Author Jeffrey Stephens explores some of the most pressing issues of our time in a way that is both entertaining and suspenseful in his latest spy thriller, Enemies Among Us. Jeffrey’s nail-biting deep dive into real-world, contemporary problems such as corruption within our government, the continuing threat from terrorists and the realities of the uber-wealthy is a story as current as today’s headlines.

1. Where or how did you come up with the idea for this book and series?

Enemies Among Us is the second novel in a new series of thrillers featuring CIA agents Nick Reagan and his partner Carol Enemies Among UsGellos.  It is the sequel to THE HANDLER, and continues their search for an international terrorist.  This time, however, I wanted to also explore the corruption within our own government and business sector.  Reviewers are finding it an entertaining and  fast-paced thriller.

2. When you sit down to write do you have an idea where you are going or does it just happen as you’re sitting there? Or is it actually the Characters writing the story?

Developing realistic and relatable characters is always important to me, and they help drive the story, which is obviously critical.  My method is to know who the key characters will be and then to begin with a fairly detailed outline of the plot.  Along the way, changes will be made, twists and turns will occur to me, and those modifications are truly one of the fun and creative things about the writing process.

3. What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?

Without giving too much away, there is a scene late in the novel where Nick and Carol outwit two evil characters, and that was fun!

4. What is your favorite quote from a book of fiction?

It is not actually from a book, but T. S. Eliot said, “For us there is only the trying, the rest is not our business.”  I love that quote, I feel it captures the basic truth of the human condition.

5. On that vein who would be your favorite Author? What writers influenced you?

Catcher in the Rye by Salinger inspired me at an early age to be a novelist. Over the years I have come to enjoy and be influenced by Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Maugham, Wodehouse, Nabokov and many others.  Among contemporary authors, I admire Furst, Flynn, Towles, Oates, DeMille and again, many others.

6 Do you have a favorite fictional character?

Larry Darrell from The Razor’s Edge. A great novel, and still relevant today.

7. What five words describe you?

Loyal, intelligent, creative, passionate and funny.  I’m leaving out the negatives!

8. What if any project are you working on now?(go ahead promote away!)

I have begun a new series, about a quirky young attorney in New York City and his older friend, a retired police officer who is now a private investigator.  It’s a fun and suspenseful murder-mystery, already into the sequel, and we are looking for a new publisher.

9. What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author?

I was troubled when someone accused the novel of Islamophobia when I was very diligent about accurately portraying the teachings of the Koran, not to mention the history of terrorist incidents perpetrated by extremists.

10. What has been the best compliment?

People have repeatedly complimented the detail, pacing and depth of characters, all of which I take as high praise.

12. Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?

Readers reach out to me all the time, almost always with positive feedback and often asking where I get the information about the intelligence community that I write about.  There is background there that I enjoy sharing on radio and television interviews.

13 What do you think makes a good story?

First, and most important, is great pacing.  Always end your chapters by giving the reader a reason to start the next chapter! Then make the characters real and their challenges compelling, so the reader cares what happens next.  This is true for a thriller, a mystery, a romance, it does not matter which genre you choose. The reader has to have a visceral reaction to what is going on for the story to work.

14. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Time with family and friends of course, enjoying great dinners, playing golf and tennis, and I absolutely love to travel.

15. How about a snippet from your book that will hook a prospective reader and make them want to read your book.

Here are a couple of lines from ENEMIES AMONG US:
“What if I told you there are individuals in your own beloved government who actually work with al Qaeda, with ISIS, even with neo-Nazi groups that still wield power all over the world?”
They were holding their weapons but could not risk opening a window or exiting the vehicle to return fire. Then they saw one of their attackers pull out a grenade.
“Sometimes I think you rely too much on friendship, Reagan. For all of your cynicism, you tend to assume people have your sense of integrity, but I’m here to tell you they don’t.”
The stillness of the night was instantly shattered with the loud report of the M16, enemy fire being returned almost immediately, which was exactly what Reagan wanted.

16. What are the most important elements of good writing? According to you, what tools are must-haves for writers?

Tenacity, hands down, is the most important quality for a novelist.  If you wait for divine inspiration, you will never get your book done.  You have to write when you’re not in the mood, when other things are bothering you, even when you feel you want to give up.  In the end you may throw out what you created in those down days, but you need to keep going, I promise it will be worth the effort.

17. How did you get into writing? Is this what you always wanted to do?

I have always written, even as a young boy when I created scripts for puppet shows. I simply love to tell a story that people will enjoy.

18. Any last thoughts for our readers?

Writing is a sheer joy for me, the world of publishing not so much.  It is incredibly difficult to get published and then to be noticed—especially with so many big-name authors dominating the market, and so many others putting out their own work.  I feel incredibly fortunate that I get to do what I do, and I hope readers will take a chance and get my book.  I believe you will not be disappointed. Best to all!

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