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An Even Deeper State

By K. L. Romo

On the surface, new White House intern Hayley Chill is “Walmart white trash desperately trying to claw her way out of Oxy-Appalachia.” An Army vet, her quiet and thoughtful demeanor belies the steel-tough soldier inside. But upon starting her internship with White House Chief of Staff Peter Hall, it’s clear to Hayley that nefarious forces are at work that threaten America’s democracy.

Chris Hauty’s debut thriller, DEEP STATE, takes readers on an unnerving ride through a plot to overthrow the government and the fight to protect American democracy.

For Hayley Chill, the military was her way out of rural Green Shoals, West Virginia, and never her final destination. One of the first women to fight in the Army’s infantry division and a gritty boxer, Hayley secures an internship in the White House. Although working in a remodeled janitor’s closet, her acumen and bravery soon elevate her into the Operations Room in the Oval Office.

President Richard Monroe is a West Point graduate and celebrated war hero. He equally loves being in front of the camera and shaking up America’s government. His flamboyant leadership style makes him better-suited for an acting role than the leader of the most powerful country in the world. But because he is the President, Hayley vows to serve and protect him at all costs.

Hauty at the LBJ Presidential Library in Austin, Texas, in November 2019, on a library tour led by Johnson’s daughter, Luci Baines Johnson. “I was giving [LBJ] a tough time about the troop buildup in Vietnam,” Hauty says.

When Peter Hall dies of a heart attack, Hayley discovers clues that suggest murder instead of death by natural causes. But as she searches for facts, it’s clear she can trust no one. Who is friend and who is foe?

As Hayley works to determine who is behind the threat to the President while trying to stay alive, she realizes that within the deep state that is the US government, there is an even deeper state at work.

In DEEP STATE, Chris Hauty takes our current political climate and adds a dose of “what if?” to create a disturbing adventure that could be part of today’s headlines.

“I find it impossible, as a writer, not to incorporate current events in my work,” Hauty says. “Reading the paper in the morning is like reading a good thriller. Rather than shy away from current news stories for fear of ‘reader fatigue,’ I’m the sort to run right at them. The politics of the day is fascinating to me, thrilling in good ways and bad. In conceiving my protagonist, I wanted to distill the chatter and argument of our current political discourse and create a point of view that was pure, inspiring, and nonpartisan. So I was inspired to write DEEP STATE, by the existence and vital importance of a 232-year-old document: the US Constitution.”

Hauty blurs the fine lines between the good guys and the bad.

Hauty, a self-professed “motohead,” at the 2019 Bike Shed London custom motorcycle show at Tobacco Dock.

“A world of black and white isn’t very interesting or very realistic,” he says. “Our life experiences tell us that what we discover in other people are shades of gray. An infinity of factors goes into every decision and action we undertake. The best villains have motivations that are relatable to the audience. By the same token, the best heroes are conflicted and just a little screwed up… in the same way we are all just a little screwed up. That ‘fine line’ between good and bad guys is the sweet spot for every writer.”

Intern Hayley Chill is a resolute young woman making her way in a man’s world, both in the military and in politics. Hauty developed a mindset for writing strong women characters from his screenwriting career.

Hauty arrives at Simon & Schuster’s New York headquarters in 2018 for his first meeting with the iconic publisher.

“Many years ago, in one of my many evolutions as a screenwriter, I began to write scripts that had female protagonists. By necessity, these characters were strong, resourceful, and independent. They needed to carry a movie and possess the skills, will power, and motivations to triumph over equally potent villains. Both in film and books, fewer stories with female protagonists seemed to be in the marketplace. Apart from the purely mercantile motivation, female protagonists were more interesting to me as the creator, facing more conflict (both internal and external) than a male hero. Hayley Chill was a creation of my imagination with a spark of inspiration from Jennifer Lawrence’s character in Winter’s Bone, Ree Dolly.”

Does Hauty have a message for readers in DEEP STATE?

“The book is essentially entertainment,” he says. “I have no axes to grind and hope that readers of any political leaning will enjoy the book. Beyond a message that we, as Americans, are joined by the shared miracle of the US Constitution, I wanted to emphasize the idea of The Power of One. A single person can make a difference, no matter the size and strength of opposing forces. The robustness and conviction of our ideals is the most decisive factor in any conflict or battle. Whether in the service of good or evil, it’s the measure of our beliefs that matters.”

What inspired Hauty to write a novel after over 30 years of writing screenplays?

Hauty with Navy SEAL-turned-thriller author Jack Carr at the 2019 Men of Mystery event in Long Beach, California.

“Movies being made today differ greatly from those distributed only ten years ago. The demise of home video compelled studios to replace those lost dollars with income from foreign markets, and that change spelled the end of films about human beings, which rely on stories that are too narrow and provincial in appeal. So the movie stories I wanted to write were no longer viable as screenplays,” he says. “And once I began my first novel, I realized how much more freedom I could exercise writing fiction as compared to writing screenplays—it was extremely liberating. While I’m keeping a toe in the film and television worlds—DEEP STATE has been optioned by a TV studio, with my services as series creator—I now consider myself novelist first and scriptwriter second.”

Hauty’s desire to write a thriller was inspired most by Six Days of the Condor by James Grady. And most people probably don’t know that Hauty also has other writing talents.

“In college I wrote poetry that was influenced (too heavily) by Charles Bukowski,” he says. “After college, having moved to New York, I wrote plays that were influenced (too heavily) by Sam Shepard.”

Photo credit (homepage): Lauren Ehrenfeld

K. L. Romo
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