Flashbyte by Cat Connor

By Michael F. Stewart

Frankly, I’ve been getting a little tired of interviewing authors. I mean, ‘Tell me a bit about yourself? Why did you start writing? How did you manage to get published? What’s your writing process?’ Blah, blah, blah. Seriously, folks, let’s face it, pounding keys isn’t exactly magic. And these questions aren’t going to draw out any deep dark secrets. No, the only people that have the real answers are your main characters. They’re pieces of you and your sordid little fantasies, so instead of interviewing Cat Connor the author, I’m hauling kick-ass Supervisory Special Agent Ellie Conway out of Cat Connor’s closet.

Welcome, Special Agent Conway!

Thank you for taking the time out of your caseload. How are things?

I woke from a nightmare with my own hair wrapped tight around my neck – I just know it’s going to be a hard week. Maybe it’s me, but murders, being hunted by a terrorist, bank robberies, snipers, an exploding house, and a small memory issue that spirals into a special kind of hell, does seem a little excessive for one week.

Welcome to my life.

And while we’re on that, memories from the past – they can’t hurt you, right?

Geez, that doesn’t sound so hot … Before we get into the details of FLASHBYTE, maybe you can tell me a bit about what makes you tick?

I’m Supervisory Special Agent Gabrielle Conway – you can call me Ellie. (Or whatever you’d like – just don’t call me, Gabrielle, we DO NOT use the ‘G’ word.)

What makes me tick? My job, it does it for me. I love it, and then there’s the days I hate it, but mostly I love it. I’m pretty sure that one day it’ll kill me.

I’m a Special Agent with the FBI and have been for quite a few years now. I lead a team called Delta A – based in Washington DC. We mainly investigate serial crime. There are four of us in Delta A; SA Lee Davenport – or as we like to call him Special Agent Ridiculously Good looking; SA Sam Jackson; and SSA Doctor Kurt Henderson. We tend to work in two teams. Often it’s Lee and Sam, me and Kurt, but not always. I’m also the main character in The Byte Series of novels written by Cat Connor.

Give me a day in the life of Gab—uh, I mean, Ellie Conway.

Tread very carefully there, Mike. I’d ask if you’d like to talk to the last person who used the G word, but you can’t.

A day in my life. Well, my days vary considerably. (I find crap comes in a variety of depths and it’s always an adventure stepping into it.)

Sometimes the day starts around 6 AM, I get my teenage daughter moving, we eat breakfast, I drop her at school and then head into DC. Depending on traffic, and whether I can get away with using my flashers to edge my way through the ridiculous traffic, I arrive at the office about forty minutes after dropping Carla at the school gate.

From then on, anything can happen. (Truthfully, anything can happen anytime and it often does – criminals don’t care about my plans or life.) I don’t go looking for cases that cause strife but they do tend to be the ones that cross my desk. I’ve been shot at more times than most agents. I’ve been abducted twice – we now have GPS in all our cars. I’ve had a house blow up, and bodies left for me to discover by someone who had the weirdest plan to get back at me for imagined wrongs from high school. My husband was murdered while protecting a child outside my crime scene. (Not my finest hour, imagine that.)

Of course a truly typical day would be me sitting at my desk doing masses of paperwork while listening to Sam, Lee, and Kurt bitch about the masses of paperwork. We recently had a case that took us to New Zealand, so travel is always a possibility.

We can’t tell how a case/day will go until we’re in the thick of it. What on the surface seems to be straight forward will most often have surprising depths and more than one or two weird twists. My days aren’t well suited to being a single parent; luckily I have my dad on standby. He steps in whenever needed and cares for Carla.

I’m rarely home for dinner, frequently miss school events, and often have to bail during the few events I do get to. As Carla will tell you, our days are anything but normal. Our lives are strung together with the leftover scraps of sanity afforded me after long days dealing with very unsavory people. But I wouldn’t swap it for all the stars in the sky. There is something incredibly satisfying about solving a case and removing a killer from the streets – and it doesn’t hurt that I work with 3 of the best looking agents in the FBI. Just sayin’.

But those are all just Cat Connor’s twisted subconscious thoughts coming through, right? Aren’t you a little freaked out that the person in control of your life and death keeps gnomes on her desk because she doesn’t trust them?

Sure, let’s say they’re just Cat’s twisted subconscious thoughts; does that make you happy, Mike? Because I want you to be happy, Mike.

I can quite understand the gnome thing. If you’ve ever met Tony, Elvis, and BTK (or Dennis as Cat likes to call him) you’d understand why they have to be in plain sight. One of them is mafia, one a junkie, and the other a killer. Would you turn your back on them?

Cat’s not in control of my life and death…

Can you tell me what it’s like to be written by someone who likes to tie-dye everything in sight? I mean what does that do to a character? What’s your take on Cat Connor?

I don’t wear white or own anything white. Does that answer your question? I know that Sam lives in fear of finding himself wearing a tie-dyed shirt. Lee could probably pull it off but Sam, not so much.

My take on Cat, bearing in mind I chose her to write these stories (or maybe despite of that…), she’s fun. Not too much throws her. She’s more than capable of handling our crap and dishing it out if needed. She’s definitely not your average person, but then, writers are not known for being average, normal, or regular people. She’s curious, curious is a good thing. Although isn’t there an old saying about curiosity and cats?

She started writing you in third person, why’d you make her switch?

Because I needed her to be in my head, she wasn’t getting how everything affected me writing it third person. It’s also much easier to tell the story if I can show her how it really happened using my eyes. Also, it’s much easier to scare the bejesus out of her when she can see what I see.

(And that’s fun, it really is.)

So what’s happening in FLASHBYTE?

I was woken one morning to the news that I was dead. (By the way, that kind of thing can really mess with a person’s head.) Before the day was over, I was working a series of bank robberies – which, I solved, go me! On the way home some fucktard opened fire on me at the 7-eleven. My car was Swiss cheese. Who does that? Really, in northern Virginia – someone with a death wish, that’s who!

Sorry, it was not the best day, and it still makes me angry. By the end of the night I’d opened packages addressed to me that contained something I don’t even want to think about, and a sniper was in the woods… shooting at Delta, okay, and me and Mac’s truck. Then everything got really messy. Because that wasn’t messy enough, right?

I also found out a few things that I did not know before, one of which I’m not exactly sure what to do with.

How do you feel that the idea for your first book in the Byte series came from when Cat received death threats while running a poetry chat room?  Does Cat like a good limerick?

I was there at the time of the death threats, it wasn’t an isolated incident. Seemed quite reasonable to me that Cat used that time as a basis for a book that also contained a bit of a warning to everyone… do you know who you talk to online? Really? Are you sure?

Cat’s not that thrilled by limericks, she prefers poetry to not be about a young man from Nantucket…

Is there ever a point when you’re getting ahead of Cat and you’re like saying ‘hey if you don’t get this down you’re going to forget how I’m going to solve the murder’?

Sometimes I remind her that she needs to get on with it. At the moment she’s slacking off and refusing to listen. Probably fair enough, we all need a break sometimes. Admittedly I did throw a new character at her a few weeks ago and he’s giving her pause. I’ve done it before (with a rock star) and it turned out rather well, but I knew she had an expert she could talk to in that instance. I’m sure she’ll find a suitable expert in this field as well. Maybe I’ll point her in the right direction.

To make it easier for Cat to understand how everything fits together, I like to let her tag along when we’re working. It’s kinda cute how she thinks she’s making it happen when I’m the one showing her the movie footage she sees in her head. I’m the reason she can’t change the outcome. One day she’ll figure it out. She’s telling my stories and they don’t always end well. In a perfect world we could pick our own ending. But from where I stand – the world is far from perfect and you have to play the hand you’re dealt. (Or fold… and I’m not much for quitters.)

I know Cat’s into music and uses songs as chapter titles and you like music too, the same music. Let’s face it, your blog URL is ‘Otherwisecat’. I’m beginning to wonder if you’re not the same person.

I like to think we’re separate people. Maybe it’s some kinda weird assed mind-meld? Who the hell knows? My blog is titled ‘Bounce’ but Cat set it up for me using my old MSN screen name which is why Otherwisecat is part of the URL – I think she said Bounce was already taken.  Personally, I don’t think she tried very hard.

So, you’re Ellie Conway. Mac Connelly—was your husband. Cat Connor writes you. What gives with the last names, did Cat just open the kiwi phone book at ‘C’ and take the first she saw?

I know, right? What was she thinking? There’s a bit of an Irish thing going on there. Mac was a fun mix of black Irish and Cherokee, and I obviously have a good measure of Irish myself. Who knew the chick that I would be able to communicate with would be a Connor? When you think about it, it probably makes sense on some level. (So do leprechauns and pots of gold, if you think about them after a fifth of bourbon.)

I hear you have Psycho-prophetic talents—bet you knew I was going to ask this question—tell me how that works and what lottery numbers I should pick next.

To be perfectly honest, I don’t know how it works. I hear things, mostly they’re songs, and no one else can hear them. When that happens, there is always a reason. Either something in the lyrics or the title that leads me to a certain line of enquiry or in some cases to a certain person.

Some days it’s like I’m tuned into the universe and can reach out and grab answers, of course the fun thing is proving the answer is the right one. I’m very lucky no one has had me committed! And that my team doesn’t question my methods too stringently.

I talk to dead people too, well, not people so much as my dead husband. He’s been known to tell me things, he’s also been known to be damned annoying.

Mac needs to learn to be a better dead person and just let me get on with life. It’s hard enough having someone you love die, but almost impossible when they won’t leave!

Sorry you wanted lottery numbers, yes?

Ready?

24, 12, 16, 6, 36, 2. I expect you to share… remember who I am and how quickly I can find you.

Now the important question: Which of you looks better in cowboy boots?

That’s not easy… I’m going with me. Really, I have too. Just don’t tell her, okay? I have a kick-ass pair of hand tooled leather steel capped cowboy boots and I rock them.

What’s next for Ellie Conway?

The things I’ve shown Cat are way ahead of what anyone has read so far. Rebel e Publishers has published all of the Byte books (KILLERBYTE, TERRORBYTE, EXACERBYTE, and now FLASHBYTE). Meanwhile, I spilled my guts to Cat about another chapter in my life, and she wrote it. The 5th Byte novel, SOUNDBYTE.

I thought I was going to lose Cat by the end of that story. It’s tough. It took me a lot longer to show her all the movie reels for SOUNDBYTE. Sometimes there are things you don’t want to see again.

What’s next for me now, well, after the gut wrenching dash through SOUNDBYTE… I thought something a little lighter might be the thing. I’m telling Cat a story at the moment of a much more entertaining case, tentatively titled pixelbyte. (If she can find her expert, she might even enjoy this. God knows I am.)

Thanks for joining me Special Agent Ellie Conway! Good luck with your cases.

Thanks for having me… don’t forget… if you win the lottery, I’d best be hearing from you.

Supervisory Special Agent Ellie Conway is the protagonist of Cat Connor’s Byte series. Cat Connor is a New Zealand writer who writes international thrillers. She has written 4 SSA Conway novels so far, all published by Rebel e Publishers, USA.

Her short stories have appeared in various journals, ezines, and anthologies in the USA and UK and NZ. You can learn more about Cat on her website and blog, and learn more about Special Agent Ellie Conway on her blog.

Michael F. Stewart

Michael F. Stewart is the author of several graphic novels published by Oxford University Press Canada. 24 Bones is his debut supernatural thriller, and The Sand Dragon is his first horror novel. His next novel, Hurakan, will be released in Fall 2010. Michael lives and writes in Ottawa, Canada.

Visit Michael at www.michaelfstewart.com.

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