Agent X cover
Agent X
by Noah Boyd

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An Exclusive Authorlink Interview with Noah Boyd,
Author of Agent X.

By Diane Slocum
May 2011


Noah Boyd is the author of two Steve Vail FBI thrillers, The Bricklayer, and now, Agent X. Vail, like Boyd himself, is an ex-FBI agent who can’t quite seem to leave the crime-solving bureau behind, no matter how dissatisfied he is with the way it operates. Vail also can’t ignore his feelings for assistant director Kate Bannon, no matter how much their personalities clash. Starting with what was supposed to be a New Year’s Eve date, Vail and Bannon launch into a frenzy of ferreting out clues, even solving some tangential crimes along the way, as their minds continue to unravel the hidden significance in puzzles left for them by a Russian informant called Calculus. Calculus’ clues lead them to FBI and CIA agents who have been selling secrets to the Russians, but Vail and Bannon discover there is much more to the plot than seemed evident at first. Vail and Bannon are in a desperate race to get to the double agents before the Russians and to stay alive themselves in the process.

“The first rule of writing is write what you know, so yes, there are similarities between my character Steve Vail and myself.”




AUTHORLINK: How did you get started publishing in the 1990s?

BOYD: I started writing novels in 1993 when I was about to retire from the FBI. I am still the only agent to have ever published while with the Bureau. The first six were under my true name but then, after a hiatus and re-evaluating my writing, I wrote The Bricklayer in 2010. The publisher felt that it was at a different level than the earlier books and wanted to eliminate any preconceived notions about how I wrote by having me assume the pseudonym, Noah Boyd.

AUTHORLINK: Your biography makes it sound as if you have things in common with Steve Vail. How are you and he alike and different?

BOYD: The first rule of writing is write what you know, so yes, there are similarities between my character Steve Vail and myself, mostly recalcitrance. My life in the Marines and the FBI would have been relatively boring without it. As far as differences, because of the luxuries of rewrites, Steve Vail makes far fewer mistakes than I do.





AUTHORLINK: How important is your experience in the FBI to your ability to write Vail’s stories?

BOYD: My favorite compliment—not that I hear it everyday—is that when you read one of my books you know what it’s like to be an FBI agent. You understand a little better how frustrating an unsolved case can be, how intimidating it can be if left unsolved, and of course, what a high it is once justice does prevail. All the research in the world can’t give you that insight.

AUTHORLINK: What strikes you first when you get an idea for a book?

BOYD: In my opinion, this genre is all about Story. That’s how I judge an idea for a book. Can it maintain the reader’s interest until the last page? Is it as surprising and fun on page four hundred as it was on page one?

“I have published eight novels now and have not outlined one of them..”




AUTHORLINK: Do you know all the answers to the puzzles before you start writing? Do you even know all the questions? Have you had times when you struggled to figure out the next turn of events? How did you go on?

BOYD: There is one absolute dead spot in my writing process—an inability to outline. I have published eight novels now and have not outlined one of them. Consequently, I not only don’t know the answers to the puzzles, I don’t know what the puzzles are. The two Steve Vail novels feature a number of deadly locked-room scenarios. When I come to the point that needs one, I can sometimes sit for three days dreaming up ways for Vail to be placed in one of those impossible situations. Then I spend another three days finding a way to get him out. It is daunting, but I think the finished product is fun for the reader.

AUTHORLINK: After you originally became a published author, how was the process of writing and publishing your second novel different from your first?

BOYD: That’s an interesting question. Although fiction, my first book was not that creative. I used a lot of old FBI stories and kind of stitched them together with the plot. When I was offered a second book, I realized I was actually going to have to create characters and a story. It was a real struggle and I think the book could have been better. But it did give me the confidence that I could be creative and that led to six more novels.

“. . . the key to getting published can be summed up in one word—marketability.”




AUTHORLINK: What advice would you give others who hope to publish the thrillers they are writing?

BOYD: Publishing is a business, so the key to getting published can be summed up in one word—marketability. If your product is sellable, the agents and publishers will beat a path to your door. Like it or not, it is about money.

AUTHORLINK: What are you working on now? Are there more adventures for Vail coming up?

BOYD: Presently I am in the middle of a Steve Vail/Kate Bannon five-book deal. Everyone writes about serial killers, so I’m a little reluctant to say that Vail and Kate will be looking for one in Chicago. Hopefully, since I have worked serial murder cases for the last thirty plus years, and am still working them, this story will have some interesting insights in it.

Noah Boyd:

During his 30 years with the FBI, Boyd’s high-profile cases included the Highland Park Strangler and the Green River Murders. Though retired since 1993, he still works cold cases for the bureau.

Diane Slocum
Regular Contributor:
Diane Slocum

Diane Slocum has been a newspaper reporter and editor and authored an historical book. As a freelance writer, she contributes regularly to magazines and newspapers. She writes features on authors and a column for writers and readers in Lifestyle magazine. She is assigned to write interviews of first-time novelists and bestselling authors for Authorlink.