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On The Table Read, “the best book magazine in the UK“, Chad Boudreaux talks about his new book, Scavenger Hunt, and what inspired him to write it.

the best creativity magazine in the UK, the best book magazine in the UK, the best arts magazine in the UK, the best entertainment magazine in the UK, the best celebrity magazine in the UK, book marketing UK, book promotion UK, music marketing UK, music promotion UK, film marketing UK, film promotion UK, arts and entertainment magazine, online magazine uk, creativity magazine

Written by JJ Barnes

I interviewed Chad Boudreaux about his life and career, what inspired him to start writing, and the creative writing process behind his new thriller, Scavenger Hunt.

Chad Boudreux on The Table Read
Chad Boudreux

Tell me a bit about who you are.

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My name is Chad Boudreaux, and I’m the chief legal officer of the U.S. company that manufactures the largest military warships in the world. I live in Virginia with my wife and four children. Prior to becoming a chief legal officer, I worked for two private law firms (one big, one small) and, at a relatively young age, held various senior positions in the U.S. government, including the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and U.S. Department of Homeland Security. In my spare time, I write thrillers.     

When did you first WANT to write a book?

I first wanted to write a novel once I began working at DOJ in 2001.  DOJ hired me the night before the September 11 attacks, and I started my job immediately thereafter at the Main Justice Department in Washington, D.C. Our country’s capital was alive with energy and emotion after terrorists had hijacked commercial aircraft and used them as weapons, flying them into the World Trade Center towers in New York City and the Pentagon (our military headquarters) in D.C. They also attempted to fly another aircraft into our Capitol building in D.C., but brave passengers aboard United Airlines Flight 93 sacrificed their lives to foil the attack and cause the terrorists to crash the plane in a field in rural Pennsylvania. 

When did you take a step to start writing?

I realized around 2002 that there existed a hidden eighth floor of the Main Justice Building in Washington, D.C. Main Justice is headquarters for many of the top U.S. lawyers, including our U.S. Attorney General and U.S. Solicitor General. The elevators only went to the seventh floor, but there were eight sets of windows. That seemed strange. I conducted online research on the building but found little help. Similarly, Main Justice’s majestic library provided no clues.

Coming up short, I sought out a man who’d worked at Main Justice for several decades—a silver-haired institutionalist—and he told me that, before they build the FBI building (across the street), the eighth floor had served as the old FBI ballistics lab. He said there was a secret staircase that led to the eighth floor, which was now more of a utility floor.

Mesmerized by this news, I grabbed a custodian with access to the staircase, a flashlight, and a notepad and ventured to the hidden floor. Many of the notes I doodled on that notepad are now in Chapter Two of Scavenger Hunt. In a real sense, then, my first steps up that hidden staircase were my first steps in writing.    

How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?

It took me about 18 months of writing over 20 years! I dedicated my first book to my beautiful mom, who passed away unexpectedly ten years ago. In that dedication, I reference her Churchillian vigor and relentless drive to never, never, never give up. Her passion and teaching kept my book alive through life’s twists and turns over two decades, and that’s my consistent advice to struggling or discouraged authors today. Never, never, never give up.  

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How long did it take you to complete your latest book from the first idea to release?

After 11 months, I recently finished the first shareable draft of my second novel (initial title, Homecoming Queen). It goes to my editor in the middle of January. My routine is quite simple. I wake up early before work to write, and oftentimes I’ll write at night and on Saturdays. For me, the key is diligence, discipline, and consistency. I have one primary writing spot, and, with life’s other demands, I must work hard to find that spot five times a week, even for only a few minutes a day.   

Focusing on your latest release. What made you want to write Scavenger Hunt?

I wanted to write Scavenger Hunt because I was a Washington insider with an adventurous and fun story to tell. I wanted to write a thriller that was gripping, entertaining, and hard to put down. Period. Otherwise, thrillers aren’t worth anyone’s time. That starts with compelling characters who find themselves caught in a terrible dilemma and who, against incredible odds, must find creative ways to solve herculean problems.

Throughout the story, however, I also wanted to carry my reader around Washington, D.C. and pull back the curtain a bit, revealing how things work in the mysterious U.S. intelligence, legal, and law enforcement communities. My hope is that readers of Scavenger Hunt, first and foremost, will have a blast with the story and, concomitantly, learn some cool things along the way.  

What were your biggest challenges with writing Scavenger Hunt?

Finishing it. Seeing it through was the biggest challenge. I started writing on an ancient computer in a tiny apartment on Capitol Hill with my wife and Great Dane, Judge (the only real character in the book). After many years, jobs, and children, I finished writing while living in Virginia (Judge died of cancer in 2002). I was nearly broke beginning this journey, so my day job and raising my children took priority over writing. And along the way I benefited from interesting and challenging jobs at an early age that taught me about the world, took me around the world, and kept me busy . . . jobs that will produce much fruit in future storytelling. 

Who or what inspired you when creating your Protagonist?

Blake Hudson was inspired by those in government who do the right thing even when it’s against their self-interest and in the face of great pressure to lie, cheat, or cut corners. It’s probably just a coincidence . . . but I named my oldest child Blake and my youngest child Hudson.  

Chad Boudreux Scavenger Hunt

Who or what inspired you when creating your Antagonist?

The bogeyman.

What is the inciting incident of Scavenger Hunt?

The inciting incident of my book is a legal ruling that allows the terrorist mastermind unmonitored legal counsel while he’s detained in prison. Presumably, this allows him the ability to continue planning and coordinating attacks, and it causes significant distress within the homeland security community. That distress, in turn, leads to unsanctioned actions to mitigate future attacks by bypassing legal requirements. To that end, a clandestine group of government officials is created.

In addition to Blake Hudson, who is the DOJ lawyer, the group consists of a Rambo-like figure from Delta Force, a former CIA operative with a questionable past, and a beautiful and stealth woman—a shadow—from NSA. Once Operation Scavenger Hunt commences, it’s Katy bar the door.

What is the main conflict of Scavenger Hunt?

The main conflict in the book is the age-old question raised by risk mitigation efforts in safety and security: How much liberty and freedom do you sacrifice to protect your country? The U.S. is founded on principles of liberty and freedom that comprise the fabric of our governing U.S. Constitution. Our individual rights, however, are often in conflict with the government’s need to protect against threats (e.g., terrorists, violent criminals, rogue nation states, pandemics). This trade-off or compromise between individual rights and government protection often works, but when a grave threat faces the country, it’s challenged in myriad ways. Scavenger Hunt addresses, analyzes, and puts into motion many of these tensions and challenges, and they all coalesce into the main conflict that accelerates like a runaway roller coaster through the U.S. Capital.

Did you plot Scavenger Hunt in advance, or fly by the seat of your pants and write freely?

Scavenger Hunt took flight with a 20-something-year-old pilot with no flight hours, controls, or seatbelts, but the 40-something-year-old pilot who landed her had well-conceived plans, an operable instrument panel, and bright runway lights. Some fear the blank page like the plague, but I truly enjoy the rawness of staring at an empty canvas with a brand-new idea in my mind. That said, I can’t employ that haphazard method and finish a novel with 100,000 words. Therefore, I have adopted a routine where I crudely outline fifty chapters and go from there. Some chapter blurbs are more robust than others; all of them evolve over time. What’s more, once I develop my characters and place them in a theater of conflict and action, there’s no telling what they’ll do. More times than not, they will turn my outline on its head. But that’s okay. I’m a just-need-a-little-structure kinda writer, I guess.    

Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did Scavenger Hunt need?

My editor, Cortney Donelson, helped immensely with developmental editing. She also provided sound advice and direction on stylistic and grammar corrections. Much of that was learning how things work and finding my style, but to be sure, there were plenty of silly and sloppy author mistakes. Goes with the territory. 

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What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a story?

Just do it. Worry about all the other mumbo-jumbo later. Listen, if you have a compelling story, it will never leave you, it will haunt you day and night, and it will drive you mad if left in the closet. Might as well write it down to spare your mind and soul.   

Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?

My advance readers (those who’ve read Scavenger Hunt before publication) are encouraging me to continue with a Scavenger Hunt series. That excites me, so don’t be surprised if that manifests in book number three. Book number two, however, is a thriller initially titled Homecoming Queen about a young woman who must return home to save her little sister from certain threats in their Texas hometown as a monster hurricane barrels toward them from the Gulf of Mexico. Unlike Scavenger Hunt, it’s not a spy thriller; like Scavenger Hunt, however, it’s a thriller where readers hopefully will fall in love with the characters and follow them into places of harrowing intrigue and danger.

And, finally, are your proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?

Of all the exciting things I’ve done in my career, writing Scavenger Hunt is the most rewarding. Of course, without my career experiences, I could have never written it. Even in my professional orbit, however, my friends and colleagues would rather talk about my novel than legal or political issues. Never, never, never give up. It’s worth the effort!

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