I’m thrilled Tracker Hacker is finally out. There were three years between the seed of an idea and getting it into your hands. It was a risky move too because it’s different than anything I’ve written since I started publishing back in 2009. My books, even my young adult ones, have been gay romance. To branch out into a young adult thriller made me a little nervous but it the end of the day Theo Reese as a protagonist was so much fun to write.
There were quite a few young adult authors that provided inspiration for how the Codename: Winger series could work. I definitely wanted a strong protagonist who was very good at what he did, whether it’s playing hockey or his skills with the computer. At the same time, he had to be humble and make mistakes. I didn’t want a hero that was too perfect or who always got what he wanted.
One of the first books I read that made me consider what this series could be was a book by Alex London called Proxy. In that book, the upper-class have proxies all have proxies and if they get in trouble their proxy pays the price. In this case, a teenage rich kid kills someone with his car and his proxy decides it’s time to stand up against the system. It’s an excellent thrill ride and there were several things I took out of that idea that I wanted to bring into my contemporary tale. One of them was the fact that the protagonist in Proxy is gay but that’s hardly a factor the story.
Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games trilogy. Katniss is a strong protagonist who can lead a rebellion but still has moments when she questions what she’s doing. In addition, she’s got her flaws. She’s also thrown into the middle of some unreal situations where she must rise to the challenge time again.
The other thing that I picked up from the Hunger Games series and Proxy was that you could have teenagers in peril with extremely high stakes. In the Codename: Winger books, Theo deals in very high stakes. He has the same concerns most teenagers do about getting through school, keeping up his grades, keeping things good with his boyfriend, and so on. But he also has major responsibilities with Tactical Operational Support, which is the covert agency he works for along with his parents. Occasionally the stakes are personal, such as in the first book where Theo helps rescue his father.
Shifting into some other young adult authors who influenced me. David Levithan and in particular his Boy Meets Boy. He crafted a world where cheerleaders ride Harleys, the homecoming queen is a guy who used to be named Darrell, and the GSA was formed to help the straight kids learn how to dance. Levithan created a world in which gay was normal. Very unlike the world that we continue to live in more than a decade after Boy Meets Boy was released.
I made Theo’s world similar in that being gay is just who he is. He’s upfront with the fact that he’s got a boyfriend and there’s no stigma around that. There’s a couple of passing remarks from Theo around his coming out and asking Eddie out the first time, but those are more about just being unsure in specific situations that actual fear.
And there are a trio of writers who influence my writing, especially where it comes to teenagers and college aged characters. Bill Konigsberg, Martin Wilson, and Brent Hartinger all right rich, contemporary teenagers. Each time I read something from one of then it’s like I’m getting a master class in how to create these kinds of characters. Theo lives in the modern day, has modern-day issues even while he’s being a covert agent. And, even though his life is on the extraordinary side, it’s important that he comes off as someone who could be a friend, neighbor, classmate or teammate.
I hope I’ve done my inspirations justice in creating Theo Reese.
Below is an excerpt from the book, showing a bit of Theo in peril. You’ll also find the blurb, buy links and a Rafflecopter that will give you the chance to win a free copy.
There wasn’t enough room and the front tire of my bike slammed into the van’s bumper. The rear wheel lifted up, and for a moment, I thought I was going to be thrown into the doors. Instead the wheel dropped back to the ground, and me and the bike fell over because I couldn’t get my feet planted.
Two guys jumped out of the back. I was sluggish from the impact as I worked to untangle from my bike, but I noticed they were wearing masks. It was cold but not that cold.
I struggled to get up, but the bike wasn’t cooperating. I heard traffic going by. Why wasn’t anyone stopping?
One dude gripped my shoulders and pulled me up. The other yanked the bike out from between my legs and tossed it toward the sidewalk.
“Hey? What the hell? I—”
The guy who threw the bike stuffed a cloth in my mouth, so I spoke muffled gibberish.
A horn sounded frantically. Someone was really laying into their horn, and it sounded like it was coming toward us.
Struggling against the guy holding me was futile. He was like the Hulk. The other guy grabbed my legs, and they threw me into the van. I landed with a thud and a grunt. I quickly stood despite the pain radiating through me. Hulk shoved me back down as the other guy closed the door, and the van took off.
This was bad.
I looked to the front of the van but couldn’t see the driver because of the blacked-out window. The horn was close, though, right behind us maybe. Eddie. It had to be. Maybe he saw what happened.
I thought fast about my options. I couldn’t see where they were taking me. Between Eddie being outside, and it had to be him, and the TOS chip in my neck, they’d find me. I could also make like they were a defensive pair, try to fake them out, open the doors, and jump.
I scrambled to my feet. I’d get out and Eddie’d pick me up. We’d get the plate number and call the police.
Hulk pulled a gun. I froze.
“Sit down.” He spoke softly, but he made up for the lack of volume with a menacing tone. I complied.
The honking stopped. What happened? Eddie had to be out there. What if he’d stopped at a light, though? Would he let me get out of sight?
The van’s brakes screeched under us as it came to a hard stop. We hurtled toward the front of the van, slamming into the steel bulkhead.
Hulk lost his gun as he tumbled.
It was time to go.
Pain be damned, I was up and smashing through the door. Luckily I’d been in enough vans because of travel hockey that I didn’t have to guess how the door release worked.
I jumped out and got rid of the cloth in my mouth. I heard sirens in the distance. Had Eddie called? Or maybe someone who saw me get knocked off my bike?
I limped around the side of the van and caught sight of the driver poking his head out of the window. He wore a cap and sunglasses. It was gonna be hard to give a description of him.
Then I saw what we hit.
High school student. Hockey player. Computer whiz kid. Covert agent?
At sixteen Theo Reese is the youngest agent for Tactical Operational Support. His way with computers makes him invaluable. He designs new gadgets, helps agents (including his parents) in the field, and works to keep the TOS network safe. But when a hacker breaches the system TOS uses to track agents, Theo is put to the test like never before.
Thrust from behind the safety of his desk, Theo must go into the field to put a stop to the hack. He’s scared but resolved because one of the missing agents is his father. And just to make it more interesting, he has to keep everything a secret from his boyfriend and teammates.
Can Theo get the job done, save his dad, and make things good with his boyfriend?
Jeff Adams has written stories since he was in middle school and became a gay romance writer in 2009 when his first short stories were published. Since then he’s written several shorts and novels.
Jeff lives in rural California with his husband of twenty years, Will. Some of his favorite things include the musicals Rent and [title of show], the Detroit Red Wings and Pittsburgh Penguins hockey teams, and the reality TV competition So You Think You Can Dance.
Jeff is the co-host of Jeff & Will’s Big Gay Fiction Podcast, a weekly show devoted to gay romance fiction as well as pop culture. New episodes come out every Monday at biggayfictionpodcast.com.
Learn more about Jeff at http://jeffadamswrites.com/