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Rick AckerRick Acker is a Deputy Attorney General in the California Department of Justice. He prosecutes corporate fraud lawsuits like those described in When the Devil Whistles. He has led confidential investigations into a number of large and sensitive cases that made headlines in and out of California. Rick holds law degrees from the University of Oslo and the University of Notre Dame, where he graduated with honors. In addition to his novels, he is a contributing author on two legal treatises published by the American Bar Association. Rick lives with his wife in the San Francisco area.

Favorite Verse: Philippians 4:12-13  “I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”


 

 Our Interview with Rick Acker


 

Please tell us a bit about yourself.
 
I write legal thrillers on the train to and from my job as a Deputy Attorney General in the California Department of Justice, where I prosecute corporate fraud cases like the ones described in When the Devil Whistles. I’m the father of four great kids and the husband of a loving and tolerant woman who puts up with being a single mother when deadlines loom or Notre Dame is playing. I’m also a decent breakfast cook, particularly if you’re not picky about calories and fat.

What is your favorite Bible verse and why?

“I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:12-13)

Paul understood that no matter what circumstances he faced—freedom, prison, wealth, poverty, abundance, hunger—all that mattered was that he had the strength of Christ. He knew how to take both the good and the bad that the world threw at him because he had built his foundation on the Rock and couldn’t be shaken.

What inspired the concept for writing When the Devil Whistles?

The cases I deal with every day. They’re fascinating studies in corporate fraud, pride, and conspiracy. And the whistleblowers who bring them are no less interesting. I meet idealistic crusaders, amoral opportunists, angry layoff victims, and crazy conspiracy theorists. Sometimes they’re right and sometimes they’re wrong, but they’re never, ever dull.

How did you choose the setting for your story?
 
Setting it in and around San Francisco was natural. We’ve got one of the most active (and interesting) corporate fraud practices in the country. The Bay Area also makes an excellent palette for adding color to a legal thriller: white shoe law firms making a living off expensive secrets, do-gooder aristocrats, quirky artists and musicians, risk-taking corporate executives with more money than ethics—and, of course, the spectacular scenery. Besides, I couldn’t pass up a chance to show off my adopted home.

 

Is any part of When the Devil Whistles factual?
 
I put as little fiction as possible into my books. I tried to make everything in When the Devil Whistles factually accurate, from the corporate espionage tricks used by whistleblowers to the name of the receptionist at the Department of Justice’s San Francisco office (thanks for doing a cameo, Ruby).

How long did When the Devil Whistles take you to complete?
 
About ten months from the first word until I sent in the manuscript, which is pretty typical for me.

Do you have a favorite character in When the Devil Whistles? Why?

That’s a tough one. I like all the main characters for different reasons: Allie’s sharp wit and deep conflicts, Connor’s sense of honor, Ed’s street (or sea) smarts and way with words.

How much research did When the Devil Whistles take?

The law-related parts took virtually no research, but other scenes were harder. I’ve never driven a robot submarine or flown a P-51, for example. I’ve also never handled a national security emergency. Fortunately, I was able to find people who have. They were generous with their time and helped me get my facts straight.

What was the most interesting fact that you learned while writing When the Devil Whistles?

I’m continually amazed at how few people know about the false claims laws described in When the Devil Whistles. Whistleblowers can receive bounties worth tens of millions of dollars for uncovering fraud on the government, but the fraud usually goes undiscovered and the bounties unclaimed because there’s so little public awareness of these laws. Sigh.

What are some of the challenges you face as an author?
 
The biggest is trying to find time for everything. I’m a full-time lawyer and a father of four. Squeezing in time to write (let alone do research, marketing, blogging, etc.) is a continual struggle. If I didn’t have a long commute, I probably wouldn’t be a published author.

 

What aspects of being a writer do you enjoy the most?

All of it. I love writing a good scene, talking with fans, brainstorming with other authors, and digging into research. I even like doing edits. I’d do this job for free (hope my publisher isn’t reading this).

What writing clubs or organizations do you belong to?

More than I really have time for: American Christian Fiction Writers, ChiLibris, Christian Authors Network, San Jose Christian Writers Group, and Logos Writers.

What were your favorite books as a child?

The Chronicles of Narnia, the Lord of the Rings, and anything by Ray Bradbury.

What is your writing style?   (Do you outline? Write “by-the-seat-of-your-pants?   Or somewhere in-between?)

Um, yes. I outline, write SOTP, and often wind up somewhere in between. I start out with an outline that lays everything out neatly from the opening bombshell to the last twist. Then I get into the middle of the story and things happen. Characters wander in uninvited. Someone gets killed when I only intended a flesh wound. People fall in love when they were supposed to be just friends. So I take a deep breath, brew a pot of strong coffee, and do a new outline that will take the story home.

Do your characters begin to take on a life of their own as you write?

Oh, yes. Some of them also take on deaths of their own. That’s always a hazard in one of my books.

What other new projects do you have on the horizon?
  
Here’s a sneak peek at my current project: Lawyer Marie Derouen is trying to rebuild her life and career after her ex-husband was indicted for embezzlement and falsely implicated her in his crimes. She is assigned to defend a wealthy Miami importer who is accused of “disappearing” a teenaged girl years ago when he was a military officer in Guatemala City. He is handsome, charming, and seems honorable. And of course he denies killing the girl. Marie begins to fall in love with her client, but she senses that he is keeping secrets from her. Is she too suspicious because her ex betrayed her, or is her intuition about him right?

 

Who was the person who influenced you the most with your writing?

My high school English teacher, Mrs. York. She was the first person who didn’t see my short stories and bad poetry as just a waste of time.

What message would you like your readers to take from When the Devil Whistles?

We can’t hide from hard choices. How we face them defines us. As one of the characters comments, “You are what you are when the Devil whistles.” Do you come running to him? Do you hide and hope he won’t notice you? Or do you stand firm in the power of God?

What is your greatest achievement?

Raising four wonderful kids.

What is your goal or mission as a writer?

I try to write stories that readers can’t put down and can’t forget. I love it when a reader says something like, “I stayed up all night reading your latest, and it really got me thinking.” In my view, good fiction should both entertain and challenge readers. I do my best to keep them on the edges of their seats until the last page and leave them with an insight about themselves, their Lord, or the world that will stick with them long after they put the book down.

What do you do to get away from it all?

I read, of course!

 


 

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