Sunday, September 18, 2022

Q&A with Daniel Scanlan




Daniel Scanlan is the author of the new novel The Hacker. A lawyer, he has specialized in the fields of digital evidence and cybercrime. He lives on Vancouver Island.



Q: What inspired you to write The Hacker, and how did you create your character Agent Ericka Blackwood?


A: The Hacker and its sequel were inspired by three decades as a criminal prosecutor with half of that specializing in digital evidence and cybercrime.


While no actual cases form part of the narrative, my career has left me with hundreds of anecdotes from my own work, from colleagues, and from investigators as well as targeted research. I knew these could be formed into any number of stories and that few thrillers in this area are written by people who have lived the real thing. That inspired me to give it a try.


Ericka is a composition. I started with her motivation, what deep down in her core drives her (avoiding spoilers here). All Ericka’s best attributes, her courage, grit, humor, and skills, I took from several female police officers whose work I have hugely admired over the years.  None of them will regard Ericka and recognize themselves, but my character reflects a little bit of each of them.


Q: Did you know how the novel would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way?


A: I knew how it was going to end. For both books I wrote the beginning and ending first and then plotted towards the conclusion. This allows me to try and consistently build suspense and foreshadow a bit.


Q: As a lawyer who has worked in the area of cybercrime and digital evidence, did you need to do any research to write the novel?


A: Yes, a considerable amount. While I am very familiar with technical investigations and court procedure, I wanted to make the novel’s technology as real as possible without either bogging down in the tech details or glossing over them.


The technology of The Hacker mostly reflects a combination of commonplace hacker/police technology, often told by analogy to avoid losing narrative pace. I concentrate on what the technology does without being too granular about how it does it.


My villain, Dantalion, I’ve imbued with just over the horizon technical capabilities. That said, since I wrote the book, some of what was over the horizon then is now in use by cutting-edge hackers. I plan to publish a select bibliography on my website after publication.


Q: What do you hope readers take away from the story?


A: Besides being entertained by the story, an awareness of the war going on around them in cyberspace on an ever-shifting battlefield.


Industry creates and refines new technologies every day. Governments create cyber-weapons. The criminal element are always the first off the mark to use any new tech they can get their hands on to get up to mischief, leaving police to quickly adapt and counter them. State-sponsored hackers only complicate the mix due to the immense resources they bring to the game.


All this is happening right now on the same internet everyone is using to read this blog. When our society chose to move online, our criminal element came with us.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I am currently doing outlines for further Ericka stories including a prequel. I’m also finally getting to put some work into my scifi project that I have been working on for a very long time.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: Perhaps a word about the genesis of my villain. I took the psychopathy and motivational psychology of several serial killer/offenders, imbued him with enormous intelligence and technical ability, let him loose in a new and rapidly evolving environment, and told him do his worst.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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