Summertime, Assassins, and Other Skullduggeries
by J.D. Cunegan
Released: Nov 10, 2023
Why this book and why now?
A common theme in all my books is the question of heroism. What makes a hero? Can a hero do despicable things? When the systems in place fail to hold the wicked accountable (a sadly all too relevant problem these days), what recourse do we have? What happens when someone takes matters into their own hands?
Summer is not heroic. Not in the traditional sense. She kills people for a living (interesting, considering she once wanted to be a doctor), yet she only kills the wicked. Those who slip through the proverbial cracks (like, you know, morally abhorrent rich dudes who make friends with all the wrong kinds of people).
The love story is what gives this book the needed emotional heft. Because while 300 pages of Summer indiscriminately killing bad guys would be awesome in a John Wick kind of way, without any way to emotionally invest in her, the book would be little more than violence porn. What made Kill Bill work so well was Beatrix’s emotional torment over Bill’s betrayal and the belief that betrayal cost her a child. For Summer, pining for her long-lost love, Lola, and the emotional wrangling over whether Lola is going to backstab her (possibly literally…?) was the ingredient that made everything else work.
I wanted to tell an LGBT love story that didn’t fall into tropes that seem exclusive to those sorts of romances. I’m also not one who makes a habit of writing happy endings, so I really wanted to make sure I did just that. I wanted to write a lesbian romance that is emotionally resonant and doesn’t devolve into overt sexualization, because what good is representation if it continues to perpetuate stereotype and homophobic convention?
Do your character names have special significance or meaning?
Summer’s name is a play on the title of the book, as well as the fact that as an assassin, she refuses to work the months of June, July, and August. It’s an offshoot of the fact that I’ve spent my entire life, in one way or another, in education (as a student and now an employee), so I’m used to those months being months of relative rest. Even if I don’t have those months completely off, the workload is much lighter than it is the rest of the year.
One reason I have a hard time seeing myself working in a field other than education is I’m so used to the seasonal cadence, the breaks and lulls naturally built into the calendar, that I can’t imagine myself working any other schedule.
Also, I like her surname being Rhoades, considering she spends much of the book on the run and traveling all over the place.
What 3 things would your main character want with them if they got stranded away from civilization, and why?
1. Some device capable of streaming audio, so Summer could listen to Broadway musical soundtracks (since she’s a lifelong Broadway lover).
2. Access to her obscene bank account, so she could pay one or more of her contacts to try rescuing her (success not guaranteed, because some assassins have no honor).
3. Lola, because if Summer’s going to be stranded for the rest of her life, she wants the love of her life by her side the whole time.
One of your main characters is planning a romantic night. Tell us about it.
Summer’s ideal romantic night is one in which she and her lover go nowhere. They stay in, enjoy a quiet, home-cooked dinner, a couple bottles of the most expensive wine, and a movie marathon that may or may not devolve into a long makeup session. A night where there’s nowhere to be, no schedule to adhere to. She and her lover can simply enjoy the night however they see fit, at their own pace, on their own terms. So much of Summer’s life is jet-setting the world, working at the whim of people on tight schedules, of people who need problems solved yesterday, and the longer an assassin takes to kill their mark, the less successful they are. Summer’s perfect date is the complete opposite of all those things.
Publishing a book is a huge accomplishment and it’s time to party! Choose a celebratory beverage for one of your main characters to toast the release of your new book.
Considering Summer’s an assassin notorious for killing her targets from a distance, I’m not sure I’d trust anything she’d have in a glass for me. That said, she’s a hard liquor drinker, so chances are, her toast would be a scotch or a whiskey of some sort. Since I don’t drink anymore, and again, not trusting any cup she’d hand me, I’d mime-sip whatever it is.
What song does your character put on to start your book launch party?
Because I’m a fan of the TV show Castle, which means I would cast Stana Katic as Summer if I could in a TV or film adaptation, and I feel like the song fits her relationship with Lola (every iteration of it) perfectly.