Thriller Writer Tj O'Connor

16 Days . . . Washington Better Be Ready

Mar 12, 2023

Ana and Cat are coming. . . American and Cuban intelligence are chasing them. Washington is panicking. . .

Deception is the sword of the cunning. A tool. A weapon. It’s the strategy of a provocateur—a method to cause one’s opponent to wreak havoc upon themselves while concealing one’s true endgame. Other times, it’s a mask used by the desperate for simple survival. It’s an escape.

Ana Karras knew about deception and provocation. She knew about strategy and survival, too. She was a student of both with mixed results. Her entire life up to this moment had been about survival, often as a result of deception. Other times, she’d survived by sheer will and, most importantly, luck. . .

. . . The Americans would never see her coming.

Catalina Reyes was on a mission. It was not her first mission. That had been twenty years ago when she was just fifteen. But it was her most important mission. A life-changing one. Perhaps a life-ending one as well. Whether success or failure, it would also be her last. First, she had to overcome her past. Overcome her fears. Then, Cat had to survive the pursuit. Finally, she would have to reach her target and execute the plan. In the end, there would come the escape.

Her entire adult life had been about that one focus: her target. This target. . . Washington.

SPOILER ALERT! Hemingway is not about Ernest or an ancestor. There, I said it. Myth dispelled. Phew, I’d hate to have all the English lit majors around the world hating me. Geez.

I’ve been asked by my beta readers and some close pals who have read my book pre-release, “After The Consultant and your paranormal mysteries with strong, funny, male leads, did you decide to bring Ana and Cat onto the pages?”

The answer came in a dream—not unlike how I ended up writing my first paranormal mystery, Dying to Know. You see, in the years after leaving OSI and the first Gulf War and my escapades before, I had a recurring nightmare. I’d been killed in a terrorist operation by bad guys I couldn’t see clearly. I returned as a spirit to hunt my killer. After telling my daughter about this twenty-something year plague on my sleep, she asked me to write that theme as a murder mystery-but as a detective in my hometown of Winchester, Virginia. And make it lighthearted and funny. Oh yeah, nothing like murder and spirits to make you laugh. Right? But, I did and Dying to Know and two sequels followed. Dying to Know did me right and won the Gold Medal from the Independent Publishers Book Awards (IPPY), a Bronze Medal from the Readers Favorite Book Awards, and a few nominations and finalist selections elsewhere like the IndieFAB Mystery Book of the Year.

Not bad for a nightmare, right?

Anyway, after a couple years back, my amazing agent, Kimberley Cameron, and I were discussing changing the plot and characters to my then-current WIP. She suggested perhaps writing strong, female protagonists. I liked the idea, although it intimidated me a little—you know, being I’m a guy and all. But then, noodling on it, I started to like the idea more and more.

In my years as a military federal agent running anti-terrorism operations, and since as a consultant for the private sector and Homeland Security, I’ve learned a lot about threats. I’ve also learned a lot about people—good and bad. One thing was always on my mind when I was out in the field—beware the ladies. The ladies are as adept to terror and threats as any man. Often, more so. And most of all, you might not see them coming. They are often overlooked and taken for granted. “She looks innocent enough. She’s doesn’t look like a killer or stalker. No worries there.” Hah. Right up until she kicks your . . .

Then, like déjà vu, one night my twenty-something year long nightmare returned. This time, I saw the terrorist who killed me in my dream very clearly. Yup, you guessed it—an assassin team of women jihadis.

Kimberley was right. My newest thriller would star Ana Karras and Catalina Reyes—yin and yang—both skilled and troubled in their own rights. Both on their missions and heading for a collision. Ana trying desperately not to become her nemesis persona, Ana Montilla. Cat trying desperately to find and return to the cunning Cuban assassin she once was. Both clinging to their lives—their own versions of humanity—hoping for a way out alive from The Hemingway Deception.

Phew. That was a mouthful.

Stay tuned as I spin up more insights into how The Hemingway Deception came to be and how the characters took me on a ride that made me crazy(ier). This week, I’ll be posting some excerpts from the book, a little insight into the characters lives and personas, and teasing a little of the backstory as to how I finally got to The End.

For those of you in my local Virginia, West Virginia, or Maryland areas, (or perhaps just rabid fans wanting to see me… right) my first book signing for The Hemingway Deception will be at the Winchester Book Gallery in Old Town Winchester, VA on April 1, 2023, between 4 pm and 6ish pm. Yes, it has not escaped me—April Fools Day. Go figure.

Hope you’ll stop in and revisit my blogs! And to those of you out there who’ve been my diehard fans—some who’ve written me asking for my next book—thank you. Thank you. Thank you.


I first fell in love with writing while in grade school and over the years continued to dabble with characters and stories whenever life allowed. Lately, I've focused my energy on pursuing this dream—interrupted only by life as a security consultant and the demands of two Labrador retrievers.

Follow by Email



Sign up for Tj's Newsletter: