Title: Unholy Bargain
Author: Travis Holt
Genre: Supernatural Thriller
An assassin is at work—one of the best in the trade. His body turned to dust long ago, but his spirit roams the Earth freely, undetectable to the five senses. He stalks his victims waiting for just the right opportunity. Then, in quick succession, he possesses a human host and strikes down his quarry. For a century and a half he has served this way.
Deputy Sheriff Nate Barrington is riding the crest of a new relationship. Kaitlyn Spencer is beautiful, altruistic, enlightened—everything he’s not. She teaches classes in New Age philosophy at her growing school. Nate doesn’t share her spirituality, but the physical passion hasn’t subsided enough for him to care.
Nate’s nirvana quickly unravels when Kaitlyn’s life is threatened on two separate occasions. With no apparent motive or any evidence suggesting collusion, the police are stumped. Even more troubling to Nate, Kaitlyn is eventually convinced she is the target of unseen forces.
A hardheaded pragmatist, Nate isn’t prone to believe that spirits can possess people. As far as he’s concerned, Kaitlyn’s claims of perpetrators possessed by a spirit assassin are on par with comic book stories and have nothing to do with reality, and her esoteric, New Age mumbo jumbo begins to drive a wedge into their relationship. And why Kaitlyn? What secret is she hiding?
Even with the sheriff’s resources at Nate’s disposal, the odds for Kaitlyn’s survival are not in her favor. The true enemy is virtually invisible, and Nate’s conventional police tactics have no effect on the spirit world. Strikes come from anytime, anywhere, and from random, unwittingly manipulated people. Behind it all is a deal the assassin had made with the devil: send Kaitlyn Spencer to an early grave in exchange for a fresh start. For that, the assassin will stop at nothing to uphold his end of an Unholy Bargain.
Q&A With the Author
1) Can you tell us a bit about your background? How did your background influence the genre you write in?
I’ve been in the working world for thirty years, and during that time I’ve basically held two jobs. I was an officer in the military for eight years, and the last twenty-two years I’ve worked in law enforcement. Based on that, it would be easy to imagine my world and all that it encompasses. But the fact is, my world and focus are more outside the arena of law enforcement. My job has helped me get all the crime/legal/police procedural stuff accurate in my stories and I’ve used my knowledge and experience to assist other writers if they have a legal/crime element to their story, but my true interest is in the unseen world, supernatural phenomenon, and spirituality. Anything I write must incorporate those passions.
2) Where and when did your writing journey begin?
I started writing after a career change that allowed for a few hours of leisure time each day. At first, I was only reading, but the books I happened to read back then were unsatisfying. I didn’t like the direction the authors’ had taken in their stories and thought there was a better way. Eventually it pushed me to write my own story and steer whatever story in any direction that struck my fancy. Be the captain at the writing helm so to speak. So I wrote a story that I really enjoyed, but since I had no previous education or training as a writer, the story was crap. But I enjoyed the process and kept writing and learning. After that first attempt, I joined writing organizations, and a critique group, went to conferences and work shops, and had my works surgically dissected by beta readers and an editor. Several books later Unholy Bargain came along.
3) Who are your favorite authors and how have they influenced your writing?
So, so many. Where to begin? It comes down to books I can’t put down no matter the genre, and can’t wait to buy the author’s next book. I grew up reading everything Ray Bradbury, then in my early twenties I read Jon Jakes and then on to Tony Hillerman. Ten years ago I read Joseph Haldeman and Jack McDevitt who have probably been the most influential. Lately I’ve read the Last Policeman Series by Ben Winters. I think Winters is a time traveler from the future. He writes like he was roaming the planet shortly before “the end.”
4) What does a typical day in your life look like? And how does your writing routine fit into your day?
Much of Unholy Bargain was written from a park bench during my lunch hour. Usually I would choke down a sandwich sometime late morning, then drive two minutes from my office to a nice, quiet, off-the-beaten-path park. That routine gave me maximum writing time.
I don’t think my co-workers ever really knew what I was doing. They got together for lunch most days after I had already disappeared. I think they figured I was just antisocial (which I’m not denying as a possibility). I simply thought it was an efficient use of time.
5) How did you come up with the idea for your book, “The Unholy Bargain?”
In 1998 I interviewed an inmate convicted of one of the most brutal and senseless murders in Florida history. Within the sterile, cinder-block walls of a maximum security prison, a baby-faced, 15-year-old boy recounted that gruesome afternoon.
By all appearances, he looked the most unlikely of killers. He sat in my office with prison blues hanging loosely over his petite, lanky frame. He looked like a boy who should be bagging groceries or stumbling through school hallways hunched over by an overstuffed book bag. But that is not what made this case unique. Forty-eight times he had plunged a knife into the chest of an elderly widow, and even more unsettling was his unwavering insistence that those actions were not by his own will. In other words, he claimed he was possessed.
I had worked that job several years and learned to sift through lies to uncover truth. This young man was telling the truth, or at least what he believed to be true. Furthermore, he had already been convicted, and because he had pled guilty, he had waived his right to appeal. It served no purpose to lie at this point, especially such an outlandish one. He was going to spend the rest of his life in prison, and had no legal recourse to attempt otherwise.
I went on to do my own research in the subject matter and was intrigued with the possibility that spirits could influence humans to commit crimes, maybe to serve some bigger purpose outside a personal agenda. The research gave birth to ideas and eventually those ideas were shaped into a story.
6) What do you think sets your book apart from others current on the shelves?
Unholy Bargain is part supernatural thriller and part crime thriller. The crime aspect wasn’t intentional. It naturally crept into the story from my work experience. A portion of the story takes place in the astral plane, or the spirit realm. It opens up another dimension (pun intended) to the story. Much of the story takes place where those two worlds intersect. Also, if you’re worried about going to hell and suffering eternal damnation, this book provides snippets of insight into your potential destination. No kidding. Kind of like a travel brochure.
7) Which character in your book is your favorite and how much of yourself is reflected in that character?
I’ve spent the past twenty-two years in law enforcement working with criminals, criminal courts, etc. Since the male protagonist is a cop (Nate Barrington), there’s no question my experience influenced the framework for that character, and we share many of the same perspectives. However Nate is much more of a rule-breaking rogue than I. I’d like to be a little more like Nate, but the problem with Nate is he rides that edge of employment/unemployment and I have too many bills to pay.
8) Which scenes in your book did you have the most fun writing?
My interest lies in the physical world and the unseen world. Where they touch, interact, and dance. It’s a world most people are conditioned to ignore. Those labeled as “gifted” catch glimpses through the veil. I find it fascinating. There are quite a few scenes in Unholy Bargain where the physical and spiritual realms overlap, and those were the most fun to write.
9) What do you hope for your readers to take away after reading your book?
Enjoyment. Like a thrill ride only longer.
10) What are your hopes for this book?
For me, it’s all about the reader. So I hope that anyone reading Unholy Bargain has an enjoyable experience, and they allow their imagination to wander and explore new potentials and new generate new ideas. Ideas light our path and expand our world.
11) What do you have in store next for your readers?
I’m working on a sequel to Unholy Bargain which takes place a few years down the road. All the main characters will return of course, plus a few new ones will enter the scene. Without giving too much away, there will be more dealings with the spirit realm: remote viewing that spans time, an ancient artifact, past lives, and “walk-ins.” If you liked the journey in Unholy Bargain, the sequel will have all the suspense and more.
Travis Hallden Holt is a former U.S. Navy surface warfare officer and veteran of the Persian Gulf War. He’s worked the past twenty-two years in the corrections side of law enforcement, first in the prison system, then in the streets as a probation officer. He spent three years supervising felons in a south Atlanta neighborhood ranked the ninth most dangerous neighborhood in America, where one in every twelve residents becomes a victim of crime each year.
For years, his interests were in weaponry (both small arms and large scale), warfare tactics, hand-to-hand combat, criminal justice and unsolved crimes. But life has a way of molding perspectives, and Travis came to realize the physical world known to the five senses didn’t have all the answers. It scratched the surface at best. Accordingly, Travis’s interests shifted to supernatural phenomenon, spirituality, the mysteries of life, the invisible world beyond our five senses and the forces that lie therein. He’s still a peace officer, but one who has mingled with psychics, mystics, mediums, energy healers, shamans, gurus, artists and denizens of the “underground.”
Travis is the author of Unholy Bargain, a supernatural thriller published by Blood Moon Publishing. He resides in Atlanta, GA.
Double Dragon Publishing: http://www.double-dragon-ebooks.com/single.php?ISBN=1-77115-239-7