Interview with Denison Hatch, Author of Flash Crash

 David Belov, a quant programmer working for an investment bank in New York, is blackmailed into writing an algorithm that will intentionally crash the gold market.

David discovers that his virtual “Flash Crash” was simply a required stepping stone towards the largest physical gold robbery in history, and that’s he’s been framed for the resulting chaos, the lives of his beloved wife and son on the balance . . .

With Detective Jake Rivett and the NYPD’s finest operators from the Major Crimes Division actively seeking to locate and arrest David, and other, darker elements nipping at his heels, David is forced to confront his own past in order to have a future. 

Flash Crash’s Amazon Page:

Please join me in welcoming Denison Hatch to The Book’s the Thing. Denison is the author of the recently released thriller Flash Crash, and has taken the time to answer a few questions for us. Sounds like Denison and I have very similar tastes in literature, so I’m really looking forward to reading and reviewing his book!

1.     Why did you write Flash Crash? What interested you about bringing the (slightly esoteric) world of quant programming into a heist format?

This novel began when I first learned about the job of a “quantitative programmer” on Wall Street. When most people think about Wall Street—myself included—I’m pretty sure they imagine the blue-blood, Ivy League-type. And I went to Cornell. I knew a lot of those guys. But what fascinated me much more than them was the fact that computers were starting to eat everyone’s lunch. And big firms, and small secretive ones too, were no longer as interested in hiring the same old people that they used to hire. Now they were hiring PhDs, mathematics, and computer science majors.

The reason for this is that trading has become much more complicated than, as one of my characters says in the book, “Luck, spit and a handshake.” But the thing is that change doesn’t come easily, and the old hierarchy still reigned inside many banks. So you have these people, the quants, who are sort of like second-class citizens inside their institutions. But they were also critical to the bottom line of the bank. And you can imagine they might start getting mad about it…

So what I decided to do was set that up as the opening premise of my novel. The ultimate question is: What would happen if a quantitative programmer went into his own bank one day, and he was a guy who got picked on all the time, and he decided—on this day—he was going to use an algorithm he’d written and intentionally crash the gold market?

2.     Introduce us to your series character, Jake Rivett, the NYPD Detective who begins to investigate this gold crash.

I always love to flip perception and established norms on their head. So, with Jake Rivett, I knew that I didn’t want a guy who wore polyester suits and was your classic, hard-boiled detective. I think the truth of the modern world is that everyone, detectives included, have their work “identity” and that may be different from whom they really are when they are “off duty.” Maybe this is a new dynamic, a millennial dynamic. But Jake Rivett certainly has his own escape: And that is he’s the lead singer of a struggling Scream-o band. Maybe in another life he would have pursued that passion fully—but what’s also refreshing about Jake is that he doesn’t really try to put up a wall between who he really is and his job.

Jake is different from all of the other detectives in many ways, but one of the most prominent is his tactics. He essentially adopts the aggressive attitude of his Scream-o alter ego, all the time. That’s what makes him special. There’s a lot of rage inside of him, and in the book, the reader will eventually understand why Jake is this way. But his rage also becomes his secret weapon. It’s what makes him impressive on stage, and what makes people do what he tells them to do while investigating cases.

Originally, Jake started out simply as a foil to my quant character, David Belov. But what I discovered over the course of the novel was that he had become the character that readers were really going to want to keep following. I’ve had middle-aged women on Goodreads call themselves “Rivett fangirl’s” already—and that’s incredible. Within the novel, he doesn’t occupy your classic “detective” role either. He’s both a detective, and a predator with his eyes set on David. You may not really like him at first, or wonder if he’s good or bad. And that’s the point. He keeps everyone—the reader included—on their toes. But that’s also why he’s the franchise man. He’s the person that you’ll want to keep reading about in future books.

3.     Tell us a little bit about your writing career and how you came to write novels.

When I graduated from college, I had a double major in Film and Economics. I’d worked at a bank the summer after my junior year. I knew that the time was now to either “chase the dream” or take a desk job like David has in Flash Crash. So I drove across the country to Los Angeles, with no job, and less than a handful of connections or people I even knew. I started working in film development: First at Anonymous Content, then for a major screenwriter, and finally at Original Film (producers of the Fast & Furious franchise, Jump Street, etc.). I was writing the entire time on the side, just like Rivett does his singing—because I didn’t want to simply be a film executive. I eventually was lucky enough to find myself representatives and sell a script called Vanish Man to Lionsgate. It’s in development now, along with a few other projects I’ve written. But what I’ve discovered about the film industry is how long it takes to go from an idea to a movie. It can take twenty years—per project! So that’s why I decided to branch out a bit and write books as well. I have much more control, and who knows, maybe we’ll be able to sell them back to the studios eventually.

4.     Do you have any writing rituals that you adhere to?

Put words on the page every single day (or at least five days a week.) That’s my major ritual, and it’s also sort of an answer to another question, which is, “How do you become a writer?” The solution is to write. You can’t call yourself a “writer” if you are not writing—it’s that simple. The other writers that I know personally, who are successful, don’t stop at one, or two, or three scripts or books. You have to view your career as a constant, perpetual process. You can’t fall in love with any idea, because by the definition of the perpetual process, you will always need to move onto the next one, no matter how good the last one was. So, I hate to say it, but don’t be the person with the “one great story” that you’ve been dying to tell for ten years but haven’t put to paper. That’s not a writer, that’s just someone out there in the world. Writer’s write. That’s the major ritual.

In addition to that, I certainly have a few other “rituals,” but nothing crazy. I try to work out three times a week. I’ll play music that represents the scenes or vibe of the story that I’m writing. If it’s a sci-fi, high-concept piece, I might listen to EDM. If it’s a romantic scene, I might listen to classical, etc. And finally, I try to get a little bit of sun. I will literally sit outside for five minutes every day, because when you are a writer it is very easy to sit in front of a computer monitor, inside, all day long.

5.     Do you experience writer’s block, and if so, how do you deal with it?

There’s creativity block, and writer’s block. I think that creativity block is much more pernicious. If your mind is not naturally creating new conceptual kernels of ideas on a daily basis—whether or not you end up doing something with it? That’s a problem that I don’t have a solution to. Most people with writer’s block have something in their head, but can’t translate it to the page—that’s what I would call conventional writer’s block.

I sometimes experience it, maybe on a one-day or one-session basis, but I’m definitely one of those people who is doubtful about writer’s block. It sort of comes back to the ritual question you just asked me. I often tell people that writing is like building a house. The vast majority of the process is making sure the thing stands up straight—building the foundation to last, and then the rote work of building up brick by brick. The foundation isn’t pretty. It doesn’t look good. It doesn’t “mean” anything by itself—but it’s crucial. Same with the bricks. They’re boring. Sometimes writer’s block is just boredom. It’s, “Do I really have to just lay twenty more bricks today?” The answer is yes. Just lay the bricks. That’s 80% of the work. And then, only at the very end, once the building has form? Then you get to make it pretty. You add the paint. You add the finishes. That’s what transforms it. Again, writing is the same. Get the first draft out by viewing it as brick building. It won’t be amazing. But then you have a solid piece of work in front of you, and it’s amazing how fast and enjoyable the end is. That’s when you refine the dialogue, the characters, the descriptions. That’s when you make beats really hit, the twists turn on a dime, the chapters end right, etc. And you will definitely not be feeling blocked by then.

6.     Favorite authors/ genres/ writing influences?

Here’s a funny story: I grew up without a television. There was no TV in our house—it was a philosophical decision my parents made very early on. So yes, boy did I read a lot. It was my only way of developing my imagination, and probably the best thing that ever happened to me. As I read more, I also began to read very quickly. And so I devoured books. When I would read John Grisham, I didn’t just read “The Firm,” I literally read every single published John Grisham book, etc.

The books that I read as a child definitely influenced the genre that I love. I read everything, but I really loved thrillers and mysteries. It started with the Hardy Boys, then I was given the entire Sherlock Holmes collection. I devoured it. Then I moved into John Grisham and Tom Clancy and Ken Follett and continued from there.

7.     Do your real life acquaintances or experiences ever find their way into your writing?

In so many ways! Haha. Those who know me very well, for many years, will read this book and recognize almost all of the last names as people from various points in my life. And their vibes, and the things that happen to the characters—its all a mishmash of people that I’ve known. Very few are direct comparisons, however. Usually they are composites. I once heard that you can’t dream of anything your brain hasn’t seen in the past. But the reason that dreams are so different from real life is that your brain creates a composite. So you may have seen a random face at a baseball game, and that face could become a bad guy, or a love interest, in a dream. Who knows if that’s true. But my books and writing definitely have aspects of that within!

8.     Coffee or tea?

Coffee. Orange Juice. Water. Bourbon (on the weekends).

9.     What book(s)/ series can we expect to see from you in the future.

I’ll give you a little preview of where the Jake Rivett series is going—because it’s the thing I’m most excited about right now. You can rest assured that Jake Rivett is going to change quite a bit, both personally and professionally. I already have a six-book trajectory planned out. All I will say is that he won’t even stay an NYPD detective for long. Somewhere around the end of book three, which is tentatively titled “Mr. Massacre,” Jake is going to be offered to get onto a private jet—and introduced to the world of international espionage. And just wait until he’s in his own hellish, Heart of Darkness-like journey for book five. That one will be called “One Thousand Dry Tears.” But don’t worry, every single book is going to have an insane mystery that Jake has to untangle.

About the Author

 Denison Hatch is a screenwriter and novelist based in Los Angeles. Although he lives in the proverbial desert now, he is originally from Delaware–land of rolling hills, forested valleys, and DuPont gunpowder.

Denison has a number of feature and television projects in development, including his original screenplay, Vanish Man, which is set up at Lionsgate. A graduate of Cornell University who worked in film development before becoming a full-time writer, Denison lives with his fiancé in a little house in Hollywood.

Flash Crash is Denison’s debut novel, and the first in the Jake Rivett series. He is presently writing the second novel in the Jake Rivett series, Never Go Alone.

Denison Hatch’s Website:

Denison Hatch’s Facebook Author Page:

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