Scavenger Hunt: An Interview with Chad Boudreaux
For his debut novel, author Chad Boudreaux drew on his background in homeland security and law. Scavenger Hunt tells the story of Blake Hudson, a Justice Department lawyer working for a covert counterterrorism organization. After the group mysteriously disbands, Hudson becomes the scapegoat and finds himself searching for the threat behind his downfall. The delivery of this fast-paced novel demonstrates that Boudreaux's voice is unique and welcome in the thriller genre.
To learn more about the story behind the story, read A Good Book To End The Day’s interview with the author below..
Tell us about Scavenger Hunt and the inspiration behind the story.
Scavenger Hunt follows the remarkable story of government employee Blake Hudson, who finds himself entangled in a wildly illegal covert operation that winds its way through the highest echelons of the United States government. Betrayed by the enigmatic figure behind the clandestine venture, Hudson must transform from hunter to hunted as he runs for his life in the nation’s capital, trying to overcome shocking deceit to solve the breathtaking mystery behind Operation Scavenger Hunt.
My inspiration for writing Scavenger Hunt was the hidden eighth floor of the Main Justice Building in Washington, D.C. Main Justice is the headquarters for many of the top U.S. lawyers, including the U.S. Attorney General and U.S. Solicitor General. The elevators at Main Justice, however, only reach the seventh floor. But there are eight sets of windows. That seemed strange to me back in 2001, when I started work there, so I conducted research on the building and unearthed no clues. Coming up short, I sought out a man who’d worked at Main Justice for several decades—a silver-haired institutionalist—and he told me that, before they built the FBI building (across the street), the eighth floor had served as the old FBI ballistics lab. He said there was a secret staircase that led to the eighth floor, which was now more of a utility floor. Mesmerized by this news, I grabbed a custodian with access to the staircase, a flashlight, and a notepad and ventured to the hidden floor. Many of the notes I doodled on that notepad are now in Chapter Two of Scavenger Hunt.
What part of the book was the most fun to write?
There is only one real character in the book: my Great Dane, Judge. Judge died of cancer soon after I started writing Scavenger Hunt, so every scene that includes him was the most fun to write. Those scenes also proved the most emotional for me as an author, especially because Judge plays a central role in the drama. I lost my mother and father at an early age, so sometimes I feel silly caring so much about a pet, but such emotions are beyond our control. Employing Judge as a character kept him alive. I love the irony that his favorite place to frolic in Washington, D.C. was on the grounds of the Library of Congress.
You’ve had a fascinating journey from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to becoming an author. Who or what inspired you to start writing?
My “no rules, anything goes” creative writing teachers in high school (I see you, Joe Wilson) and college inspired me to write fiction. I wanted to write Scavenger Hunt because I was a Washington insider with an adventurous and fun story to tell. I wanted to write a thriller that was gripping, entertaining, and hard to put down. Period. Otherwise, thrillers aren’t worth anyone’s time. That starts with compelling characters who find themselves caught in a terrible dilemma and who, against incredible odds, must find creative ways to solve herculean problems. Throughout the story, however, I also wanted to carry my reader around Washington, D.C., and pull back the curtain a bit, revealing how things work in the mysterious U.S. intelligence, legal, and law enforcement communities. My hope is that readers of Scavenger Hunt, first and foremost, will have a blast with the story and, concomitantly, learn some cool things along the way.
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
My maternal grandpa raised me during my formative years. He was a tough Texan, a World War II veteran, and a product of Great Depression values. I sat next to him during the funerals of his mother and father, and he didn’t shed a tear. The only time I ever saw him cry was after I told him—during a fit of youthful indiscretion and adolescent stupidity—that I hated him. I regret that day more than any other, but it taught me (the hard way, no doubt) the power of my words and language.
Do you have any other projects in the works at this time?
My advanced readers (those who’ve read Scavenger Hunt before publication) are encouraging me to continue with a Scavenger Hunt series. That excites me, so don’t be surprised if that manifests in book number three. Book number two, however, is a thriller initially titled Homecoming Queen about a young woman who must return home to save her little sister from certain threats in their Texas hometown as a monster hurricane barrels toward them from the Gulf of Mexico. Unlike Scavenger Hunt, it’s not a spy thriller; like Scavenger Hunt, however, it’s a thriller where readers hopefully will fall in love with the characters and follow them into places of harrowing intrigue and danger.
What does literary success look like to you?
Literary success for me is maintaining the ability to write the stories I want to write, without editorial pressure to compromise my stories or my values, until I run out of stories to tell. Ideally, I would have an ongoing international platform to sell books, and I would build a loyal, modest readership excited to share in my next story.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
There are two kinds of aspiring authors: those who’ve yet to write a story and those who’ve yet to publish a story. As to the former, my advice is: just do it. Worry about all the other mumbo-jumbo later. Listen, if you have a compelling story, it will never leave you, it will haunt you day and night, and it will drive you mad if left in the closet. Might as well write it down and finish it to spare your mind and soul.
As to the former, never give up. Getting published, for most, is a grueling, frustrating rite of passage. For those who don’t give up, however, the reward is worth every tear and drop of sweat. And your hard-earned road to a published story (self-published included) is a grand story itself.
Thanks so much for being part of the A Good Book To End The Day family! Is there
anything else you’d like to add?
Writing a book and sharing it with others takes courage. I’m thankful for the honesty and transparency within the community of writers who’ve helped me along my journey. I hope you will find my answers to these fantastic questions honest, transparent, edifying, and encouraging.
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