Luana Ehrlich - Intriguing Plots, Fascinating Characters and Jaw-Dropping Twists
Luana Ehrlich is the author of the award-winning Titus Ray Thriller Series, featuring CIA intelligence officer Titus Ray, and the Mylas Grey Mystery Series, featuring private investigator, Mylas Grey. Her novels are clean reads with intriguing plots, fascinating characters, jaw-dropping twists, and occasional touches of heart-warming romance. As our Author of the Day, Ehrlich tells us all about her Titus Ray thriller, One Night in Tehran.
Please give us a short introduction to what One Night in Tehran is about.
One Night in Tehran features CIA intelligence officer, Titus Ray, whose mission in Tehran is exposed by the Iranian secret police, forcing him to find shelter with a group of Iranian Christians. Compelled by their unwavering faith, the battle-hardened covert operative becomes a believer before they smuggle him out of Iran to freedom in Turkey.
Once Titus is back in the States and being debriefed back at Langley, he discovers his operation failed because of political infighting within the Agency, and he delivers a scathing indictment against the Deputy Director of Operations, who forces him to take a year’s medical leave.
Through a series of circumstances, he decides to spend it in Norman, Oklahoma and on his way there, Titus discovers a Hezbollah hit man has targeted him for assassination. When he meets an Iranian couple a few days after he arrives in Norman, he has to decide if they’re related to the man who's trying to kill him, and when he suddenly finds himself involved in a murder investigation, he’s forced to reveal his true identity to Nikki Saxon, a beautiful local detective. As the two of them worked together to find the killer, their joint venture yields some surprising results.
Tell us more about Titus Ray. What makes him tick?
Titus Ray is a CIA intelligence officer who’s been with the Agency for almost twenty years. He’s a loner, a hardened veteran of the covert wars, and lives the life of Jason Bourne much more than he does the life of James Bond. Titus isn’t a flashy guy; he likes to fly under the radar, but if the occasion requires him to come to the forefront, he won’t hesitate to be the life of the party. He’s also a little quirky, has a tendency to be somewhat obsessive compulsive, and loves lemonade.
What inspired you to write about someone who is on the run from the Iranian police?
I was inspired to write about a CIA covert operative on the run from VEVAK, the Iranian secret police, when I first heard about the persecution of Christians in Iran about six years ago. I began asking several questions which eventually became the backstory of One Night in Tehran. I wondered what would happen if a veteran CIA intelligence operative in Tehran encountered a group of Iranian Christians and became a believer. How would his conversion affect his career? How would a man trained to lie and deceive others, plus sometimes engage in violent acts, be able to follow the teachings of Christ?
Readers say that you seem to be very knowledgeable of the CIA and the work of their covert operatives. How much research did this require from you?
I’ve been a student of the spy/espionage genre for several decades. In fact, I’ve been reading these types of books since I was eleven years old. That’s one of the reasons I know the vocabulary and the methodology, plus I’ve read extensively about the CIA in non-fiction books. I also have other sources, but, as the saying goes, if I told you I’d have to . . . well, you know the rest.
Did you plan right from the start to make this into a series? How do the other books in the series tie in with One Night in Tehran?
No, I didn’t plan to write a series when I sat down to write my first novel, but I enjoyed writing the character of Titus Ray so much, and I realized there were so many more stories to tell about Titus Ray and the CIA, that I decided to make his character into a series. I should also add that I wanted to explore the relationship between the female detective he met in the first book and where that might lead.
Each book in the Titus Ray Thriller Series—there are seven books right now with number eight to be released in May 2020—is a chronological story, which follows from the previous book. The first five books in the series are numbered with a time and place, so that the next book after One Night in Tehran is Two Days in Caracas, followed by Three Weeks in Washington, Four Months in Cuba, and Five Years in Yemen. After I wrote the prequel to the series, called One Step Back, I started over with numbering them by using the Steps concept, Two Steps Forward followed as Book VI, and my next book is called Three Steps Away, to be published in May 2020.
Faith plays an important role in your books - why?
The reoccurring theme in all Titus Ray Thrillers is the message of faith. Even though very few of my readers are spies, I want them to see themselves in Titus. I want them to examine their own values, their own belief systems, their own faith as they go about their daily lives. My faith is the most important element in my life because my life here on earth is but a few short seconds in comparison to eternity, and my relationship to Christ in this present world determines where I’ll spend eternity.
The books in the series contain a lot of twists and turns. Do you plan them all out before you start writing, or do some of the twists also just "happen" along the way?
The writing process for me is like watching a movie and just describing it to someone by writing down everything that’s occurring at that moment. I don’t make much of an outline—only a couple of pages of thoughts—although I do write down where I want my main character to be at the end of the book in order to continue the series.
By using this method, I’m considered a “pantser” by other authors. That is, I’m writing by the seat of my pants. The opposite of this method is a plotter, someone who makes an extensive outline and plots everything out before starting chapter one. Of course, there are also authors who fall between the extremes of being a plotter or a pantser.
The pantser method works best for me, and I believe that’s why there are many different twists and turns in the plotlines of my books. The characters tend to direct the plot, rather than the plot directing the characters, which is similar to what happens in real life when the choices people make determine their destiny.
Do you have any interesting writing habits? What is an average writing day like for you?
I don’t sit at a desk to write; I use a laptop and sit in an easy chair in my master bedroom with my feet propped up on an ottoman. My master bedroom is twice the size of most bedrooms, and there are lots of windows, so I’m able to look outside and contemplate things as I think about what I’m writing.
An average writing day for me doesn’t begin until around two o’clock in the afternoon. I write solidly until dinner at six o’clock, and then I begin writing again around eight o’clock. I usually don’t stop until midnight. Thus, I spend eight hours a day, six days a week writing.
What are you working on right now?
I have three different writing projects going on right now. First, my eighth book in the Titus Ray Thriller Series is almost ready to go to the editor, and it should be published in May 2020. It’s called Three Steps Away: A Titus Ray Thriller.
Second, at the same time, I’ve also been writing a novel which will be a spinoff of the Titus Ray Thriller Series and will be in the Romantic Suspense category. It features Ben Mitchell, Titus’s partner at the CIA who is a younger version of Titus, but who’s never been lucky in love. The first book in that series is called Ben in Love: A Ben Mitchell/Titus Ray Thriller. This novel will first appear in a boxed set along with eight other authors who write in the Romantic Suspense category. That boxed set will be called Dangerous Deceptions, and it will be published in October 2020.
In October 2019, I published the first book in a new mystery series. It was One Day Gone: A Mylas Grey Mystery and featured Mylas Grey, a private investigator. I’m planning on releasing Book II in that series in December 2020. It’s called Two Days Taken: A Mylas Grey Mystery.
Where can readers discover more of your books or interact with you?
Here are the links to my presence on the web:
Personal Website: http://www.LuanaEhrlich.com
Titus Ray Website: http://TitusRayThrillers.com
Mylas Grey Website: http://MylasGreyMysteries.com
Publication Site: http://www.PottersWordPublishing.com
Devotional Blog: http://www.hisglorymyjoy.wordpress.com