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By Jeff Ayers

Cat Connor lives in the Wellington region of New Zealand with her husband (Action Man), and their youngest children (The Boy Wonder, Squealer, and Breezy). They share their home with a fat grey cat named Missy and Romeo the Greyhound.

When Cat is not writing she is sewing, tie-dying, reading, or hanging out with her family and the Admins. (Admin One, Admin Bubbles and Cat spent April 2011 in the USA, they had a fabulous time and managed not to get arrested…)

The sudden appearance of a familiar man causes SSA Ellie Conway to question her husband’s death and she’s not the only one with questions in Cat Connor’s latest in her Byte series, SOUNDBYTE.

Meanwhile, Ellie is tormented by a song that seems to be everywhere and tied to the murder of a renowned jeweler and most of his family. When the sister of the NCIS Director is abducted from her home and it becomes known she is linked to the dead jeweler – the messy case takes a frightening turn. No one is who they claim to be and Ellie suspects CIA involvement, but to what end?

It becomes a race against time to prove her theory and find the woman.

– Just another day at the office …

Could you talk about the Byte series?

The Byte series was almost an accidental series. I wrote KILLERBYTE with no real thought about writing another book with those characters, but my main character SSA Ellie Conway wouldn’t just go away quietly. Turned out she had a lot to say and I needed to listen. So far, Ellie’s adventures have spanned six full-length novels and a novella; the next book is taking shape as I type this.

SOUNDBYTE is the 5th novel in the series. Excitingly I have spent the last two days listening to KILLERBYTE, wonderfully produced by the Royal New Zealand Foundation for the Blind for their library. I can’t remember the name of the narrator but she’s an American and simply fabulous. Quite a strange thing, hearing my words come alive like that! I quite love it.

What sparked the idea for your latest, SOUNDBYTE?

I’ve come back to this question about five times now – over a number of days and I still don’t have an answer. So, tried a different approach and I still don’t have a real answer. What sparked SOUNDBYTE? Ellie did. I could hear one phrase over and over in my head. “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend.” My main character, SSA Ellie Conway started telling me this story about a jeweler and how his family was killed and the voice messages she was getting and this one particular song that wouldn’t stop. Except she wasn’t telling me as much as showing me video footage. (You asked, remember that.)

What prompted you to start writing?

The inability (back in the day) to find a decent story with a proper female main character – not some bimbo or airhead but someone who was more like a normal woman. When I couldn’t find what I wanted (and I’m not a big fan of the romance genre where female characters tended to lurk) the only thing for it was to write something I wanted to read! So I did. And that’s where this all began. It was simply to entertain myself.

Could you talk about your research?

I was recently in the states researching. I traveled with my trusty Admins and we spent almost a month mostly in Northern Virginia and DC. I could live there. Felt very much like home. We took about 9000 photographs (I think) and did a few things we probably shouldn’t have, but it was fun. So much fun we’d all like to do it again. Apparently, we’re allowed back so that’s all good.

What is the writing community like in New Zealand?

I belong to the New Zealand Society of Authors and to Kiwi Writers but because of what I write I tend to spend more time with non-kiwi writers. The industry here is such that, unless you have a high kiwi content then fiction publication here is almost impossible – I write thrillers set in Virginia and DC, so it’s a little like a square peg round hole situation.

Although I do also host a writing workshop at the city library, ‘A Writer’s Plot: a place for scheming and intrigue’. This is my second year hosting the workshop. It’s a helluva a lot of fun but also a surprising amount of work. Not easy talking about what I do every day – because I just do it and never have to explain it.

What are your thoughts on the state of the publishing business?

I think the publishing business model is flawed and in need of an overhaul to bring it up to the 21st Century. I love eBooks and don’t think they will threaten the existence of tree books at all. I think eBooks are a perfect way to read especially if you live in New Zealand where paperbacks are ridiculously over priced in the stores.

I’m not altogether happy with the ease in which people can self-publish now – sure there are some gems but by in large not. I’m especially unhappy about self-published authors calling themselves ‘Indie’ authors. It’s not indie, it’s self-published. Indie is a term we used to reserve for smaller publishing houses; they have editors, and cover designers, and quality control and guidelines- they worked hard to be independent of the big six and to build their reputations. It’s a hard road.

That’s Indie, Indie is the cool kid on the block … not the self-published guy down the road who is telling everyone who will listen that he’s an author and yet wouldn’t know what an editor was if he fell over one.

What’s next?

Next – we have a Byte novella and another Byte novel. SNAKEBYTE (a novella) will be a giveaway for members of the Byte Club and then we have the 6th byte novel, DATABYTE which is a lot of fun, or it was to write! I’m currently writing the 7th byte – no name yet – but it’s based heavily on the trip my Admins and I took to the US. In fact the storyline was suggested by the Admins – but re-told from Ellie’s point of view. Fun to write, hilarious to look at some of the things we did from an outside perspective … surprised we are allowed back in the USA actually!

To learn more about Cat Connor and the Byte series, please visit her website.

Jeff Ayers
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