Spies Like Me
The Gems, #1
by Doug Solter
Publication date: October 4th 2016
Genres: Adventure, Young Adult
Can she bring these girls together?
When she discovers her father’s plane crash wasn’t an accident, sixteen year old Emma wants to punish those responsible. Even if it means becoming a spy. The mysterious organization known simply as The Authority wants Emma to join the Gems. This team of all-girl spies knows how to handle themselves on dangerous missions…like stopping an evil plan to incinerate the world’s food supply.
Meet the Gems…
Olivia, code-named Emerald, is seventeen years old. Half English and half Jamaican. Specializes in leadership, marksmanship, and is a rated pilot.
Miyuki, code-named Ruby, is sixteen and from Okinawa, Japan. She specializes in gymnastics and martial arts. Trained in jungle survival and deep sea diving. Once blew up her boyfriend’s motorcycle using a rocket launcher.
Nadia, code-named Sapphire, is sixteen and from Saudi Arabia. She’s a science and computer nerd. Nadia’s zero-gravity school agriculture project created interest from NASA and the European Space Agency.
Emma, code-named Black Opal, specializes in high school theater and shopping.
Each girl comes from a different background. Each girl comes with different skills. Each girl comes with their own drama.
The Authority thinks Emma is the missing link to make this team work.
Emma thinks The Authority is her only chance for revenge.
Emma led Ruby up the metal ladder inside the gigantic empty wine barrel. Both girls passed through the winery’s gift shop and went outside to the parking lot. Emma unlocked the doors of her car and the two girls climbed inside it.
“Mercedes AMG,” Rudy said. “How fast does it go?”
Emma pushed the start button. “I don’t know. I just got it a few months ago.”
“I don’t like to drive like that.”
Ruby nodded. “Safety conscious.”
Emma rolled out of the parking lot and took California Highway 29 south out of Napa Valley towards Vallejo. As the car settled on a speed, Emma flipped on the cruise control. She gripped the leather-stitched steering wheel and exchanged a few glances at Ruby, who grinned. Normally Emma welcomed uncomfortable quiet over uncomfortable conversation, but Mrs. B was quite insistent that Emma should get to know this girl, so…
“Can you tell me your real name?”
Ruby shook her head. “Top secret.”
“Oh. Sorry. I’m new to all this spy stuff, so—”
Ruby covered her mouth as she laughed. “Only kidding. Messing with you. My real name is Miyuki.”
“Mi-yu-ki. Yes, it’s Japanese for awesome girl from Okinawa.” She laughed again. “What is your name, Black Opal?”
“What does Emma mean in English?”
“I have no idea.” Emma thought about it. “It’s English for normal girl who loves books and puppies, I guess. I’m boring.”
“You forgot to add pulls hair like a mother-trucker.” Miyuki laughed again. Her laugh was so rich and genuine. Something a person could get addicted to.
Miyuki talked all the way from Vallejo, through Berkeley, and over the bridge to San Francisco. She told Emma about the Gems and how they moved here from London, where they were stationed previously. About how much she looked forward to seeing America. About how Emma’s habit of not looking before changing lanes was a tad dangerous.
“I know. I keep forgetting there might be a car over there.” Emma checked her side mirror as they reached the end of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Miyuki’s eyes lit up like a little girl. “So beautiful. San Francisco is so beautiful.”
Emma focused on the traffic, which could get tricky heading into the city. Miyuki continued to point out every fascinating thing she saw out the window. There was no desperate need to be loved in Miyuki’s voice. No compromising herself in some attempt to get Emma to like her more. Miyuki said whatever she was thinking at the top of her head, and Emma found it refreshing.
Emma led Miyuki into the San Francisco Centre Mall and the girl’s eyes were dazzled by the five indoor floors of shopping.
Q&A with The Gems
Hi, Everyone! My name is Doug and I'm the author of the new young adult spy thriller Spies Like Me, the first book in The Gems series. Today, I'll be interviewing all four main characters from the new book. But first, a little background on The Gems themselves...
Olivia is from the UK and is a rated pilot. Nadia is the computer and science expert of the group. She's from Saudi Arabia. Miyuki has training in deep-sea diving and gymnastics. She's from Japan. And Emma...well, you're the new one to this group. What skill training have you had?
Emma: Just some self-defense stuff. I don't get my full spy training until...
Olivia: (interrupting) Wait a moment. What clearance do you have, Doug? We can't do this interview without the proper clearances.
Me: Well, they wouldn't allow me inside your group's secret headquarters without having--
Olivia: C'mon, love. Hand it over. (She holds her hand out, expecting me to comply. I give Olivia my guest pass and show her my letter from Mrs. B, their boss.)
Emma: (to Olivia) Do you believe him now?
Olivia: Yes. I was only checking. It's protocol.
Miyuki: Please continue with your questions, Mr. Solter.
Me: Thank you. What's it like to be a spy?
Emma: I think it's fun. I love acting and being a spy is like acting without an audience. It's such a rush to pretend you're someone else.
Olivia: You're good at acting fake. No doubts about that.
Emma shoots her a look.
Miyuki: Emma is an excellent actor. Having the ability to fully commit to your cover identity is very important in our job. Her acting skills fit well inside our group.
Me: What about you, Miyuki?
Miyuki: I like taking the bad guys down. They're so surprised when they realize they've been captured by four girls.
Olivia: I enjoy gathering intelligence on subjects. The cloak and dagger moments of our job I really love.
Me: Are you girls licensed to kill?
(The girls all look at each other.)
Emma: We're taught in training how to immobilize our opponents. Not kill them.
Miyuki: (nodding) We're not assassins. But if you try to hurt us--
Olivia: (interrupting) We'll knock your lights out, love.
Me: How do you girls balance school with being a spy?
Emma: I'm new, so I have no idea.
Olivia: When Miyuki, Nadia, and I were based in London, we had tutors supplied by our organization. They were the best in Europe.
Miyuki: Our tutors would instruct us in-between missions. We didn't go to school with the other kids.
Me: I've heard there's a possibility you girls will soon be attending public school in America. What do you think about that?
Miyuki: (Claps her hands together) I would love that!
(Nadia and Olivia both look concerned.)
Emma: I hope it's at my school. I don't have a lot of friends their yet.
Me: Why is that?
Emma: I've been in San Francisco for like three months. You see, I'm a New York City girl. The lights. The noise. The attitude. The weather. I had a lot friends back there. And here...let's just say that the kids here don't get me.
Miyuki: (Holds Emma's hand.) We get you! Right, girls?
(Nadia flashes a polite smile. Olivia is quiet.)
Me: What's the most dangerous thing you've ever had to do on a mission?
Olivia: In Canada we had to jump a snowmobile over an ice crevasse with a five-hundred foot drop off.
Miyuki: I remember! That was so fun.
Olivia: Fun? I had to change my ski pants after that one.
Nadia: Me too.
Me: Nadia, you've been quiet so far. What do you like about being a spy?
Nadia: (Her eyes fall to the ground) I—I don't know. I enjoy figuring out things and gathering information that we need for our missions. I enjoy solving complex problems and puzzles. Forensic science is something I would like to learn more about. I would also like to take a psychology class if our new school offered something like that.
Me: I heard that you have a waiting college scholarship to MIT. (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) That's very impressive.
Nadia: (she turns red) It's an honor to be blessed with any college scholarship. My family is very pleased.
Olivia: (to Nadia) You're too modest, love. Nadia is like this beautiful Arabian Einstein. She's the smartest girl on the flipping planet.
Nadia: You're too kind. However, I'm not that smart.
Miyuki: Whatever. You should own that, girl. You are amazing!
Emma: You're like crazy smart. I don't see why you should hide it under that headscarf.
Olivia: (to Emma) Oy! What's that supposed to mean?
Emma: Don't get hot with me. I'm just saying Nadia should be proud of who she is.
Olivia: Maybe she's proud to wear a headscarf. Where do you get off telling her she's not being honest?
Nadia: I'm not offended.
Miyuki: Girls, we shouldn't be arguing in front of the author like this.
Me: After writing 65,000 words and ten revisions I'm used to it.
Miyuki: Oh, okay.
(At this point Olivia and Emma continue to argue. Nadia and Miyuki attempt to calm the two girls down. This finally works, but now Olivia and Emma face their chairs away from each other.)
Me: Final question. This is for each of you. What's the one thing you want our audience to know about you?
Emma: That sometimes I come off as a little cold when I first meet people. It's not like I'm judging them. I just like to get to know them first before I warm up to them. Oh, and I love animals.
Olivia: (to Emma) That's two things, love.
(Emma rolls her eyes.)
Miyuki: That I love the outdoors and I'm always down for an adventure. I also want the boys at my new school to know that I'm single. So don't be shy. Come talk to me.
(The other three girls flash a surprised look at Miyuki.)
Olivia: I'd like people to know that I feel proud to be in this group. Everyone can talk about doing something good in the world, but if you just sit there on your butt and don't do a flipping thing, then you're part of the problem. Everyone should stand up and do what's right.
(Olivia, Miyuki, and Emma turn towards Nadia who feels their eyes.)
Nadia: Something about me, yes? Well...I am not ashamed of where I come from. I try every day to follow a path in my life that is positive and peaceful. Hurting the innocent violates everything that I believe in. I wouldn't be here if my family and I didn't believe in the core ideals of this organization. People need our help when governments fail to protect them.
Me: What else does The Authority do? Can you elaborate on who exactly runs the organization?
(The moment I ask this Mrs. B, who gave me my credentials, enters the room with a tall man trailing her. The man has the chest the size of a semi-truck grill and is armed. They “ask” me to leave the room. A clear signal my interview with the girls is officially over.)
Doug Solter lives in Oklahoma where he writes young adult novels full of escapism. He's also a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. Doug respects cats, loves the mountains, and one time walked the streets of Barcelona with a smile on his face.