. The Stand is my favorite book of all time.

The bulk of my reading over the years, however, has been the work of thriller writers like John Grisham, Lee Child, David Baldacci, and Christopher Reich, to name just a few. I think readers of Unauthorized Access would agree that these authors have had the greatest influence on my writing. I love it when characters are thrown into terrible messes and must scratch and claw their way back to some semblance of normality.

[Reenie] You have had so many wonderful 5 star reviews. Can you describe that moment when you read the first one?

You know, if there is one aspect of the published novelist experience that has surprised me the most, it might be online reviews. Some of my expectations turned out to be true, for instance that reviews have become an important “currency” by which an ebook is judged while someone is considering whether to read it.

One thing that surprised me, though, was that almost everyone who reviewed Unauthorized Access on Amazon or Goodreads has reached out to me beforehand. People have sent me emails, Facebook posts, text messages, even phone calls to let me know how much they enjoyed the book. The idea of writing a review often comes up as part of these conversations, and once the idea has been broached, most people are happy to help out by writing a short review.

My first 5 star review followed an email I received from a young Canadian college student who was traveling in Europe last summer. She downloaded Unauthorized Access onto her Kindle based on a recommendation from one of her girlfriends. She ended up reading the entire book in a single sitting while on a long train ride. It was a delightful feeling to have that email pop up in my inbox. In some sense this type of feedback is a validation of years worth of effort.

[Reenie] Are there any genre’s you enjoy that people might be surprised about?

Like I said, I’ll read anything that holds my interest, but it’s usually more about the individual book than the genre. I’ve never been much into romance books, but I recently read On The Island by Tracey Garvis-Graves. It was wonderful! The first night I started reading it I was up half the night. In this case the cliché was true – I couldn’t put it down. I also truly enjoyed The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks. I’m not sure if reading two books is enough to classify me as a romance-aholic, but I can certainly appreciate some books in the genre.

[Reenie] As I mentioned in my review of Unauthorized Access, I could picture your book as a Hollywood Blockbuster. If that were to happen, who could you see in the lead roles? Cast your movie!

You’re not the only person who has suggested the idea of a movie. It’s fun to dream, so here goes!

I should start with Rob and Lesley, the young couple who are the two main protagonists. I’ve described Rob as having dark, spikey hair, so I thought someone like Josh Hutcherson would look the part. For Lesley I chose Odette Annable. What a handsome couple! Do they look like they belong together or what?

Tim Whitlock is the same age, but he’s a complex character, a little on the geeky end of the spectrum, with many different sides to his personality. My bet is that Michael Cera could pull that off.

Stan Dysart is the bank president. He’s charming, professional, and ultra capable, but he’s no shrinking violet. He has a surprisingly ruthless side that not every reader sees coming. I’m going with the very distinguished Eric Roberts.

Then there’s the ultimate menacing bad guy, Ray Landry, who also has a cultured side. One look at Jason Statham’s face and you know he could pull off that role.

Finally in Chapter 1 the reader meets Mary, Stan Dysart’s capable office manager. Who better to play this role than our very own Reenie!

Get a FREE copy of the book: The Kindle version of top-rated thriller Unauthorized Access will be free on Amazon later this week, March 6-8. You can sign up here to the Facebook event if you wish to receive a reminder when the price drops to $0.00. This is a public event, so feel free to invite your friends!

Paperback Giveaway: Pop on over to Reenie’s Book Blog, where she is holding a giveaway for a paperback copy of Unauthorized Access.

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