Thursday, July 26, 2012

SHOWCASE and Q&A: Andrew McAllister author of UNAUTHORIZED ACCESS

Andrew McAllister writes both fiction and non-fiction, including the relationship advice blog To Love, Honor, and Dismay. He has a psychology degree and over twenty-five years of experience in the IT industry as a professor, consultant, and software company executive. In other words he can fix your computer software … but only if it really wants to change. He lives with his family in New Brunswick, Canada, where he is busy working on his next book.

Unauthorized Access is now available in e-book and paperback from and in e-book from other major online retailers.

Q.  What inspires your writing?

A. I once attended a software conference where a big-name corporate executive was the keynote speaker. I’ll never forget the first Powerpoint slide he flashed up on the big screen, a message someone had once told him and that he continually uses to guide his efforts: “It’s all about the people stupid!” The same is true about the inspiration for my writing. I think about the people in my life, how our lives can be filled with such highs and lows – intense joy and passion, paralyzing fear, achingly painful regrets. I love to imagine scenarios where these emotions can be drawn out into excruciating and ever-intensifying extremes … and then drop ordinary characters into those situations to watch how they handle the pressure. To me the most glorious part of writing fiction is when a character in my mind says, “I know what to do here,” and I can get out of the way and let them take over the action. It’s all based on what I’ve learned from the people I’ve been lucky enough to have in my life.

Q.  What is your favorite thing about being an author?

A. Oh that’s easy. It’s when someone wakes me up with a phone call at two o’clock in the morning (yes, this really happened to me) and says, “I just finished reading your book and I LOVED it! I’m so excited I couldn’t wait to tell you, so I had to call!” Okay, so the part about being woken up in the middle of the night wasn’t my favorite, but the honest reaction really touched me. You can tell when someone is just being polite and supportive, saying things like, “I thought your books was, you know, good.” Don’t get me wrong, I’m thankful for that type of support too, but I get a huge boost when someone is obviously enthusiastic about the reading experience. I’m fortunate (and thrilled!) that I’ve had quite a few of those happy phone calls, emails, and Facebook posts lately.

Q.  What is the toughest part of being an author?

A. To keep going. To not give up after years of banging with wondrous futility against the tightly guarded gates of the publishing kingdom. “A professional author is an amateur who didn’t give up.” I absolutely love that expression. It captures the perseverance needed to keep writing and promoting and editing and submitting, despite the rejection and the doubters. And man, I have to say – it is definitely all worth it!

Q.  If you could not be author, what would you do/be?

A. That’s another easy question for me because I am a part-time author and full-time university professor. (My wife says the letters after my name stand for Propeller Head.) I teach people about computer science, and even better I get to help our amazing students in my role as Assistant Dean. The best part for me is when students come into my office in a completely stressed-out state because of some academic problem for which they can see no solution … and then I get to send them on their way with a smile on their face after figuring out how to make it all right. I truly enjoy my job!

Q.  What would the story of your life be entitled?

A. “There’s a Solution for Everything.” A while back my wife and I moved our family to a different country for a couple of years. This pushed all of us out of our comfort zones. Along the way I learned how important it is not to let myself get wrapped around the axle when challenges first arise. Life seems to work better when I start with the assumption that a solution will eventually present itself. Mind you, my ability to actually pull this off can be compromised if the problem is one I consider to be of severe importance, like when I recently discovered someone had bought generic Froot Loops instead of the real thing. I mean … can you blame me?

Q.  What is your favorite book of all time?

A. The Stand by Stephen King. I have several novels on my bookshelf that I’ve read multiple times (The Firm and The Godfather come to mind) but my all-time winner in the re-read department is King’s definitive treatment of good versus evil. Sure, there are paranormal aspects to the story, with a Satan-like character and a truly lovable elderly black woman who seems to have opened up a direct line with God. The real good and evil, however, is captured by an amazingly wide range of human behavior. We see everything from true caring and compassion to selfish anger driven by lifelong poor self esteem, all delivered in a way that feels real and important. Come to think of it, I think I’ll go dig it out again.

Q.  Which character from ANY book are you most like?

A. I’m going to cheat on this one. (I know, I know … bad Andrew!) I’m going to pick a movie character. (Hey, it’s still fiction, right?) I think I’m most like George Bailey, the husband and banker in the Christmas movie It’s A Wonderful Life. I don’t mean I’ve had the urge to jump off a bridge – after all, we did get that nasty Froot Loops situation straightened out. Rather, both George and I are fixers. We like to take care of the people around us, make sure everyone is okay. Mind you, you might get a different perspective if you talked with other people who know me. For instance my 16-year-old son might compare me with Ebenezer Scrooge, but that’s a different story …

Q.  What character from all of your book are you most like?

A. I think there’s a good piece of me buried in several of the characters in Unauthorized Access. The primary antagonist Tim Whitlock remembers his childhood insecurities, as so many of us do. The banker Stan Dysart is an entrepreneurial white collar professional, just as I am, and he happens to be about my age. (Although that wasn’t true when I first wrote the book. Did I mention the wheels of the publishing industry can turn slowly?) I’m probably most like the protagonist Rob Donovan. He’s handsome, has great hair … but despite those differences I’m sure there are still similarities. I see Rob as a fixer, just like George and I. Rob differs from me in one respect, though. He waited seven years to present a diamond ring to Lesley, whereas it took me only four months to pop the question. Twenty-nine years later I still know it was the best decision I ever made.

Q.  What is your favorite season?

A. Any season whose name doesn’t start with the letter w! I live in the snow belt, so spring brings relief and renewal. My favorite time to golf is in the fall, when the air is crisp and the leaves have turned vivid colors. Summer is my overall favorite, though. Who doesn’t love the feeling of bright, warm sunshine on your face?

Q.  What inspired your book cover?  

A. Tom Matthews is a talented novelist and award winning graphic illustrator. I met him at the San Diego State University writers conference about ten years ago. He has created some wonderfully rich covers for his own novels, so there was never a question that he would get the nod for Unauthorized Access. The cover depicts one of the scenes from the book, when Rob Donovan is abducted, tied up, and subjected to a galactically unenjoyable day. We wanted to show intense anguish and rich colors. I couldn’t be happier with where we ended up.

Q.  Tell me something funny that happened while promoting your book.

A. I held a book launch in my home town and I had one fear (certainty?) going into the event. I pictured someone who knew me back in high school showing up and presenting me with a book to sign. “Andrew,” they would say. “It’s great to see you! I haven’t seen you in years.” And then I would be forced to admit I had no idea who they were. So I had an idea. An inspired brainwave! I would get a helper to sit beside me at the book signing table. She would ask each person their name and write it on a sticky note. Brilliant! I was alone when I started signing a few books, so I had my head down when my helper joined me and dealt with the next person in line. As I looked up this person handed me his book with the sticky note attached and a huge grin on his face. It was my boss, the Dean.

Q.  Are you working on something new?

A. Yes, two new somethings actually. I have another thriller in the works, about a dedicated husband who is forced into a position where he has to observe his wife needing him badly, but he can’t get to her or help her in any way. The other project is non-fiction. I am working on a series of self-help relationship books, in part based on years worth of work I did with my online relationship forum. The first title in the series is: How to End the Housework Wars so You Both Win. Obviously the fiction and non-fiction books serve very different purposes. I am passionate about both.

Q.  Anything you want to say to followers of this blog or those that are just stopping by?

A.  The eBook version of Unauthorized Access includes an “About the Author” section, and the same information appears on the back cover of the paperback. In it I say, “You can email Andrew at” I’d like people to know I really mean it. Authors are more directly connected to readers today than ever before and I love it! As a reader it enhances my experience if I can ask the author a question, and it certainly makes my day when a reader takes the time to let me know what they think of my book.

Book Description

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.



[Context: High-school-age Tim Whitlock has a chance meeting in a u-pick apple orchard with Lesley McGrath, his current crush and the girl he has been too nervous to ask out.]
Tim saw his mother marching back up the hill, replacement basket firmly in grasp. He was struck by the certainty that if he missed this chance then he could stop waiting. Such an opportunity wouldn’t come up again. Gathering his small store of pent-up courage, he stepped to the edge of the cliff of vulnerability and leapt off.
“Are you busy tonight?” he said.
She hesitated, and Tim began to experience ground rush toward the boulder-strewn surface beneath the cliff. His breath caught in his throat. He could feel red heat blossoming on his face.
But then Lesley rescued him by saying, “No, I guess not.”
Tim found he could breathe again. He swallowed and said, “Maybe we could see a movie or something.”
She recovered from her initial hesitancy with incredible grace.
“Sure,” she said with a warm smile.
Tim’s happiness lasted just over three weeks. Twenty-three days filled with texting and studying together and holding hands between classes. Three weeks when he learned to kiss and even flirted with making it to second base. Three weeks when he could hold his head up while traveling the hallways at school, when he was a part of the conversations in the corners, when his self-image started to transform.
And then Rob stole it all away.
Lesley was nice enough when she broke up with him. She used all the right words, like “This is going too fast for me,” and “I still want us to be friends.” But Tim knew there was more to it than that. She would never hurt him on her own. There had to be someone else, a source of malevolence lurking in the shadows.
Two weeks later he saw Lesley and Rob together in the cafeteria. That’s when the hatred began.
So Tim went back to waiting. He waited to see if Rob and Lesley would last. Then he delayed his own plans until he learned they were going to Boston College. His true feelings stayed hidden behind a happy-go-lucky façade while he remained in the picture by becoming good old life-of-the-party, just-a-close-friend-now Tim. He even waited to accept a job offer until Rob had chosen.
Tim smiled grimly as he scrolled unseeingly through another page of computer program code. A lot had changed in the seven years since high school. The one constant during all that time, however, was Tim’s certainty that he would find a way to get Lesley back.
Reader feedback

I’m so excited about the responses I’ve been getting from readers of Unauthorized Access! Here are a couple of examples. A young lady emailed me while traveling in Europe:

I downloaded it onto my kindle and finished it in one afternoon while I was on a train! It was great! I really enjoyed it. Any prospects for another one?

One independent book blogger offered:

If you love a wonderfully told, suspenseful novel that will surely keep you on the edge of your seat, than you are going to thank me for introducing this book into your life! Unauthorized Access by Andrew McAllister is a novel that needs to be catapulted into the ‘Bookish Big Leagues’ (aka Bestseller lists).
***My review is coming in stay tuned!!!!

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