Published December 8th 2013 by Frankie V Books
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.
Deciding When a Character Has to Go
It’s so funny this topic should come up. When I started my career as a novelist in 2009 (I’ve been a writer for much longer), I started out writing chick lit and swore I would never ever kill a character. I hated getting attached to characters in stories that I loved and then having them killed off. Hated it. Even when my story seemed to be heading in that direction, I quickly steered it away. It’s the most heavy handed I’ve ever been in my writing. I usually let my characters lead my story but death was not a place I was willing to go.
I’ll be honest…I’d also seen the blowback one author in particular had experienced for killing off a beloved character.
Oh, it was ugly. Readers were in a total uproar. I sat in disbelief because, on one hand, I understood the idea of allowing the characters to lead the way. But I also understood how it felt to see characters die. I mean, can we say, “Harry Potter”? I need a CASE of chocolate after books 5, 6, and 7.
Whatever happened, my verdict was in.
Not me, I said. No blowback. No death.
Oh, how naïve I was!
Fast forward to 2011. The J.J. McCall series.
I’d finished three romantic comedies by this time and the J.J. McCall story just kept nagging me. I pitched it to my agent and he was intrigued, so I forged ahead. About 8 years had passed since I’d worked counterintelligence at the FBI so my memories weren’t fresh. I remembered the fun stuff and the cool stuff. Not the hard stuff. Hard stuff like when U.S. government employees sell out their country and divulge the identity of our sources, those sources are usually tortured, imprisoned, and/or executed.
There is no happy ending in that scenario and I was forced to acknowledged that was the reality of this subject matter. If you want to write about counterintelligence and sources, then you will inevitably write about death. Somebody’s got to go.
My early drafts were all fluff and I had successfully avoided the death issue, but eventually it came back to smack me in the face. Somebody’s got to die. Not only is that necessary to develop the sense of urgency of the story, if there’s a message that someone takes out of these books, the consequences of treason has to be one of those messages. So, I had to remove myself from the stories and let them flow as they should.
How to decide?
When I start out, I’m not looking to kill anyone. The deaths in both books were as much as a surprise to me as to the reader. I mean, I was shocked to the point to that I was looking at my screen with my mouth gaped open, exclaiming, “Really??? Nooooooo!”
You hate to say, even in a fictional world, that someone’s death seemed natural but without the deaths, the subsequent actions in the scene lose their power.
Sometimes death has to happen. Sometimes characters have to go. I don’t think there’s any hard and fast rules. As for me, I just let the stories and plots flow as organically as possible and allow my characters be the guide. They always know better than I.
Tony’s wannabe girlfriend bounced in the door with all the cheer of a drunken valley girl, gazelle graceful in her four-inch stilettos and body-hugging cranberry-colored pantsuit. After flipping her irritatingly thick Pantene hair behind her shoulder, she smiled and sang a bright, “Good morning!”
J.J. grabbed a handful of chocolate with the quickness of a hungry toddler. “Gia, you made it,” J.J. replied in a flat tone, offering a polite but grudging head nod. Her ears and cheeks warmed as she soundlessly growled and narrowed her eyes. “Please make yourself comfortable,” she said as the words “on Mars” flitted through her mind. She stuffed a handful of M&Ms in her mouth and waited for the next arrival.
“Wouldn’t miss it for the world,” Gia replied, carefree and nonchalant, full of herself because in the contest for the heart of Tony Donato, she’d scored a major victory over J.J. by all appearances. A flirtatious grin edged the corners of her lips upward when Tony arrived seconds later, in all his muscled Italian glory. A towering hunk of olive-colored fine. Her voice bounced as she sang, “Ciao, Signore Donato.”
Show off, J.J. groused as she shifted in her chair, cocked her head to the side and shook it in disbelief at Gia’s shameless pandering. J.J. had sensed an attraction between the two. Her fears were confirmed by Tony’s first lie.
I thought I would venture outside my comfort zone a bit with Son of a Itch. I loved the fact that the protagonist, is a female FBI agent. Notice I didn't use heroine as a descriptive. Nope, J. J. is nothing so limited. No, that sounds bad to my heroine club, but that just fit J.J. McCall. She is the main character that the story revolves around. Yeah, that fits much better. I had no idea that I would be venturing into quasi Jane Bond territory. For those of us old enough to remember the Red threat of the Iron Curtain, this story brings back chilling memories. Thank goodness for the humor and brief romantic elements or I might have thought I had picked up a Tom Clancy book by mistake. On second thought, nah, Tom Clancy is too wordy and S. D. Skye's writing has a more authentic "been there done that" feel. (I kid you not!)
One of my very favorite aspects of J.J.'s character is her ability to know when someone is lying to her. She starts to itch. Isn't that marvelous!! I want all women to have this ability. Of course, in J.J.'s line of work, she really needs to keep antihistamines everywhere. This book was absolutely riveting and this is one of the very rare series that doesn't focus predominantly on romance that is going on my "must read" list. I was soooo flipping impressed by this book, it was the "Real Deal". The story and the action were on point and keeps the reader on the edge of their seat with out taking them into a pit of darkness. There is just enough of a lighter side to keep hope alive. If you like a brilliantly executed, thrilling, and addictive suspense novel, Son of a Itch is for you. S. D. Skye can flat write her butt off, I was sold, and tagged. This is a great series and J. J. is Jack Ryan with a vagina.
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.
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