Though I doubt this will be as entertaining as Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice, I hope you’ll enjoy some insight into how my series A Perfect Hatred came about.
Who Are You?
Q: P. A., what do your friends call you?
Duncan: My friends call me Maggie, and it’s a long story. Basically, in high school, I ended up with a nasty nickname that was a play on my first name, so I try to avoid using it.
Q: I’m sure that’s an interesting story for another time. Tell us exactly what kind of fiction you write.
Duncan: It’s summed up by my writing tagline: “Real spies. Real lives. A hint of romance.” And I’ll add it’s heavy on history and politics.
Q: Tell us what you mean by “real spies.”
Duncan: Not the James Bond you see in the movies, though the Daniel Craig movies have been better, and not Jason Bourne. Real espionage is pretty dull, with a lot of sifting through information. The intrigue is normal, but the action bits aren’t as compelling as the movies make them. A good example is the 2015 movie, Bridge of Spies. That shows how real spies work.
Q: And the real lives?
Duncan: I have several friends who work or have worked for a U.S. intelligence organization, and they have home repairs to see to, mortgages, kids in school. They have to go grocery shopping, get the car fixed, and all the things the rest of us have to contend with. I mean, you don’t see James Bond picking up his laundry! Of course, the emphasis isn’t on that in my work, but I wanted to portray my characters as people the reader could relate to.
Q: And the hint of romance—tell us about that.
Duncan: I thought rather than the typical buddy or sidekick trope, I’d mix it up a little. I also didn’t want to do the sexual tension trope. My two protagonists are spies who work together and are married to each other. That’s where the romance comes in. Not much, but enough to show they are a couple who work hard at what they do but who deeply care for each other, though they can seldom show it lest it be used against them.
Espionage, Politics, and History
Q: Why the history angle?
Duncan: I’ve loved history since I was a kid. I got it from my dad, who was a Civil War buff. History was my favorite subject in high school, and I graduated from college with a degree in it. I think history teaches us important lessons, and we don’t always learn them. So, I do my bit by spicing it up in my fiction.
Q: So, how much is fiction and how much is history?
Duncan: It varies with the story. I incorporate known facts, things you’d see in a newspaper or magazine article about an event, enough so the reader would recognize it, but the surrounding context of the story is fictional. For example, there is no intelligence service in the United Nations (that we know of), so that organization and its operations are fiction. My fictional characters interact with the historical event and with characters based on real people.
Q: Can you give us an example of how that works?
Duncan: Okay, for example, in book one of A Perfect Hatred, End Times, I have a scene that’s a meeting between the President of the United States, the Attorney General, and the FBI Director, and the time frame is 1993. Now, the meeting is fictional, even though the event they’re discussing is based on a real event, and if there were such a meeting, there’d be no way I’d know what was said. The dialogue consists of known facts about the actual event, but what they’re discussing is fictional. However, if you remember who was president in 1993, you can figure out who the characters represent.
Why Four Books?
Q: Let’s talk about A Perfect Hatred, which is something called a tetralogy. Start off by explaining what that is.
Duncan: A tetralogy is a series of four related dramas, i.e., operas or novels or plays. The Greeks would put on a series of four plays, three of which were tragedies and the fourth a comedy or a farce. See, history major. The key is the dramas are related. A Perfect Hatred started out as a single novel, became a trilogy, and finally a tetralogy. I thought that was a bit more efficient than constantly saying, “a four-book series.”
What’s the Real Event?
Q: What historical event are your spies mixed up in A Perfect Hatred?
Duncan: A Perfect Hatred is my fictional take on the events leading up to the Oklahoma City Bombing in 1995. However, because I had to take some dramatic license here and there, I “moved” the event to a different city.
Q: Why did you want to write about such a tragedy?
Duncan: At the time the federal building in Oklahoma City was bombed, I was a federal employee in a federal building similar in size to the Murrah Building. People I worked with had relatives who worked in the Murrah Building. Some got out safely; some didn’t. Then, I happened to be in Oklahoma City in 1997 when the verdict came out in accused bomber Timothy McVeigh’s trial. I observed a great many interesting behaviors from people in Oklahoma City regarding what his fate should be, and I decided I wanted to learn more about the event than I could find in news bites. The reasons behind that act of terror were far more complicated than were portrayed in the media, and I wanted to write about that.
In Part Two of “Interview with the Author”: Status of the tetralogy, summaries of the published books, and more.