Author Spotlight: Dan Rix

If you were following my reviews back in the beginning of this year, you saw that I binge-read the first four parts of the Translucent series. Well, the fifth (and penultimate) book—Black Sun—just came out. I’m excited to start reading it, but I’m even more excited to feature author Dan Rix today!

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Welcome to the blog, Dan! Tell us all sorts of stuff about yourself and your book series!

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Overall, what would you say the series is about?

I’d say Translucent is about redemption. Leona has to struggle with something terrible she’s done in the past, and it is her guilt and her need to earn forgiveness that ultimately motivates her throughout the series. But it’s also about invisibility and alien contact, because that stuff’s just cool :-). I would say all the external stuff is purely a medium for her to work out her inner demons, but I wouldn’t say it’s quite that neat. Maybe in the end, it’s all about human triumph.


How did you come up with the idea?

To be honest, I’ve been writing books about some of my favorite mind-bending superpowers. I’ve done telekinesis and time travel, and invisibility just seemed like the next awesome premise. I also loved the potential for creepy twists and turns. In fleshing out the idea, I wanted it to be science-fiction rather than magic or paranormal, and I wanted a plausible means by which the physics of invisibility might actually work. I had recently read a Scientific American article on dark matter—we still don’t know what it is—and I decided to take it in that direction. In case you’re wondering, the fictional version of dark matter in the series is kind of like a liquid wormhole you stretch on, which causes light to pass from one side of your body to the other. The problem is, it has other nefarious, alien properties…


How much outlining and cross-referencing did you do to keep track of all the details in the series?

Keeping track of clues, twists, rules, and unanswered questions becomes a headache with a long series. By books book three and four, I felt like I had written myself into a corner. Basically, I reread the whole series from start to finish, noting every detail I planted, then sat down with a notebook and spent the whole day nailing down the rules and the trajectory of the series. Then I would write for another couple weeks, hit another dead end, and go through the whole process all over again. By the end of book four, I had books five and six pretty much outlined through the climax of the series. No matter how much you plan ahead, a long series will tend to outgrow and outmaneuver everything you’ve anticipated, and then it’s like trying to wrestle the cat back into the bag.


There’s a lot of science referenced in the book: refraction, dark matter, wormholes—to name a few concepts. How much research did you do in order to incorporate it so smoothly and believably?

First of all, it’s a complement to hear it turned out smooth and believable, so thank you! I’ve got a pretty strong physics background (I love the stuff, and read books in quantum mechanics just for fun) so I knew ahead of time which concepts I wanted to include, and roughly how they would work. Usually, I would just hop on Wikipedia to brush up on the details I wasn’t certain about. I’d forgotten almost everything I learned in high school about refraction, and had to review that. But by far, the most research intensive sections involved the space shuttle program. For that, I pored over NASA’s educational materials and watched tons of YouTube videos. I won’t say more in case of spoilers :-)


If you could wrap yourself in dark matter and become temporarily invisible (without any of the other consequences from your series), what would you do?

Fortunately, I’ve matured beyond the thirteen-year-old answer of spying on naked girls :-) I think I would put it on and eavesdrop to see what other people were saying about me, then realize it didn’t matter, and give that up. Once I got that curiosity out of my system, I might try to expose corporate fraud, but then I would realize I was violating search and seizure rights. It’s a tough moral dilemma. The trouble with invisibility is there’s almost no way to use it without violating someone’s privacy. In the end, I might just use it to bird watch or something.


Which character(s) in your series do you most identify with and why?

Megan, I think. She was there, she has all the same emotional baggage as Leona, but her expression of it is more subdued. Emotionally, I think she’s a little healthier and handles herself better, so the attention is always on Leona because Leona seems more vulnerable. There’s a certain loneliness in that which I certainly understand. I think everybody has some kind of emotional vulnerability, but the stronger ones often suffer in silence.


Do you set aside a specific amount of time to write each day? Or do you write whenever inspiration strikes you?

I write full time, so it’s eight hour days Monday through Friday. I start at seven, take a thirty minute lunch break at eleven, and finish at three thirty. My wife is also an author and she’s on the same schedule, which really helps. I find inspiration often doesn’t strike, so usually I’m gritting my teeth to get something out until it does.


What do you snack on while you write?

Ooh, dangerous. I don’t really have any writing snacks, because if I did they would mysteriously vanish and I would wonder why my keyboard was all greasy. Actually, I stopped using a keyboard after I got a repetitive strain injury, so I dictate everything by voice (including this interview!), which means I have to keep my vocal cords warm and hydrated with hot tea or hot water with lemon—which makes me sound really lame now that I’m writing it.


What are some of your favorite books? And/or who are some of your favorite authors?

Michael Grant’s Gone series, The da Vinci Code, The Maze Runner by James Dashner, to name a few. I was a huge fan of Michael Crichton, and I’m currently devouring Tess Gerritsen’s Rizzoli and Isles series. Her medical thriller, Gravity, is a huge inspiration for some of the space shuttle scenes in my Translucent series.


What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I love doing home improvement projects. Basically, anything physical—since I live in my head all day. Right now I’m in the middle of designing a flagstone porch for our house, and once I’m done with that I’m going to put in French doors. I’m also working on a little side business to provide manuscript critiques for aspiring authors, but I guess that’s sort of writing too. I live in Oakhurst, which is the gateway to Yosemite, so there are tons of awesome hiking trails around. But even when I’m hiking, I’m thinking about my books, so even that’s writing in a way.

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I’d like to give a big thanks to Dan for stopping by. Connect with him at his blog or on Facebook.

I’m about to start Book Five, which I’ve been waiting months for. I strongly recommend all the books in the series before it, so rush right out there and start at the beginning:

The book (and series) is Translucent


Available at Amazon

Book Summary

When a meteorite falls near her campsite in the San Rafael Wilderness, troubled teen Leona Hewitt ventures down into the crater looking for a souvenir. What she discovers changes her life.

Contained in the meteorite is a sticky, mucous-like fluid that bends light, cannot itself be seen, and seems to grow in the presence of living tissue. It’s drawn to her.

But when a government team arrives in hazmat suits and cordons off the meteorite impact site, Leona questions her decision to take it home with her. For one thing, there are rumors of an extraterrestrial threat.

For another, it has been speaking to her.

It wants to be worn . . . stretched on like a second skin. It’s seeking out her weaknesses, exploiting her deepest fear—that the only boy she’s ever loved will unearth the vile secret in her past and see her as a monster. Now it promises salvation.

It can make her invisible.

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You can read my reviews of the first four books in the series—TranslucentOf StarlightAsh and Darkness, and Slaying Shadows—but I think you should just go and read these awesome books!

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