Let's Get BOOKED! asked author J.D. Skye what the hardest part of writing the Seven Year Itch was...
The Hardest Part of Writing The Seven Year Itch
I think the hardest part of writing this story was actually finding the courage to push the limit of my writing ability and to allow myself to grow. I started my writing career with romantic comedy novels. They were safe in that I could rely on my humor and didn’t have to worry about revealing any part of my background with the government, and most of us counterintelligence folk are paranoid to some degree. You always view yourself as a target, and when hostile intelligence services don’t know who you are, they don’t target you. So, keeping your profession background under wraps was key to maintaining some semblance of sanity.
In addition, I focused on relatable relationship issues which was easy because God cursed me with my romantic life and gave me ample sources of material. No matter your race, creed, economic background, you can laugh about relationship issues. Most of my romantic comedies are written in first person, so I didn’t have to worry about multiple points of view. And I’m decidedly a pantser, so I could just write the story as it came to me without going too far off the reservation. This was a breeze for me. I learned to swim in the shallow end of the pool and inched my way to the deep water.
In tackling this series, I yanked myself from the shallow end of the pool and jumped headfirst eyes closed into the deepest ocean. For starters, writing this series (with any credibility) meant putting my background out there for the whole world to see. Eek! Then I was writing a subject about a world few people know about, that wasn’t naturally relatable. I mean, what’s the last book you read about FBI counterintelligence? And when’s the last time you read a novel by a former FBI employee who worked in counterintelligence? Yeah, doesn’t really happen. I think I’m about it…unless someone out there’s writing under pseudonyms and concealing their background.
In most popular series on the market, the FBI solves murders. My novel goes totally against the fictional conventions and delves into the spy world. I’m absolutely amazed at how many people write books about the CIA operating in the United States who mention the FBI as a side bar. The FBI is the big dog in the United States in the real world.
Then to compound matters even more, I chose to make the lead character in this world African American. We’re used to seeing black detectives, but FBI agents in the intelligence world? Yeah, not so much. Not only did I make her African American, but she’s a woman. Alex Cross represents popular black male characters in law enforcement as a detective. But serial killers are a bit different from Russian counterintelligence. Even though the Cold War is over, spies are more active than ever—but would anyone really care? The most comparable character I could come up with in Russian intelligence is Salt—but she’s a movie character and she was CIA. So, J.J. McCall would be very unique—which could be a good thing…or a bad thing.
All this and I haven’t even touched on the fact that I’d never written a mystery or suspense novel. Well, I did incorporate a bit of a mystery/suspense element in my romantic comedies in order to up the page-turning factor. But I’d never made that the core of a novel. I’d never developed complex plots that I would need to string out for the entire length of a novel. My rom-com plots were pretty simple.
I’d never worked with so many different characters before, and then to give each character an unique, authentic voice. And the mix of characters is a United Nations nightmare--African-American, Russian, Jersey Italian, and Caucasian characters.
Could I possibly have made this task any more daunting for myself? I don’t think so, which would explain why it took me 27,000 drafts (only a slight exaggeration) to get it right. But I did finally get it right. I received validation of this by the fact that my publisher actually rejected the first draft but made an offer on the final version. I reluctantly turned down the offer because I wanted more freedom in releasing future books in the series. But they wanted her. That says a lot about the months of work I put into it.
It’s a little scary to go out on a ledge like this, with a novel that has a very mixed cast of characters in a world most people aren’t familiar with. But when all was said and done, J.J. and her cast of characters refused to be silenced. They kept yapping in my head until I released them. And the story line I developed for all five books was just too juicy and good not to tell. If one person reads it and enjoys it, well, that’s good enough for me. But hopefully there will be two or three…or two or three hundred thousand. J
Sometimes the hardest part of writing is overcoming your fears and finding the courage to tell the story that’s in your heart. As writer’s we can be our worst critics and our worst enemies. But going against the grain is liberating and I believe by the end of the series, the readers who give it a chance won’t be disappointed. I’ve worked super hard to deliver some page-turning plots, engaging and often funny characters, pulse-pounding endings, and mysteries they won’t solve until the end.
Not bad, eh?
The Seven Year Itch
(A J.J. McCall Novel – the FBI Series)
by S. D. Skye
Her Family Was Vexed With a Generational Curse. Now for Lie Detecting FBI Spy Catcher J.J. McCall, the Truth is in The Seven Year Itch.
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.
Monday Morning in Moscow…
Mikhail Polyakov was murdered in a Solntsevskaya-owned cottage located in Lobnya, a small village just outside Moscow. It was a Russian organized crime death chamber. A hulking Mafioso known only as Maskov hovered over his mangled corpse. The ax in his massive hand dripped with the blood of a traitor. He would not live to betray his country another day. In the safe house basement, he lay on the concrete floor. A pool of crimson surrounded him, and his flesh had been gashed and hacked beyond visual recognition; death’s stench thickened the air. In order to serve its only noble purpose, his right hand, which bore a crescent-shaped birthmark, was left untouched.
A sliver of light shone through an undersized window revealing the wicked grin that parted the executioner’s cigarette blackened lips. Colonel Anatoliy Golikov. A Russian intelligence officer, he was a member of a cadre of Russian Foreign Intelligence Service—SVR officers—from the First Department. His professional mission had been recruiting people who sold U.S. secrets, but his personal mission was to kill anyone who betrayed the Motherland.
His skinny eyes, slight frame, and borderline gaunt face colored him weak, but his iron-fisted will and suffocating persona made him a man few crossed. Even fewer had lived to brag about it if they had. The son of a former hardline KGB General who executed Russians spying for the West, he’d filled his father’s sadistic shoes well. Left nothing in his wake except a trail of dead American sins against Russia.
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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.