Rick Acker has what sounds like an interesting “day job.” In addition to being a multi-published author, Rick is Deputy Attorney General in the California Department of Justice. His newest book, When The Devil Whistles, deals with what happens when someone turns the tables on a professional whistle-blower and her gifted litigator partner. It’s a pleasure to welcome Rick to Random Jottings.
RM: Rick, what got you into writing in the first place? And how many rejections did you garner before getting that first contract? (If you say “none,” I’m going to hate you).
RA: I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember—short stories, articles, poetry. My first novels grew out of stories I told during interstate car trips with my family. Back in the days before handheld DVD players and game systems, I was the designated entertainment on long drives. So I told long stories, and I had to make them interesting enough to keep the kids from permanently injuring each other in the backseat. Most of those stories were forgotten five minutes after we reached our destination, but every now and then my wife would say, “Oh, you need to write that one down.” One of those became my first published novel, The Case of the Autumn Rose.
As for rejections, you’ll notice that I didn’t say Autumn Rose was my first novel. That’s still sitting in a binder in my garage. Next to it is another binder with my second book. And there’s a third with an unpublished novella. And then there’s a pile of bad poetry and short stories. I don’t know how many rejections I’ve received, but I tried to learn from each one and I didn’t give up—which is why I ultimately got published.
RM: Obviously your occupation allows you to write authoritatively about the legal world. Do you work primarily as a litigator, or is your day mainly spent at your desk or the law library? And how much does your “day job” help you in your writing?
RA: I am a litigator, but most of my days are spent at my desk or in a conference room. That’s actually pretty typical—the vast majority of litigators spend only a small percentage of their time in court.
My day job is, of course, a big help in writing legal thrillers. I work on fascinating investigations and cases that give me lots of unique story ideas. Also, being a practicing lawyer is a huge advantage in making my stories and characters realistic—as I imagine being a doctor is in writing medical thrillers, right?
RM: Right. Your latest book, When The Devil Whistles, released on October 1, and the premise sounds very interesting. How did you come up with that story line? Can you tell us a bit more about the book?
RA: I’d be happy to. It’s a legal thriller based on the type of corporate fraud cases I prosecute at the California Department of Justice. In it, I give readers a peak into the secret—but very real—world of freelance corporate spies who can make tens of millions of dollars blowing the whistle on fraud in government contracts…if they don’t get caught.
When The Devil Whistles is the story of Allie Whitman and Connor Norman. Allie is a professional whistleblower with a knack for sniffing out fraud in government contracts. Connor is a gifted litigator with courtroom polish to spare. Together they formed Devil to Pay, Inc., a shell corporation that files lawsuits based on Allie’s investigations—and collects a generous share of the proceeds when the defendants settle. Allie and Connor have made good money making the devil pay, as they like to think of it. But then one of Allie’s targets turns the tables and blows the whistle on her, threatening to expose secrets that would ruin her career and put her in jail—unless she does them one little favor . . .
Allie and Connor soon find themselves fighting desperate—and potentially fatal—battles in and out of the courtroom. Their foe is a company that will go to any lengths to protect secrets much darker than padded bills.
RM: The writers among my readership will want to know this. Are you represented by an agent? If so, how did that come about? If not, why did you choose to represent yourself?
RA: I’m represented by Lee Hough of Alive Communications. I met Lee through contacts I made at the Mount Hermon Writers Conference, and going with him was one of the best decisions of my writing career. Even though I’m a lawyer and can understand and negotiate a contract on my own, it’s been a tremendous help to have Lee on my side. Lee not only helps me land the best possible contract, he’s involved throughout the publication process: He makes sure the cover is good, the marketing plan is solid, and the release smooth. And while that’s going on, he’s giving me long-term career advice.
RM: When The Devil Whistles is your fifth published novel. What have you learned along the way about writing and the publishing industry?
RA: Lots. The biggest surprise was how much independent marketing authors need to do. I had a pretty simplistic view of the writing world when I signed my first contract. I thought that all I needed to do was write good books and the publisher would do the rest. That’s not how things work.
RM: Abingdon Press, the same house that’s published my novels, is publishing When The Devil Whistles. I’m glad to see another male on the list of Abingdon authors. What’s your take on the predominance of female authors in Christian fiction?
RA: I think there are several factors at work. First, the vast majority of Christian fiction readers are women, and you have to be a reader before you can be a writer. Second, romance is far and away the best selling category of Christian fiction, and not many guys write love stories. Third, writing is a very tough career for the primary breadwinner in the household (no benefits, no job security, uneven income from year to year, etc.), which is usually the man.
RM: Any final thoughts for my readers?
RA: Thanks for having me, Richard!
Thanks for being my guest, Rick. I'm glad to get better acquainted with you, and I look forward to reading When The Devil Whistles.