The World of Espionage: Q&A With Debut Thriller Author Jolene Grace

Jolene Grace discusses the world of espionage, her new release, Going Dark, and introduces us to the main character in her new series: spy Gabriel Jets.


About the book:  CIA agent Gabriel Jets has one mission: retrieve a video depicting the kidnapping of four U.S. journalists. Instead, he finds Amelia Sinclair, a journalist who is wanted in connection with the kidnappings and a bombing in Syria. Except Jets doesn’t believe she is responsible. He goes dark, abandoning his mission to clear Amelia’s name.

The espionage business most of the time is daring, dark and complicated. It takes its toll, both on a personal and professional level, for the men and women who keep us safe at home and abroad.

I was drawn to the espionage genre because it’s a challenge. For a book to be successful when spies are involved, the plot has to rely on smart, three-dimensional characters, who are flawed and exhibit human-like qualities, so when my readers are going along on an espionage mission they can relate to, or try to relate to, some of the hard choices my characters have to make.

And this is the case of how I envisioned CIA agent Gabriel Jets. I was determined to write him as though he were a real person who had come over my house one evening after a hard mission and was debriefing me on the classified details. A private conversation between him and I, where only I, at that moment, had the clearance to be read in.

In a way, as I was writing him and getting to know Jets, I remained focused on allowing him the freedom to speak up, act out, mess up, and turn it around, without judgment, without patronizing him. This was his story and this was the espionage business as seen through his eyes.


Photo by Daria Shevtsova on

Despite the turbulent nature of espionage, despite the near-death experiences he has to overcome, Jets always remains a patriot, a man who has sworn to protect and defend. He believes in the CIA motto: “And you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free,” which off course to the rest of us seeing through the looking glass is a contradiction since secrecy is the beating heart of espionage. But to the men and women like Gabriel Jets who do this thankless job, learning the truth, whatever that might be, is a higher calling.

Some of my favorite parts of the book are when Jets deploys espionage tactics to gain the upper hand, to get ahead and to survive. And in a very cloak and dagger style, danger awaits for him at every turn.

Describe Gabriel Jets in twenty-five words or less: Gabriel Jets is the type of agent, The Agency (the CIA) calls a cowboy. Not favorite of managers and not the type of guy who they will promote to the seventh floor ranks, but the type of man who can navigate the shifting waters of espionage in enemy territory.

Tell us a bit about your background as a journalist: I began my journalism career early on in college, working for the school newspaper. At first I covered the Arts and Theater department, which exposed me to plays and musicals and I loved that, but I was yearning for more. With time, I stepped up and took on assignments others didn’t want to cover. The lessons I learned during those early formative years of my career I have continued to implement in my life today. I was selected by CBS to participate in their internship program at their foreign desk—a spot that is usually never given to an intern. I was a member of an all-women team, working around the clock day and night, since it’s a twenty-four seven operation, where I began to shape as a journalist. The producers and the talent didn’t care if I was an intern or new, they wanted help, they wanted answers, and it was up to me to deliver. My time spent on the foreign desk was life changing and transformative in countless ways. It was also during that time, the story of Gabriel Jets began to take shape. After graduation, I went on to work for the radio industry as a media manager, which involved a lot of traveling. And yes, I will always view myself as a journalist, I wear that badge proudly, but I’m forever grateful that I had the opportunity to transition into writing full time. Being in my office, creating worlds, danger and characters suits me well.

Were any of the events in the book based on real events? Yes, the American/Iraq War and the Syrian Civil conflict, both serve as a backdrop story in Going Dark. The raw footage of the front line I was exposed to during my time on the foreign desk gave me a better understanding of what our military and intelligence officers were, and continue to be, against. Amelia Sinclair is also inspired by the foreign correspondents I crossed paths with during my time at the network, though no one specific. Once I began to write, Gabriel Jets showed up organically, as if he had been waiting for me to finally sit down and write his story.


Tell us a little about your writing process and how you approached designing the characters and the world in the series. I approach my books the same way I approached an assignment. Research. I have an idea for a book, usually a conflict, then I begin to hunt for information and books on the topic. For example, I read twenty plus books before I felt confident that I had enough there to flesh out a plot that could be engaging to the readers. As far as writing goes, I am a mix between an outliner and let’s get through the first draft. What I mean by that is I will have a simple outline, somewhere, usually on a yellow legal notepad, I have boxes of them in my office, but I also like to allow myself to sit down and write, not limiting myself and the story. One thing I tell myself, keep writing until the story is done, I can always go back and change whatever I don’t like, which also happens to be one of the things I love most about writing. The freedom of it.

What literary spy would you say Gabriel Jets is most like and why? This is a tough one. Looking back on when I was shaping him, I don’t think I wanted him to be like other spies, but his personal code of honor was inspired by Leroy Jethro Gibbs, from NCIS, my guilty TV pleasure. They share that nonsense attitude and rely first on yourself.

Who are some of your favorite authors? Joseph Kanon (The Defectors, The Accomplice, Leaving Berlin), John Le Carre (A Spy Who Came in From The Dead, Agent Running in the Field) Daniel Silva (Gabriel Allon series), James Patterson (Alex Cross series only), John Grisham (legal thrillers).

What’s in store next for Gabriel Jets? In book two, Gabriel Jets is in exile in Afghanistan, faced with a deadly enemy who wants to see him personally destroyed.

Read the first four chapters of Going Dark

Available Formats & Purchasing Information:

Hardcover, 978-1-64397-048-6, $25.95
Trade Softcover, 978-1-64397-049-3, $15.95
Ebook, 978-1-64397-050-9, $7.99
LCCN: 2019947296

Available at Barnes & NobleWaterstonesBooks-A-MillionChapters/IndigoAmazon, and other fine retailers. Visit our website for more purchasing options.

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About the Author:

Jolene_GraceJolene Grace grew up in Eastern Europe and has witnessed firsthand the region’s geopolitical makeover as well as the economical struggles of poverty faced by all, which is a prevalent theme in her writing. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Broadcasting, which fueled her interest in politics. Jolene interned for CBS Evening News, working on the foreign desk at night time and has covered many wars, including the American/Iraq War. A member of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime, Jolene makes her home in Massachusetts with her husband and children, where she writes full-time. Going Dark is her debut novel in her Gabriel Jets spy series.



To learn more about Going Dark and other titles available from BHC Press, visit our website.


Categories: Espionage

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