|Anne Riley, Author|
Anne Riley brings us AERIE reviewed as "An enthralling blend of business, technology, and romance!" an “engrossing, revealing look at developing technologies in the 1990s.” Riley chose to set her thriller in the early 1990s to focus on the world before it was dominated by the Internet. To entice the reader to turn the pages, she intertwined the business and the romantic “entanglements.”
Prior to becoming an author, Riley worked as an accountant where she learned about the corporate world. She lives in Oregon with her husband, is an avid biker, and has run eight marathons. AERIE is Riley's second book and her first novel. She is currently working on a new book “to keep readers on the edge of their seats.”
Q: What made you decide to write a novel? And once you decided to write a novel, how did you conceive of the plot for AERIE?
Anne Riley: I dabbled in writing fiction many years ago when I left my job to stay at home while my kids were growing up. But things got busy, and I put my writing away. In 2010, my husband and I decided to take a break from our jobs and see what this whole living thing was about. It didn’t take long for me to get bitten by the writing bug. In 2013 I published “Elusive Little Sucker,” a little book about my lonnnnng struggle to find happiness. I realized then how much fun it was to write and decided to return to fiction.
AERIE was born out of my training as an accountant and my experience in the 1980s and 1990s in the high tech arena. In college, I was trained to look for ways in which business systems could be compromised. When I went to work, to keep from getting bored, I would often think about how people could cheat the systems on which I worked. The high tech arena had more than its share of exploitable weaknesses. The most obvious to me was the clear mismatch in knowledge between the provider of technical services and the purchaser of those services. I realized it was not only easy, but often LEGAL to cheat customers who didn’t know what they were buying. That is the underlying conflict on which AERIE is based.
Q: One reviewer says, “The author clearly knows her way around the boardroom” and “creates a realistic, chilling portrayal of how businesses are fought over, won and lost.” Did your experiences ‘around the boardroom’ help to create credibility for your story?
Anne Riley: As an accountant, I dealt with confidential financial information, and often worked with controllers and CFOs as well as company officers. Those experiences definitely provided me with the background needed to give my story credibility.
For me, it was less ‘boardroom’ and more ‘board members’ that were important. I am fascinated by how people are motivated, particularly powerful people. Human beings are interesting and complex, and their motivations are often as interesting and complex as they are. It was really enjoyable to build characters with complicated motivations, place them in really difficult situations, and then make them work through their challenges. The business world provides a wonderful setting because money and power create such a rich and volatile mix.
Q: Why did you set AERIE in the early 1990s?
Anne Riley: I wanted to write a story about the world as it looked before the Internet was a daily part of our life. There are so many tools that we take for granted today that were just coming into being in the early 1990s. Cell phones were just starting to be used. Laptops were still new and rarely used by anyone except important business people. Modems were the tool for communication; wireless connections didn’t even exist. Most business emails were transmitted through dumb terminals. The Internet was a network of education and research institutions. Businesses linked to other businesses through slow, torturous modem connections that were complicated and often unreliable.
In the early 1990s, technology was moving fast, and there was a huge gap between a small number of technical providers and a vast population of non-tech savvy consumers. The opportunities for exploitation were huge. Also, because instant communication did not exist then as it does today, it was easier to hide manipulation and treachery.
Q: Reviewers tout the combination of learning about the technology of the early 1990s “with suspense, greed, fraud & bribery, mixed with a little romance.” How do you manage to integrate back-story with your plot so that it is entertaining?
Anne Riley: That is the art of writing. I love reading thrillers, but I have always been dissatisfied when an author creates the opportunity for a romantic relationship, then leaves it unfulfilled. I wanted to write a story where the romantic entanglements and business entanglements were totally integrated so that each one affected the other. The book is not allowed to end until both parts of the story are united and result in a definitive and satisfying conclusion.
It takes a lot of effort to craft a story so that it seamlessly moves between two disparate elements. Believe me, I spent many hours editing for story content, character consistency as well as readability. I think that is the thing I am most proud of about AERIE: when a reader tells me that they couldn’t put the book down.
Q: In your bio, you mention that you are now using your accounting degree and MBA as “sparingly as possible.” Why? (I must confess that I don’t miss working in the corporate environment.)
Anne Riley: This is such a good question. I went into accounting because I was good at it and I wanted a job that would allow me to work anywhere (my husband was an engineer with more geographically limited options, so I wanted to have as many work options as possible once he decided where to land). What I learned pretty early in the game, was that I was not motivated by the typical desires of business people. The technical aspects of the job were always interesting, but ambition, the drive for profits, wealth, position, winning at the game of office politics, these aspects of business left me cold. The parts I do love about business: customer service, quality, fair play, creating win-win situations, often seemed to be at odds with the management emphasis I encountered. Work frequently ended up being a frustrating experience.
When I left my last job in 2010, I decided to examine my values and determine what was really important in my life. I was amazed to realize that a successful business career dropped down so low that I no longer wanted to pursue it. What has taken its place are things that really matter to me. Spending time with my husband. Volunteering in my community. Writing. Biking.
Q: How relevant is the concept of heroes vs villains to telling your story?
Anne Riley: Very important. Conflict is the basis of my story. The heroes represent honesty and fair business practice; the villains represent greed and dishonesty. In real life, people are not so one dimensional, but in writing, you need to make the definitions clear enough so the reader can get the ideas you are trying to communicate, but not so sharp that the characters become unrealistic. It’s a fine line. I made my heroes imperfect but likeable and worthy of respect. I made the villains nasty but smart and worthy opponents to the heroes. Then I let them fight it out in a battle that keeps readers on the edge of their seats.
Q: How do you make your characters engaging? Why do readers embrace your protagonist?
Anne Riley: This is where showing not telling is so essential to story telling. I show the characters in action, and let the readers draw their own conclusions about them.
When I read a book, I love to observe and discover the characters. I don't want the author to tell me what to think about the characters or the story. I want to figure it out for myself. That is the essence of the joy of reading. I kept this idea in mind at all times, when I wrote AERIE. I wanted the reader to discover what was happening just as the characters did. And I wanted to let the readers have their own opinions about how the characters behave and how the story unfolds. I am constantly amazed at how readers pick up different aspects of the story that I didn’t intend. I love when that happens.
I think readers love my protagonists because they are flawed but still worthy of respect and admiration. Sometimes they make mistakes, or draw the wrong conclusions, or trust the wrong people. But they also treat each other with respect, they admit when they screw up, and they don’t let failure get in their way. These are qualities the reader can relate to and ultimately admire.
Q: Did you write AERIE strictly to entertain your readers, or were you also hoping to educate them or deliver a message?
Anne Riley: First and foremost, I wanted to write a book that a reader will LOVE to read. If a reader is willing to part with a few hard-earned dollars to buy my book, I feel that it’s my responsibility to give that person an experience worth at least twice the purchase price. I hope I’ve done that. Not everyone loves every book, but I have had enough feedback with AERIE to know that most readers find it rich and satisfying.
For me, I love ideas and I fully admit to planting all kinds of them in AERIE. The reader is welcome to explore them. Or not. If a reader gets nothing from the book except a great reading experience, I am one happy author!
Q: What’s next? Will we see more novels from Anne Riley?
Anne Riley: Yes, I love fiction and am working on a new book. I have come up with a whole new set of ideas to explore, so I am busy massaging them into a rich complicated story that will once again keep readers on the edge of their seats.
Q: Tell us about Anne Riley. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Anne Riley: Well, I am no longer formally employed. Writing is my favorite hobby. I try to participate in some sort of writing related activities on an ongoing basis. Right now, I am marketing AERIE. I’m also drawing up the plot of my new book. I am a regular contributor with the Women’s group Women Who Rise, which is a fantastic organization dedicated to the idea that women can succeed and play nice at the same time. I have been a guest blogger on several websites and have done some radio shows. I generally just do things I like to do and that match my values. Oh, and I love to read.
I volunteer in our local community. I serve on the Budget committee in our neighborhood (that accounting degree does come in handy) and run our local pool in the summertime.
I started a website to encourage folks to put balls in parks so kids can play. It’s a very informal concept but one that I wanted to promote, so I built a website and threw it out into the world. You can take a look at the website at playitforward-us.com.
I really enjoy physical activity, so in the summer I do a lot of biking in the Oregon area. I really enjoy it, though I suffered a pretty bad knee injury in April, and am only now finally back into riding shape. My husband loves to plan multi-day bike trips, so all I have to do is carry my pack and ride, usually a long way! I also swim and lift weights and walk. I have run eight marathons but no longer am injury-free enough to run regularly, so biking and swimming have been great substitutes.
My husband Tim and I have been married for 33 years and he still makes me laugh every day. We have three children, Jim, Celeste and Erin, all of whom have grown up and left the nest. They lead very interesting lives and I am so proud of them for being such fascinating and unique individuals.
I want to thank you for giving me this opportunity to spend a little time with you. I have had such fun. You are most kind, and I am most grateful!
About Anne Riley
Anne Riley lives in Hillsboro, Oregon with her husband and better half, Tim. They are the parents of three children, Jim, Celeste, and Erin, all of whom have grown up and left the nest. They make their parents proud with their interesting and uniquely suitable lives.
AERIE is Anne’s second book and first work of fiction. It is a high-tech thriller set in the 1990s where intrigue, deceit and greed are pitted against love, honor and integrity. Anne’s business background as an accountant and MBA give the book a genuine feel for the world as it existed before the Internet became a daily part of life.
Anne surrendered to the writing bug in 2012 when she published her first book, a non-fiction work entitled Elusive Little Sucker, My Entirely Too Long and Totally Circuitous Search for Happiness. It is the completely true, and occasionally embarrassing, story of how she struggled with and finally found happiness.
Anne’s true love is writing fiction. She will continue to write rich and interesting stories that allow readers the chance to enjoy a delightful ride into the lives of characters who are forced to deal with complicated problems that exist all around us in this complicated world.
Liam Scofield has an idea, and it’s a good one. It is 1991. Liam is the president and CEO of Windwear, a flourishing hiking boot company located in Portland, Oregon. His growing company is planning to go public, and in anticipation of future growth, he has developed an idea for a new computer program to link his systems to those of his customers and suppliers. Always one to evaluate an idea using expert opinions, Liam seeks out Cara Larson, a systems analyst working at the technology giant, Pyramid, to assess the quality of this one. Cara disagrees with Liam. It’s not a good idea, she tells him, it’s a great one. She thinks it has the potential to become a saleable product and earn Windwear millions of dollars.
Cara’s team begins working on the software, named Aerie, and after early initial success, runs into problems that have little to do with the complexities of technology. It seems Cara’s boss, Peter Whittington, thinks Aerie would be wasted on Windwear. He devises his own plans for the software and recruits Cara to aid him in his efforts. Then there’s Lauren Janelle, Windwear’s beautiful in-house attorney. She has designs on . . . well, let’s just say she has designs on many of Liam’s . . . assets.
It’s not long before Cara has to make difficult choices about how to proceed with the Aerie project. As Cara navigates her way through sticky ethical issues, she finds her respect for Liam growing into something more complicated and altogether unsettling. Unfortunately, Cara’s efforts to help Windwear take an unexpected turn. Where greed is involved, even good deeds can be manipulated, and Liam suddenly finds himself competing with Cara to be the first to bring Aerie to market.
It will prove to be a painful two-front battle for Liam. First, and quite inconveniently, he has fallen in love with his competition. Second, and far more problematic for the future of Windwear, he’s fighting the wrong enemy.