Those of you who know me well know I am in awe of intelligence officers. Especially when they’re women. Espionage — and all its related activities — is like crack cocaine to me. I can’t stay away. So when Laura DiSilverio told me she was a former intelligence officer, well… I had to have her guest blog. She’s now writing mysteries, but I asked her to talk about her career. Please welcome her, and if you have questions, she’ll be happy to answer them. (I’m already printing my list…)
“Spying Was Easier” by Laura DiSilverio
I use that phrase in my bio and in various other places and it caught Libby’s attention. She asked me to “appear” today and discuss my intelligence career and how I ended up writing mysteries. Thanks, Libby, for inviting me to your blog!
I suffered anxiety attacks—heart racing, dizzying, crawl-into-bed-and-plan-to-stay-there-until-Armageddon—as my college graduation date neared. I had a degree in English, no desire to head immediately for graduate school (because it would cost money), and parents who were going to stop supporting me financially the day I left the university. I’ll spare you the angst and floundering and cut to the chase: I went down to the Air Force recruiter because my dad was an Air Force pilot and the military was a world I was comfortable with. They offered me a choice of career fields—public affairs or intelligence. The latter sounds sexy and Mata Hari- or James Bond-ish, so I went with that. (See what great decision-making skills I had as a twenty-one-year-old?)
Intelligence work was nothing like I anticipated—no camera pens or undercover work for me—but I enjoyed it greatly. A lot of intelligence work is analysis and fusion, taking a piece of imagery data from an overhead asset and marrying it up with a report from a covert source and drawing conclusions. Some intelligence work is training pilots to recognize threats (surface-to-air missiles, for example) and teaching them to evade capture if shot down. Other intelligence work, having to do with signals intercepts, for instance, is highly technical and might require language training on top of the usual intelligence training courses. Almost all of it is highly classified (some aspect more than others) and the irony is that I can never use it in my writing, so don’t expect to seeany geopolitical or techno-thrillers from me!
As an intelligence officer, I had opportunities to be part of amazing events. I was part of the hunt for living prisoners- of-war from the Vietnam era in Thailand. I learned the ins and outs of spy satellites (and funding for them) working at the National Reconnaissance Office. I taught at the Air Force Academy. In Korea, I prepped F-16 pilots who were sitting strip alert in support of the Seoul Olympics. I commanded a squadron of 150 people in England. Along the way, I made good friends, met and married my husband, and gave birth to my two wonderful daughters (one in Virginia and one in England). Throughout my career, though, I yearned to write and, after a moment of epiphany in a Seattle bookshop, my husband and I finally decided it was time for me to pursue that dream.
I retired in 2004, sat my fanny down in front of my computer and proceeded to write a mystery featuring . . . stay with me here . . . an intelligence captain! That book remains unpublished, but it did, eventually, land me an agent, so I’m still fond of it. It took me four years of writing full-time to get my first three book contract, but then my career took off (forgive the Air Force pun). I now write three series: the Swift Investigations series for St. Martin’s Minotaur (humorous, soft-boiled PI books), the Mall Copy Mysteries for Berkley Prime Crime (the second book in that series, ALL SALES FATAL, came out this month), and the Ballroom Dancing Mysteries (as Ella Barrick) for Obsidian. The second book in that series, DEAD MAN WALTZING, comes out 5 June.
Spying may have been easier (certainly less frustrating and ego-squelching in many ways), but writing fulfills me and I can’t think of anything I’d rather be doing. Thanks to Libby for having me here today, and to all of you for dropping by!
Thanks, Laura. Btw, her most recent title (her productivity is enough to make me take the vapors) is here. Hope you’ll check it out!