Why did novelist DiAnn Mills choose snake venom as a villain’s weapon in the new novel Fatal Strike? And what is DiAnn’s favorite scene from the book? These questions and more answered in the exclusive Q&A with DiAnn Mills. Check it out below!
Tell us about your research process for Fatal Strike: What was one of the most fascinating details you uncovered while conducting your research?
Definitely interesting: I’d say how a SWAT team and snipers work together to negotiate a potentially deadly situation. Every effort is made to get the person who is wielding a weapon or holding a hostage to surrender. After a SWAT operation, debriefing occurs to discuss what went well, what didn’t, and recommendations for the future. I understood that SWAT and snipers are regularly evaluated for potential psychological problems, but I had no idea how they processed the aftermath of their missions. Some use vigorous exercise, time alone, talking about what happened, joining family and friends, prayer, meditation, and/or a combination of what works for their personality.
In Fatal Strike, the gang chooses snake venom as their weapon of choice. How did you decide on that particular weapon for the bad guys to use in the novel?
Because I’m petrified of snakes! I believe in writing what I fear most, and snakes hit near the top of the list. Another reason I chose rattlesnake venom is that I wanted a type of weapon that wasn’t easily traced.
While you were writing Fatal Strike, did you visit any of the places you’ve depicted in the novel? If so, how did that help you create the setting and set the stage for some of the action in the book?
Yes, my husband and I spent time in the Gulf Coast region and Galveston Island. We visited and snapped pics of:
- Areas up and down the coastline along Galveston Island
- Stewart Beach, where Elena spent the day with her friends
- Pocket Beach, where Elena was kidnapped
- The restaurants across from Stewart Beach, where Richard James, Leah, and Jon searched for Elena
- The street where Father Gabriel served at St. Peter’s
- We ate at Sunflower Cafe.
- We stayed at Hotel Galvez.
- The Pier 21 area and parking lot where Leah, Jon, and Dylan experienced the shoot-out, and we ate at Willy G’s seafood restaurant. Actually, we sat where I believed Leah and Jon shared their meal.
- The coastal area where Leah and Jon chased the shooters in the pouring rain
- Tiki Island, where the Jameses lived
- Galveston County Justice Center
- The Scott Unit, where Will Rawlyns served
- Falstaff Beer Building, at the corner of Thirty-Third and Postoffice Streets.
- We took the ferry across to the Bolivar Peninsula
What is it about federal agents, as opposed to local officers, that you find compelling?
Great question! I have a tremendous respect for all federal, state, and local law enforcement. They put their lives on the line to protect us—even those who don’t value or appreciate them. When I wrote my first FBI book, Houston’s media coordinator opened the door to friendship and shared the information I needed to write a story filled with adventure and facts. I’ve been hooked since then.
Have you ever been on a ride-along or done any in-person training similar to what agents would do?
I completed the Houston FBI Citizens Academy and toured Quantico, the training center for FBI agents. While I haven’t done a ride-along, I participated at the Houston training center, the target range, experienced SWAT training, observed a sniper, did simulations, and “dreamed” about what it would be like to have a career in the FBI.
Learn more about DiAnn’s FBI research in the video below.
Can you tell us a little bit about the sources you went to for advice or information as you crafted Fatal Strike?
- Interviewed a Houston FBI special agent who worked SWAT
- Posed questions to the Houston FBI media coordinator
- Posed questions to the FBI Office of Public Affairs in DC
- Interviewed the Bureau of Indian Affairs for the Choctaw Nation in DC
- Viewed documentaries on smoke jumpers and snipers, as well as videos on rattlesnakes and their habits
- Read and studied reliable sites that focused on the FBI, smoke jumpers, SWAT, and rattlesnakes
- Interviewed Mark Lanier of Lanier Law Firm regarding distinctions between Texas and federal law
- Interviewed Dr. Richard Mabry regarding the medical care for rattlesnake bite victims
Just for fun: Do you have a favorite scene in Fatal Strike? Why is it your favorite?
The scene in which Leah’s father visits her unexpectedly at the Houston FBI office. It’s a tender reunion and brought tears to my eyes.
Fatal Strike by DiAnn Mills
There’s a killer on the loose in Galveston, targeting law enforcement officials and using a fatal injection of snake venom to take them down. Authorities have reasons to believe the Veneno gang is behind the hits, and FBI Agents Leah Riesel and Jon Colbert team up to track down those responsible. Their best lead is an eyewitness who identifies a young man dumping the third body on a church doorstep. But their suspect has gone into hiding, and those closest to him are reluctant to reveal anything that might help investigators find him.
As Leah and Jon check connections among the victims and dig deeper into motives, they discover appearances may be deceiving. Someone is desperate to keep their secrets hidden, and Leah and Jon must face their greatest fears in order to stop the next fatal strike.