Book Nerd Interview
Was there a defining moment during your youth when you realized you wanted to be a writer?
As a young fisheries biologist I got praise from the chair of the International Fisheries Commission for a report I had written that, in his words, “heaped praise on the other guys (Canadian members of a research team of which I was the only member), while keeping pride in the Washington State efforts.”
What’s one thing that readers would be surprised to find out about you?
That I’ve retained my youthful enthusiasm for boats. I still run a fast boat on the Strait of Georgia, taking visitors into the San Juan Islands, catching and cooking Dungeness crab for a treat when we get back to shore.
When did you write your first book and how old were you?
In 1999 ACCT published a small book I had written. I was 65 years old.
What was the greatest thing you learned at school?
How would you describe yourself in three words?
Focused, Self-Disciplined, Principled.
Did you learn anything from writing Sasha Plotkin's Deceit and what was it?
Yes, indeed, there are such things as muses. I was surprised many times while writing the novel that characters took over and wrote about themselves. Muses are not just mythic. Mine was mystic!
For those who are unfamiliar with Sasha Plotkin, how would you introduce him?
A bright, able, multilingual Soviet KGB officer who is seriously conflicted about loyalties toward political powers.
If you could introduce Chris Holbeck to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
George Smiley, central character in five of John le Carré’s novels and a minor character in others. Like Chris Holbeck, Smiley worries more about the intentions and psychology of people who are his targets than he does about the exact type of weapon he carries and how many rounds per minute it will fire.
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
John Sanford, author of the Prey series of police/crime books set in Minnesota. He has the best ear for realistic dialogue that I know in the mystery/espionage game.
How many books have you written?
Sasha Plotkin’s Deceit is my first novel. I’ve written other nonfiction titles and an “as told to” memoir: Sea Travels – Memoirs of a 20th Century Master Mariner. (Patos Island Press)
You have the chance to give one piece of advice to your readers. What would it be?
Don’t compare your writing to that of the great writers or your current favorite. Be sure you’re writing in your own voice and be proud of it.
When asked, what’s the one question you always answer with a lie?
“How are you?”
What's the worst summer job you've ever had?
Picking wild blackberries in the logged-off foothills of western Washington.
Who is the first person you call when you have a bad day?
When was the last time you cried?
A few days ago. I cry watching many movies, at sadness, at romance, and at simple beauty of any nature.
Where can readers stalk you?
At a beach home on the Strait of Georgia north of Bellingham, Washington, where I enjoy nature much of the year and do most of my serious writing.
When they were both stationed in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1969, Chris and Sasha connected on a personal level. Chris was excited to find a KGB officer interested in changing sides. Then, on the day of the Soviet agent’s defection, Sasha was a no-show. Chris would soon discover the full extent of Sasha Plotkin’s deceit.
Now Sasha has resurfaced and wishes to make another attempt to defect. To Chris’ dismay, he is the only CIA officer the man will consent to deal with, even though their once close relationship is now riddled with mistrust. Chris’s wife, Lisa, has sworn to leave him if he abandons her and the family for one more perilous mission. His alluring young colleague Bisan seems determined to seduce him. Despite the risks to his life and his marriage, Chris answers the call of duty.
If Chris succeeds in transporting Sasha to the United States—come hell or high water—will the Soviet agent reveal the true identity of the mole? One thing is certain: the lives of the two men will be forever changed.
Once readers dive into this novel, they will recognize that the storyline is a fast-paced espionage thriller. The plot is character driven and takes it back to the Nixon Era where it was a much more dangerous time. Author Vaughn provides richly textured and realistic accounts of a CIA agent trying to make a KGB officer defect. Vaughn’s vast knowledge of the genre and the fact that occurrences include real operations of the CIA and true events of the Cold War, it made the story authentically real. The plot delivers a dramatically-inclined storyline through its emotionally-driven characters and builds a one-of-a-kind climax. Sasha Plotkin’s Deceit is a triumphant story that is a must-read for not just fans of the spy genre, but for everyone.