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M.P. Woodward: On Authenticity in Spy Thrillers

Author M.P. Woodward discusses how he infused his real-life experiences with edge-of-your-seat fiction in his debut spy novel, The Handler.

M.P. Woodward is a veteran of both US intelligence ops and the entertainment industry. As a naval intelligence officer with the US Pacific Command, he scripted scenario moves and countermoves for US war game exercises in the Middle East. In multiple deployments to the Persian Gulf and Far East, he worked alongside US Special Forces, CIA, and NSA.

Today, Woodward runs international distribution marketing for Amazon Prime Video, having launched Amazon’s original video content in more than 40 countries through more than 100 cable, wireless, and broadband partnerships. He collaborates closely with content creators and distributors in driving viewer awareness and engagement. He is currently developing the international distribution strategy for the upcoming serial adaptation of The Lord of The Rings. Find him on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram

M. P. Woodward: On Authenticity in Spy Thrillers

M. P. Woodward

In this post, M.P. discusses how he infused his real-life experiences with edge-of-your-seat fiction in his debut novel, The Handler, his advice for other writers, and more!

Name: M.P. Woodward
Literary agent: Scott Miller (Trident)
Book title: The Handler
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Expected release date: May 31, 2022
Genre/category: Spy/Espionage Thriller
Elevator pitch for the book: With his ex-wife as his handler, a disgraced CIA operative is forced back to Iran to recover an agent in this hyper-authentic debut from a former intelligence officer.

M. P. Woodward: On Authenticity in Spy Thrillers

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What prompted you to write this book?

Iran’s real-world shoot-down of a Ukrainian airliner in January 2020. I wanted to illustrate the behind-the-scenes role individuals—with all their passions and prejudices—might have in influencing subsequent events after such a tragedy.

How long did it take to go from idea to publication? And did the idea change during the process?

I had the idea on the same day as the shootdown. I wrote my first outline while traveling for business—on a plane, coincidentally. Final on-sale date is about 28 months later. The overall plot never changed in that time, but the characters picked up a few foibles.

Were there any surprises or learning moments in the publishing process for this title?

As a new author, I was surprised at the respect my editor, Tom Colgan, gave to the integrity of my work. While he suggested changes here and there, he went to great pains to ensure that I agreed with them.

M. P. Woodward: On Authenticity in Spy Thrillers

Were there any surprises in the writing process for this book?

I had set out to write a book grounded in real-world geopolitics, emotion, and operational authenticity. I was surprised at how much tactical action ended up in the finished product. As it turns out, even the most cerebral readers enjoy the metallic click of a reloading nine-millimeter here and there. And why not? It’s fiction.

What do you hope readers will get out of your book?

A thrill ride through authentic intelligence operations with characters who have all the uneven contours of real people.

If you could share one piece of advice with other writers, what would it be?

Don’t panic at that terrible first draft. You’re the one creating this make-believe world—you control all the levers to improve it.

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