Because of the breadth of the story I told in A Perfect Hatred, I left the discussion questions until the end of the series. I suppose I envisioned people who’d read all four books would want to sit down and discuss them in depth as a unit. (Hey, a writer can dream, can’t she?)
For your convenience, I’ve included questions for each of the four books as well as for the series as a whole. You can cut and paste the questions into a document to print them or print them directly from your browser.
End Times (Book One)
- The Prologue to End Times sets up the remainder of the series as a confession to a priest. Do you think Mai Fisher was completely honest in her “confession?” What, if anything, do you think she left out? Did the concept of her having to unburden herself stay true to the character?
- The events portrayed in End Times at Calvary Locus near Killeen, Texas, are based on a real event. In fact, End Times‘ release on April 19, 2018, coincided with the twenty-fifth anniversary of that event. Were you able to distinguish the fact from the fiction?
- My authorship tagline is “Real spies, real lives. A hint of romance.” In End Times we get a glimpse of how real spies work: collecting intel from various sources, analyzing that intel, and using it to plan a mission/operation. We also see our protagonists’ real life issues in raising an adolescent girl. How did both aspects touch you as you read about the spy work and the family dynamic? What did you like or dislike about the “hint of romance?”
- The action in End Times kicks off with an attempted car-jacking, based on a real series of crimes in Northern Virginia in the late 1980s and early 1990s. A gang of Skinheads–young neoNazis–committed these crimes. Are you aware of similar incidents, past or present, where you live? Do you know how you can find out?
- We meet our main antagonist only briefly in End Times, and we see him through Mai’s eyes. At the end of the book, we see him through the lens of his own PTSD. How did his behavior and the reason why he opted not to commit suicide affect your reaction to this character? Did you feel empathy for what he’d experienced?
Bad Company (Book Two)
- In Bad Company, the mission breaks into two aspects: Mai deepening her connection with John Carroll and Alexei’s infiltration of Patriot City. When his absence becomes protracted and given Mai’s established aloofness, did her reactions to his absence surprise you? Why? Why not?
- In Bad Company, the depiction of life (especially for women) in Patriot city is dark and troubling. Would it surprise you to know Patriot City is an amalgam of several groups existing at various parts of the country in the 1970s and 1980s? How does it make you feel to know the behaviors described are authentic? Why do you think men and women follow such extreme beliefs? Were you aware of Identity Christianity before reading these books?
- Undercover work is the most difficult job in law enforcement or espionage, and Bad Company has a stark depiction of the ethical dilemmas such operatives face. What do you think is more important: surviving to provide your evidence or remaining true to your ethics? Why?
- The other dilemma in undercover work, especially when dealing with a subject one-on-one as Mai does with John Carroll, is becoming too close to the subject and losing objectivity. In Bad Company, did you see early warning signs that this was happening to Mai? What were the turning points where she could have readjusted?
- At the end of Bad Company, were you surprised by Alexei’s actions? Which shocked you more?
Descending Spiral (Book Three)
- Upon finishing Descending Spiral, did you develop any empathy for or understanding of John Carroll beyond being a potential terrorist? Is he complex enough for you?
- The controversy over whether Gulf War Syndrome was a real ailment continues. Did you know anyone who displayed symptoms similar to John Carroll’s? Do you buy into this as an explanation for his mindset?
- Mai and Alexei’s marital history is hinted at, but was that sufficient for you to accept her reaction to learning of Alexei’s infidelity? How did their confrontation in the hotel room strike you? Was it appropriate or over the top? Did it affect how you felt about either character?
- Olga Lubova is a secondary character in all the books, but in Descending Spiral we come to see the person who trained Alexei to be a spy. Were you surprised her major concern during the attack on the Bukharin-Fisher household was that Natalia would be vulnerable when she came home from school?
- In Descending Spiral, how much do you think Alexei’s infidelity influenced Mai’s decision to change her approach to John Carroll? Was it necessary for the mission or simple pay-back? Was Mai’s gamble to let Elijah beat her worth the potential for serious injury? Knowing what you do of her, did this surprise you?
Collateral Damage (Book Four)
- Even with modern technology (for the mid-1990s), finding someone who has the resources not to be found is difficult. In Collateral Damage, what did you think of Mai’s and Alexei’s approach? Was it even a possibility they could find Carroll?
- The people in the White House Situation Room when Alexei makes his report are based on actual members of the Clinton Cabinet. How obvious was that? I took some dramatic license in Collateral Damage, but do you think the real FBI director would choose to ignore such a warning of potential terror?
- In Collateral Damage, I opted to change the location of the act of domestic terrorism that occurred on April 19, 1995, and fictionalized some of its aspects. Were you able to recognize the real event? Could you distinguish between the real and the fictional?
- In Collateral Damage, did Mai’s and Carroll’s confrontation at the jail where he was held reveal how desperate Mai was to turn him? Or was she being self-indulgent from guilt? Why do you think Carroll remained steadfast?
- Toward the end of Collateral Damage, how did you feel about Mai’s break from reality? Did it surprise you Terrell abetted her? How did you feel about the fact she essentially went unpunished?
A Perfect Hatred (The Series)
- How did you like the overall structure of a serial series, i.e., that none of the books were standalones?
- Did the story unfold logically across the four books?
- A Perfect Hatred deals with issues we’re still dealing with. Did you spot any parallels between the mid-1990s and today? Did you see any connections between the extreme right of twenty-five years ago and the Alt-Right of today? In both time periods, what role did fundamentalist Christianity play?
- There hasn’t been an instance of domestic terrorism on the scale of Oklahoma City since that occurrence. Why do you think that is? Is law enforcement more vigilant? Is the FBI conducting more internal surveillance? Was it the overwhelming negative reaction from the public?
- Do you think something similar could happen again? What do you think would trigger it? Who would be responsible for it?
- Were you aware of the many conspiracy theories surrounding the Oklahoma City bombing? Would it surprise you to know I incorporated some of them into A Perfect Hatred?
- How did you feel about the way I portrayed the FBI, knowing I used a lot of dramatic license? Would you believe that the negativity I portrayed was based on research? What do you think the real FBI could have done, if anything, to prevent the Oklahoma City bombing?
- Do you think clubs and groups like the one depicted at the end of the series exist? Why or why not?
- Who were the real villains in this series? Did the “good guys” occasionally cross into villainy? Was it justifiable? Did that make the protagonists less appealing?
- Do you think there is more to this story, i.e., is it over?