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An Interview with Kaitlin Harvey, Author of The HAWKE Archives

Harvey

Kaitlin Harvey is an experienced writer who works with words on the clock and off. Her first finished manuscript, The HAWKE Archives, will be undergoing a professional critique in the coming months, after which she’ll dive into the querying trenches to find the right advocate for her work.

When Kaitlin isn’t exploring the juxtaposition of human expression, our increasingly collective overdependence on technology, and the dangers posed by AI and quantum computing, she’s managing and publishing digital content for Venafi, one of the world’s leading cybersecurity companies.

She lives in Omaha, Nebraska, with her husband and two tuxedo cats, and is working to broaden her platform not just as a burgeoning author, but as an evolving creative, copywriter, and marketing strategist.


Who/what made you want to write? Was there a particular person, or particular writers/works/art forms that influenced you?

It sounds cliche, but I’ve been trying to tame the alphabet since I could hold a pen. When I moved to the city with my husband, I went through old stuff and found a lot of poorly spelled, barely legible scraps of old stories I’d written as a kid. They were dated—and quite cringeworthy.

I guess the real inspiration started when my grandma read stories to me as a kid before I learned how to devour them myself. Then I read so much that I gave myself headaches in elementary school, and subsequently had to get glasses.

Besides reading so much that I put my vision in peril, my knack for and dedication to slinging sentences has really been molded and shaped by a few teachers in my life. My late high school English teacher gave excellent feedback, which was just what I needed to take my work one step further. She even helped me win a couple of contests. Then, in college, when I did this massive research project on the feminist nature (or lack thereof) in Joss Whedon’s work, I worked with the best mentor, who gave so many notes that might’ve made anyone not 100% devoted to the project run for the hills—not me. All those notes and feedback spurred me on. Sure, it always stings in the moment, but that research project got me my first real research publication (on a paper about Buffy the Vampire Slayer, no less), so I’ve learned to enjoy the process, sting and all.

Because once you revise and resub from the publisher and read that acceptance note, it’s an instant salve for all the other remarks. Besides, writing is rewriting. And if we’re not enjoying that part of the journey—or the potential connections we can make with others during it—then we’re doing something wrong.

So yeah, I’ve always had a few influences. Now that I’ve moved to the city and really delved into my adult life, I’ve thought about what I want as a writer, and even amidst all the scribbles and short stories, essays and blog posts, I’ve always had the goal to write—and publish—my techno spy thriller (the first in a series). It’s been a part of me for a big chunk of my life, and now that it’s really coming to the place of finishing touches and polishes and soon-to-be-serious querying, I’m excited. I dream about seeing my name on the cover, feeling those crisp, wan pages between my fingertips, covered in my blood, sweat, and tears. To take something from my imagination and see it manifested in my hands like that? I fully expect to be at a loss for words in that moment.

Like so many others before me, I’m putting in the work, I’m persevering, and I’m doing everything I can to make it a reality. It’s hard, there’s no doubt about that. But based on how writing and creativity are such core pieces of my professional career—not to mention my very soul—my life on this planet just wouldn’t be the same without them. Remarkable how that works, considering we’re just picking and choosing combinations of twenty-six letters to make the right impact and bare our deepest, darkest secrets to the world. It’s so freeing, yet so challenging, and so, so thrilling.

What inspired you to start writing this book?

Funny, albeit creepy story, that. I spent a little over half my college career at a smaller tech-focused university in South Dakota. Even the English programs had a technology bent. Well, my freshman year I lived in the dorms, and one night after I came back from dinner, the weirdest thing was waiting for me.

There was a sticky note on the door. A neon pink sticky note. I don’t even remember what it said exactly, but it was signed “Your Secret Admirer.” They’d also left behind a red bowtie with a lion pattern on it. I’m a Ravenclaw, and the Lannisters are far from my faves, so this secret admirer apparently didn’t know much about me. I still have no idea what that message meant, or who it was from. But the sticky note, seemingly so small and insignificant, gave me the creeps. I was still pretty new to this place and a sheltered, introverted Nebraska girl. Sure, I had a few nerdy friends there in the dorms, but the note sent a chill through my core.

Yet right when I closed the door behind me with that note in hand, I had the idea to write a story.

That story went through several iterations, but the sticky note scene still survives in my manuscript, just in a very different way to how it happened IRL. But I think about that feeling daily; the way that one small note had such a profound impact on the next seven or eight years of my life, when I would work on the manuscript and then put it down, pick it up, put it down again.

Until I got really re-inspired in the past couple of years, particularly when I started my first major writing-specific job at a global cybersecurity company. I’ve since moved on from that one, but everything I’m immersed in throughout my day-to-day helps feed this story, because cybersecurity is fascinating. It’s always changing. And writing through the eyes of a lonely, loss-riddled hacker is an awesome way to explore different, and often difficult, facets of living in this world.

TL;DR: Creepy sticky note on my dorm room door + my technology-rich life as a content manager in the cybersecurity world = some strange, twisted desire to write about internal struggles, family drama, and the potential of quantum computers to wipe out data privacy as we know it. I don’t know, really, and the black box that is my brain can’t explain it beyond that.

Tell us the story of your book’s title. Was it easy to find, or did it take forever?

Like the idea of the story itself revolving into the spy story it needed to be (rather than just the stalker thriller it initially started as), the title warped into being over time. I’d had a few placeholders, but once I typed the particular line that is the “big reveal” around this title, I remember pausing, staring at what I’d just written, and my mouth falling open. Just a little.

All the painstaking search, and it’d just happened in a flurry of keystrokes. I hadn’t even been thinking about title ideas at that moment. I was just in the flow and then—bam. Because it’s a layered title. It might just sound spy-esque and mysterious, but there’s a whole lot more to it than that. Especially once you start digging into the history of these characters.

If your book had a soundtrack, what are some songs that would be on it?

Oof, this is a hard one because my music tastes are so eclectic, and I’m rubbish at remembering song titles. But if I had to say, I don’t even think I’d give specific songs.

I’d probably say 2000s alt and emo rock and a smattering from the Tron soundtrack… That counts, right?

Describe your dream book cover.

A couple of ideas spring to mind here:

I’ve always pictured my novel with blue-purple vibes overall and a blocky yet techy font for the title and my name.

As for the actual artwork, the elite CIA branch in the novel, the Hawthorne-Kensington Division, has a logo—a hawk with a Doppler effect radiating out from the eye. I’ve always thought that I wanted that motif in there somewhere. Then somehow, layered within the cover, I’d want to hint at the chandelier-type design of the quantum computer that plays such a key role later in the novel. Either that or a blueprint-type design that encapsulates all the documents, maps, and code involved in building it—and the dangerous journey in procuring it all. There really are just so many ways to go about it. It’s hard to pick one.

All I know is that when I hold that first version in my hands, I will shed a whole lot of happy tears. And that little girl who used to hunker down in her room with a stack of books and read well into the night, the one who always thought she could do what the names on those spines did, well, she’d finally have that validation.

What other professions have you worked in? What’s something about you that your readers wouldn’t know?

My career has been a rather winding journey. Straight out of high school, I worked at Jimmy John’s, the “freaky fast” sandwich company. I still have the menu memorized, which comes in handy more often than you’d expect.

I’ve worked in a university library and office, as a writing tutor, and as a digital marketer. For a while, I considered teaching. I was actually prepared to start as an English teaching assistant a few years ago, but it didn’t pan out. One long story and a few existential crises later, I intentionally dove into marketing head-first: right to a transportation refrigeration company. Which is about as glamorous as it sounds. I was only there for a few months before I knew it wasn’t for me. Marketing, yes. The glory of transportation refrigeration? No thanks.

So, I set out to find a better place to belong, and I chanced across another marketing coordinator role. This time it was for an IT company. And when I got the job and leapt in, it felt like the stars had aligned.

I am and always have been enthralled by technology. How it works, how humans use it, how it helps better/break the world around us. There are fascinating connections there to explore—especially these days, with AI lurking behind every headline that scrolls across news tickers and teleprompters.

When I found that IT job and started building entire campaigns for IT support, cybersecurity consulting, telephony, and other tech—and I started getting my name out there as a tech-focused writer—I knew I was where I was meant to be.

Eventually, however, I wanted to move into a writing-specific role at a security-focused company, and I took on my first content writer position. After about a year there, Venafi recruited me, and I resigned from the other job the day I got back from my honeymoon.

I’ve been with Venafi ever since, and I’ve never been happier—or more inspired to write.

TL;DR: One thing people don’t know about me. I’m a self-taught marketer with an obsession for technology. Oh, and one more thing: not going to grad school was the second-best decision of my life. (Marrying my incredible husband was the first, in case anyone is wondering.)

What books did you read (for research or comfort) throughout your writing process?

I read anything and everything I can get my hands on, but lately I’ve been focusing on my craft, spycraft, and hacking, of course. Some of the many books I’ve read include:

Save the Cat! Writes a Novel – Jessica Brody

Gentle Writing Advice – Chuck Wendig

Wired for Story – Lisa Cron

Ghost in the Wires, The Art of Intrusion, The Art of Deception – Kevin Mitnick

Box 88 – Charles Cumming

Life Undercover: Coming of Age in the CIA – Amaryllis Fox

Brave New World – Aldous Huxley

Legacy of Ashes – Tim Weiner

What is one thing you hope readers take away from reading your book? How do you envision your perfect reader?

My book isn’t meant to be preachy, by any means, but it does still strive to educate on cyber threats in its own way and talk about it all through the lens of a family that seriously puts the “fun” in dysfunctional.

I also hope my readers see a bit of themselves in Carley—and David, for that matter. That it’s okay to feel sad and anxious. That it’s okay, even in a world where people expect you to work perfectly, every time, that life is always going to be a bit messy. To know that it’s okay to give yourself grace (and to just go watch Netflix when it gets to be too much). And that you do not have to have everything entirely mapped out for your life right away when you graduate high school. Or college. That letting go isn’t easy, but sometimes it’s necessary. And that often what you’re looking for so desperately in life is already right there beside you. My perfect reader is someone who at once enjoys thrilling capers and a heartfelt tale of coming to terms with one’s own destiny and realizing that a little uncertainty in life isn’t always a bad thing. It took me 27+ years to learn that one, and I’m still working on being okay with it. If you’re not sure what I mean, I’m envious of you. But if you do know what I’m talking about, well, I hope a copy of The HAWKE Archives finds you in the future, and you find yourself within its pages.


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