New York Times bestselling author Catherine Bybee was raised in Washington State, but after graduating from high school, she moved to Southern California with hopes of becoming a movie star. After growing bored with waiting tables, she returned to school and became a registered nurse, spending most of her career in urban emergency rooms. She now writes full-time and has penned the International Bestselling Not Quite series, the MacCoinnich Time Travel series as well as the Internationally Bestselling Weekday Brides series.
Interview by Elise Cooper
Q. How did you go about finding the idea for this story?
Catherine: Overall, the previous books, “The Bride Series” prompted the espionage writing for this series. Neil, the head of McBain Security and Solutions is a character I kept alive in all the books. The challenge of any series is making sure each character has a different focus; although, there are similarities between them. My heroine, Jax, highlights the other side of what happened at the Richter School. She was not being groomed to be an assassin and was there because her parents wanted to keep some secrets. They wanted to keep her isolated. By the way, sending children off to a boarding school happens a lot in Europe even though it is a foreign concept to Americans. Jax seemed to avoid the controversy and focused on receiving an exceptional education.
Q. Can you tell us about the Claire versus Sasha dynamic?
Catherine: Claire is Sasha’s “Mini-Me.” She is not as hard, jaded, and worldly as Sasha. To find out about Sasha’s life people might want to read the whole “First Wives Series.” It explains the reason Sasha turned out the way she did. She is more reserved and more of a loner than Claire. She cannot sit still and even in this book works solo. Both Claire and Sasha are very competitive, which is seen in the books when they participate in obstacle courses.
Q. You write about the Camp Pendleton Mud Run and skydiving out of an airplane. What’s that all about?
Catherine: The Mud Run used to be open to the public, before Covid. I did dive out of an airplane when I was in Hawaii a couple of years back. My friend and I did it tandemly with a professional. I checked it off my bucket list so it is not something I will do again.
Q. Are Neil and Sasha equals?
Catherine: Even though it is Neil’s team he never treats anyone as an employee. Claire becomes a daughter to him with Jax as his stepdaughter. Throughout this series, as well as all my series, the family is those chosen not the ones born into. For example, Jax and Claire are sisters of choice and are close.
Q. How would you describe Jax?
Catherine: She did not have a very good actual family life although she does redeem her relationship with her mother. She is wounded and feels neglected. She is the epitome of the poor little rich girl, very aware of how privileged she is. She was never a troublemaker but made sure while at school the skills were learned. She is sassy, loyal, daring, witty, traditionally English, and resourceful.
Q. How would you describe Andrew?
Catherine: He is a different type of hero than the others in the series. Andrew is a pencil pusher. Upper crust British, determined, traditionalist, thoughtful, and a good listener.
Q. What’s the relationship like between Andrew and Jax?
Catherine: He is the perfect man who her parents would have picked for her, but the opposite of what she thinks she needs. I made sure he did not have a life in her world. I wanted to show how men can be supportive of women who are like Jax. He never felt emasculated and was willing to be a part of her life. At first, Jax is standoffish because her parents wanted someone like him for her. Sometimes children need to come to grips that their parents are not always wrong. As they get to know each other she is surprised that she is attracted to him. The challenge for me was to have them fall in love without it feeling forced. He is good at making her think it is her idea and then gets what he wants from her.
Q. What role do Jax’s parents play?
Catherine: They are the type that had children because that is what was expected. They are reserved, uppity, and never appreciated or understood her. They always underestimated her. I based it on a personal level for me because my parents underestimated me my whole life.
Q. How did the ending come to you?
Catherine: I did not look at it as a cliff hanger but that the series came full circle. If there is a next book, I could explore how the school groomed these children and taught them to be assassins. Because most of my readers thought the ending was a cliff hanger, I guess I will have to write another book. I do not want to reinvent the wheel with a new espionage series when I have so many rich characters to play with. I would love to hear from people as to what they think about a fourth book in this series, https://catherinebybee.com/contact/.
Q. What’s next?
Catherine: In June 2022, will be a kind of a women’s fiction book. The new series is called “The D’Angelo’s” and is titled When It Falls Apart. It takes place in Little Italy, San Diego. It is based on my real life where I had to deal with an aging father, while at the same time piecemealing my life back together because of my own tragedies and issues. The heroine, Brooke Turner, has always had a complicated relationship with her father. But when his health takes a turn for the worse, she drops everything to care for him. What Brooke doesn’t anticipate is the unraveling of her long-term relationship and a cross-country move to San Diego’s Little Italy. She will have a romance with Luca, a single father.
Review by Elise Cooper
An Unexpected Distraction by Catherine Bybee shows why she is a master storyteller who writes formidable characters. Readers get to catch up with her past heroes and heroines: Claire, Cooper, Sasha, Neil, and Gwen. But anyone who has not read her should considering the great mix of suspenseful drama, action, and romance. With each new installment the series gets better and better.
As with the other heroines in the series, Jacqueline (Jax) Simon is a badass woman. They all are put in dangerous undercover situations by the private investigation security company they work for. Having overcome the corrupt boarding school that basically raised them these women, Sasha, Olivia, Claire, and Jax have skills that would make James Bond jealous.
In this story, Jax returns to her native England after receiving a call from her brother. He needs help figuring out why their parents split up and their dad has moved in with him. The parents are being very secretive about their marital problems. Through her own investigation, Jax discovers that her being sent off to the German military school, Richter, has something to do with her parents’ marital problems. With the help of her current boyfriend, Andrew Craig, Jax’s brother’s best friend, they infiltrate Richter hoping to find if it’s returned to its bad ways, training the children there to be spies and assassins while blackmailing the parents to look the other way.
Along with the action are relationship stories. Jax must overcome her feelings of abandonment by her parents. Because she has never had a close relationship with her mother, they both must have heart-to-heart chats about their feelings. In fact, many times throughout the book Jax says to her mother, “you did not know, because you never asked.” Jax also has come to realize she has feelings and is attracted to Andrew. He is not intimated by her skills with guns and spy technology and is very supportive.
When finished, readers will be disappointed because the gripping story has ended and at this time there is not another book in the making. Anyone who enjoyed this book should contact Catherine to continue the storyline, especially since it appears that the ending was a bit of a cliffhanger. Let Catherine know if there should be more books in the series by contacting her at https://catherinebybee.com/contact/.
Catherine Bybee's Latest
Jacqueline “Jax” Simon knows how to expose secrets: she’s a skilled operative with MacBain Security and Solutions. When Jax hears her parents are divorcing, she races to London to find out why. She’s determined to learn the truth, especially when her investigation uncovers why her parents sent her to Richter, the German military school that made her a fighter.
Andrew Craig collects Jax at Heathrow Airport as a favor. He’s heard she’s a handful, but he didn’t know she’s dangerously gorgeous too. His instant attraction could change his life…or end it.
Jax doesn’t want to fall for Andrew, but soon he’s worming his way into her life. Together, they infiltrate Richter to discover if it has returned to its covert purpose: training children to be spies and assassins and blackmailing parents to look the other way. As the attraction between the two intensifies, so do the secrets exploding all around them. How deadly are those secrets—and who will survive?