The Origin of the Series
I conceived the Kendra Veiss series as a result of a mental game, in which I asked myself a series of questions about how certain kinds of people would act and behave in specific situations.
I created protagonists and placed them in a highly stressful environment, emotionally brutal and physically dangerous environment, because I am fascinated by how people function under stress. The right setting immediately suggested itself: intelligence - the kingdom of amorality and shadows. I set my story on an alternative Earth called Terra, so I could do what I liked with nationalities, history, political agendas – even reality itself! What fun! 😊
I then gave my protagonists personalities that were flawed but interesting (as befitting good spies). I made them emotionally guarded though outwardly highly competent and intrepid. And then, for good measure, I made them ideological enemies.
Finally, I asked myself the question: though these two are really highly suited for each other, would they be able to bridge the gaping chasm created by psychology and circumstance? If so, how?
And hey presto: the Kendra Veiss series was born (with the plots of books 1 and 2 pretty much ready-made, and parts of book 3 already hovering in the background).
What a delight it has been to spin all the characters in it out of thin air! I can confidently say that there isn’t a single one of them that does not reflect aspects of real people. In Strategic Entanglements, some people thought that the character of Linda Rushmore, SPU chief and Kendra’s boss, was too extreme in her brusque, callous manner. They did not think a woman would behave like that towards Kendra. Oh, really? You better believe it, people – Linda Rushmores exist! You are just lucky you haven’t met one!
The main protagonist in the series is Kendra Veiss. She does what she wants and doesn’t take crap from anyone. Many have said to me what a great role model she is, especially for young women. But Kendra is really a wounded soul who guards her heart with fortifications and barbed wire. She is stand-offish, manipulative, even self-centered. She is also exceptionally witty, brave, strong, a prodigious fighter. She has her cynical side, but at the core she is an idealist willing to lay everything on the line for what she truly believes in.
Aran Reiner is a ruthless careerist, vindictive, and a control freak. He is indulgent to people he loves. He is also courageous and generous in a way Kendra is not: with his emotions. He has the courage to do what he thinks is right irrespective of what anyone else expects. To be kind, to risk rejection, to go off the beaten path. He is chivalrous and has a quick, flexible mind, one that is less politically indoctrinated than Kendra tends to be.
The two of them can make a sublime combination, or a train wreck. It’s up to them, really, how it all turns out. To combine in any way at all seems next to impossible, considering the highly unfortunate way they met. Though if anyone can do it, it would be two exceptionally strong and capable people like them.
We shall wait and see, won’t we?…
The World of Terra
Terra is a planet, an alternative Earth that evolved a bit differently to our own. It revolves around the sun Sol and has a moon called Luna. The closest inhabitable solar system is Gamma Centauri, on which the terraformed planet Nakin is located.
Terra has a number of continents and oceans that bear the names of ancient continents and oceans on Earth.
The largest continent on Terra is Gondwana, which is entirely occupied by the empire state of Basur.
The nation of Askar, Basur's most implacable and aggressive foe, is located on the neighbouring continent of Sarmatia.
The humans on Terra have evolved slightly differently to us, so though they look identical to us, there may be slight differences in things like physiology and biochemistry. Their level of technological development is likewise similar to ours, but not identical. In some things they are ahead, in others behind. We are mostly on par.
I do not specifically address the issue of race in the books. The reason for this is that it is much more interesting to me how the tendency towards tribalism (the 'us against them' mentality) persists even in the face of little to no objective evidence of difference. For example, we may well ask ourselves, are the Basur and the Askar really as different from each other as they think they are?
The Secret Services of the Basur and the Askar
The Basuri Department of State Security (DSS)
The symbol of the DSS is the spider.
Much like the spider, the DSS is rapacious, and sinister in its patience. It spins its web throughout the world, stalking its prey from from concealment.
Like all secret services of the world, it exists to advance the state agenda. In the case of the DSS, this actively includes fighting Basur's wars bloodlessly ('bloodless' being a relative term in this instance), and advancing its political and commercial interests.
The DSS has two operational directorates (Clandestine Operations (COD) and Counterintelligence (CID)) and numerous 'service directorates', which serve the operational directorates. The Internal Affairs Directorate (IAD) is a service directorate. It incorporates the investigative Special Operations Unit (SPU), where Kendra works in the beginning of the story
The Askari Imhas
The symbol of the Imhas is the silver wolf.
The wolf is the mascot of the Askar. It is a strategic, careful and relentless pack hunter. In the old days (both on Earth and on Terra), when the world was less urbanised and wolves roamed freely, people lived in constant fear of them. They attacked livestock and, sensing signs of weakness in lost humans, could hunt them tenaciously for days until the prey eventually succumbed, exhausted and dispirited.
The Imhas is a fierce, mysterious, fanged organisation, where mistakes are not tolerated, wrongs are brutally avenged, and treachery is ruthlessly punished.
The Imhas, though not as well resources as the DSS, punches well above its weight. It is imaginative, daring, seasoned and proficient. Its Office of Strategic Services (OSS) sets the gold standard for conducting operations of jaw-dropping intricacy, scale and originality.