As a child, I’d pretend I was a spy. I dreamed of having a powerful secret that nobody else knew about, that would help save my family and eventually save the world. Even then I knew that secrets were incredibly powerful and it’s that word “secret” that drew me to write about the spying world.
It’s not just keeping secrets or giving them away, selling them or trading, it’s the danger it can put you or someone else in. The stakes in the spying game are huge, because the consequences if you get caught ranges from being fired to being executed. It’s a terrifying place.
Being a very open, straight-talking person, I know I’d struggle being a spy myself. I share too much, for a start. Yes, I’m imaginative, curious and open-minded (all good traits for an author) but to be honest, I’m the Labrador who bounces in the room, wagging their tail. Spies are the quiet Spaniel in the corner, lying there with one eye open, ready to be called upon at any time, but generally unobserved.
Most people will never know when they’ve met a spy. They could be chatting to a member of the SIS in their local deli, at a party, on the train, oblivious that this apparently “normal” individual leads a double life and it’s this duplicity that I find fascinating. How to be genuine, flexible and confident under pressure. How to keep your integrity, which is probably one of the most important of all attributes needed. Lives will be at stake, and those trusted with our nation’s secrets must be above reproach. If my character is struggling in this area it can create a fantastic conflict within the book.
Even more importantly, the officers and their agents have to keep safe. I’m very careful about the information I impart on the page, whether it’s a new weapon being developed by QinetiQ or SIS trade craft. Careless talk costs lives. Any knowledge I pick up from my sources I get checked before publication to make sure I’m not giving anything vital away.
Spies are the unsung heroes in our wars. They risk their lives for their beliefs, for what they think is right. Their handlers weep if they get caught. The emotions are as high as the risks. A spy may be a heroic myth, an urban legend, but I’m addicted to them. That’s the good ones I’m referring to, of course. The good spooks.
I was brought up on a diet of Eric Ambler, Le Carré, Ian Fleming, Len Deighton, so I guess it’s not surprising all this led me to create Dan Forrester, ex-MI5 officer, who now works for a private firm that gets hired to do the jobs that governments don’t want to give their spies. He’s a larger than life character with extraordinary skills that help him get out of some really dangerous situations. He’s taciturn and quietly reserved, nothing like me, let alone anyone I know, which is why I rather like him.
Know Me Now by C J Carver Published by Bonnier Zaffre
A murder. A conspiracy. Digging up the past can be deadly. . . A thirteen-year-old boy commits suicide. A sixty-five-year old man dies of a heart attack. Dan Forrester, ex-MI5 agent, is connected to them both. And when he discovers that his godson and his father have been murdered, he teams up with his old friend, DC Lucy Davies, to find answers. But as the pair investigate, they unravel a dark and violent mystery stretching decades into the past and uncover a terrible secret. A secret someone will do anything to keep buried.