Let’s start with an introduction: Who is David Ricciardi?
I’m a thriller addict and an outdoor enthusiast who always thought I had a book inside me and finally decided to take a shot at it.
Your debut novel, Warning Light, will be published by Berkley in next week (April 17th). I’m lucky enough to have already read it, and I really enjoyed it. How would you introduce it to a potential reader? Is it part of a series?
Thanks! I’m glad you liked it. I’d tell potential readers that it’s a story of survival and self-reliance. It begins with a young CIA analyst who volunteers for a mission in the field and soon finds himself fighting for his life. It’s man against man and man against nature as the hero is chased across the globe by Iranian counterintelligence agents.
What inspired you to write the novel? And where do you draw your inspiration from in general?
My parole officer suggested that writing might be a more socially-acceptable outlet for the voices in my head (just kidding). As I mentioned earlier, I spend a lot of time outdoors, especially in the mountains and on the water. Being a multi-day trek from help or far offshore in heavy weather really sharpens one’s senses. It produces an adrenaline-driven mix of excitement and anxiety and I thought it would be great to share the feeling with readers. I’m also a foreign affairs junkie, so blending the outdoor and espionage angles seemed like a natural fit.
I’d have to say my inspiration comes from my parents. They’ve always been adventuresome and remarkably willing to try new things. There’s a great quote that’s usually attributed to Albert Einstein, although I can’t vouch for it’s provenance: “There are two ways to live your life, as if nothing is a miracle or as if everything is.” They were definitely in the latter camp passed the sentiment down to me. Life is too short to be bored.
How were you introduced to thriller and espionage fiction?
My father was a Book-of-the-Month Club member and he would often suggest titles for me to read. The first novelist that really made an impact on me was Tom Clancy. I devoured his work. I have copies of his books that I’ve read so many times that the covers have fallen off and the pages have yellowed. Among his other talents, Clancy had a great ability to develop heroes and villains that respected each other even while working at cross purposes. It’s a concept I’d love to see return to American society.
How do you like being a writer and working within the publishing industry?
I love being a writer. It’s a lot of work, there’s no question about that, but it’s an exciting career. The publishing industry has its pros and cons. The people are amazing: supportive, outgoing, enthusiastic, but the business side of it can move at a glacial pace. It’s ironic coming from the industry that brings us page turners!
Do you have any specific working, writing, researching practices? In particular for the international components of the novel – have you travelled to all of the countries Zac is in?
I try to write every day. It keeps the words and ideas flowing smoothly. I’m also a stickler for detail. My research process would best be described as “informed curiosity.” I haven’t traveled to Iran, but I’ve spent enough time in similar areas to know what I need to research further. My preference is to then speak with people who can give me first-hand color, but I don’t know anyone who has spent time in an Iranian prison so sometimes I’ll research it on the internet or use a little Kentucky windage.
When did you realize you wanted to be an author, and what was your first foray into writing? Do you still look back on it fondly?
Very fondly. I was in college when my best friend/roommate was browsing through my personal files on my computer and read a short story I’d written. He told me definitively that I should get it published, which I immediately dismissed, but never forgot. Years later, I decided to give it a shot, and I’m glad that I did.
What’s your opinion of the genre today, and where do you see your work fitting into it?
The genre has never been more vibrant. I have a bottomless stack of books in my house that I’m constantly attacking. There are authors I’ve never heard of whose pages I rip though and masters of the thriller genre who continue to amaze me with their creativity and depth. What I tried to accomplish with Warning Light is to develop a hero that readers can identify with. He’s a regular guy who has been forced to elevate his game and see what he’s really made of. He’s not an assassin or a special-ops veteran, he’s just a guy with a sharp mind and a strong moral compass. Hopefully he’ll carve a niche for himself.
Do you have any other projects in the pipeline, and what are you working on at the moment?
I just finished the sequel to Warning Light. Unfortunately, despite everything our hero learned during his first foray into the field, things don’t get a whole lot easier for him… In fact, the story starts off with a tragedy that puts him on the defensive from the very first chapter. I have a few ideas that I’m very excited about for book #3 and hopefully I’ll get the green light to start writing one of them in the next few weeks.
What are you reading at the moment (fiction, non-fiction)?
I love fiction and non-fiction and alternate between the two. I just finished Unsub by Meg Gardiner and was blown away. She’s great at establishing what’s important to her characters and then ripping it away in a thoughtful and realistic way. Highly recommended.
If you could recommend only one novel to someone, what would it be?
It would depend on the person, but for a blanket recommendation, I would pick something by Hemingway, probably The Old Man and the Sea because it gives great insight into the human condition and, spoiler alert, it has a boat in it, which I dig.
What’s something readers might be surprised to learn about you?
I never studied writing or literature. (I’m sure there are a few critics would not be surprised by this at all).
What are you most looking forward to in the next twelve months?
Getting started on the next book in the series. It’s a concept that I’m very excited about and I think it will make a riveting story.