The novel A Spy Came Home by H.N. Wake is a typical thriller, loaded with suspense, some violence, taut pacing. But it is unique in many ways: Written by a former government worker, H.N. Wake is a pseudonym. The main character - the spy who comes home - is a strong single woman. And the antagonist is a fictional pro-guns membership organization that is more than vaguely reminiscent of the NRA.
In a phone interview, it becomes clear that the author is a married forty-something woman, a former aid worker, who chose the pseudonym to protect herself from harassment by NRA members and to honor Nancy Wake, a famous WW II spy. "This is a work of fiction," she asserts. "It is not based on the NRA. But I wanted to write about a hot button political issue and news about gun violence comes out on a weekly basis. Enough is enough. So I looked at those who lobby for gun manufacturers and wondered how they might come to be corrupted."
Once she had her hot button issue, Wake asked herself, "How can I make the book easy to read? How would a CIA agent bring down a fictitious massive and bloated organization?" She spent an entire year writing the novel in her spare time. And, while she had experience writing nonfiction and screenplays, this was her first finished novel. She admits that she wrote hundreds of drafts, spending five or six days a week doggedly writing and revising. And because it takes on the issue of gun ownership and manufacturing, she sent drafts to former NRA members. "I'm not an expert on guns," she says, "and I wanted to know what gun-owners thought. They said they were fine with it."
Wake is not rabidly anti-guns, she says, "I am not against responsible gun ownership but extremists have taken over the conversation. I wanted to change that." But mostly, she asserts, "I want readers to say this is a good story. It would also be good if they are more informed about gun violence in America." Wake chose to self-publish the book, explaining, "Traditional publishing would delay publication by as much as a year and it's such a hot topic that I wanted to get it into circulation as quickly as possible."
She believes that it is the feminist angle that makes the book more unique than the subject matter. "I knew there are not a lot of women writers in the thriller genre," she says. "I had to really find my confidence and voice, and I'd like to see more women represented in this male-dominated space." A Spy Came Home is the first in a trilogy about the main character, and Wake is already at work on the second in the series - a book whose subject matter is equally as controversial as guns.
But don't expect to see H.N. Wake doing on-camera interviews any time soon. "It's not out of fear that I want to stay in the background," she says. "It's that I want the issue to be at the forefront."