Wednesday, 14 November 2018

The Janitor and the Spy by S W Ellenwood + Q&A

The Janitor and the Spy by S W Ellenwood
First published in America in July 2015.

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Baby wipes are not the best at cleaning up blood or what happened to Thornhill in Amsterdam.

They told Thornhill it would be a simple spy mission that he was more than eager to take on, but of course, it wasn't.
It didn't take long after meeting the contact for Thornhill to question if he or anyone else connected to him was going to be able to make it out of Amsterdam alive. Passing strangers on the streets became potential hitmen and dinner with criminals became safe heavens as Thornhill seeks to find answers from an old man named Golay.

Author Q and A

-I’d like to ask what inspired the Amsterdam setting?
During the early stages of planning and writing I was listening to Imagine Dragons first album, Night Vision, a lot. Those who have listened to the album or a couple of songs will know where this is going. For those who haven’t let me explain. They have a song on that album called Amsterdam. I know, super anticlimactic. If it helps, it wasn’t the only reason. Because of the subject matter I knew any major city could work but I wanted a city that was foreign to Thornhill so he would be more observant than if it was in his country of origin. I wanted this heightened observation so the reader could have a better view of not just the city but also Thornhill and his interaction with new people in a new place. 

-Which spy novels/authors do you particularly enjoy?
John le Carré is probably be my favorite spy author. When I read Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy I honestly got lost several times in the plot and characters but found myself reading faster in the third act as most of it, not all, started to click in my head. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy doesn’t hold the readers hand but it showed me the importance of that, respecting the reader and making them do a little leg work helps make the revelations much more impacting to them.

-How did those eyecatching book covers came about?
While I was writing the first book in college I had reconnected with a childhood best friend Jake who, at the time, was in the graphic design program. I already had a vague idea about the silhouette of a head with a scene from the book on the inside and wanted all the covers to have a similar theme to it. With that in mind I knew I needed the same artist for all of the covers to achieve this. I can’t remember how I brought it up to Jake but he was on board in a heartbeat. The first cover he did for the first book had the silhouette down perfectly. The inside scene was the only beach scene and he beautifully set it up to try and imitate features of the face in the scenery. It was great but I wasn’t sold on it and suggested we use another scene. He agree and he decided to use the scene in the first chapter of the book and started showing me sketches and I knew he was on the right track. A few months later he showed me the finished cover, minus the font, and I was sold! The second cover we talked over several different scenes but the talks were more about the background of the cover behind the silhouette. We thought about it being a table and the silhouette being burned into the table but backed off that idea thinking it was too much of a departure from the theme we established in the first cover. He then came up with the idea of using a map of Hong Kong as the background. The scene departed more from being an actually scene to more of feels and themes of what the protagonist would face on his continuing journey. For the second one I also decided to not have a book description or an author picture on the back of it, something I’m leaning to do in future books. I wanted to put more weight on the cover drawing the reader in to open the book and to give Jake more real estate to be creative because I believe covers should be treated and viewed as works of art interrupting the theme and story of the book it is representing. 

Meet the author

S. W. Ellenwood is thankful to have a close-knit family of two parents, a brother, and two sisters. A homeschooler who graduated college from the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith, Ellenwood loves all forms and genres of stories and was inspired by  The Lord of the Rings films and his parents to write. You can find Ellenwood writing his next novel at the local coffee shops or playing table top games with his best friends.

Author links: 
Website ~ Twitter

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by S W Ellenwood / Thrillers / Books from America


  1. I love Imagine Dragons so it made me smile to read where you got your inspiration from.

  2. Very interesting! I do know the song that inspired the setting and I love the story behind the cover.

    1. The covers of both novels are what attracted me to feature these books :-)