Guest post by former undercover CIA officer turned thriller author J.C. Carleson. Her near-decade of covert service took her around the globe, from bomb shelters in war zones to swanky cocktail parties in European capitals. Her first thriller,Cloaks and Veils, was released on July 17, 2012.
I don’t usually tell people I used to be a spy.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m very proud of the years I spent working as an undercover CIA officer. It's just that my former career tends to elicit some... strong reactions. Besides, I spent almost a decade hiding my identity, and old habits die hard. But as the author of a newly released espionage thriller, I'm trying to get more comfortable "outing" myself since I know that my old profession gives me some unique advantages. For example:
Research: I don't need to spend weeks and weeks researching the finer points of real-world spy tradecraft. I spent years living and breathing it.
Credibility: Quite a few of my former colleagues have picked up copies of my book. They won't hesitate for a second to let me know if I've deviated even slightly from the real world of CIA operations!
Inspiration: Truth really is stranger than fiction. After a career as a CIA officer, I will never, ever hurt for ideas or inspiration for my next novel.
However, I would be lying if I didn't confess that my unusual history also comes with a number of disadvantages. Consider:
Reality: No one wants to read a spy novel that is entirely realistic. My career may have had plenty of Hollywood-worthy moments, but I also still had accounting to do, staff meetings to attend, and technical problems to deal with. I worked hard to achieve just the right balance of realism and thrill in Cloaks and Veils. This meant that I edited out a number of scenes that might have added to the authenticity of the book, but didn't contribute to the taut pace of a good thriller.
Secrecy: It goes without saying that I can't tell you everything. All good spies know how to keep a secret. With my background, I had to find the middle ground between revealing and compromising information.
Friendships: Every single one of my former colleagues who knows about Cloaks and Veils has asked me if they are in the book. Why, er, um...no...of course not. Really, I mean it. Spy's honor.
Find out how a real spy writes a thriller novel. Cloaks and Veils is now available on Kindle.