Allison McKenzie is Bellevue's Newest Published Author!

Allison McKenzie has lived in Bellevue with her husband and their daughter for about thirteen years. She spends a lot of time at the Bellevue Public Library picking up books. In September, Allison debuted as Bellevue’s newest local author with the release of her first thriller, The Unexpected Hostage.

“I had always dreamed of writing a book,” shared Allison. She grew up journaling daily and reading lots of Nancy Drew. “I was a voracious reader, and after reading so much, I started to think about how I’d write a thriller,” she continues. She went on to major in English in college, and although she ended up working in tech, maintained her daily journaling habits into adulthood, and always found herself taking on writing-heavy projects at work.

“I worked for Microsoft for about 20 years, and my last role was Director of Business Management for a cybersecurity team,” Allison shared. “Cybersecurity was intriguing to me. I learned that although companies experience security breaches frequently, those events often remain hidden from the public. Naturally, companies avoid disclosing their security issues. There’s a lot of secrecy around the topic.” This gave Allison the idea for the direction of her novel.

In recent years, Allison’s husband gave her a push to begin writing more seriously. “He actually said 'Would you please go write a book? Just go see what happens!'” Allison laughed. She found creative writing to be dramatically different from the corporate writing she had been doing. “I attended several writing conferences and classes and read countless books on craft. Looking back, I view it as having designed my own MFA from our local writing community,” she shared.

“When I started the book, I knew the opening scene would involve a cyber-terrorist attack and how the characters survive it,” shared Allison. “It’s a grim, dark theme, but the story reflects the world in which we live.” Despite the serious topic, Allison focused the plot on how the characters work to heal from the attack while racing to prevent further violence. “The crux of the inspiration was a previous manager at Microsoft,” she shared. “They survived a terrorist attack, and despite serious injuries, managed to not only recover but thrive, leading a full, rewarding life afterward.”

The Unexpected Hostage follows Tess Bennett, a cybersecurity executive outrunning a painful past by traveling around the world and focusing on high-stakes projects for work. When she and her colleagues are taken hostage by an Eastern European terrorist group, Tess and fellow captive, Mark Nygaard, are unwittingly thrust into the center of an international cyber-conspiracy. Together, they must race across the globe to save her company, its multinational clients, and their own lives.

“The book is genre-bending in some regards,” Allison said. “It’s a thriller with romance, action, history, adventure – so many different elements. My favorite part about writing it was creating all the puzzles and weaving everything together into a whole.” Once she had finished her first draft, she began the long process of editing. “This process was way more intensive than I had expected, and it even felt endless some days, but I’m happy with how much I learned,” she shared.

Her efforts were well rewarded, and The Unexpected Hostage earned a Kirkus Star from Kirkus Reviews, an award granted to only about ten percent of the 8,000 to 10,000 books they review each year. It also earned a five-star review from Readers’ Favorite and was chosen as Editor’s Pick on BookLife by Publishers Weekly.

Allison hopes that people will take a positive message from her book. “Even in the darkest of times, you must rebuild and start again. Every day offers another chance to move forward,” she says. As for aspiring writers, she says, “Don’t wait! Start writing. It’s a lot of effort to write, market, and promote yourself, but it’s rewarding and mind-opening.” On cyber-safety, Allison recommends having strong passwords, using password management software, and backing up data regularly – as well as remaining positive about the future.

Look for The Unexpected Hostage on Amazon, at Barnes & Noble, and other independent bookstores, and keep up with Allison McKenzie on her website.