Today, I once again have S. D. Skye on my site again. This time it’s for her new book, Son of a Itch, book 2 of her FBI Espionage series.
Peep Rep: Does she have a prize?
Liza: She didn’t bring her gun, so she can’t shoot you. How’s that for a prize?
Peep Rep: While I appreciate that I’ll live through the interview, although I expected you made the no gun policy so YOU’D survive the interview, I was talking about her blog tour prize.
Liza: She’ll be giving away a Kindle Fire HD and a $25 Gift Card.
Peep Rep: *falls to ground*
Liza: Crap, did a sniper just take you out?
Peep Rep: Sorry, I fainted. Did you say a Kindle Fire HD and a $25 Gift Card?
Liza: That’s correct. One lucky (US only) person will win both.
Peep Rep: *falls over again.*
Liza: Well, since Peep Rep is out of commission, I better invite a Foxlike reporter to assist in this interview. It’s been a while since I’ve had to call on them. Hope they’ll respond. In the meantime, let's get this interview going. Skye, come on in.
Liza: It's so great not to see you again. How have you been.
Skye: I've been hard at work on the second book of this series. *stares at body of Peep Rep* Ummm…anything you want to confess before we begin?
Liza: I’m innocent. You caused him to faint by having such great tour prizes.
Skye: *Steps over Peep Rep and takes a seat.* Okay, let the interrogation begin.
Liza: What is your favorite part of writing?
Skye: I love writing…the initial part during which I’m wearing my creative hat. I’m always amazed at the stories I come up with. But the best part is when I’m planning to go in one direction and my characters put me in check and say, “No, no. I wouldn’t do that. But I would do this…” That happened a lot in Son of a Itch. Mostly all of the twists in the story that will come as a surprise to the readers were also surprises to me. The story is very organic that way. I love allowing my characters to lead the way and I’ve discovered that they tell stories way better than I do.
BREAKING NEWS: SKYE ALLOWS CHARACTERS TO RUN AMUCK IN DRAFT. (AND MANY OF THEM CARRY WEAPONS.)
Skye: I forgot about your FoxLike News. Still unbiased and totally accurate, I see.
Liza: Exactly, just forget about them entirely. No one pays attention to their comments anyway. Now, is there anything you don’t like about being a writer?
Skye: Yes. Editing and rewriting. While it’s a very necessary process, I find I get impatient to just finish the darn thing by that point. And unfortunately, my work ethic will not allow me to take shortcuts so the longer I work on it, the better it gets…but also the more impatient I become. It’s a constant struggle. Also, I don’t like not having more time to write. Unfortunately, I still need the “other” job to pay the bills. I look forward to the day when I don’t need it.
BREAKING NEWS: SKYE, CONSTANTLY STRUGGLES NOT TO SHOOT HER EDITORS OR PC.
Skye: Well, it’s not so much a struggle as it’s a fear of imprisonment.
Liza: That never stops Foxlike News. Seriously, you need to ignore them. What's the best piece of advice anyone has ever offered you about writing?
Skye: That’s tough because I’ve read and received so many pieces of great advice that it’s difficult to only name one. So I will provide two.
BREAKING NEWS: SKYE THINKS LIZA CAN’T COUNT PAST ONE
Liza: Okay, I'm getting annoyed now. Can you arrest a headline? The Supreme Court is declaring everything human these days. If a corporation can be a person, why not a headline?
Skye: For once I agree—Foxlike News headlines always take on a life of their own. Anyway, let me answer your question. The first piece of advice came from a book called Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. In it she says that it’s okay and even expected that your first draft will be a crappy one (she uses the “S” word but I shall not).
She tells writers to essentially embrace your crap in order to allow yourself to finish the first draft. I’ve found that the length of time it takes me to finish an initial draft directly correlates to the amount of self-editing and rewriting I do when I’m supposed be focusing on getting the story out of my head. The more rewriting I do, the longer it takes. And unfortunately, that stalls my progress at a time when rewriting is very unnecessary.
So when writing the first draft, I try to make as few changes as possible. Even if I have an idea for something to change earlier in the story, I will make a note of it to change it in the second pass and treat the rest of the draft as if I’ve made the change. This advice really speeds up the process.
BREAKING HEALTH ISSUE: SKYE IS EMBRACING HER CRAP.
Skye: Yeah…it’s the one thing I have in common with the Foxlike headlines.Liza: Sadly, true, so continue with your response.You did say you had two bits of advice, even though I only asked for one.
Skye: Hey, if I have to put up with Breaking News crap, then you can cut me slack when I wish to give a complete answer.
Liza: Seems fair. Go on.
Skye: The second piece comes from a book called Manuscript Makeover by Elizabeth Lyon. In it, she says when you’re struggling to find the direction a scene should take in terms of your main character or if a scene feels slow, the general rule is… “Make It Worse.”
Set your character on the path of most resistance; make the situation more difficult for your character and then see how he/she figures their way out of it. I’m telling you, this piece of advice really works when applied during the rewrite phase.
Most of the time when a scene feels nap-worthy, it’s usually because I’ve made life too easy for my character or I’ve given them an answer to easily. It’s better for the audience when the character has to work their way out of a sticky situation. And the stickier the better.
BREAKNG NEW: SKYE SUGGESTS MAKING CHARACTERS MISERABLE WITH FLY PAPER
Skye: Not even close to what I said…still embracing your crap, I see.
Liza: Would you stop fighting with FoxLike News. It does no good. Now, what part of your book took you most out of your comfort zone?
Skye: All of it. Working in counterintelligence, we really work in the shadows. For 22 years, people knew where I worked but they never knew that I worked in counterintelligence. Probably never would’ve imagined it.
So, getting to a place in my life where I was comfortable sharing these stories really took a lot of courage on my part. But it’s been so much fun and so exhilarating to re-explore parts of my life and career that I had filed away in my mental vault. And while I must be careful not to divulge sensitive information on cases that I’ve worked and making that world fictional has been a huge challenge, I think it has led to some of the best storytelling I’ve ever done.
BREAKING NEWS: SKYE HAS UNFAIR ADVANTAGE — SHE KNOWS WHAT SHE’S TALKING ABOUT AND CAN SHOOT WHOEVER CALLS HER OVER THE TOP
Liza: What part of your book was the hardest to write?
Skye: Honestly, for me, sex scenes are always hardest to write. I come from a really conservative, Christian family. We don’t use curse words or talk openly about sex. For me to curse was one thing…but for me to write gripping sex scenes? That’s very very difficult. I want to write books my family would feel comfortable reading. I think I hit the sweet spot in Son of a Itch (no pun intended). I feel like I’ve learned how to communicate passion without being vulgar, graphic, or profane. It truly is a delicate balance but it’s a skill worth developing.
Another difficultly I had was amping up the mafia connections to the story. I’m a fan of Italian mafia stories from way back. The Godfather is, bar none, one of my favorite movies EVER. I think it resonates with me because of my early work in the FBI working in the Criminal Division before I moved to Counterintelligence.
I worked cases involving truck hijackings, RICO, and La Cosa Nostra and I worked Organized Crime once I started working in the Russian Program. Tony Donato, the hero of the story, is based on an Italian FBI agent I worked with and the character loosely affiliated with the Italian mafia.
While I’m familiar with that world, it’s still very difficult for me to write the characters authentically because I’m not Italian. With that said, I’ve really studied other shows, movies, books, etc. so I think I did okay. I think people will really enjoy the Organized Crime (Russian and Italian) aspects of the series as it really heightens the complexity, action, and drama.
Liza: Come on Foxlike News. You have to have something to say about this!
BREAKING NEWS DOES NOT WISH TO SAY ANYTHING ABOUT RUSSIAN OR ITALIAN MAFIA. WE ARE SCARED OF THEM.
Liza: Coward! *returns focus on shadowy Skye* How’d you/your muse come up with this story?
Skye: The seed of this story is based on a true crime. In 1999, the FBI’s Special Surveillance Group (also called the “Gs”) happened upon a situation that helped the FBI find one of the most surprising breaches in U.S. intelligence history. The Russian Intelligence Service had installed a listening device in the U.S. State Department in a conference room down the hall from the Secretary’s office. I used that case to develop a “What if…” scenario and it leads J.J. and the Task Force on to a pretty massive case. So, this is one instance in which real events are very much mashed up with fictional events to blur the lines between what really happened and what we’ll never know. For that reason, this was a very fun piece.
Liza: How does the reality of being a writer compare to the one TV writers live?
Skye: It’s funny you should asked this because one of my favorite TV series this year was called “The Writer’s Room.” Each week they’d interview the writers from TV’s best shows, such as Breaking Bad, Parks & Recreation, American Horror Story, and Game of Thrones. It was so interesting to hear about their creative process. So, I feel I’m giving an educated answer when I say that the TV writers work in a much more collaborative environment rather than novelist who are mostly solitary workers. If a novelist had to be confined in a room with 5 or 10 other people, we’d scratch our eyes out. Their process requires a lot more buy-in and approval whereas novelists make unilateral decisions about the story direction and that’s that. Another thing I noticed is that their writing process is a lot more fluid, quicker, and structured. They do a lot of storyboarding. Some novelists outline and storyboard; however, a great many of us write very organically. Many writers, like me, kind of just go with the flow…and there seems to be little time or patience for that in TV writing.
Liza: How would you describe your relationship with your muse? Have you ever needed intervention?
Skye: We’re on fairly good terms, I think. I’m never at a loss for an idea. NEVER. My biggest problem is finding the time to write them. We’ve gone through our ups and downs and periods in the middle of a story when I’ve gotten the silent treatment, but I force my way through them or write a different part of the story that is coming to me and defer the difficult part for when we’re speaking again.
BREAKING NEWS: SKYE’S MUSE NORMALLY BEHAVES DUE TO BIG GUN SKYE CARRIES
Skye: You know...there is no law against shooting a headline...
Liza: Shame you didn't bring your gun. Back to my insightful, award winning questions. If you met an alien from outer space, how would you explain what you (as an author) actually do.
Skye: I would tell it that I write a bunch of bold-faced lies as told by a choir of crazy voices in my head. And when people find the combination entertaining enough, they pay for them and read them.
BREAKING NEWS: ONCE SKYE MAKES ALIENS THINK SHE’S NUTS, SHE ARRESTS THEM AND DEPORTS THEM TO AREA 52
Liza: Ignore it. There isn't an area 52, it's called Dugway. So tell me how your life is different from Stephen King’s?
Skye: First, I commute at least an hour each weekday go to a 9-to-5 job; he gets to bask in the joy of a ten-second commute from his bedroom to his home office.
His books have been turned into movies; one of my books was knocked on the floor in a movie in a scene which is probably lying on some Hollywood studio cutting room floor.
One of his characters breaks limbs with sledgehammers; one of my character cuts off limbs with a heavy hand and an axe.
Oh! And, most importantly, he’s sold a gazillion copies of his books. Comparatively speaking, I’ve sold 12…no, wait. Make that 13 ½ (only a slight exaggeration…in my favor.)
With that, he’s never worked for the FBI or at the Pentagon on the Joint Staff…and he’s probably never helped catch a spy. So we’re pretty much even (no, not really).
BREAKING NEWS: SKYE IS FAR MORE INTERESTING AND USEFUL THAN STEPHEN KING, WHO ONLY WANDERS ABOUT HIS HOUSE, SINCE ROADS SCARE HIM NOW, WHILE SKYE CATCHES SPIES AND KEEPS OUR COUNTRY SAFE, WHEN NOT WRITING BOOKS. When writing, she's no more helpful than SK
Skye: That's it! I'm going to step out and help Liza find an iota of truth. I might be a while.
Liza: While we wait for Skye to return, here's some very interesting info about Skye's latest book:
Liza: Shame Peep Rep is still out, that is a great cover.
Son of a Itch
by S. D. Skye
On the lam from the FBI, the ICE PHANTOM continues with plans to defect to Moscow but not before seeking revenge on J.J. McCall. Meanwhile, the FBI commences Task Force PHANTOM HUNTER, a team ordered by Director Russell Freeman to track down suspected Russian illegals within the U.S. Intelligence Community—and not a moment too soon. An agent of the Russian Intelligence Services is targeting the nerve center of U.S. national security, taking the lie-detecting FBI Agent and her cohorts’ next mole hunt to the highest echelons of the U.S. government.
J.J. and her co-case agent lead the motley crew of spy catchers while she struggles to deal with sobriety, conflicting feelings for Tony and Six, and an egotistical Secret Service agent whose jurisdictional stonewalling complicates her every effort to identify the culprit before he gets away—with murder.
“Well, we’ve been downgraded from a task force to an analytical working group,” J.J. said. “We get no investigative resources. No Gs. Any cases referred for preliminary inquiries must be vetted through AD Nixon, who will probably send them to WFO for action. Put in layman’s terms—we’re no longer the hammer, we are the nail. Quite frankly, I wouldn’t blame any of you if you wanted to bail.”
“How long this will last?” Gia asked.
J.J. responded with a shrug. “The Russian National Security Council Director is supposed to visit next week and the President’s trying to smooth relations. Once he’s gone, we may get some breathing room. Until then, nothing.”
“I’m still in, but what do we do now?” Gia asked.
J.J. opened her mouth to answer when the song “Gettin’ Jiggy With It” blasted from her cell phone. She recognized ringtone given she’d heard it a thousand times over the past week. It was her favorite G. “Uhhh...if you'll please give me a minute. I should probably take this.”
J.J. answered the phone as she stepped outside the conference room and closed the door behind her. “Hey, Jiggy. I'm in the middle of a meeting.”
“You and Tony need to get down the Ellipse right now. It's urgent.”
“The Ellipse? That’s Secret Service territory. What interests could the Bureau have there?”
“With all the shit hitting the fan right now,” Jiggy said, “you may not want to know.”
“Then why’d you call?” J.J. replied.
“Because I have a sneaking suspicion the Russians have somehow gained access to a U.S. government agency communications network in this area…and judging by the close proximity to the White House…I think it’s in the White House.”
J.J. released a heavy sigh and shook her head. “You’re right. I didn’t want to know.”
S.D. Skye Novels on Kindle – Worldwide Links
S.D. Skye is a former FBI Russian Counterintelligence Program Intelligence Analyst and supported two major programs 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 Robert Hanssen. She spent 20+ years supporting military and intelligence missions in the U.S. Intelligence Community.
Skye, an award winning author, is a member of the Maryland Writer’s Association, Romance Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, 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 several projects, including the next installment of this exciting series.