His previous career as stealth pilot gives Suspense author James R. Hannibal a wealth of first-hand knowledge to draw from. He continues his series starring young CIA officer Talia Inger with Chasing the White Lion (Revell): To rescue a group of kidnapped refugee children, Talia must rely on the man who assassinated her father. But as Talia and her elite team of thieves con their way into the heart of the first-ever crowdsourced crime syndicate, she’ll run right up against the ragged edge of her family’s dark past. In this interview, James gives us a peek at how much of his experiences as a deception officer can be used in his fiction, shares how Talia’s faith affects her work, and explains how Compassion International plays into the plot of his latest novel.
As a former tactical deception officer and stealth pilot, you’ve experienced your share of danger and intrigue. How does your past experience inform your books?
In thriller writing, a classified past is both a blessing and a curse. I’ve had amazing experiences I’m never allowed to speak of in public, and those hidden experiences meant my first three novels had to pass through multiple program security offices before publishers could ever see them.
However, even though I can’t talk about my real experiences, I can draw from them as I write, giving me an edge. Research is a little easier too. Any writer can find the information I put into my stories, but it will be a difficult hunt. I have the unfair advantage of knowing which rocks to overturn.
Can you provide a brief description of your new book, Chasing the White Lion?
CIA rookie Talia Inger returns to infiltrate the world’s first crowdsourced crime syndicate, known as the “Jungle.” But venturing into the Jungle with Tyler and Talia’s grifter friend Valkyrie means venturing into a past she’s been trying to avoid. The truth about her father may reveal enemies close to home.
Also, the deeper she goes into the Jungle’s darkness, the more the lines between right and wrong blur. Talia must learn to trust God and her team, and she must help Valkyrie see that even in the darkest shadows, no one is beyond the saving love of Christ.
In Chasing the White Lion, you take readers deep undercover into the criminal underworld where the main heroine, Talia, hopes to rescue kidnapped refugee children from a human trafficking network. How did you come up with the plot for your book?
Compassion International’s mission of empowering impoverished children inspires me. Compassion gives children hope, dignity, and identity. These are in short supply in border refugee camps where neither nation wants to recognize a child’s existence.
That lack of identity makes these children prime targets for criminal enterprises. I wanted to bring this to light and bring to light the power of Compassion’s work. By extension, every sponsor is as much a hero as Talia. In essence, the crime syndicate in my story will learn that they messed with wrong kids.
Talia is not only a CIA officer, but she is also in charge of an elite team of thieves. What type of research was required to accurately portray her role?
Thieves and magic go hand in hand. I am bound by a nondisclosure, but I can say that my research on this story led me to an opportunity for remote study with a pair of the most famous magicians in the world. What I learned about deception and misdirection became key pieces of the adventure.
What do you hope readers will gain from reading Chasing the White Lion?
My ultimate hope is that readers will see the power of child sponsorship and choose to become heroes themselves through Compassion International or some other child sponsorship program.
Beyond this, I hope that Talia and Valkyrie will help readers see that we can trust in God for all things—anytime, anywhere—and that no one is beyond the saving love of Christ. He is reaching out. Simply take his hand.
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Chasing the White Lion
Talia Inger #2
James R. Hannibal
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