Tension runs high in Kurt Winans‘ new spy thriller, Sanction Four. Former Navy Lieutenant Kristen Royce and Secret Service Agent Heath Bishop must navigate a treacherous political assignment alongside their rocky relationship. Author Kurt Winans discusses character building, the art of disguise, and more in his interview below.
About Sanction Four:
When President Harwell entrusts Secret Service Agent Heath Bishop with a covert mission to ensure his legacy and protect his reputation, loyal Heath agrees to protect him at all costs—as long as he can do it his way. He’ll need the aid of another, one who must not know of the president’s involvement, so Heath turns to someone from his past: Kristen Royce.
Former Navy Lieutenant Kristen Royce is alive and well, serving a prison sentence after playing a pivotal role in helping Heath topple a treacherous organization. Although guilty for treason, she’s been granted a partial pardon and is serving twenty years under a false identity. Heath isn’t sure he can trust her, but she’s his only option.
When Heath offers her a chance at freedom in exchange for carrying out four sanctioned kills, she agrees. But the opportunity comes at a high cost. Not only must she complete her mission alongside Heath, she must carry it out exactly as planned before time runs out, while navigating her rocky and complicated past with Heath.
As they follow their targets around the globe, will they be successful in eliminating them, or will they both end up paying the ultimate price?
Interview with Kurt Winans
What was your inspiration for Sanction Four?
In using just a few characters that had been introduced previously, I wanted to create a spinoff story from my To the Republic series that would incorporate a team effort with an old school approach to a global adventure.
We’re fascinated by Madison. She’s a strong and complicated character. Tell us more.
The character of Madison is loosely based on a combination of women I have known either from professional or personal circles. Some of her personality traits come from various women that I worked either for or with in decades past. Those women, who became mentors of a sort for me as I attempted to climb the proverbial corporate ladder, weren’t afraid to take on any challenge that the work environment might throw at them, while also demonstrating an understanding of the uneven playing field that still exists in many a workplace. Each one despised limitations that stood in their way but were both intelligent and savvy without offending their superiors while questioning why a certain path was being followed. As for the temptress side of Madison, that is derived from a few other women from my distant past who knew how to use their charms to impact the behavior of those around them. In those cases, I was educated to be weary of such methods by those in my future who might be less than sincere to a cause.
Agent Heath Bishop is an intriguing and reoccurring character in your writing. What is it about him that drives you to write his story?
Heath was well received as the protagonist and problem solver in each of the three previous books and for me. He was the obvious character to move forward with ongoing missions.
Who is your favorite character to write and why?
Heath is my favorite, because I have shaped the man to embody a few character traits that I believe are disappearing in much of the modern world. Much like Madison being crafted from other women, I took a few positive aspects from some men who have been influential in my life to create Heath. Although he is flawed in some ways like all of us, Heath understands and exemplifies what an unwavering oath means as opposed to those who are constantly renegotiating or looking for an easier way out. He is also thoughtful and meticulous in his preparation for a given assignment and he won’t give up on the task even when it becomes difficult. His physique and good looks make him attractive to women, yet he seems unaware of that fact and remains humble in his approach to life while also being rather naïve to romantic signals that other men might prey upon.
The mission that Heath and Madison undertake takes us all over the world. What was your favorite place to write about and why? Have you traveled to any of these countries?
My favorite location within this book to write about was Peru, because it involves a detailed account of hikes and other activities that my wife and I have actually experienced. That in turn helps to answer the follow-up, as throughout several years we have also been fortunate enough to visit and enjoy every country and location where the sanctions occur.
Heath and Madison must complete their mission without being recognized. What kind of research did you do on disguise tactics?
There wasn’t much research involved here other than knowing people who have gone through cancer treatments, and as a result of losing their hair in the process, found that wearing a wig could help them feel a little more whole again. When combining that with my recognition that most people don’t really pay close attention to those around them, I have come to believe that it could be rather easy for someone to slip past the casual observer without much effort by altering their appearance via a wig or false facial hair and a hat. Of course the key in Sanction Four is to match up each disguise with the intended cover story, as certain looks can and often times are associated with an occupation or the type of person that is being portrayed.
Your To the Republic series also features the characters of Heath and Madison. Tell us more about this series.
I had originally intended to present Fractured Nation in 2016 as a singular work with a story concept that took place ten years into the future, as I believed it would be an intriguing fictional account of how America might be in 2026 as it celebrated its two-hundred fiftieth birthday. The inspiration for that first book, and then my need to continue the saga, came from a belief that although much has been either written or said about the destructive intent upon our country from foreign adversaries, little had been publicly admitted as to the potential presence of damaging domestic forces that could also be at work. Fractured Nation, Lone Star Rising, and The Enemy Within embark on a journey to multiple locations within the United States as both treachery and the quest to discover those who are responsible carry the reader onward into 2027 & 2028. If the reader enjoys pondering the meaning of little clues within the series, they can begin by asking if the author intended for the last word of every title to create an underlying theme: Nation Rising Within.
What do you enjoy most about writing thrillers?
My desire is to present a story with a not overly done angle that puts the reader on the edge of their seat in certain situations, and also provides calmer scenarios so they can attempt to unravel what is yet to come if they wish. Writing thrillers with a future setting allows me to accomplish that goal by creating a discomfort level based on what could possibly transpire, while I also attempt to ground the reader into their own temporary comfort reality by painting them descriptive pictures of places and events that can be easily relatable.
Do you listen to music when you write?
No I don’t because I would start to horribly sing along if I knew the lyrics or reminisce about when and where I may have seen that particular artist perform live. Either way, for me it’s about a loss of focus.
You’re an avid hiker and nature enthusiast. What is it that you like most about these activities?
Hiking high up in the mountains helps to clear my head from all the outside noise of everyday life while also providing me with a means of good physical exercise. The added benefit is that in most instances you can’t get to where I’m hiking by vehicle, so those that I do encounter along the way tend to also understand the serenity aspect of the remote trails.
Name three things most people don’t know about you.
In my twenties I worked in the golf industry, with the most enjoyment of that time coming from teaching kids and young adults the fundamentals of how to play the game and behave properly while on the golf course.
During my various travels within the United States, I have had the pleasure of visiting roughly one hundred universities. Both of the above experiences have helped to educate me on the thought process of younger minds from various backgrounds.
Lastly, if the offer ever presented itself, I would most willingly and eagerly travel to the orbiting International Space Station.
What are you currently working on?
I have a couple of story ideas that are in the rough stages, but I don’t have any specifics just yet.
About the Author:
Kurt Winans enjoys writing in various genres. He is the author of the science fiction trilogy The New World series (Pilgrimage, Second Moon, Evolution Shift) and the political thriller series To The Republic (Fractured Nation, Lone Star Rising, The Enemy Within).
Kurt lives in Sparks, Nevada with his wife where he enjoys developing plots and characters while hiking in the nearby mountains.