Interview & Contest: Pema Donyo

Pema_DonyoJen: Please help me welcome Pema Donyo to Romancing the Book.  Pema, will you share a short bio with us?
Pema: I’m a sophomore at Claremont McKenna College in Southern California. I’m still learning that balance between publisher deadlines, writing, and… well, college. I’m fueled by coffee, creative writing, and regular Netflix marathons of British television shows.

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Jen: Please tell us about your newest release and where the idea came from.
Pema: The Innocent Assassins follows Jane Lu, Covert Operatives assassin and seventeen-year-old girl, as she abandons the assassination business in order to serve as a double agent for the CIA. She’s forced to betray Adrian King, her boyfriend and next Covert Operatives CEO… too bad she’s already lost her heart to him in the process.

From the back cover: “After a murder mission goes awry a month before her eighteenth birthday, Covert Operatives assassin Jane Lu finds herself caught by the federal government and forced to spy for the CIA while remaining in Covert Operatives. Once her spying mission is over she will be allowed to live a civilian life without facing criminal consequences, a life she’s only dreamed of having. As Jane leaks information to the CIA, she uncovers secrets with enough power to both destroy Covert Operatives and her own boyfriend, Adrian King, who’s next in line to be CEO of the company. When her identity as a double agent for the CIA is discovered within Covert Operatives, she must decide where her allegiance, and her heart, truly lies.”

The idea came from watching lots of thriller movies. In particular, Jack Reacher. There’s so much about the movie to love – sudden plot twists, kickass action scenes, and smart dialogue. I wanted the same suspense setup for a kickass female action hero. The thriller/suspense genre needs more female heroes! Women don’t have to be damsels-in-distress, they can be the ones rescuing others. I love the idea of a spy romance where the two leads are working for opposite sides. It adds another layer of complication and complexity to the relationship.

Here’s a short excerpt:

Rough cloth slid across my face and pulled down against my shoulders. I screamed. Someone yanked my wrists behind my back and tied them together with coarse rope. Another set of hands bound my legs. How many were there?

I struggled to make contact with a body, swerving from side to side with wild abandon in spite of my inability to see anything. What worried me most weren’t the people trapping my body or the sudden needle injected into my neck which slowed my thoughts and faded away my consciousness.

It was the voice next to my ear—cold, hard, and determined.

“You’re right on time,” Adrian whispered.


Freezing ice water snapped my eyes open.

I blinked away the unconscious haze, my hair and face dripping from the unwelcome drench. The first thing I noticed was the boardroom, similar to the ones I negotiated contracts in. But there was no contract here—only a long, empty rectangular table and looming executives and agents on either side.

In front of me stood Adrian, his expression unreadable as he studied me.

“I tried to stop you.” His voice reminded me of the cold water dripping from my clothes. “I warned you.”

“By hiring assassins to scare me? I thought you knew me better. Nothing scares me.”

“Death should.”

“You know I never wanted to be…” I swallowed hard. “This.”

“I changed Covert Operatives for you.” Emotion leaked into his voice, brimming with frustration. “I tried to give you what you wanted.”

“And force others against their will to work for CO their entire life?” I spat. “I think not.”

“When did you switch sides?”

“When I was arrested, Adrian. It was after our mission went wrong. The CIA gave me a choice. Go to prison and face the death sentence or work for them.”

He gritted his teeth. “The CIA? You’re afraid of the CIA? You know as well as I do CO can keep you away from them. I can keep you away from them.”

I glared at him. “And hide away for the rest of my life?”

His shoulders stiffened. “No one would be hiding.”

“I want a life removed from murder. The CO job was always temporary! It was never what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.” I averted my gaze.

“Don’t you know there’s only one way this can possibly end? Kill me or let me go.”

Jen: Warm weather or cold?
Pema: Warm! I’m a California girl, so warm weather all day.

Jen: Fries or onion rings?
Pema: Fries – with lots of ketchup.

Jen: Favorite place to read?
Pema: Walking around outdoors.

Jen: If you could travel in time, where’d you go?
Pema: Regency Era England.

Jen: Last movie you saw in the theater?
Pema: Fault in Our Stars.

Jen: Do you make New Year’s Resolutions?
Pema: I try! This year it was to publish my first novel, so thankfully it’s been accomplished.

Jen: Are you a dunker of cookies?
Pema: Why yes I am. (Oreos!)

Jen: What one food do you refuse to eat?
Pema: Tofu. I don’t think I could ever be vegetarian; but I have tremendous respect for those who are.

Jen: Favorite animal?
Pema: Tigers – they’re curious and fearless and intelligent.

Jen: Favorite TV show?
Pema: The Mindy Project and Sherlock.

Jen: Favorite drink?
Pema: Black coffee – forever and always.

Jen: Who is your celebrity crush?
Pema: Ronan Farrow

Jen: What’s next for you?
Pema: I’m in the process of writing an updated version of Pride and Prejudice. It’s a contemporary New Adult romance, and I’m so excited about the project. (My first novel was a spy thriller, while my second novel was a historical romance.) While I’ve loved writing both of my previous novels, extensive research was required for the projects. It’s nice to finally be working on a project that’s a bit more grounded in my day-to-day life – and doesn’t require so much research!

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