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Q&A with local author Carter Hopkins

(ROCKWALL, TX – April 26, 2017) Rockwall and Dallas are the backdrop for local author Carter Hopkins’s first novel, The Lincoln Prophecy. Published in June 2016, the thriller follows Southern Methodist University professor Michael Riley as he witnesses a murder near a Rockwall winery and soon finds himself in the middle of a national cybersecurity threat.

Hopkins, a 1992 Rockwall High School graduate and SMU alumnus, is currently working on his second novel, The Scorpion Code, as well as a sequel to The Lincoln Prophecy. He lives in Dallas with his wife and two children, and works as an attorney for a cyber security firm.

Blue Ribbon News recently caught up with Hopkins to discuss the author’s first novel and hear more about his upcoming work.

What is The Lincoln Prophecy about?
It’s a cyberterrorism thriller set in Dallas and it has scenes in Rockwall. The central character is an SMU law professor named Michael Riley, who is out for a morning jog in Rockwall when he stumbles on a murder. Riley is forced to learn why the victim was killed in order to save himself and prevent a major cyberterrorist attack.

The murder scene happens north of town near the San Martino Winery. There’s an old irrigation canal there that runs into Lake Ray Hubbard. So he’s jogging along that canal when he comes across the murder.

What made you decide to use that location in Rockwall?
It’s where the whole concept of the book got started. My brother-in-law and I were down kayaking in that canal, and we got way down in there where the trees hang over the whole canal and it gets a bit dark and sinister. I pulled up next to him and said, ‘You know, this would be a really great place for a murder.’ And that’s where it kind of stuck. That whole murder scene just played out in my head, and so that’s why I picked that location.

How about some of the other locations in the book – the SMU campus, the G.W. Bush Presidential Library, Lakeside Park?
Because the main character Michael Riley is an SMU law professor, I see the SMU campus as Ground Zero for the book. I ended up choosing places that when I went to quite a bit when I was in law school at SMU, like I ate at Peggy Sue BBQ all too often while I was there. And then it was some other places around town that I generally like or that the story led the character to those places. For example, I proposed to my wife at Lakeside Park, so that place makes an appearance. The George Bush Library is a really great place for one of the crucial scenes in the story where Riley meets up with the FBI. So sometimes the scene I was trying to write called for a certain location.

How similar are you to the story’s hero, Michael Riley?
I’d say I’m probably pretty similar to him. The idea behind Michael Riley is that he’s an ordinary guy who’s just thrown into this world that he doesn’t know or understand. This world of government conspiracy and cyberterrorism – it’s absolutely unfamiliar to him. It’s an ordinary guy thrown into extraordinary circumstances, and how would an ordinary person solve these problems with people chasing him down. So I guess I’m a little like him in that respect.

Talk about the book’s major theme – national security versus personal privacy – and why you think it’s a relevant topic today.
That’s ultimately the question the book puts to the reader, and I think it’s really pertinent to our society today. There are a couple of things that happened that really caused me to want to write the book, and one was I work for a cybersecurity company and have for the last 10 years. I just noticed some things in working here that really struck me as interesting about the cybersecurity world. Several years ago, we discovered a virus called Flame, and it’s really scary what this thing can do if it gets into your computer or phone. That virus became the central piece to the technology that’s in the book. The technology is very real and it’s used in a couple of places throughout the book. The other thing that happened which caused me to want to write the book was the Edward Snowden revelations. So when those things all came together, it really formed a picture in my mind. That really got me thinking – how much personal privacy are we willing to give up to the government in order to stay safe? It’s kind of where we are today, and I think the book really digs into that question.

Another theme in the book is terrorism versus patriotism; there’s this line where people feel like they’re doing what is best for the country, but it’s actually terrorism. They’re driven by this love of country to do these kinds of extraordinary criminal acts. So that theme is explored in the book as well.

Do you feel that’s the kind of mindset that the story’s main antagonist, Isaac, has when he’s committing these kinds of acts in the book?
Absolutely! He is driven by this love of country, or what we can probably all agree is a perverted view of that. He believes what he’s doing is going to make the country better, stronger and more true to its original values. He sees himself as a patriot, not as a terrorist.

And what about Michael Riley? How does he view himself?
I think he sees himself as the unluckiest guy on the planet, to have been jogging at that moment in that place. He certainly wrestles with that same theme of privacy and national security, and he gives the reader his perspective on that. He certainly doesn’t see himself as a terrorist, he’s just unlucky more than anything else.

When you were developing the characters in the book, did you draw from people you know in real life or were they made up from your imagination?
Pretty much every character in the book is based on a friend of mine, or the name at least. So most of my friends made it into the book, but as far as the background for these characters and who they really are, that was really mostly imagination.

How long did it take you to write the book?
This book took quite a while to write because I didn’t really understand how to organize something of this length and depth. Learning to organize took the most out of my time, so I probably spent a year outlining and developing each of the chapters. It took about nine months to get the first draft done. I just finished the second novel and it was much faster, because I know what my system is to organize. I finished my outline for that in six months, and when I sat down to write the new novel it took three months to get the draft done.

What is your upcoming novel about?
The upcoming novel is called The Scorpion Code and it is a historical thriller set in 1861 in Washington, D.C. It’s about a young police officer named Levi Love who gets called in to investigate the murder of a prostitute, who was found dumped in an open sewer running through D.C. That murder investigation puts him on the trail of a Confederate spy who’s operating in the city and who is working to uncover a real life secret weapon that the Union Army was working on. The book will come out probably by the end of the summer.

Are you an avid reader? Who are some of your favorite authors?
I read all the time. I read largely to do research on novels that I’m thinking about writing. I’m doing some research for the follow up to The Lincoln Prophecy and I’m also reading for a potential follow up to The Scorpion Code. I read a lot of history, and I try to keep a fiction book going at all times. I like to read page-turners and thrillers as well. I read pretty much anything Daniel Silva has written. I like Dan Brown, David Baldacci and John Grisham. Probably the best description of The Lincoln Prophecy in terms of other writers – and I’ve heard this from other people who have read it as well – is that it’s a Dan Brown-meets-John Grisham-type of book. I think for local readers in particular, this book is a fun read. I think it’s fun when you’ve got a book that takes place in a city that you know, with places you’ve been to or at least places you could go to quite easily.

 

 

For more information about Carter Hopkins and The Lincoln Prophecy, or to connect with the author, visit carterhopkinsbooks.com.

By Austin Wells, Blue Ribbon News. Photo courtesy of Carter Hopkins. 

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