I’m pleased to be joined by Asia Mackay today as she answers my Author in the Spotlight questions. Her latest novel, The Nursery, will be published later this week by Zaffre Books. If you are a fan of Killing Eve, this sounds like a book for you!
Thanks for joining me today Asia. First of all, would you tell my blog readers a little about yourself?
Hello I’m Asia Mackay and I have written two books – Killing It and The Nursery. Both feature Lex Tyler, an elite secret agent for an underground branch of the security services, and follow how she juggles missions of international importance with getting home to her tearaway two-year-old.
My own home life is a little less complicated than Lex’s – no secret deadly jobs or spy super skills to hide. But I do have four kids aged 2, 4, 6 and 8 – so things are a little chaotic even before you throw two yapping leg-humping dogs into the mix.
What inspired you to start writing?
One night I was crawling across my kids’ bedroom floor trying not to wake the baby… I thought how if I had special ops training I might mange to make it out of there. It sparked the idea of a secret agent, who was also a mother, working on missions of international importance and still trying to rush home in time for bath time. I kept thinking about what juggling those two lives would be like.. A gun in the nappy bag… A breast pump being mistaken for a torture device… pretending formula was cocaine… One evening I sat down and started writing and that very first paragraph became the opening for my first book Killing It.
Tell me about your journey to publication
I was lucky to get a place on the online Writing A Novel course with Tom Bromley at the Faber Academy – by the end of the seven months I had a very rough first draft of Killing It. When I saw on Twitter that Richard and Judy had launched their Search for a Bestseller competition I applied thinking I didn’t have a chance. I was thrilled to be shortlisted and when I came first runner-up Zaffre offered me a two-book deal (the day before I gave birth to our fourth child- it was a pretty exciting time!)
In a nutshell, what is your latest book about?
Lex Tyler is an elite secret agent for Platform Eight, an underground branch of the security services. In The Nursery the latest threat to Eight, and all the intelligence services, is a headhunting website on the dark web – it connects criminals with traitorous security operatives all with a simple right swipe. Secrets are being leaked. Missions are failing. Agents are dying. Lex and her team need to identify and eliminate the traitor in their midst before they assassinate China’s Minister of Commerce and ruin relations between the UK and China forever. At home Lex has her own problems – a husband who doesn’t know exactly what her job entails, and a two-year-old daughter who’s developed a worrying love of biting. Can Lex have it all, keep it all and, more importantly, survive it all?
How did you come up with the title for your book?
The Nursery is a nod to the John Le Carre books where he refers to a school for spies as ‘the Nursery’. In my book the nursery happens to be a key location for information exchanges between Lex and one of her cohorts.
How do you plan to celebrate publication day?
Plans are being finalised but I am sure it will involve a ridiculous over the top cocktail or five that are guaranteed to give me a bad head and justify an enormous fry-up the next day.
Do you have a work in progress just now?
My current work in progress opens with a man, woman and two young children having breakfast. The mother goes up to have a quick shower and when she comes back they’re all gone. How could they just disappear? Who did this and why? It’s been a lot of fun writing this – getting to grips with brand new characters has felt quite liberating.
[Oooh, sounds very intriguing!]
What’s your favourite book you’ve read in the past few months? Or favourite three if you really can’t choose!
I loved Sally Rooney’s Conversations with Friends – I waited to read it as had heard so much hype didn’t think it could possibly live up to it. But it did. I picked up The Chain by Adrian McGinty in the middle of a really busy week thinking just wanted to read a few chapters – needless to say dropped everything until finished it. I also loved If I Die Tonight by A L Gaylin – a great premise brilliantly executed. It was one of those books that made me really grateful for how writing has made me appreciate others’ writing more and how what might look effortless is actually very clever and difficult to pull off.
What are you reading just now?
The Fallout by Rebecca Thornton – I’ve been lucky enough to get my hands on an early proof (it comes out April 2020) and it’s absolutely brilliant. Set in the claustrophobic world of a group of mothers whose children attend the same primary school, it’s a page-turning, gossip-fuelled domestic drama.
If you were on Desert Island Discs, what one book would you take with you?
I would finally read War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy – it would take a while to get through for the first time and I am sure with every read thereafter would appreciate it more.
Is there a book you’d like to see made into a film? Who would be in your dream cast?
Harlan Coben is one of my favourite authors and I particularly love his Myron Bolitar books – any of those would be great as film. Dream cast would be Ryan Reynolds as Myron and Alexander Skarsgard as his preppy ever so slightly psychotic best friend Win.
How can people follow you or connect with you on social media?
Facebook Asia Mackay
I post rarely but lurk constantly!
And finally, if you could be a character in any book you have read, who would it be and why?
Hermione Granger. She’s got it all – youth, intelligence, magic powers and great friends.
My thanks to Charlotte Cooper at Midas PR for inviting me to take part in the blog tour. The Nursery will be published on Thursday 5th September in all formats. You can order a copy from Hive here (where all purchases support your local High Street) by clicking here or if you prefer a Kindle copy, you can order than here.
From the back of the book
Lex Tyler is trying to have it all, but being a working mother is so much more difficult when you’re a secret agent for an underground branch of the security services.
Platform Eight have been tasked with tracking down and eliminating the traitor in MI6 who has been selling information to the highest bidder through a headhunting website for the criminal underworld that connects intelligence operatives with all manner of bad people with a simple right swipe.
Deals get made. Secrets get sold. Missions fail. Agents die.
It’s down to Lex and her team to identify and eliminate the traitor before they assassinate China’s Minister of Commerce and ruin relations between the UK and China forever. But when your husband doesn’t know exactly what your job entails and the future of the intelligence services rests on your shoulders, can one working mother save the day?
This is one mission that Lex cannot afford to fail.