An investigation of Undercover Cops: “Deep Cover” by Sandra Orchard
Sandra Orchard declassifies the story behind “Deep Cover” her September release and the fascinating new series Undercover Cops!
Noelle Marchand: Thank you for joining us, Sandra! May I first say that I recently read “Deep Cover”? I was enthralled from the very first page. Let’s talk about the series first. What was the initial inspiration for Undercover Cops? Did it start from a particular scene, idea, plot line, or character etc?
Sandra Orchard: I read an article in the newspaper about an RCMP undercover sting, in which several officers posed as complicit “bad guys”. I was intrigued by the degree to which they had to seemingly engage in illegal activity to gather enough evidence to convict the criminals, and I started wondering how a believer might reconcile, or have difficulty reconciling, some of the actions he must take and lies he must tell with his faith. Since I write romantic suspense, I was also curious about the havoc his duplicitous life would play on his relationships.
NM: Wow! I can see why that might inspire you. What interests you most about the job of an undercover cop?
SO: Undercover cops are law enforcement’s unsung heroes. When they succeed in bringing down a criminal organization or whatever their goal is, their identity must be kept tightly guarded. They also take inordinate personal risks in trying to infiltrate criminal circles. Since newcomers are treated with suspicion, they may not even be able to carry a concealed weapon. Also unlike the typical patrol officer’s day, undercover officers are often working to prevent a crime from occurring, rather than solving one or dealing with its aftermath.
NM: The other books in the series, “Shades of Truth” (March 2012) and “Critical Condition” (October 2012), feature characters that we meet in “Deep Cover”. Can you tell us a little more about those characters? How are they and their stories connected to the first book?
SO: All the stories take place in the fictional town of Miller’s Bay located on the northern shores of Lake Erie. Each features an undercover cop hero and explores the havoc his job has on his relationships. The best friend of the heroine in Deep Cover is the heroine of Shades of Truth. The best friend and voice of reason to the the hero in Deep Cover is the hero of Critical Condition.
NM: A theme that may span all of the books is the battle between truth vs lies and secrecy vs deception. How does this impact your characters and their stories?
SO: Yes, in some form or another, each main character must grapple with some form of deception. At the root is a kind of self-deception that they’ve convinced themselves is true, for some to protect their hearts, for others out of a misguided sense of protecting others.
NM: Is there a particular theme or message you hope to get across through the series?
SO: Researching for these novels and trying to get into the heads of my heroes and the women they love has deepened my appreciation for the emotional toll the job can take on a couple. If there’s one theme that seems to resonate throughout the series, it’s to not let fear (your imaginings of what might happen) keep you from embracing the people and opportunities God brings into your life.
NM: What a great message and so important for living a fulfilled life! Now let’s focus a little more on “Deep Cover”. In a nutshell, what was the writing process like? Did it differ from the other books you’ve written or are currently writing?
SO: Deep Cover was my fourth manuscript, and evolved over several years. I wrote the first and second drafts in a few months, submitted it for contests and critiques and made a lot of revisions based on those suggestions. In contrast, Shades of Truth took me only four months to write and polish before initial submission.
NM: What was your favorite scene to write in “Deep Cover”?
SO: My favorite is the opening scene of chapter twenty-three where Rick is pounding his basketball around the court, utterly torn up over losing Ginny. I love how his emotion comes out through his actions and his thought and his dialogue with Zach.
NM: I LOVED that scene. I totally agree. One of my favorite things about reading a new book is discovering the unique way that particular hero and heroine interact. How would you describe the chemistry between Ginny and Rick?
SO: For the past fifteen months, Ginny has been on a pedestal in Rick’s mind as “the one”, whereas, for Ginny, he’s been the man who pretended to be something he wasn’t and broke her heart. So for him, as soon as he sees her, the old feelings flood back as strong as ever. For her, just hearing her name topple from his lips ambushes her emotionally, and I had a lot of fun showing her try to buck up and fight it, especially considering that he’s back with a new alias. How can she possibly believe anything he says? Oh, but deep down she wants to.
NM: Sounds like a recipe for some great chemistry. I love how you made the villain creepy without resorting to caricature. What made you decide to write in the villan’s perspective? How did you manage to get inside his head?
SO: I wanted to show that he had his own troubles and deep-seated reasons for the choices he made. I also wanted to show that despite his self-centeredness, he had a genuine affection for his nieces. Of course, adding the scenes also helped with pacing of the suspense and heightening the mystery. As an interesting aside, when I tried to do the same in the second book, it had the opposite effect. So I deleted the villain scenes in it. I really enjoyed getting inside Laud’s head, because most bad guys really do have compelling reasons for their dark choices. Choices that are perfectly defendable in their own mind.
NM: One of the things I enjoyed about Deep Cover’s plot was that it was so intricate and tightly woven. Can you tell us a little bit about the process of developing the plot and keeping track of the clues, characters, twists and occasional red-herring?
SO: Oh, this is my favorite part of writing. I brainstorm and brainstorm all kinds of possible twists and turns before I start writing, but even so I’ll often add new twists as I go along to heighten the suspense of a chapter ending or to take the story in a different direction. As you can imagine keeping track of all of the clues and red herrings, especially when I add things on the fly has been a challenge.
I’ve tried using spreadsheets, but in the end, I’ve found the easiest method is to use post-it notes on a big storyboard on my wall so I can see at a glance where everything is fitting together and which loose ends I have yet to tie. The board is divided into chapters, which also helps me determine the pacing of both the suspense and romantic plot lines.
NM: Wow! I may have to try that next time. What is the books underlying message? Why did you choose it? Have you learned or experienced it in your own life?
SO: When you truly love someone, you’ll believe in them–the person they are deep inside–no matter how things appear. I pitched this story with the question: Is it possible to be a man of honor and live a life of lies?
But the dual concept of the masks we wear and seeing the true person behind the mask is layered into every character’s arc. At its deepest level for me, the question is do I really love God, trust him with my life, with my happiness, and believe he is good when there are appearances to the contrary.
NM: Now that “Deep Cover” has been released, what are you currently working on?
I just finished revisions to book three and I’m working on a short Christmas story about Rick and Ginny that I hope to be done in time to send to my newsletter subscribers in December. I’m also working on some story extras for my website and hashing out proposals for a couple of new books.
NM: That sounds like so much fun! We’ll have to be on the look out for those. Thank you so much for joining us! We’ve had a great time. Before you go is there anything you would like to add?
Yes, I’d like to invite readers to visit my website at http://www.SandraOrchard.com In December, I will unveil a number of Deep Cover behind-the-scenes extras and Ebook gifts. In the meantime, you’ll find resources for both readers, and aspiring writers, and a place to sign up for my newsletter. You’ll also find links to my Facebook page and to my blog, Conversations about Characters.
Also, just to let readers who might be interested in picking up a copy of Deep Cover know that although regular print copies are sold out at Harlequin.com, they still have large print copies available. And all formats are currently still available from other popular online retailers.
Please feel free to ask Sandra any questions you might have. Remember a comment enters you into the drawing for a free copy of “Deep Cover”!
Join us again on Wednesday for an exclusive interview with the heroine of this exciting novel. Comment on that as well for another chance at wining the giveaway!
In the meantime, here’s an excerpt of “Deep Cover”. It’s Sandra Orchard’s favorite scene…
Rick stood at the end of his driveway and lobbed the basketball in a perfect arc. He could almost hear the swish, then like everything else he’d done lately, the ball hit the rim and bounced back to catch him in the gut. He dribbled—no, pounded the ball—up the pavement and slammed it into the basket.
Basketball usually helped work off the stress after a hard case, but two weeks of slamming baskets hadn’t worked Ginny out of his system. He caught the rebound and hunched over to haul in a breath. He couldn’t think straight for missing her. The pain in his chest hurt so bad, last night he’d torn off his shirt and stared in the mirror, certain he’d find a gaping hole where his heart used to be.
Something in the town’s water must’ve messed up his brain, because he’d completely deluded himself into thinking that once he told Ginny he was a cop, she’d see past his deceit to the man underneath. He flung the ball at the garage door. “Why am I hanging on to a job that stands in the way of the woman I love?”
Rick spun around to find Zach leaning against his pickup, legs outstretched, arms crossed over his chest. “When did you get here?”
Zach nudged up his ball cap with his thumb. “Some time between the bent basketball rim and the dented garage door. You want to talk about it?”
“Funny …” Zach scooped up the ball and swished it into the basket. “Ginny said the same thing.”