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Author Ally Carter shares inspiration for Embassy Row series
Ally Carter - photo by Hikari Loftus
Anyone planning on kidnapping author Ally Carter can bet she won't make it easy for him or her.

After hearing once that taking different routes to and from frequented locations makes it harder for kidnappers to nab their victims, thats exactly what Carter started doing.

I dont do things like that because I write spy books, Carter said in an interview. I write spy books because I do things like that.

Carter, who writes what she calls unrealistic realistic fiction such as The Heist Society, Gallagher Girls and, most recently, Embassy Row series, says she can't explain exactly why she loves writing about spies and espionage she's just always been drawn to stories like that.

There is nothing that happens in my books that technically couldnt happen in real life, Carter said, explaining what unrealistic realistic fiction means for her stories. Your heist movies, your Mission Impossible, things like that, thats not what it really is to be a covert operative, but that is what our pop cultural perception of that is.

Carters latest book, See How They Run (Scholastic, $17.99, ages 12 and up), the second book in the Embassy Row series, picks up immediately after All Fall Down left off. Grace Blakely, the granddaughter of the U.S ambassador living on Embassy Row in the country of Adria, has just discovered the details surrounding her mothers murder. See How They Run takes that story to the next level, deepening the plot and introducing a whole new set of high stakes and a thrilling mystery for Grace and her Embassy Row friends. With several plot twists and unexpected developments, "See How They Run" takes readers into the political history and dangerous world of Embassy Row.

Though the young adult genre is somewhat defined by romance, Carters real focus is on other things making her books perfect for the younger teen looking for a read with an older teen vibe.

Grace, she has bigger problems right now, Carter said. I very much wanted to write a love interest in but especially in book one and two, Grace has bigger fish to fry. Shes not worried about who is going to take her to the big dance, shes more afraid of Will I still be alive during the big dance?

Though Carter never consciously decided to be a writer of clean books for teens, its a responsibility she says she now takes very seriously.

I know there are a lot of librarians and booksellers who wont even read my new books; they will just blindly hand-sell it to people who are looking for that, so I dont take that responsibility lightly, Carter said.

Instead of focusing on romance, Carter turns readers' main focus on Grace, the difficult situations in which she finds herself and the difficult decisions she must make.

I think Grace is probably the character who Ive written who is the most messed up, Carter said with a laugh. But she is living in this very high-pressure environment, and most of that pressure is coming from herself.

Carter finds many ideas for her novels in declassified World War II training manuals and other books that have been curated by former spies and are sold in the International Spy Museum. But it was a trip to Washington, D.C., that really set the stage for the Embassy Row series.

With an hour to kill before a book event, Carter mentioned to her guide that she was thinking of writing a book inspired by Embassy Row and that she would like to see it. With several Embassy Rows to choose from, her guide took her to the most iconic.

You know the old cliche, how every street has that one creepy house at the end of the street? Carter asked. Well, the creepy house at the end of the street on Embassy Row in D.C. is the Iranian Embassy. And so all of that in the book in All Fall Down is 100 percent true.

Carter explained that the Iranians left in the 70s, and the property, while still technically belonging to the Iranian government, became a ramshackle no mans land. And so the Iranian Embassy, in its fallen state, wove itself into Carters story, appearing several times throughout All Fall Down and See How They Run.

When I saw (the Iranian Embassy), thats when I knew, Carter said. I already had the idea for Embassy Row, but that is when I knew I had to write the book.

Initially, Carter thought she might write it with a boy protagonist, but she eventually decided to write about Grace instead.

"I'm probably more drawn to writing female characters," Carter said. "I heard from readers, parents, librarians all the gatekeepers that there is a lack or an underserved audience of female protagonists for this genre. You have all your young James Bonds and your Alex Riders, and that spy-boy genre has been a little bit more fed through the years. So I really wanted to continue to write characters that girls could see themselves in, in these types of genres."

"See How They Run" contains minor violence but no swearing or sexual content.