So let's start off with the interview.
Mr. Byrnes, please tell us about your current release.
The Banker Spy weaves history into a contemporary thriller about ex-lovers who become entangled in a web of international intrigue. Investment banker Peter Armstrong believes he’s left his past in the States. He has an exciting new job in London and is managing the largest equity offering in European history. Behind him are an incident at his old employer and a broken engagement. He thinks his only problem is his client—an automobile company desperate for cash. Then he receives a phone call from his ex-fiancée, Dayna Caymus, a beautiful and unpredictable CIA agent.
When Peter discovers that his client is secretly working for the German government the two ex-lovers enter into an uneasy alliance, which their past sometimes helps and sometimes hurts, all the while sorting through their feelings for each other. Dayna puts her mission first, leading Peter into a labyrinth of deception and conspiracy. Peter loses his client, his job, and almost his life as they race to learn Germany’s secrets—secrets that could start a nuclear war.
Set against the backdrop of a national election, action takes place in and around Munich, and in Berlin, Washington and London.
Can you tell us about the journey that led you to write your book?
I always wanted to write and for years would sketch out ideas, but they lacked the critical mass to develop into a book. My wife and I were flying to Germany for a vacation a few years ago. Whenever we’d go to Europe I’d buy a book that had something to do with the country we were visiting. I’d read a lot about the World War II area, an interest of mine, and wanted something different. So I picked up a book on post-War Germany and read it on the flight over. The story of The Banker Spy literally came to me by the time I’d finished reading the book. Over dinner the next night, I outlined the plot to my wife. With some modifications and embellishments, it’s the story you’ll read in The Banker Spy.
Can you tell us about the story behind your book cover?
It’s pretty straightforward. I wanted a cover, and a title, that conveyed a sense of the book to the reader. On the cover is a man in a suit, carrying a briefcase, and a woman holding binoculars, standing next to each other. This suggests (I hope!) the two principal characters are a man and a woman, and they have a relationship. The suit and briefcase conveys the banker and the binoculars, the spy. They’re looking at landmark buildings, which gives the reader the idea where the book takes place.
What approaches have you taken to marketing your book?
I’m just beginning marketing and I’m very excited about my blog tour. I’m also asking friends and professional reviewers to post reviews about The Banker Spy. I believe that creating a buzz through word-of-mouth and posted reviews is the most effective way for an indie author, particularly one who’s published an eBook, to generate interest.
What book on the market does yours compare to? How is your book different?
I really like Daniel Silva’s work. I’m not comparing myself to him or his books. Silva’s obviously an extremely successful author. I like that his books are set in Europe and he conveys a feel for the locale, particularly Italy. His principal characters are in a relationship and both are spies, although neither want to be. In The Banker Spy, the banker is dragged into espionage, just like Silva’s characters get called back into service. My principal characters have a more complicated, at times adversarial, relationship than Silva’s and it’s not resolved at the end of The Banker Spy.
What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?
I’m not sure if this is a quirk but I like delving into history as part of the story, perhaps in greater detail then most thriller writers. The Banker Spy draws on historical events and places. The past is carried forward and guides the plot. Even my characters are deeply influenced by their pasts. Oftentimes, I got lost in my research because I found the information so interesting. This isn’t a historical novel, it takes place today and is very contemporary, but it has a strong historical basis and my characters experience the influences of history.
Open your book to a random page and tell us what’s happening.
Since you can’t flip open an eBook, I swept my stylus quickly along the bottom of my iPad’s screen and wound up at the last page in chapter 21. Dayna, Peter’s ex-fiancée and CIA agent, is talking to the CIA station chief in Berlin about the chancellor of Germany. Germany is in the midst of a national election and the chancellor is running for his second, and final, term. The race is close. Unknown to the German voters, the chancellor has a secret program to make Germany a nuclear power and reclaim the territory it lost after World War II. Dayna is tasked with stopping the chancellor. If she can come up with something bad from his past, he will lose the election and the German threat will end.
Do you plan any subsequent books?
I put a lot of thought into developing my principal characters, Peter and Dayna. I think there’s good tension and a complicated chemistry between them (of course, I’m biased!) and I’d like to see how their relationship plays out. I planted the seeds for their next adventure in The Banker Spy when Peter, an investment banker, gets the assignment to sell the German automobile company that figures prominently in the story. I’m thinking about sending them to Mexico or South America, but we’ll have to wait and see.
Tell us what you’re reading at the moment and what you think of it.
I like reading a mixture of non-fiction (principally history and business) and fiction. I just finished Killing Lincoln, by O’Reilly and Dugard. The book conveyed a real sense of time and place. The authors communicated a great deal of information about Lincoln, the civil war and Washington, D.C. As O’Reilly said, it reads like a thriller. In fiction, my latest read was Daniel Silva’s Fallen Angel. Just like his principal character, Silva paints wonderful pictures of his characters and locations. Just before that I read David Baldacci’s (another favorite author of mine) The Innocent. Like Silva, Baldacci creates unique characters. Baldacci’s books are fast moving and I like that much of the action takes place around Washington, DC, where I’ve lived most of my life.
Now enjoy our guest post by William G. Byrnes
The real-life inspiration for my Dayna character once said to me that a good book both entertains and imparts knowledge. I had no desire to write a literary novel. I wanted to write a page turner! And, I took to heart the adage “write what you know.” I know something about investment banking, having been one for seventeen years. The obvious skill is transaction management, such as the equity offering in the book. The more subtle skill is client management, which my banker character puts to the test with an egotistical CEO and deceptive CFO. I wrote about my passions—European travel, history, wines, and automobiles. I hope I brought these alive and The Banker Spy provides escape and entertainment for you.
I wanted The Banker Spy to be both vivid and factually accurate. In the course of writing the book my wife and I made two trips to Germany. We visited every locale described in the book, except one. (For that, I enlisted the aid of Google Earth.) So when I say, for example, the characters turn left, head down the Ebertstrasse past the American embassy and the Holocaust Memorial, the reader could retrace the characters steps in Berlin. I took some liberties with the World War II manufacturing sites. In one case I was blocked from getting close by a chain link fence topped with concertina wire, so I had to use my imagination. In another, I combined two sites into one. I saw pictures of the L-shaped protrusions along route 2 outside of Augsburg described in my book, but I don’t know if they still exist or what purpose they serve. It’s on my bucket list to go back and find out.
The more ambitious part of writing The Banker Spy was following the real Dayna’s dictum to impart knowledge. When I began I was under the, perhaps naïve, assumption that the physical reminders, such as buildings, of Nazi Germany has been obliterated. That is not the case. Trappings such as Nazi eagles and swastikas have been removed but the buildings remain. In Munich, Hitler’s apartment, the beer garden where he narrowly escaped assassination, and the plaza where he gave many speeches are essentially unchanged. Goering’s Luftwaffe headquarters in Berlin is now the Ministry of Finance. Many of the underground manufacturing facilities, where slave labor produced V1 and V2 rockets, remain. Some are open for tours.
Although I had some knowledge of post-war Europe, I had no idea about the shifting of German, Polish and Russians borders, the mass deportations that followed or the brutal winters that added to the suffering and death. At times, The Banker Spy seemed to write itself. Russia occupying Silesia, giving it to Poland, and deporting all ethnic Germans became the basis for politically powerful expellee groups in Germany and Germany’s desire to reclaim its lost territory. All figure prominently in my story. A writer learns from writing.
William G. Byrnes's Bio:
Bill Byrnes was an investment banker with Alex. Brown & Sons for 17 years. After that he was a Distinguished Teaching Professor of Finance and, subsequently, member of the Board of Regents at Georgetown University. He's founded three companies and has served on the boards of six public companies. He holds degrees from Georgetown University and the University of Michigan. His interests include European and Mesoamerican history, wine collecting, and automobiles. He's happiest around the water and on the tennis court. Bill, his wife, and their two poodles divide their time between Washington, DC and West Palm Beach, FL.
Finally time for the giveaway! Easy to enter. Just leave me a comment below telling me who is your favorite thriller/spy novel author. Maybe really soon your answer will become William G. Byrnes.