Today we're talking to SD Skye on her tour with Goddess Fish Promotions for the FBI Thriller novel, "The Seven Year Itch".
The author will award a kindle fire and $25 Amazon GC to one randomly drawn commenter (US only), so comment today AND follow this tour (if you click on the banner above, it'll take you to a list of tour stops)! The more you read and comment, the better your odds of winning. You could be introduced to a great new author AND win a really cool prize!
Thanks to SD for answering all my prying questions!
Why do you write in your genre? What draws you to it?
I started this FBI Espionage (really counterespionage) series because I actually worked in the field. For 20 years I served as an Intelligence Analyst in the U.S. Intelligence Community, the first 12 years as an Intelligence Operations Specialist in the FBI’s Russian Counterintelligence program. I really enjoyed my experience there, and I had the opportunity to do and experience things few could imagine. So, I think once the writing bug finally bit me, it was probably natural that I would incorporate some of those experiences into a book or series.
I began my career writing romantic comedy/chick lit under another name, and comedy and relationships is well within my comfort zone. My so-called love life is God’s running joke and provides me with an ample source of material for such stories. But I had always incorporated a bit of mystery into my plots which helped make them page-turners. In order to build this J.J. McCall series, romantic suspense/mystery/espionage seemed like the most natural progression. However, it was a major challenge for me in that the plots are so much more complex than those in romantic comedies and there are multiple points of view—whereas in chick lit I write in first person. But I’m really enjoying the challenge. And I’ve found that even though I tried to tone down the comedic element, I apparently can’t help myself because readers are always telling me how witty the main character is. But I think humor just adds to the depth of her character as she deals with some very serious cases and sketchy situations.
What research is required?
Because my books draw on my career experience, I haven’t yet had to do a lot of research in terms of the plots. Because I’ve been out of the counterintelligence game for quite a while now, sometimes I do have to go back and research the terminology. Some has stuck with me, but some is long gone. I have also read a few books by the Russian defectors that I’m familiar with. It helps to put me in the right frame of mind when I’m building the Russian characters. Also, I’ve researched some Russian colloquialisms to integrate into the dialogue when I can. I try to keep that to a minimum though.
Name one thing you learned from your hero/heroine.
Hmmm. This is a really good question. I think that the biggest lesson I’ve learned from J.J. McCall is that there are no lies bigger than those that we tell to ourselves—because we may actually begin to believe them. The irony in J.J.’s character is that she’s a born lie detector (as the result of a generational curse), but J.J. can’t detect when she lies to herself. And she’s got a substance abuse problem that she’s in denial about. Because she’s not a fall down lush, she thinks it’s okay to take little sips all day to cope with stress, but that lie ends up putting the life of someone she loves in jeopardy and she may learn her lesson too late.
Do you have any odd or interesting writing quirks, habits or superstitions?
Oh, I have a million of them. Every year they seem to change. For example, last year I kept getting writer’s block and could only write if I used a special butterfly notebook (that I bought from Target) and a Sharpie fine-point pen. It had to be THAT kind of notebook and THAT pen or the words would not come. But I wrote three novels in a row using those notebooks, including the bulk of The Seven Year Itch.
Now, neither the pens nor notebooks will work for me. The only way I’m truly productive is if a Harry Potter movie is playing in the background. And no other movies work. Just Harry Potter. Maybe my brain is subconsciously attempting to channel a movie deal. I don’t know. While I love the movies and my 12-year-old son isn’t upset with it, I can’t wait to get out of this stage.
Are you a plotter or pantser?
I’m a pantser turned plotter. When I wrote my romantic comedies I was decidedly a pantser and wouldn’t write an outline if you paid me. I kept spouting the ideals of the pantser society which essentially suggest that you should let your characters drive the story, that you should merely dictate what your characters tell you if you want to write a truly engrossing, authentic story. When you outline or plot in advance, you take control from your characters, thus your story won’t reach its full potential.
Well, whoever said that probably hadn’t tried writing a complex espionage plot with multiple points of view. When I finished my first draft, my plot had more holes than the south side of the moon. I wrote no fewer than 27,000 drafts (only a slight exaggeration) trying to fill them in. At that point, the whole pantser thing went out the window. No, it was hurled out of the window with Hulkian force. I decided to compromise with my characters and I allowed them to drive the outline and the scenes, but we will plot or die.
I can still be a pantser with the romantic comedies though. That probably won’t change.
Look to your right – what’s sitting there?
Hand sanitizer and a box of Puffs plus with Lotion. I’m nursing a cold and trying my best not to re-germinate the house.
Anything new coming up from you? What?
Well, I’m working on writing the rest of the books in the series (four more) and a new romantic comedy. I’ve come up with the titles and have a general idea about the next four cases and how each book will play out. Now, it’s just a matter of plotting the twists and turns. In the next book, Son of a Itch, J.J. investigates a bug planted in the White House Situation Room. Meanwhile, the antagonist from the first book—codenamed ICE Phantom—is plotting to kill J.J.
I think while the first book kind of sets the foundation, each book will get better and better. I’m so excited about writing this one. Lots of great twists and one heck of an ending!
Do you have a question for our readers?
If you read serial novels, I would love to know what qualities in the story or character hook you in so that you want to follow a character from book to book.
FBI Special Agent J.J. McCall is a born lie detector who recruits foreign spies to catch American traitors. She and co-case agent Tony Donato have lost two of their most critical Russian sources in the past two years, and they may lose another in just a few short days if they don’t catch him, The ICE PHANTOM, a rumored insider spy more insidious and elusive than Ames and Hanssen combined. They suspect he might be burrowed deep inside FBI counterintelligence—and his body count is going up.
Drawn into an unsanctioned mole hunt, they have a week to catch him, save a key source’s life—and their own. While J.J.’s lie detecting ability helps them narrow down the list of suspects, the lie she tells to herself may help the ICE PHANTOM defect to Moscow and get away with the murder of the man she loves.
Skye's debut FBI Series, filled with mystery, espionage, romance, and suspense, will keep you burning through the pages until J.J. catches the very last spy.
J.J searched for serenity in bottom of a Belvedere bottle. The wait for his sugar-coated lies had dragged on for too long, and she’d lost patience. After glancing around the small reception area to ensure no one was watching, she removed from her purse a silver flask and smiled. It was filled to the brim with relief. One small gulp and the soothing burn slipped down her throat, calming her prickly nerves. Inside she felt on the brink of dissolution. The 10 am swallow was just a necessary evil. It would get her through the meeting, until time for her next dose of repose.
Another dead source. She couldn’t stomach the thought of his demise. Two had been more than her fair share. The unceasing cycle of loss had worn her resolve thin. She’d refused to let another family suffer that pain if she could in any way prevent it. J.J. wanted to tell the FBI where to stick her badge and gun, but she had promises to keep. Promises to Viktor. Promises to herself. No matter what Cartwright said, she’d see her case through until the end. And the end was as near as nightfall because the op was simple and would go off without a hitch.
J.J. stiffened her back and squared her shoulders as the elixir took effect. Her posture mirrored that of the powerful yet graceful eagle perched atop her FBI badge. She’d eyed it, waiting for the carefully choreographed denial and deception ritual to begin.
S.D. Skye is a former FBI Russian Counterintelligence Program Intelligence Analyst and supported several key cases during her 12-year tenure at the Bureau. She has personally witnessed the blowback the Intelligence Community suffered due to the most significant compromises in U.S. history, including the arrests of former CIA Case Officer Aldrich Ames and two of the Bureau's own--FBI Agents Earl Pitts and Robert Hanssen. She has spent 20 years supporting counterintelligence, intelligence, and military missions in the U.S. Intelligence Community.
An award-winning author of romantic comedies in her other life, Skye is a member of the Maryland Writer's Association, Romance Writers of America, and International Thriller Writers. She's addicted to writing and chocolate--not necessarily in that order--and currently lives in the Washington D.C. area with her son. Skye is hard at work on the next installment of the series.