By J. H. Bográn
In CHAIN OF COMMAND, the simultaneous assassinations of the President and Vice President catapult the Speaker of the House into the White House as the first female President of the United States. Evidence points to a former Navy SEAL as one of the assassins.
Relegated to writing sidebar stories instead of headlines, journalist McKenzie McClendon composes a scathing story about the Navy training killers.
Former Navy SEAL Noah Hutchins doesn’t believe his partner could have committed the heinous crime. They’d endured the horrors of Afghanistan together. His buddy was a hero, not a murderer.
Thrown together in a search for the truth—and a career-making story—McKenzie and Noah must unravel a dangerous web of lies that includes a radical foreign faction, a violent ultra-feminist group, and corrupt politicians willing to kill to keep their secrets.
The author recently took time to answer some questions for the BigThrill:
What prompted the idea for a novel about like CHAIN OF COMMAND?
In recent years, female candidates have appeared on more and more ballots across the nation, and in 2008, we even saw a female candidate for vice president. I recall having a conversation with friends in which I told them if I was a man, I would think twice about running with a female on my ballot. Over the years, the U.S. has remained one of the few progressive nations to have not been led by a woman, and I told my friends if I was a man, I’d be afraid that someone would kill me just to ensure a woman would make it to the presidency. That conversation played out in my head for a few days. Years earlier, my high school government teacher taught about the chain of command, which dictates the line of succession to the presidency should anything happen to the president during his or her term of office. At the time, a female was the Speaker of the House of Representatives and third in line to the presidency. That was the spark that started the wheels turning in my mind of how in a fictional world, the same situation could potentially result in the first female president of the United States.
What kind of research did you have to do to prepare?
I love research, but even greater than my love of research is my fear of getting details wrong. To that end, I read books about different aspects of the military, particularly material with emphasis on Navy SEALs and weaponry. I also read up on sociopathy and criminal pathology as well as on the United States presidency and Secret Service. After doing some of my own reading, I prepared questions I had left that no book had answered, and I set out on a hunt for people who could answer them. I found that if I asked around, I could usually find folks in a field that would help, and if they didn’t know, they’d help me find someone who did. I talked to Navy SEALs, Army notifications officers, a retired Delta Force major, a forensic psychiatrist, a former hotel manager, a linguist, doctors, and many more. One thing I noticed during interviewing these folks is that in general, people enjoy telling others about their jobs outside of work. Every interview I did was so interesting, and whether or not I ended up using them for this book, I filed them away for use in future stories.
I also performed some of the scariest Google searches known to man. At this point, I’d be surprised if the government wasn’t keeping a sharp eye on me to make sure I don’t harm someone. Every time I searched something “shady,” I said a little prayer that the folks checking into whatever red flags I raised would look up my website so they’d know I’m just an author trying to keep her details accurate!
Can you tell us about the main character?
McKenzie McClendon is a young journalist with a lot of ambition and everything to prove. In addition to be hungry for success, she’s also a spunky, independent gal whose zeal can sometimes get her into trouble. Even so, I think McKenzie has a good head on her shoulders. In this particular story, McKenzie’s desire for a career-breaking story trumps any misgivings she may have about jet-setting with a suspected assassin, but I think she does it because her gut instinct tells her that Noah can be trusted (even if she thinks he’s ridiculous to think his partner was innocent. After all, nobody’s perfect.)
Is this your first political thriller?
It is! Before CHAIN OF COMMAND, I wrote mostly women’s fiction with a suspense bent to it. I’d always wanted to write a thriller, but I was daunted by the amount of detail needed as well as the intricate plotting I would need to pull off in order to succeed with readers. I am a huge fan of thrillers myself, and as one, I know how smart the average thriller reader is. It takes a lot to fool someone who reads a lot of the genre. That’s why I knew that if I couldn’t pull off a book that avid thriller readers would read, enjoy, and that most wouldn’t figure out, I wouldn’t write it. To me, it was a classic case of knowing if I was going to do it, I had to figure out how to do it right.
Is there a book trailer?
Will you be attending any writer’s conferences to promote CHAIN OF COMMAND?
I will be at Thrillerfest this summer, where I’ll be attending the Debut Author Breakfast among other events there. I had a blast at last year’s Thrillerfest. It will be so exciting to attend the event this year from the other side of the table, so to speak.
Here’s a picture of the official book launch party. It was a blast!
What are you currently working on?
I’m knee deep in the editing process for the second book of the McKenzie McClendon series, THE TRADE, which will be published by Stairway Press in the summer of 2013. While THE TRADE is technically a sequel to CHAIN OF COMMAND, it strays from the political thriller subgenre and ventures more into the psychological thriller realm. Here’s what it’s about:
A brilliant and ruthless surgeon is providing infants to be sold on the black market and leaving helpless women to die.
Meanwhile, five New Yorkers crash toward each other, unaware that only the collision of their five lives can bring down the city’s black market baby trade. A widower desperate to bring home his kidnapped son; a scrappy street rat turned surrogate who learns her child isn’t being adopted by who she thinks; a rule-breaking nurse with too much understanding and everything to lose; a drug-addicted lawyer with a plan gone wrong; a young wife who’s the only Cradle Robber victim to survive.
Veteran reporter McKenzie McClendon needs an angle on this story to keep her job—and her home. When her high school sweet heart tips her off that his wife may have been one of the victims, she launches a frantic search to find the killer and her ex’s son. What McKenzie doesn’t realize is one of the five puzzle pieces won’t fit for a good reason, and she must uncover the imposter before the sabotage brings the killer closer to her.
I’m also starting the second novel in my Dr. Jenna Ramey series while the first, COLORBLIND, is being read by agents. COLORBLIND is a psychological thriller about forensic psychiatrist Jenna Ramey, who possesses a rare condition that causes her to associate gut feelings with colors — a condition that famously helped put her mother behind bars years ago. Now, she must use the same tactic to stop a killer with an intricate knowledge of her past before she becomes the next victim.
“The first chapter will shock you–and the shocks keep right on coming. Colby Marshall has written a book that deserves to be called THRILLER.”
–R.L. Stine, New York Times bestselling author of RED RAIN, THE HAUNTING HOUR, and the Goosebumps series
“Carved from the tradition of top-flight political thrillers, CHAIN OF COMMAND is a sizzling potboiler of a tale that threatens to rewrite the rules of the entire genre. Not since SEVEN DAYS IN MAY, SIX DAYS OF THE CONDOR, and the marvelous work of Alan Drury has an author so wondrously captured the government in ultimate crisis. Colby Marshall’s sterling debut may transpire over more than six or seven days, but like me you’ll probably finish it in a single night, racing the dawn to flip the last page. A classic concept updated to fit our politics wary world.”
–Jon Land, bestselling author of PANDORA’S TEMPLE
Writer by day, ballroom dancer and choreographer by night, Colby is a contributing columnist for a local magazine and a proud member of International Thriller Writers and Sisters in Crime. She’s active in local theatres as an actress and choreographer. She lives in Georgia with her family where she is hard at work on her new thriller.
To learn more about Colby, please visit her website.