Lights Out by Natalie Walters delves into national security, international intrigue, and inter-agency cooperation. The plot has a national security agency looking for a missing foreigner who might be connected to terrorism, murder, explosives, and poisoning.
The story opens with CIA analyst Brynn Taylor heading up a program she developed to combat terrorism. She wants to make sure no terrorist falls between the cracks considering many are not the typical looking type. To gain traction and to foster cooperation, members of other foreign intelligence agencies were invited to America. But an Egyptian spy has gone missing. Jack Hudson, who has been working for the Strategic Neutralization and Protection Agency (SNAP) for almost nine years, is asked to take the lead in hunting down the missing spy.
Unfortunately, Brynn is loaned out to SNAP and Jack must work closely together with her, someone who betrayed him eight years ago. Trying to set aside their hurt, they work together to find leads that will stop the terrorist plot.
To lighten the load Walters writes great conversational banter. Readers get to know the characters and can decide who they want to hang out with.
This story has a lot of suspense that keeps readers deeply engrossed. Because of the plotline there is a sense of heroism to the story.
Elise Cooper: How did you get the idea for the story?
Natalie Walters: Because my husband is in the military, we moved all around the US. We have friends and neighbors who work for other government agencies. During a dinner conversation with a friend, they told of how a foreign counterpart disappeared in this country. They were training in the US and went missing for 16 hours. Although it was an innocent situation, they sent him back to his country after he was found. I rolled with it and thought what if that missing foreigner was committed to do harm to the US.
EC: Does the SNAP Agency exist?
NW: No, it is completely fictional. My imagination with my husband’s help is how the name came about. It stands for Strategic Neutralize And Protect against threats. The company is a private contractor like Blackwater.
EC: The heroine is a targeting analyst-does that job exist?
NW: Yes, the CIA does have these types of analysts.
EC: How would you describe Brynn?
NW: She has gone through life changes because of her family background. She needs to be in control to feel safe and has trust issues. If she can control her work, she thinks she can control her life. She does want to belong to a team who will have her back. I would say she is guarded, suspicious, a workaholic, and focused. She is also determined, independent, witty, and set in her ways.
EC: There is a quote about terrorists?
NW: Yes. You must be referring to this one, “What makes terrorists so dangerous is their ability to blend in and deceive you.” Brynn is trained to study people. Terrorists don’t always look like the typical type. The point of the quote is to not profile because they could be from any race, ethnicity, and creed. This is what makes fighting terrorism so difficult.
EC: How would you describe Jack?
NW: Loyal, dedicated, a leader, and a protector. He sometimes comes off as rigid because he wants justice.
EC: What about the relationship?
NW: Because of the betrayal, Jack doesn’t trust Brynn. He is wary of his feelings and emotions. Since Brynn is so focused with her job, she sometimes misses getting close. They are like oil and vinegar. Because of their past conflict they are confused about their feelings.
EC: What about the co-workers Lyla versus Brynn?
NW: The relationship is a little bit hostile. Lyla sees Jack as a big brother. At first, Brynn is intimidated by Lyla. She does not want to let Brynn hurt him again. But as they work together Lyla begins to admire Brynn for her skills.
EC: What about the role of September 11th in the story?
NW: It is an important part of Brynn’s backstory. The war was brought to American soil. SNAP was created to make sure another 9/11 does not happen again. Those that work there are continually on guard.
EC: There is a quote the shows family members have a different experience?
NW: You are referring to when Brynn told the US President, “For most Americans, their lives moved forward, but for me and others directly impacted by that day, we can never forget. I joined the CIA because I never want another child or family to go through what ours did.” Almost every American remembers where we were during that moment in history. Everyone around Brynn received horrific news. September 11th changed the course of her life. I think for Americans who were not affected personally, that horrific day does not hold the same weight. I looked online and found out that the events took place over a short period of time. But our world has been changed ever since.
EC: Since you are a military family how has it impacted you?
NW: We know many soldiers who joined because of 9/11. Joining the military and any of the three letter agencies means that person swears an oath to protect the people of this nation. They sacrifice time with their family. They stepped up and stepped forward.
EC: There is also a humorous quote in the book?
NW: Yes, about cell phones. My youngest is going to be 21. The earliest age my children got a phone was in late middle school. Everyone is always on their phone, all generations. The phone seems to be a part of someone’s body.
EC: What about your next book?
NW: It is title Fatal Code and comes out the summer of 2022. It will be Kekoa and Eleanor’s story. They must monitor a neighbor who might be trying to develop a nuclear weapon. There will be an update on Jack and Brynn’s life.