If you’re looking for a gritty spy thriller in the same vein as Tom Wood, you’re in luck—and should check out Scott Shinberg’s new hero, Michelle Reagan, codenamed: Eden.
A blacker than black-ops novel that follows Eden, an assassin working out of the CIA’s Special Activities Division, Confessions of Eden is a fast-paced, well-written thriller that has flown a bit under the radar since its release back in April of this year. Spy enthusiasts will want to change that, as Scott Shinberg sets up what has all the makings of a promising new series starring an interesting, unique, and layered protagionist.
Though the book came out two months ago, I just had a great conversation with Shinberg, who agreed to go on the record for our Five Questions segment. See the full Q&A below, then click here to get your copy of Confessions of Eden today.
TRBS: First and foremost, congrats on the release of your first thriller! How did you come up with the story idea for this one?
Shinberg: Thanks, Ryan, I appreciate it. Over the past few decades, I’ve traveled frequently for both work and pleasure. Michelle Reagan’s story—her life, if you will—occurs in many of those locales and has been percolating through my mind for the past seven or eight years. This book is a blend of places I’ve been, people I’ve worked with, and my own experiences in the field. They say you can only write what you know, so that’s what I did. I wanted to tell the story of Michelle’s journey so readers can get to know this strong, brave, loving woman who’s unlike any they’ve read before.
TRBS: What did you do before you became a writer, and when did you know that you wanted to write a book?
Shinberg: I’ve worked in the Intelligence Community for most of the past thirty years. I’ve held a number of great positions from the field to management. I’ve had the opportunity to do everything from international nuclear treaty verification to running sources into foreign countries to seeing coworkers get burned by a double agent. This is a career field in which you experience a lot of highs and lows over time.
The writing bug bit me rather suddenly a few years ago while I was driving along Interstate 95, south of Washington, DC. I realized in that moment that I wanted others to get to know Michelle Reagan and to like her as much as I did. It was a rather simple thought but led me down the complex path to shepherd her story from ethereal concept to a series of novels. I can only hope I’ve translated her essence onto paper well enough for readers to appreciate her complexity, empathize with her about the difficulty of the personal and professional decisions she’s had to make, and understand how it changed her over time. Throughout the process of writing Confessions of Eden, it was Michelle who told me what to put down on paper and what to leave out!
TRBS: How much research did you have to do before actually sitting down to write?
Shinberg: I started with the material I knew well and went from there. I found in most cases that the research I needed to do was best done not in advance, but contemporaneously while writing. When I needed inspiration on how to describe certain equipment or places, I’d pull up online photos to remind me of the character of the city and its human terrain, or I’d look at a map to refresh my memories of certain tropical islands or a far-away border crossing. In more than a few cases, I had to go the other way and intentionally obscure or avoid the truth to get the manuscript approved by the Uncle Sam’s Prepublication Review Board, but I don’t think it detracted from the final result significantly.
TRBS: Who are some of your favorite authors, and what was the last great book that you read?
Shinberg: I grew up as a huge Robert Heinlein fan, so it’s amazing to me that I didn’t end up writing science fiction. His stories got me thinking about how an individual’s humanity factors into their efforts to overcome challenges and adversity. In the 80s and 90s, I read a lot of Stephen King and am still in awe of his ability to draw readers into his stories so well that you don’t realize when you’ve crossed that line between the reality of the chair you’re sitting in and the peril he creates for his characters. Most significantly, I still remember the day I was handed a copy of Tom Clancy’s Hunt for Red October. That’s what got me hooked on the military/espionage thriller genre.
For the last few years, I’ve been so heads-down writing the first three books in the Michelle Reagan series that I need to take a breather, now, and read a few of the novels you recommended to me. I think that, and taking my wife on a well-earned vacation, will be my summer projects!
TRBS: Lastly, what’s next for you now that Confessions of Eden is finally out?
Shinberg: More, more, and even more Michelle Reagan! She returns this fall in Directive One. The description for that book is up on my website at www.ScottShinberg.com. I hope your readers will be able to read your review of it on The Real Book Spy this fall. After that, Michelle returns in 2020, but I’m not releasing the title of that book just yet. As they say, “Watch this space!”
Praised as “one of today’s finest book reviewers” by New York Times bestselling author Gayle Lynds, Ryan Steck (“The Godfather of the thriller genre” — Ben Coes) has “quickly established himself as the authority on mysteries and thrillers” (Author A.J. Tata). Steck also works full-time as a freelance editor and pens a monthly thriller column for CrimeReads. For more information, be sure to follow him on Twitter and Facebook. He currently lives in Southwest Michigan with his wife and their six children.