Rick Acker squeezes in writing while in transit to his “other job” as a Deputy Attorney General in the California Department of Justice. If you are looking for an engaging thriller, don’t go past his most recent release, Blood Brothers, available now from Kregel.
Not sure where Rick found the time to answer my interview questions but I am glad he did!
If you could have chosen your own name, what would it be?
Your first pet’s name?
My early pets tended to either escape or die pretty quickly, so I don’t remember their names. The first one to stick around for more than a few days was Stupid the tortoise. He earned his name by being too thick to walk around obstacles. During warm weather, we’d let him out in the yard and put a board in front of him so that he couldn’t escape. If he was feeling frisky, he’d walk into the board and just sit there until someone pointed him in a different direction or put him back in his aquarium. That worked until one day he managed to knock down the board and we never saw him again. True story.
Your best friend’s name in primary (elementary) school?
Rob Zoschke. We lost touch for about thirty years, and then I ran into him last summer in a little resort town in Wisconsin—where he was doing a book signing. We write in very different genres (Rob writes secular beat-style poetry, essays and fiction; I do Christian suspense), but it was great to see him and reconnect after all those years.
If you were stranded on a desert island what one object would you want with you? (Besides your Bible of course)
Does the island have wifi? If so, my laptop, no question. I’m addicted and I admit it. My name is Rick, and I’m a Macaholic.
What’s your favourite ice cream flavour?
Cherry, especially Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia. Great stuff.
When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
At different ages I wanted to be a deep sea diver, starting middle linebacker for the Chicago Bears, and an author. So far, I’m 1 for 3.
Besides God, who has influenced you the most?
My wife, Anette. We met in college and have done everything together ever since, including writing. She has participated in all my books from the first brainstorming sessions to the final copy edits. I wouldn’t be a published author without her.
What’s your favourite book?
There’s no single novel that I can say is my all time favorite, but there are a few that I’ve read at least half a dozen times because they have top-notch writing and strong plots. Here they are in no particular order: The Day of the Jackal, The Lord of the Rings, Till We Have Faces, The Great Gatsby, The Chronicles of Narnia, and Beowulf (Seamus Heaney translation).
What part of your daily routine do you enjoy most?
My commute (bet you’ve never had someone say that before). I spend a little under two hours each day on BART, the light rail system that connects San Francisco to America. That’s when I do 90% of my writing, and if I didn’t have that time, I probably wouldn’t be a published author today.
What’s your favourite movie?
A Man For All Seasons. Any movie in which the hero is a Christian lawyer has to be pretty good—right, Rel?
Where’s the most interesting place you have been?
Folkemuseum, the open air museum outside Oslo, Norway. It’s a remarkable collection of buildings from all eras of Norwegian history from the Viking times to the early 1900s—and they’re all open to the public. You can walk right into a 700-year-old stave church and touch the original wooden altar. One building I visited—a shadowy, brooding Viking hall—served as the inspiration for an early scene in Blood Brothers. Carvings from another are part of the cover art.
What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done?
I don’t know if this was particularly brave, but it sure made me nervous at the time: taking a 60% pay cut to leave private legal practice for a job in the California Department of Justice. I’m the sole breadwinner in our house and we’ve got 4 kids and a California mortgage, so it was going to be tight. We knew it was a God thing, though, and the transition was surprisingly painless.
What is your favourite Bible verse (or one of your favourites) and what does it mean to you?
I love it when the father of the epileptic boy blurts out, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24) That’s exactly how I am a lot of the time. I firmly and confidently believe in God’s promises and power—right up to the moment when I actually have to rely on them. Then I’m all nerves until God comes through, at which point I turn back into a confident believer.
What was your most embarrassing moment in High School?
I had just transferred to a Christian high school from public school and I wasn’t used to saying grace before lunch. I took out my lunch, opened my milk carton and dug in. Then the school chaplain suddenly started to pray and I noticed that everyone else had their heads bowed and hands folded. I jerked into proper praying position—and in the process knocked my milk carton into my lap. Of course it landed upside down, and of course it was chocolate milk. At least everyone knew who I was by the end of the day.
What is the best thing about being a lawyer? The worst?
Best thing: Getting to work on cases that make the world a better place. For example, for the past three years I’ve been investigating allegations that Citibank was stealing tens of millions of dollars from dead people and the poor. It turned out to be true, and we recently reached a settlement that requires Citi to return all the stolen money (with interest), create a system to prevent the thefts from ever happening again, and pay $3.5 million in penalties. If you’re interested in the details, the Attorney General’s press release is at http://ag.ca.gov/newsalerts/
Worst thing: Timekeeping. Most nonlawyers don’t realize that we have to record and describe every minute that we work. The result reads like the outline for an excruciatingly dull reality show: review discovery responses (1.0 hours); research rules governing same (3.5 hours); meet and confer with opposing counsel regarding same (1.5 hours); write letter to opposing counsel memorializing meet and confer (2.5 hours); stare out window and wonder whether it’s too late to go back to lifeguarding (1.5 hours).
Rel: I am so with you on the timekeeping issue – tedious!
What inspired you to write about the pharmaceutical industry and a “wonder drug”?
There were two main inspirations: First, scholars believe that the berserkers described in ancient Norse sagas took a powerful drug that is now lost to history—a drug that made them faster, stronger, and immune to pain. Second, I’d read about a couple of drug trials that went badly wrong when government regulators let pharmaceutical companies begin human trials too soon.
What are the similarities between Ben Corbin, Lawyer and Rick Acker, Deputy Attorney General?
Let’s see—we’re both refugees from big law firms, we’re both litigators, we’re both from Chicago, and we both have beautiful wives who love salmon.
Will we see Ben in action again?
I hope so. My current project doesn’t involve Ben, but I like him and hope to do another book about him at some point.
What are you working on at the moment? A sneak peek, please.
I just started writing my first post-Blood Brothers project. The tentative title is Devil to Pay, Inc., and it’s the story of Allie Whitman (a professional whistleblower with a knack for sniffing out fraud in government contracts) and Connor Norman (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 gets paid handsomely when the defendants settle. Allie and Connor have made good money recovering taxpayer dollars, or 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. Suddenly Allie and Connor find themselves fighting desperate battles in and out of the courtroom against a shadowy company that has secrets much darker than padded bills.
Any last words…..
Thanks for having me on your blog, Rel!
Rick, it has been a pleasure. Always great to talk to a fellow lawyer – there really are some nice ones of us around – LOL!!
Relz Reviewz Extras
Review of Blood Brothers