Haylie Black, a 17-year-old hacker with a chip on her shoulder, has never met a system she couldn't crack. When her brother vanishes trying to solve a legendary Internet puzzle, Haylie knows that she's the only one who can track him down. But as she begins to unwind the mysteries behind each clue, she finds herself getting pulled deeper and deeper into a secret world she never could have imagined.
This award-winning thriller fuses action, tech, and a worldwide race against the clock to keep you turning pages and trying to stay one step ahead.
Was this book inspired by something in particular?
The inspiration for Crash Alive came from talking to my daughter. She’s a big reader, and interested in science and learning to code, but didn’t have any books with a strong, tech-savvy female protagonist. So, I decided to create one. Since the book has been published, I’ve received a lot of feedback from both men and women that Haylie Black—the heroine of the story that can hack any system in her path—is a refreshing take on a central character that they haven’t seen before.
How do you develop your plots and characters?
I based a good amount of the technology, locations, and secret societies that appear in Crash Alive on things that exist in the real world, so those details help to drive the plot of the story. For example, in the book, Haylie is trying to solve an internet puzzle to find her missing brother. That puzzle is based on a real-world phenomenon called Cicada 3301, a strange collection of puzzles and codes across the internet that no one has solved. By diving into the details of Cicada, I was able to plot out a storyline that was both exciting and a mirror of reality, at least to a point.
How much research do you do?
A ton, and it’s one of my favorite parts of the writing process. For Crash Alive, I was able to research hacking techniques (USB hacking, car hacking, drones and surveillance, code-breaking, hiding messages inside audio files, and lots more) as well as secretive groups like the Bilderberg Group and the Bohemian Club.
What was the hardest part of writing this book?
Tying it all together. There are multiple story lines intersecting, and they all need to be written with a similar pace and weaved together at the right points in the story. I was able to keep all the plot lines in a giant Google spreadsheet to make sure I could see the big picture while I was writing each piece.
What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?
There’s a scene just after the midpoint of the book where four different points-of-view from four different locations are weaved into one scene. I think I was able to make all the back-and-forth work to increase the tension and keep readers turning pages, wondering what was going to happen next.
If this book is part of a series, tell us a little about it?
Yes, I’m already close to finishing up the second book the Haylie Black series, which will continue to follow Haylie and her brother Caesar as they hack their ways into and out of trouble.
Is any part of the book based on someone you know or events in your own life?
Many of the locations in the book (including New York City and London) are places I travel to for work, so I was able to scope out locations in both of those cities in person. I based a few of the characters in the book on real people I’ve met over the years, but I won’t say who. 🙂
Tell us about yourself?
I run a research team at a software company where I get to do a lot of fun stuff—analyzing social media data for different patterns, looking at what people talk about, how companies and sports teams use social media to connect with their audiences. I live in Austin, Texas with my family.
Do you have a set writing schedule that you adhere to? / Tell us how you write
Because I have a full-time job, I end up writing mostly in the early mornings. I’ll drive to work early to beat the traffic and camp out in a coffee shop in downtown Austin for a few hours before I walk over to work. With that schedule, I can get 1,000-2,000 words written each morning, which is as much as some full-time authors write per day.
What was your favorite subjects in school?
I had pretty broad interests—I loved everything from science to writing to art. I found that the things I loved were a mix of subjects that I was interested in, and classes with a teacher that had a passion for their subject matter. The right teacher can make anything interesting.