First Edition Interview


CROSSFIRE by Jeanette Windle

TEASE:  It’s a world of intrigue and danger that draws a young woman into a deadly clash between her new family, a drug cartel, and the Drug Enforcement Agency. Stay with us.

OPEN: Thanks Larry, and welcome to our program. Sara has a problem. Big problem. She thinks her new way of life with her husband is going to be the thing fairytales are made of. But what begins as a fairytale turns into a nightmare. The book is entitled Crossfire, it’s published by Kregel, and the author is Jeanette Windle. Jeanette grew up in Columbia and Venezuela the daughter of missionary parents. She’s spent the last 15 years in Bolivia, so the situations and settings, though fictional, come from her experiences there. Jeanette, welcome to First Edition.

 Q: You dedicate the book to the agents of the DEA in Bolivia. Why?

A: For the last three years in Bolivia, I was involved in teaching an international women’s Bible study. For the last year and a half my husband was pastoring the international church on top of his other responsibilities. A fair number of DEA personnel were attending the two. I was able to get to know them, to see first-hand the work that they do. Contrary to the TV stereotype, the average DEA agent is married, most of those who came to Bolivia with very young families. They care about the kind of world they are building for their children, and in Bolivia at least they have done an outstanding job, especially in these last years.  Every month we saw organizations cracked, major drug and chemical seizures, and we personally knew the guys who were doing it. Bolivia is considered for the moment at least one of the bright spots in the antinarcotics war. In fact, the unrest and violence that is is so much in the news from there right now can be traced directly back to the dent the DEA have put in both the cocaine traffic and the coca-growing, unfortunately, Bolivia’s major cash export for some years now. In retaliation, the coca-growers, prompted the narcos, presently have much of the country sealed off with roadblocks and demonstrations, demanding a pull-back on the U.S. anti-narcotics program.  The DEA in Bolivia are only a small cog in an overall war that has been neither pretty nor highly successful, but we have seen the job firsthand they have done despite considerable obstacles, and I feel they deserve a note of thanks.

 Q: Why did you want to write about this subject?

A: Well, for one, it was a rattling good story that had never been told before and that I was in a unique position both to research and to write. I felt it was a timely subject with the growing awareness in North America of countries like Bolivia and Colombia through their involvement in the anti-narcotics war. I guess part of it again goes back to those preconceptions we run into continually when coming to North America or with North Americans visiting Bolivia concerning the political situation, the reality of the drug war and what it is really all about, and the American anti-narcotics personnel too, who seem to be tarred in people’s minds with this Hollywood concept of either James Bond or some enormous conspiracy theory. We saw people–a handful of people in a very large territory–doing what they could against overwhelming hurdles of corrupt politicians, judges, police, military, the local anti-narcotics officials with whom they had to work–not to mention personal danger in a hostile country. I’ve seen them walk into church Sunday morning furious because a drug lord they’d spent months bringing down had managed to pay off a high-ranking judge and was back on the streets. I’ve had a call interrupt a Bible study for an agent cut off in the field or in some kind of danger and seen the worry and concern and the almost family-type bond that is there. I wanted to tell their story.

And the story of others: the conquistador descendent who has lost the family fortune and sees cocaine as a quick and not-so-wrong way of recouping it. The peasant farmers–especially the Christians–caught between just wanting to feed their families and the pressure of the narcos to grow coca. The drug war is in the end a lot of ordinary people making wrong or right decisions, caught in situations that seem to them beyond their control. I wanted to tell the story of those people. And in CrossFire, I have.

Q: You could have written about true examples of your time in South America. What can we learn from fiction that we can’t learn as well from non-fiction?

A: Well, in my situation, there is the security issue, to begin with. A non-fiction exposé of the situation, naming names and places, would certainly pose a security risk for myself, my family, and those who continue to live and work there. I have read such non-fiction documentation of the drug war since I arrived stateside, actually naming highly-influential families we are acquainted with in Bolivia, but those people don’t have to live in Bolivia.

But to me, the advantage of fiction, besides a freer canvas on which to paint the story, is that in a novel you aren’t trying to teach facts and figures. You are pulling the reader into the world of your characters, allowing them to experience their feelings and motivations. And if, as in CrossFire, the character comes out stronger through the experience and having learned valuable spiritual lessons, then, hopefully, the reader will experience that too.

 Q: Tell us about Sara. Who is she? Why does she fall for Nicolas?

A: Sara is an American college student who meets a handsome, charming exchange student from Bolivia and falls in love. In Sara’s case, there is an added motivation that she is alone in the world and very hungry, however subconsciously, for love. I have had an occasional reader accuse Sara of being naive–that she should have known of the cultural difficulties, been more aware of possible drug connections. Perhaps, but I have personally known dozens of American girls who met their husbands as exchange students in the U. S. and then were faced with reality when they were taken back to their husband’s country. Not just Latin America, but the Middle East and Asia. And when they get there, they find that the romance they had pictured in their mind is far from reality. As for the drug connections, I was constantly astounded living in Bolivia at how little realization that oil and missionary and even embassy people did have that of the role of drug money among the wealthy Bolivians with whom they socialized at country clubs and high society affairs or even in the English-speaking schools to which all wealthy Bolivians sent their children–even though I’m sure they received briefings on the subject when they came. They may know that 90% of the money in the city is from cocaine, but they don’t translate that to the actual people they meet who are the ones WITH the money. Especially when they seem affable, likeable, and NORMAL.  I have met real-life Saras in much the same situation, and, unfortunately, they don’t have either the way out or the faith that my fictional Sara found in CrossFire. I could say more, but again it wouldn’t be politically expedient.

 Q: Most people in our audience won’t join a drug cartel, but there are some temptations (greed, addiction, wealth) we all struggle with, right?

A: Certainly. I think perhaps the temptation that comes into play most in CrossFire is that which drew my fictional ‘villain’ into drug dealing. The temptation to make a quick buck–or gain any other desired end–through a means that seems so easy and only mildly questionable as far as ethics. It is so easy to rationalize that one isn’t doing anything terribly wrong, especially when you want something badly. Then you get sucked in deeper and deeper and caught in the trap of trying to cover up. Which, of course, in the book is where the ‘villain’ turns to real serious crime.

Q: At what point does Sara realize she’s made a mistake?

A: I think it was more a gradual awakening as she begins to see what and who was this man she’d hardly known at marriage. Of course, there comes the moment when she finds out exactly what is going on. But I’m not going to give that away. You’ll have to read the book.

 Q: Are there Biblical parallels with this story?

A: Perhaps the greatest parallel is the one to whom Sara turns in CrossFire–David. Not the king, but the young soldier being hunted down by his father-in-law. Being alone.  Hunted unjustly with the authorities of the country declaring you to be a criminal. Having friends, family, in-laws turn against you. Seeing the wicked exercise power and wealth with seeming impunity, and the helplessness and despair of feeling you can do nothing about it. Psalms are full of David’s cries to God in just this situation, and it is to these very verses that Sara turns when she finds herself caught in the CrossFire.

 Q: Every good story has some sort of a villain. Who is the villain in this story?

A: Well, I don’t really want to say exactly who, as that is part of the suspense of the story. I’ll just challenge the listener to read and find out. I will say that the best villain is one who is not totally a villain, but someone who simply takes a wrong step and then another to cover that up until the person is forced into a choice between villainous activity or their own neck. As we mentioned before with temptation.

 Q: Did you know people like the ones you’re writing about?

A: Yes, I do. As is stated in the intro of the book, there is little in the book not taken from actual people, opinions, attitudes, with which I have come in contact.

Q: This is a massive book, it rivals the length of Tom Clancy’s thrillers. How long did it take you to write it?

A: Too long!! Actually, though I took a few breaks to write another couple books and a lot of other publications along the way, it was probably a total of two years researching and writing.

Q: Do you know how the book is going to end before you begin?

A: I had the basic ending and plot. But my books tend to grow as I write them, with the middle section being the fuzziest. In other words, I know where I’m going but not the slightest how I’m planning to get there until I’m well into the book.

 Q: What do you want the reader to take away after reading Crossfire?

A: Above all, I would like my readers to carry away what my fictional protagonist Sara did–a message that I think touches all our deepest longings. A message of a loving Heavenly Father who yearns over His children who have lost their way, calling for them to return to Him. The personal challenge in the book is: When you hit rock-bottom and God seems a universe away, what do you do? Do you run towards Him, or do you run away from Him? The theme that threads through the book is Habakkuk 3: 17-19: ‘Though the fig tree does not bud and there is no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food . . . (though you’re running through the jungle with every hope or reason for living gone and every person you’ve loved and trusted trying to kill you) . . . yet I WILL rejoice  in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.” God is there! All you have to do is turn and let Him take your hand.

Q: In what ways are men and women in the crossfire in this country?

A: You probably know that better than I. But just during these few months in the U. S., I am seeing people living under a crossfire of twisted values, outright religious persecution in the name of tolerance, and a constant bombardment of hostility against anyone who wants to live and raise their families according the the teachings of God’s Word.

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