Saturday, August 25, 2012

Unauthorized Access by Andrew McAllister: Interview and Excerpt

New cover added 2/21/13

Young computer programmer Rob Donovan receives an emergency call from his boss at the First Malden Bank in Boston after the first successful cyberattack in American banking history scrambles thousands of account records. First Malden’s survival is on the line as furious customers and voracious reporters descend on the bank. Rob is part of the team trying to fix the damage, until the FBI charges him with the crime and brings his world crashing down. Facing prison time and the loss of his fiancée Lesley, Rob’s only chance of reclaiming his life lies in cutting through a web of mistrust and betrayal to uncover the startling truth behind the attack.

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Rob and Lesley sat on a bench by the Charles River Basin while seagulls wheeled lazily overhead. Pigeons squabbled and searched the paved walkway for tidbits.
The late-morning sun struggled to provide the heat it would so easily dispense during the afternoon. Lesley hugged herself to stay warm but Rob knew this was not the right moment to slide over and put an arm around her. The walk from the courthouse had been a silent affair.
Rob had never truly understood what freedom meant before. The on-again, off-again breeze felt fresher on his face than he could ever remember. The walkway stretched off into the distance along the river and he was free to walk the entire length of it if that was what he felt like doing. He could choose. No bars or guards prevented him from standing up and walking off. The simple fact of it was intoxicating.
He looked to his right, toward where the Charles River met the Atlantic. He pictured himself on the water, rowing. Long, effortless strokes that propelled him further and further east with each pull. Spray from the bow splashed on his back, soaking him, cleansing him. Freeing him. He could just keep going, never look back.
Or a quick plane ride. But to where? South America, maybe. Which countries had extradition treaties?
Right. As if.
No, in two short months he had to go back in a courtroom and face the possibility―the strong possibility it seemed―of  going to prison. He felt a cold shiver shake his shoulders and run down his back.
Lesley interrupted his thoughts. “It was nice of your parents to give Mom a lift back to my place.”
“They’re heading back home to Worcester, and it was right on their way.” Rob shrugged. “And I think they could tell we wanted to be alone.”
She took a deep, raggedy breath.
“This is a nightmare,” she said without looking at him. “The whole thing. The engagement, Uncle Stan, the mess at the TV station. Even my mother. It feels like the whole world exploded and the pieces landed on us.”
“What’s wrong with your mother?”
“She’s upset,” Lesley said. “Doesn’t want me to get hurt.”
Rob felt himself deflate even more. “And she thinks I’m some big criminal.”
Lesley didn’t deny it, which was answer enough.
“Figures,” he said.
The hardening of Lesley’s jaw and the sharp flash of her eyes should have been a warning to Rob of what was to come. He was in no mood to read the signs, though, even those the size of billboards.
“It really ticks me off that everybody assumes the police are right about me,” he said. “This is hard enough without people jumping to conclusions.”
“Don’t lay your problems on her. She didn’t cause them.”
Rob scowled at her. “Oh, and I did, right?”
Her nostrils flared as she returned his glare. “You think this is easy for me?” she said. “I feel like I’m being ripped apart by chains pulling in ten different directions.”
“You’re not the one they want to throw in prison.”
“No? Yesterday the FBI accused me of being an accomplice. They asked about Monday night. Wanted to know if you used your computer while I was in the bathroom or if I helped you do it.”
Rob’s temples started to throb. “I didn’t go near the computer.”
“Somebody did, and nobody else was there.”
Rob leaned his head back, grabbed his hair with both hands and shouted at the sky.
“Great. This is just … perfect.”
A tiny dog happened to be walking by. It jumped and skittered away at the sound of Rob’s outburst. The elderly lady holding the leash quickened her pace and scuttled away, looking back at them over her shoulder.
Lesley crossed her arms and legs and looked away. Her foot started pumping in agitation.
“Do you think I’d create all these headaches on purpose?” Rob said. “Is that who you think I am?”
“No, but―”
“But what? But the FBI has a fingerprint. That should be enough to wipe out everything we’ve been through together, shouldn’t it?”
She turned her head away from him. He could see her jaw working from side to side in tiny, jerky movements.
“If I really did want to mess with the bank’s computers,” he said, “why would I be stupid enough to leave behind all that evidence pointing at myself?”
Rob felt the hurt sting his eyes when she didn’t respond. He stood up abruptly, took a few steps, and stood with his back to her, arms crossed, looking toward the water but not seeing. A vast emptiness seemed to open up in his gut.
“You don't believe me, do you?” he said.
He waited, wanting to look at her but afraid of what he might see. No answer came.
“Fine,” he said, and started to walk upriver. He had no idea where he was going, only that he didn’t want to stay where he was.
Rob felt Lesley’s hand on his elbow. He stopped and turned back to face her. Tears ran down her cheeks.
“I want more than anything to believe you,” she said. “If someone had asked me a week ago if you were capable of this sort of thing, I would have laughed in their face. But how can you explain all the stuff that FBI guy talked about in court today? It just doesn’t seem possible.”
He wrenched his arm out of her grasp.
“I shouldn’t have to explain anything,” he said. “We’re going to be married, for crying out loud. You should trust me by now.”
Lesley raised her hands in exasperation. “How can we make wedding plans with all this going on? Oh, I know, we’ll get invitations made. Ceremony at three, reception to follow―if the groom isn’t in prison, that is. And we can tell the guests about the night we slipped the ring on me and the handcuffs on you.”
“If it’s such a problem for you, maybe we shouldn’t bother.”
“Is that what you want?”
“I want someone who believes in me,” Rob shouted.
“I did,” Lesley shouted back, “and look where that got us.”
“Fine. Just forget it.”
Rob turned and started to walk away again. Something small hit his back and landed with a tinkling noise on the walkway. He swung around to see Lesley running in the opposite direction.
The diamond ring lay at his feet.

Welcome Andrew! Thanks so much for your visit today. It’s great to get this chance to find out more about you.  Tell us about your current release.


When someone asks me what Unauthorized Access is about, I find the quickest way is to describe the book as a Grisham-style thriller. Think of suspenseful stories like The Firm or The Fugitive with Harrison Ford and you’ll get a sense of what to expect.


Did travel play in the writing of your book?


Unauthorized Access is set in and around Boston. While writing the book I first outlined all the scenes and figured out what type of location was needed for each one. Then I took a trip to Boston. I walked all through downtown and drove around the city for quite a while visiting every location mentioned in the book. When I describe the inside of a Boston restaurant, you can bet I actually ate there. That trip was a blast, imagining the story and looking for details to incorporate into the book.


What do you think makes a good story?


As a reader I want to care deeply about what is going on in a story. I love the feeling of desperately wanting to know what is going to happen next. My favorite books are the ones where I find myself reading while I’m shaving and while I’m eating breakfast, because I simply can’t wait to find out what’s going to happen. As an author that’s the kind of reading experience I strive to create, and I’m thrilled at the number of people who have written to me and described exactly that reaction to Unauthorized Access.


I won’t give away all ways I go about pumping up the reader’s adrenaline, since I believe a novel is a bit like magic; some of the mystery and wonderment goes away if you get to see how everything works behind the curtain. Suffice it to say, though, there are a number of writing techniques I like to use. For instance, one way is to create scenes where the point of view character deeply wants (or often downright needs) something to happen. This raises a question for the reader – will the character achieve their goal? We get to the end of the scene to find the goal still unresolved and even worse, an additional complicating problem has popped up. Then the reader turns the page, wanting to find out what happens next … only the nasty author (that would be me) has taken the action somewhere else dealing with a different character. The reader is left in delicious agony waiting to find out what happens with character number one, AND we now have an equally pressing problem going on with character number two. Now that’s my idea of a good story.


Does your significant other read your stuff?


During all the time I worked on writing, polishing, and eventually publishing Unauthorized Access, my wife put off reading it. She always said she wanted to wait until it was a finished product. So as soon as I downloaded the published version onto my Kindle reader, I began reading it out loud to her. This was a great way for the two of us to relax before bedtime. The first bit I read was where I dedicated the book to her. She had no idea I had done this and she was visibly touched. It was a wonderful moment, one I’ll always remember.


Do you hear from your readers?


For me, this has been the best part of the publication experience. I included my author email in the “About The Author” material, specifically because I want readers to feel free to reach out. And reach out they have, which is wonderful! One of the first emails I received was from a college student who is traveling in Europe this summer. She heard about Unauthorized Access from a friend, downloaded it onto her Kindle, and finished it in one afternoon during a long train ride. I can’t stress enough how much feedback like this means to an author. For the record, my email is: andrewmcallisterauthor at yahoo dot com


Do you have any suggestions for beginning writers? If so, what are they?


Be patient and value the quality of the reading experience above all else. Writers are often anxious to see their work in print, and with today’s indie publishing options it is easier than ever to rush a book out to the world. Having the book available won’t matter, though, unless the author has taken the time to get it right. Craft an engaging story, give it to as many beta readers as you can, and then listen when they offer suggestions for improvement. Rewrite, edit, polish, fix, and then get more feedback. Don’t cut this process short. How long should this take? The answer is: until. Until you get it right, no matter how long it takes. Then pay the same kind of detailed attention to copyediting and formatting. You want the book to have a professional appearance and be virtually typo-free. Pay for help here if need be, so the mechanical stuff doesn’t get in the way of the readers’ enjoyment.


Tell us about your next release.

I’m working on a follow-up thriller called Firewall. The idea for this novel originated from a thought I had one day about several of my friends, who happen to be dedicated and caring husbands. I asked myself how agonizingly difficult it would be for a husband like that if he had to watch his wife need him more than she ever had before … but he couldn’t get to her or help her in any way. That germ of an idea has grown into a story about an FBI agent tracking a gang of Russian hackers who use sophisticated phishing emails to steal money from ordinary people’s bank accounts. And incidentally, the FBI agent is one of the characters from Unauthorized Access.


Andrew McAllister is a writer, professor, husband, and father of three, but most days not in that order. He has a dual background in information systems and psychology, which means he can fix your computer software … but only if it really wants to change. He once ran into a goalpost while playing touch football. Some people think this explains a great deal about him. He lives in Fredericton, Canada, where he is busy working on his next book.
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Irene  |  Ella   |  Alison   |  Wendy   |  Madeline    |   RenéeAnn

Enter for a chance to win a Print or Digital copy of Unauthorized Access. 2 winners.
Print Book is available for shipping to US/CAN.  Digital copy is open Internationally.
Comment on this post for a bonus entry.
Giveaway ends September 22nd 11:59PM Central Time.


Debby said...

I love books that looks so wonderful. Thanks or the great post.
debby236 at gmail dot com

Goldenmane said...

This is an interesting premise. I imagine just about anything can be hacked if someone invests enough time.

Suz Reads said...

Thanks for this amazing giveaway! This book sounds great and I would love to win it!

Lona said...

Unauthorized Access sounds great, looking forward to reading it. Thx for giveaway.

Allensbrock said...

looking forward to reading it.Thanks ;)

Laurie said...

Looks like a a page turner from the excerpt. I'm looking forward to reading it.

Brigette Streeper said...

Looks like a great book :)

Brooke said...

Oh, I love suspense and whodunits. Thanks for the chance to win.