Saturday, January 7, 2017

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY: R. W. Hacker, Author

R. W. Hacker, Author
R. W. Hacker describes his recently-released KILL’T DEAD OR WORSE as a detective story at its core but “with a sense of humor.”  Set in Texas, the book explores the life of protagonist private detective Nick Sibelius with cases of characters we might expect from the State. In fact, Texas is so important to the story that Hacker considers it to be a character. Critics applaud the book for being "entertaining", "well-written," and "so original you won't find anything like it."

Hacker plans to release two more Nick Sibelius novels in 2017, and he also is planning to release two other novels:  a science fiction and historical fantasy story. He and his wife moved from Texas and now live in Seattle, where he loves to cook and sing in a jazz group.

Check out the giveaway opportunity at the end of the interview -- and don't miss the excerpt.

Q: You have categorized your new novel, KILL’T DEAD OR WORSE, in multiple genres, including Mystery, Detective, and Humor. Which one dominates? Is it more of a mystery than a humorous story? Would you say that your story is a whodunit?

R. W. Hacker: The Nick Sibelius novels fit into the storytelling of Elmore Leonard (GET SHORTY) and Carl Hiaason (SKINNY DIPPING). The story has quirky characters pulled out of the fabric of Central Texas, some with a bit more criminal intent than others. I think of it as a detective story with a sense of humor.

Q:  How important is humor to tell your story? Does the use of humor help to develop your characters?

R. W. Hacker: In some ways my protagonist, Nick, plays the straight man to a world of unusual characters. Junior, for example, is at his core a good guy, but he makes poor decisions and takes actions before thinking through the consequences with a wake of destruction trailing behind him. Whatever he does, you know something unexpected will happen. At its core, the novel is a detective story, but some of the characters create humorous situations.

Q: Why will readers care about your protagonist, Nick Sibelius, private investigator? How will they relate? Why will they care what happens to him?

R. W. Hacker: Nick is a man who worked hard to have a family, a career, and a purpose, but like many of us, life does not go as planned. And for Nick things really went off the rails. After his wife left him for another man and his partner in the Houston Police force died when they responded to a call, Nick lost track of his life. He spirals down, finally landing in a trailer sitting on a plot of land east of the small town, growing Austin suburb of Pflugerville through the urgings of an old friend to rebuild his life. We meet him when he is just beginning to sort out his life and find some direction. He’s looking for meaningful work, maybe someone special in his life, and most of all, some peace and quiet without any drama. I think readers will care about Nick because most of us empathize with his struggle through our own unique life challenges.

Q: Your story is set in Texas. How helpful is the setting to tell your story? Would the plot be similar in any other State?

R. W. Hacker: In my mind Texas, and especially Central Texas is a character in the story. Like the rest of the country, condos rise, suburbs sprawl, and big boxes and franchises line the roads. But if you look in the right places, you still find the flavor and character of Texas which infuses the novel—BBQ smokehouses, diners serving chicken fried steak and coconut cream pie, pick up trucks, dance halls for two steppin’, and a sky that goes on forever. The story relies on characters rising out of the independent spirit and confidence of Texans and plays out in the context of the Texas Hill Country.

Q: Did you write your story strictly to entertain or did you embed a message or two along the way? Do you have something to say about toxic waste?

R. W. Hacker: My focus leans to entertainment, but I suppose my antagonists tend to have a general disregard for the environment. A disconnect, really. Texas ranchers and farmers know the critical importance of water and the impact of something like toxic waste on their land and the aquifers. Separating our actions from their impacts almost always comes back to bite us in the end.

Q: Does the concept of hero versus villain apply to KILL’T DEAD OR WORSE? What are the traits of an effective, compelling villain?

R. W. Hacker: Absolutely! Nick Sibelius, while a bit down and out when we meet him, is the hero of the story. He faces a ecosystem of villainy which offers a cross section of what it means to be a villain. At the bottom of the system is Jason, a killer and destroyer by nature. In some ways there’s a ‘simpleness’ to Jason. He’s just nasty. Barry, the toxic waste and drug manufacturing entrepreneur who employs Jason is the more dangerous kind of villain. Intelligent, methodical, narcissistic, and pathological. He doesn’t present the physical threat of Jason, but he brings much more to the game. And then there’s Junior who provides a bit of villainous comic relief. He wants to be bad, but at his core he’s too good-natured to be a villain. And so he often takes actions intending to present the aura of villainy, but not having his heart in the business. However, the results are almost always disastrous.

Q: How important is suspense to drive your mystery? How do you create suspense?

R. W. Hacker:  Suspense drives the story forward from the first chapter when we ponder the fate of a couple in the woods, followed by other disappearances near Junior’s farm. Sometimes the suspense is a piece of information withheld from the reader, like the fate of the two lovers. At other times the reader knows more than the protagonist, and so the suspense is in our knowing what Nick does not yet know.

Q: How helpful is romance to tell your story? Does it help the hero to have a heroine?

R. W. Hacker: I’ve used romance to explore the state of Nick’s mind and spirit. He’s lost a wife, a colleague, and a job when we meet him. There’s a loneliness and sadness in the background of his life. Then he meets a woman who brings the hope of relationship and happiness again. And for Nick, the sudden intense feelings also magnify and bring into focus the emptiness he has been sojourning. In this case, the woman also happens to be a very strong female character with serious skills. I’ll let the reader decide if she turns out to be a protagonist or an antagonist.

Q: What’s next? Will you write another detective story?

R. W. Hacker: Yes. KILL’T DEAD OR WORSE was originally published by a small press under a different title. This novel is a reworking of the story—a director’s cut, if you will. And as an indie author I have control of things like the title, cover, and marketing in a way I didn’t before. So I’m excited to get this story out in the world and am hopeful to find new readers.

There are at least two more Nick Sibelius novels which will be coming out in 2017. Readers can check out the first two chapters of ALL HAT & NO CATTLE at the end of KILL’T DEAD OR WORSE. The third novel, entitled CROOKED AS THE COLORADO, should be out later in the year. I also have been shopping a couple of novels around to agents. One is a science fiction novel with a humorous lean called THE BIFURCATION OF DUNGSTEN CREASE. And the other is a historical fantasy with a working title of ADDISON SHAW AND THE LORDS OF ALCHEMY. I’m hoping to release both of those into the wild either through a publisher or as an indie author in the coming year.

Q: Tell us about R. W. Hacker. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

R. W. Hacker: I moved from Austin, Texas to Seattle, Washington in 2009. In Austin my activities centered around flying and cycling. In the Pacific Northwest, I still cycle, and I love to go hiking, driving my little Miata, top down, through the mountains, cooking (and trying not to eat everything I cook!), and I sing in a vocal jazz ensemble of friends who love jazz as much as I do.

About R. W. Hacker

Richard Hacker has been writing most of his life, and professionally, in support of his work in management consulting, public speaking and training in the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries. In 2009 he moved, along with his wife, from Austin to Seattle, shifting his professional focus from business consulting to writing fiction full time. Wanted by authorities for smuggling Texas BBQ across state lines, he now writes and lives in Seattle. His writing has been recognized by the Writer's League of Texas and the Pacific Northwest Writers Association. As a judge in literary contests such as PNWA and ChicLit, he enjoys the opportunity to give writers honest critique to move their craft forward. In addition, he is the science fiction and fantasy editor for the Del Sol Review, an online literary magazine.

After a murdered partner, a cheating wife and a lost job in Houston, Nick Sibelius sets up a private investigation business in a small Texas town hoping to find some peace and maybe, himself. When two lovers disappear and a fisherman turns up dead, he finds himself drawn into a web of crime and deceit involving MaryLou, a beautiful woman with a mysterious past; Junior, a failed farmer whose best intentions seem to always result in a dead body; and Barry, a sociopathic dentist turned illegal toxic waste entrepreneur with a violent right wing agenda. When the felon who killed Nick’s partner in Houston joins forces with Barry, Nick must not only stop the toxic waste dumping while finding his client’s missing daughter, but keep from being killed in the process. In the end, MaryLou’s dark secret will either save him or kill him -- whichever comes first.


A banging startled him awake. Nick lifted his head off a stale, damp pillow case, the bed creaking as he sat up. Three fifteen. He slipped on some shorts and checked the safety on his Glock. The banging continued, which in his trailer sounded like Thor hammering on his head.

He shouted, "Who's there?"

"Reverend Anderson."

Nick didn't know a Reverend Anderson since he had no desire to step through the transom of a church anytime soon. This had to be the same guy who called. Why would a minister go to this much trouble to wake me up? He held the gun behind his back, opening the door to a large black man, six foot four, dressed in tan slacks, a green polo shirt and shoes with a shine that reflected the light from inside Nick's trailer.

"Did you call earlier?"

"Yes, that was me. I need to speak with you urgently."

Nick slipped the gun behind a cushion of the built-in seat by the door. "As I told you..." He searched for the man's name.

"Reverend Anderson. I'm the pastor of Victory Church in town."

"Yes, mister...Reverend Anderson. Like I said, we can talk during normal business hours."

Nick reached to close the door.

"You shut that door and you're condemning my little girl to God only knows what." 
"Trust me, Reverend. It can wait until the morning." Nick pushed the door closed, but Anderson stiff armed the door open. "You don't want to go down this path, Reverend."

"I've heard what people say about you."

"So I'm the talk of the town, eh?"

"They say you're rude, arrogant and a drunk."

"Well you can tell them to kiss—"

"And that you get it done." Anderson took a step forward, placing his large frame in the doorway. "Is that correct, Mr. Sibelius. Do you get it done?"

"It's Nick. And yeah, I suppose I do." He breathed a weary sigh. "Do we really need to talk about this right now?"

The Reverend stared at him. Nick eased away from the door, nodding toward the trailer's interior. Anderson took the two steps through the opening of the trailer, ducking to avoid banging his head against the doorway. 

Nick said, "I take it I'm not going to get rid of you until you tell me what's crawling up your ass, right?"

"Yeah, that's right, Nick. I need your help." 

Nick looked to the right at dishes piled in the sink, empty bottles on the counter and the remains of last night's dinner still sitting on the table, and then left, to a pile of dirty clothes and towels. He grabbed a barbecue stained paper plate off the table, folding it up and placing it in the trash under the sink. "So what's this burning issue?"

"It's my daughter. She's missing."


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Twitter: @Richard_Hacker


  1. Thanks for hosting me and sharing my novel with the readers of your blog. Much appreciated!

  2. Thank you for hosting! Great interview!