Monday, July 30, 2012

FAST FIVE Author Interview with John Betcher

Today's guest is a good friend, author John Betcher. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree, cum laude, in English from St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota and a Juris Doctorate from the University of Minnesota Law School in Minneapolis.

John has practiced law for more than twenty-five years in the Mississippi River community of Red Wing, Minnesota, and is now pursuing a passion of his in writing. He has also been a long-time supporter and coach of youth volleyball there.

John and I met through an independent writer’s group on the Internet, The Independent Authors Network. When I learned that John lived in Minnesota, I was eager to check out his novels. I had lived in Minnesota for eighteen years and worked for a short time as a security guard at the Monticello Nuclear Plant. One of the plot settings in John’s novel, The 19th Element, is a nuclear power plant in Minnesota. I immediately bought and read the novel before moving on to his other works, including The Exiled Element.
FAST FIVE: Thank you for visiting today, John, and for taking time to participate in this interview. Rather than the 140 characters we’ve grown accustomed to on Twitter, can you share with us a more detailed account of the novel and your research for The Exiled Element?
JOHN BETCHER: Here's the jacket blurb to get us started:
In response to recent turmoil in Egypt’s intelligence community, the CIA has recalled Beth Becker to active duty. Though she accepts the assignment, the backstabbing and deceit she finds festering within the Agency remind her why she retired from government work in the first place.

Meanwhile, her husband, “Beck,” stays home in Red Wing, helping Chief Deputy Sheriff, Doug “Gunner” Gunderson, formulate what should be routine security plans for a visiting dignitary. But a less than stellar private security firm, and a determined sniper, result in a crisis situation that stretches our heroes’ abilities to their limits.

Filled with intrigue, humor, and ripped-from-the-headlines action, THE EXILED ELEMENT will remind you why you came to love the Beckers in the first place.
FAST FIVE: With connections to the CIA, it almost seems to go without saying that the job takes precedence. Is “the job” the most important part of your protagonist’s life?
JOHN BETCHER: My protagonist in THE EXILED ELEMENT, Beth Becker, is a semi-retired CIA encryption/decryption specialist. To put it plainly, she's a code cracker. She and her husband, James, a former military intelligence operative, have retired in their early forties to live in his hometown of Red Wing, Minnesota. The fact that she and her husband both left their exciting Washington careers to live in rural Minnesota says a lot about their priorities. At the time of their move, they had two teenage daughters living at home, and neither parent wanted to subject the girls to unnecessary threats related to the Beckers' employment. They chose retirement over careers to bring to their daughters' lives a sense of normalcy and security. The girls are both out of the house and in college these days, but "Beck" and Beth have elected to remain in Red Wing, enjoying the freedoms of semi-retirement, while still engaging in the occasional "residue" of their former careers.

In THE EXILED ELEMENT, Beth's character takes center stage with a full time CIA assignment of indeterminate duration which will take her away from the safety of Midwestern life to the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, Egypt. There she will be called upon to engage a member of Egypt's Intelligence Directorate (GIS). No one knows exactly what the GIS wants with Beth, but she's game to do what she can for her country. So to answer the question . . . family is number one for Beth; but commitment to serve her country comes in a close second. 

FAST FIVE: The Mystery/Suspense genre is the focus of Fast Five interviews, but what unique twist makes your novel stand out?
JOHN BETCHER: There is no single twist that makes THE EXILED ELEMENT stand out from the crowd. Rather, it is a combination of the book's ripped-from-the-headlines subject matter (conflict in post-revolution Egypt), its unusual connection between international intrigue and small town Minnesota, and its tight-knit and likable cast of characters that make it unique.

The Arab Spring is a backdrop that few published books have addressed to date. And there's a reason for that. Most traditionally published books take at least a year and a half to reach the bookshelves. The Arab Revolution isn't even that old yet. So you could say the setting of THE EXILED ELEMENT is unique, particularly because I interviewed five Egyptian Revolutionaries, with five differing viewpoints on politics, religion, and culture, to assure that I've gotten the background details "right" in this book. In fact, some of the scenes in downtown Cairo are so realistic that a native Egyptian commented to me in an email that she "was reminded of the sights, sounds, and smells of her beloved Cairo" as she read of Beth's adventures in the city.
FAST FIVE: Your in-depth research is an exemplary lesson for all writers who are interested in improving their craft as well as adding realism and suspense to their stories. How does your main character’s profession draw her into suspenseful situations, (murder, for instance?)

JOHN BETCHER: When she worked full time for the CIA, Beth was one of their very best code crackers. In fact, she was so good that, even in her retirement, her former employer frequently calls upon her to perform freelance encryption/decryption services when regular Agency employees are stumped. This unique set of computer skills draws Beth into the Cairo situation in THE EXILED ELEMENT, just as it had drawn her into a cyber-espionage plot in THE MISSING ELEMENT and into the solving of a drug cartel case in THE COVERT ELEMENT. In each case, Beth acts with intelligence and caution, but without fear of confronting potential danger when necessary.

FAST FIVE: Where does The Exiled Element fit in the series, and are you working on a sequel?
JOHN BETCHER: THE EXILED ELEMENT is Book Four of the James Becker Suspense/Thriller Series. All four books feature Beth as a major player in the action; but THE EXILED ELEMENT is truly her story. Readers had been asking for a book that would let Beth take the spotlight. This is that book. I expect there to be future books in the series, though the subject matter of the next one has not yet been decided.

FAST FIVE: This isn’t so much a Fast Five question, more an “if/then” scenario: If Paris is not an option, then where would you most like to spend your time writing and why.

JOHN BETCHER: I like writing in my living room in Red Wing. I know that may sound provincial; but I'm comfortable there, a good deal of the action in my books takes place in Red Wing, and when I need a break, I can do the dishes, mow the lawn, or pick up the groceries. I like doing those things. :)
FAST FIVE: Thank you again, John, for visiting and for giving us an intriguing inside look at your latest suspense novel, The Exiled Element.

Where readers can follow you:
Author Website: Kindle Books:
Twitter: @JohnBetcher



  1. Thanks much for inviting for this interview, Gail.



  2. You're welcome, John. You have written several thrilling novels and your interview answers offer an enticement for future readers.

  3. Sounds like an interesting book.


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