By Jeff Ayers
Brad Thor brings back his hero, Scot Harvath, in another gripping and pulse-pounding thriller. Hopefully there is someone like Harvath protecting our country from our enemies. Brad talked about his latest thriller to ITW.
What sparked the idea for Foreign Influence?
The idea for Foreign Influence actually came from conversations with two different friends.
The first was a conversation I had with Glenn Beck. We were discussing turmoil in other nations and how we send operatives over to tip things one way or another. Glenn asked me how many nations I thought were sending operatives here to America to do exactly the same thing right now.
The second conversation was with my friend, Barrett Moore – the founder of the private military corporation, Triple Canopy. We talked about a white paper published by a nation hostile to America that detailed how they could absolutely crush us without ever meeting us on the conventional battlefield. The plan involved co-opting Islamic terror groups to do their bidding in a first wave of attacks. Once the terrorists were unleashed on America and American interests abroad, a whole series of incredibly unconventional attacks would begin in areas we had never before considered. It was terrifying and made even more so by the fact that this plot actually exists and is fact, not fiction.
Why the job change for Scot Harvath?
I’m a big believer that there is nothing the government can do better than the private sector – and this goes double when it comes to spying. This reality has played itself out in the last several months across the pages of the New York Times. America is learning that the Department of Defense has been hiring private spies because the CIA is either unwilling or unable to provide the DoD with the intelligence it needs. This is fascinating, real-life intrigue.
I see some form of Private Espionage Corporations as the next big thing in National Security and I wanted my new thriller to be on the cutting edge of that.
What made you bring back the Troll in Foreign Influence?
Out of all the characters I have created, the Troll is one of the most popular. I have been looking for the right storyline for him over the past couple of books. He resonates with a lot of people and plays on both sides of a very fine line between good and evil. This book was the perfect book to bring him back for. The storyline cried out for his involvement; his special way of dealing with the world and his enemies.
Where does the idea come from to have a private organization like the Carlton Group gather intelligence?
I began to introduce the concept of private intelligence gathering in my novel, The First Commandment. I had been reading a lot about how backlogged many intelligence agencies had been in transcribing emails and telephone conversations of suspected terrorists. I was also keenly aware of how even going back to the time of the Romans, great militaries could not effectively wage war without the assistance of auxiliaries (a much more dignified and appropriate term than contractors).
I watched the ever-increasing role of private military corporations in Afghanistan and Iraq. Retired Special Operations Forces personnel were choosing to work with organizations like Triple Canopy rather than joining the CIA in its paramilitary efforts. Many of the men (and women) I spoke with who were doing this, shared that they were turned off by government bureaucracy and preferred serving their country via the private sector.
When I put this information together with the multiple backlogs at government intelligence agencies, it seemed only a matter of time before government would turn to the private sector for help in the intelligence arena as well. This is indeed what has happened. Over the course of the last several months there have been multiple articles written in the New York Times about intelligence gathering overseas by private organizations contracted by the government.
How helpful are the men and women on the front lines with your research?
They are absolutely invaluable. As I said, reality is the bedrock of what I write. The details must be spot-on. I am very fortunate to have the front-line input that I do.
You created a team of female operatives in Foreign Influence. What was your intent in creating this unit?
Over the last fifteen years, I have spent a lot of time around high-end Olympic, professional, and semi-professional athletes; both male and female. I found the women to be just as determined and skilled as their male counterparts. There were many whom I thought would make exceptional counterterrorism operatives. Just think of the places they could go and the things they could do without ever raising any suspicion.
When I heard rumors that the Army’s elite Delta Force unit was recruiting high level female athletes for exactly that kind of work, I knew I wanted to be the first to write about it. I also wanted to create a new class of hero that women could look up to and admire.
How difficult is it to entertain with story lines that terrify us in the news?
Reality is the bedrock of a good political thriller. Your foundation has to be solid, believable, and if you really want it to be a hit – timely. You have to beat the news, beat the headlines. You have to give people (today) what is about to happen outside their door tomorrow. This isn’t easy. A political thriller writer has to eat, sleep, and breathe current events. You also need to be able to turn those events upside down and give people a great “what if?” Coming at a believable topic from a completely unimagined angle is what makes thrillers captivating.
Working with headlines that terrify adds excitement and provides readers with a chance to engage some of their most immediate, pressing fears. This is why people use words like “engaging” and “compelling” to describe the thriller genre.
How do you maintain the intense pace in your writing?
You do this by keeping the pressure up on your characters. Just when you think things are going one way, you throw them a curve. There must be huge stakes and your characters must be completely vested in the outcome. If they win they live. If they lose they die. That’s the concept in a nutshell.
Are you going to be doing two novels a year now? Does this mean a new series?
I am indeed doing two novels a year now. In Foreign Influence Scot Harvath is assisted by a very special team of female operatives – based on the female operatives of Delta Force. The first book in this new series is entitled, The Athena Project and it will be published on November 23rd.