Echelon q&a

echelon How would you classify Echelon?

Echelon is spy-fi. I'm obsessed with spy thrillers and cyberpunk. Echelon takes from both genres to generate what I hope is an edge of your seat—can't turn the light off until it's done—kind of read.

And the real Echelon is in the news now?

Front and center. Echelon is part of the NSA's signals intelligence arsenal—a global eavesdropping network used to spy on foreign targets and, recently, on Americans as well. My book looks at the possible ramifications of the actions our government is taking right now.

How did you pick this topic?

I started reading about the NSA's Echelon system some time ago. It immediately struck me as fertile ground for a spy thriller. Looking at what Echelon is doing currently, I speculated on what the world would look like if such a system was 100% effective. In a near future where information is power, controlling the flow of data would be tantamount to controlling the world. From there, a fast passed thriller took shape.

Do you share any similarities to your hero, Ryan Laing?

He is both what I wish I could be and what I fear becoming. Ryan is ultimately capable and unflappable. He's tough, cool under extreme pressure and able to handle himself. I wish I were more like that.

He is also incapable of handling life's chaos and uncertainty. Ryan and I both lost our fathers suddenly, an event that grinds in life's uncertainty. For Ryan, overcoming that fear of life's twists and turns requires a conspiracy threatening global stability. My issues require less extreme circumstances to alleviate.

How does nature play into Echelon?

The natural world rarely plays into either sci-fi or spy novels, yet it's integral to Echelon. Growing up in Colorado, nature has always been a big part of my life, be it through climbing, kayaking, or hiking. My two heroes both make use of the outdoors. Ryan uses rock climbing to find an experience that's black and white, life and death—a place with no uncertainty. Sarah, on the other hand, uses a kayaking program to interface with the data flow. She uses the natural world to understand and navigate through a virtual, man-made environment. The interface allows her to manage the onslaught of data coming at her in a visceral way.

Did your travels influence Echelon?

Most of the locations in the book are places where I have lived. I hope this adds a layer of reality to the book—even when the events taking place in these locals go beyond extreme.

What comes next?

I'm deep into Echelon's sequel which Del Rey will be publishing in about a year. So far, so good!

Read the first chapter.