Vanessa Michael Munroe, the androgynous hero of Taylor Stevens's thriller debut, The Informationist, has a past that in part reflects the closed, nomadic existence of the author growing up in the Children of God cult.

Before you escaped the Children of God cult, you once had your stories confiscated and burned.

Those in charge just took them and told me they burned them. I ended up being locked away for three days in a room with no food because they wanted to exorcise the devils out of me.

How old were you?


When did you decide to become a writer?

I finally had a chance to read back in the United States. I was about 31. I had two little kids, and I was a stay-at-home mom. It was after reading the Jason Bourne trilogy that I made the decision to write. I wanted to be able to create in others the same emotion, the connection, the excitement that I felt when reading these books. I want to take people places where they've never been before. Robert Ludlum is my hero of writers.

Define "informationist."

Munroe earns money by turning this skill into something corporations can use to gain a foothold within the uncertain political spectrums of foreign countries. She's an informationist because her world revolves around the acquisition of information, and she will do whatever it takes to get the job done as long as she isn't caught. Munroe isn't based on my childhood, though there are definitely touches of it in her: the abandonment, the having no home to return to, and always being the outsider looking in.

Have you ever met an informationist?

No. I don't even know if they exist or not. I made this up. Isn't that what fiction is?

Why is Munroe androgynous?

Regarding androgyny, I feel that too much of what we experience in life is defined by preconceived ideas. Munroe, as a predator, preys on a preconceived idea to get what she wants, and to her core, she's the type of person, who, even if she wasn't naturally androgynous, would have found a way to be so, simply because it's her nature to become whatever is needed to get what she wants.

What's next?

In the second novel in the series, working title The Innocent, I go more into the "Chosen" cult of The Informationist. It's based on my life and the Children of God.

What's the most important lesson you've learned?

Focus. Pure, unadulterated focus toward a desired goal. No excuses, no valid reasons, no exceptions.