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Friday 2 October 2020

ℚ Emergency Powers: Imogen Trager [3] - James McCrone

Today we have the pleasure of meeting up with author to talk about Emergency Powers (, James McCrone, 304 pages), a Suspense-Thriller, book three in the Imogen Trager series.

 Imogen Trager is “a heroine who makes both good and bad decisions… providing action-packed and unexpected moments throughout.”— DIANE DONOVAN, Midwest Book Review

“McCrone’s research and political insight are an intriguing backdrop…and will be a pleasant surprise to readers used to more gunplay-style action. Great for fans of Brad Meltzer, David Baldacci.”

“Tense action, dire motives, and dark secrets. McCrone has written a high-stakes political thriller that feels so chillingly true, you pray it’s not.”— TOM STRAW, Seven-time NYT bestselling author, as Richard Castle

|| Synopsis || Teaser: KCR Preview || The Series || Author Q&A || About the Author || Giveaway & Tour Stops ||

A very warm welcome to James McCrone; thank you for joining us on BooksChatter!

Here at BooksChatter we love music; do you have a music playlist that you used in Emergency Powers , or which inspired you whilst you were writing it?
"Flora, I hope I’m not letting your readers down, but I don’t listen to music while working.  I find it too distracting.  I know plenty of writers who find they can dip in and out of listening, but I’m not one of them.  In fact, my writing area—(dare I call it an office?) faces the street here in South Philly, and if someone on a neighboring front stoop is having a conversation, I struggle to get words on the page.  I’m not eavesdropping so much as unable to screen them out.  (Sad, I know.)"
I can empathise completely; when I was much younger I always used to work to music, and I have no idea how I managed it, as, as you described I just get distracted by any background sound: I was told it is due to my dyspraxia.  I need complete silence to concentrate and write, hence early morning or very late night are my time!

What was the inspiration for Emergency Powers?

"Great question!  The character of FBI Agent Imogen Trager, the heroine of Emergency Powers, inspired me and really fired me up.  She grabbed me and demanded that I “listen” to her and pay attention.  She’s smart, engaged and driven – and you’d do well to do as she says!

For me, it isn’t a story without a memorable character.  I might have an idea about a situation, but until there’s a real, compelling character, the idea just sits there, enticing, but not a story.  I’m grateful that Imogen’s qualities—smart, driven, determined against all odds—are something a lot of the early reviews have picked up on.  She’s dynamic, determined, conflicted…  Glamorous, even.  She’s grown across the series.  I saw and “heard’ her as the perfect foil to the conspirators.

By the way, I should stress that any of my books can be read as a stand-alone.  There’s no homework required!"
That's really good to hear as I have my copy of Emergency Powers but have not read the previous two outings. 😊  This means I will start reading tonight!

How much of yourself is reflected in this book, and how?

"I’ve tried to mine those times in my personal life when I’ve felt frustrated, not listened to, marginalized.  But Imogen’s very much her own person, so even when there’s some shared experience, it’s filtered through the prism of her character.  How would she feel?  What would she do…or say.

That said, I can’t always be sure of what’s sneaked in.  There’s a moment of utter isolation when Imogen feels like she’s travelling through a country “where she doesn’t speak the language.”  I wrote that line without even thinking about it while my wife and I were in Konstanz, Germany.  I’d just come back from a humiliatingly frustrating grocery shopping trip.  It wasn’t until the next day when I was reviewing the previous day’s work that I realized I was writing about my own sense of isolation there.

I did extensive research and multiple interviews with ex-agents and government people to get the details right for what happens in the book.  I even spoke to pilots about getting those details right.  Indeed, in an earlier book, I was pleased that one reader had thought I was some Washington insider!"
The first thing that draws me to a book is its cover.  Can you tell us about your cover for Emergency Powers - why you chose that concept and who the artist is.
"Daniela Medina is the cover artist.  She did the covers of the first two books– Faithless Elector and Dark Network.

She’s creative, inventive and extremely professional.  I had a vague idea about the cover involving a chessboard because the main villain in Emergency Powers has a notion of himself as orchestrating the conspiracy like a grand chess master.  Medina ran with it!  She came up with the foreboding colors, the stark contrasts and the shadow of a pawn that sees itself as a king."
Why should we read Emergency Powers and what sets it apart from the rest?  What makes your book unique?
"It’s a story I think we could all use right now.  It’s perfect for mystery and thriller fans who crave something more, and Publishers Weekly has compared it to the work of David Baldacci and Brad Meltzer.  It’s a high-stakes personal drama of courage and redemption, as well a smart, compelling tale of political intrigue and corruption with twists and turns.  And Imogen’s the person we need—a conflicted, intriguing hero for frustrating and dangerous times.

Imogen will linger with you after you’ve finished the book.  She’s something of a Cassandra figure—telling the truth to people who won’t listen to- or believe her…

She’s resilient, canny, and she always finds herself back in the thick of things.

The book also stands apart from a lot of what’s out there in that it doesn’t have an axe to grind.  It’s about politics, sure, but it isn’t political.  The conspiracy Imogen fights against is the kind of thing we would all like to believe we’d stand up against.  She also knows that if the conspiracy succeeds, we won’t recognize our own nation."
Can you tell us something quirky about Emergency Powers, its story and characters?
"Earlier, we were talking about how much of myself gets into the books.  Well, I got a note from a close friend after he read the book: “Did you just kill your father on page #__ ?!” he wrote.  I admit, there are a number of similarities, but, No.  I don’t use the pages of my book to work through family dynamics issues. 🙂

Sometimes I use real places as the basis for my fictional locations.  In a scene set in Philadelphia I used my in-law’s house.  My father-in-law read an early draft, and he told me that section was so tense he kept looking out the window to see if anyone was watching the house.

Naming characters is interesting.  I’d had the name Imogen, along with the name Fiona, in my head since I was a teenager.  Back then I’d contemplated them as names for a daughter(s)—a real daughter!  My eldest is named Fiona.  So I still had Imogen to use in a story.

When I was writing the final climactic scene of Faithless Elector, I used the last names of some boyhood friends.  Normally, I take a long time deciding on names, but I needed these quickly.  A number of them sent me kind notes about that final scene.

Also, those who are familiar with Philadelphia might notice that some street names get into the act with some of the characters."
South Philadelphia

Who would you recommend Emergency Powers to and what should readers be aware of (any warnings or disclaimers)?
"It appeals to people who like exciting, character-driven stories with a strong female lead—made all the more compelling because much of what happens in these pages could indeed happen.  Or has happened!  The story is about the decisions these characters make when confronted with stark choices.

It’s perfect for mystery and thriller fans who crave something more, more in the vein of David Baldacci or Tana French; Michael Connelly, Denise Mina, or Manda Scott; and less Brad Thor or James Patterson.

I’m in no way disparaging Thor or Patterson.  I’m trying to give a flavor or what’s in the book, what’s inside, because Emergency Powers isn’t only a shoot-em-up, and Imogen isn’t some black belt ninja.  She’s wilful and nerdy—and driven.  She struggles to be taken seriously.  And sometimes she makes bad decisions.

There is some strong language sprinkled throughout – you can’t stop Imogen expressing herself!  But there is no explicit sex or bloody, graphic murder, though there are murders."
If you could / wished to turn Emergency Powers and the Imogen Trager series into a movie, who would be your dream team?
"Jessica Chastain would be wonderful as Imogen—she has the right measure of inner drive and reserve.  And the red hair, like Imogen.  Rose Leslie (GoT) might also be good.

Vega could be played by Paulina Gaitan (she was in “Narcos” and “Sin Nombre”) or maybe Natalia Cordova-Buckley (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) – someone tough and professional, but not hard-hearted.  Clare-Hope Ashitey (Seven Seconds) might be a good Nettie.

For Calder, I think Kevin McKidd (Grey’s Anatomy, Rome) or Dominic West (The Wire). Patty Jenkins (Wonder Woman) to direct and/or produce."
Jessica Chastain or Rose Leslie as Imogen Paulina Gaitan or Natalia Cordova-Buckley as Vega
Clare-Hope Ashitey as Nettie Kevin McKidd or Dominic West as Calder Patty Jenkins to direct/produce
What do you like to write and read about?  Do you stick to a particular genre or do you like to explore different ones?
"I’m a huge mystery-thriller fan, and I love the cold war thrillers of writers like le Carré, Forsyth and Greene, and I also like character-driven dramas: William McIlvanney’s work (Laidlaw, Docherty, etc.), Philip Kerr’s Bernie Gunther series, Chris Brookmyre’s Jack Parlabane, Attica Locke’s Jay Porter, Meg Gardiner’s Caitlin Hendrix.

That said, I’m not a writer because of that genre.  Writing is how I make sense of the world.  I was 12 or 13 years old before I realized not everyone wrote stories.  I thought it was normal.  (For that matter, I thought I was normal!)

Fiction at its best—in any genre—can often get at truths more clearly than some other writing forms.  I started reading Sci-Fi as a teenager, and loved that, too.  Asimov’s Foundation novels, Arthur C. Clarke, Robert Heinlein and Joe Haldeman, to name a few.

There are novels I read and re-read because I’ve found something in them that fires my imagination and helps me understand life, writ large and small.  I hope my books contribute and can stand being re-read.  What I like about Cold War intrigue—beyond the global implications—is how interesting the characters are; it’s they who propel the story.  And Imogen is compelling."
What is your writing process?
"After I “see” and “hear” the protagonist clearly, I often see how the story will begin, and I’ll set right to work, not really knowing where I’m going.  Somewhere around page 25 or 30, I’ll feel like I have enough of the book in my head, and I’ll stop and begin outlining it—the major incidents, plot points, and what the ending will be.

Then I set to work again.  I sit in my room, type my little conspiracies, occasionally venturing out for supplies.  It’s not that different from quarantine lockdown, frankly.

But somewhere around chapter 8 or 9 I realize that my outline is no good; that the story and characters are taking me in a different direction.  Which path to follow?  I generally choose to take the path the story wants, because I feel that if I’m intrigued and surprised by where the story’s taking me, readers are more likely to be delighted, too.

I like this method (if it can be called that), but it means that when I come to work on rewrites for the beginning of the book, it’s often as though I hadn’t written anything."
What is in store next?

"I’m writing short stories again, and my story “Numbers Don’t Lie” was included in the anthology Low Down Dirty Vote, vol 2.  The proceeds benefit the Southern Poverty Law Center’s efforts to combat voter suppression.  Very on-brand for me!

I have a play that I’m finishing up called Culinati, a comedy that asks the burning culinary question: ‘What would you serve if your life depended on it?’


I’m most of the way through a thriller (w/t Not Proven) set in Scotland.  But of course soon I’ll have to go back and fix the beginning 🙂"
And as a final quirky thing, to get to know you a little bit better... do you have a pet or something that is special to you that you could share with us?
"Besides writing and telling stories, my other great love is food and cooking, but so far that hasn’t really worked its way into my prose.  I worked in restaurants for more than 15 years, mostly behind the stove.  I’m still working out how to have a murder mystery set in a busy kitchen.  I’d love for it to involve petty jealousies and rivalries, with clues based on how the food was sourced or prepared.  Maybe even an update of Who’s Killing the Great Chefs of Europe? (from 1978, starring Jaqueline Bisset, Robert Morley and George Segal) [released in the U.K. as Too Many Chefs]

And, adolescent that I am, I really want to write about a knife fight on “the line” of a busy kitchen.
We don’t have pets.  Our family has moved around a lot over the past twenty-plus years—Seattle to Central PA to Central NJ; twice to Oxford in the UK (for a year each) and finally to Philadelphia.  We may be doing another year abroad (or two!) in the coming years.  We knew our lives would be something like this, and we felt it would be unfair to a cat or a dog."
Thank you for sharing and we definitely look forward to that culinary murder mystery! (yes, I can see why pets would not be possible; they pretty much kill all travelling prospects!)

We hope you are having a great tour!

The accidental president is no accident.
The investigation that was FBI Agent Imogen Trager’s undoing may be the key to stopping a brutal, false flag terrorist attack meant to tighten a puppet president’s grip on power.

Emergency Powers
Available NOW!

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CMash said...

I have seen rave reviews for this book and definitely want to read it!!

James said...

Thanks for doing this interview! I really enjoyed the questions. They were insightful and probing, and helped me to think about (and clarify!) what it is I've been writing.

BooksChatter said...

Thank you, James, and thank you for popping by!

Loved your answers, and I am intrigued by your culinary exploits.

Hope you are having a great tour,