The Heart of War: Misadventures in the Pentagon

The Devil Wears Prada meets Catch-22; a novel about a young woman’s journey into the heart of Washington’s war machine.

Dr. Heather Reilly has been an anti-war activist since her brother died fighting the Taliban. But her crushing student loans drive her to take a job working on a peace plan for Afghanistan, in the last place on Earth she ever thought she'd be employed: the Pentagon. On her first day, however, her position is eliminated and she’s shuffled to a war-fighting office focused on combating Russian aggression. Unfortunately, she knows little about Russia and has deep moral reservations about war. Making matters worse, she’s also working for Ariane Fletcher—a woman so terrifying, she eats generals for breakfast. As Heather learns to navigate the Pentagon’s insane bureaucracy and petty power struggles, she finds that her successes come at the expense of her personal life... and that small mistakes can have major consequences in the Department of Defense.

From Washington D.C.'s corridors of power to the dusty streets of Kabul, Kathleen McInnis spins a smart, hilarious, and heartwarming tale that shines a light on the often frustrating but sometimes rewarding experience of a career in the Pentagon.  Packed with insider knowledge about one of the least-known—yet most-powerful—organizations in U.S. national security, McInnis' debut novel establishes her as a major new literary voice with a point of view we've never seen before. 


I am represented by both Adriann Ranta Zurhellen at The Foundry Literary & Media and Rachel Miller at Haven.  

Requests for speaking engagements and interviews should be directed to Claire McKinney.

About Me

My background...

I'm a U.S. national security policy geek by trade, who happens to be moonlighting as a novelist.  Or maybe it's the other way around?  

I also like taking long walks on the beach... 

Feel free to contact me at the email above.  Unless you're a Nigerian prince.

Also, a caveat: nothing on here should be viewed as representative of positions taken by the U.S. government.  At all.  Ever. 

I believe...

Solving the world's problems requires thinking through the issues in both logical and creative ways.  

In other words, hard, geeky analysis goes hand-in-hand with fiction.  I try to write both.

I write...

Because I love to.  Because it helps me think through issues -- professional, analytic, personal... whatever. 

I write because it helps me understand the world a bit better.  

But much more importantly, I write because I hope you'll  find what I've put on the page helpful as you think things through...

Other Books

Strategy Strikes Back: How Star Wars Explains Modern Military Conflict

The most successful film franchise of all time, Star Wars thrillingly depicts an epic multigenerational conflict fought a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. But the Star Wars saga has as much to say about successful strategies and real-life warfare waged in our own time and place. Strategy Strikes Back brings together over thirty of today’s top military and strategic experts, including generals, policy advisors, seasoned diplomats, counterinsurgency strategists, science fiction writers, war journalists, ground‑level military officers, and yours truly to explain the strategy and the art of war by way of the Star Wars films. Order here. 

How and Why States Defect from Military Coalitions

How do states defect from military coalitions, and why?  Particularly since the end of the Cold War, state leaders are choosing to prosecute military operations through coalitions with increasing frequency. Yet surprisingly, the academic literature exploring military coalitions is relatively thin; still less scholarship focuses upon the specific dynamics of how coalitions begin to lose cohesion and fall apart. Ultimately, this book concludes that coalition defection is prompted by heightened perceptions of political and military risk. Yet the choice of how to defect – whether to completely withdraw forces or instead find another, less risky way to participate – is largely a function of international and alliance pressures to remain engaged. 

To be published by Palgrave in late 2018.  

Policy Wonk & Academic Work

Military Coalitions

I've recently finished my PhD at King's College London on military coalitions. Some other stuff I've written on the subject includes:

On Cats and Coalitions, War on the Rocks, August 22, 2013. Available at: 

Lessons Learned in Coalition Warfare: Past, Present and Implications for the Future, International Politics Reviews, November 28, 2013. Available at:

  'The Many Challenges of Building an International Military Coalition,' Defense One, August 2013.  Available at:

NATO & Transatlantic Security

NATO: Charting the Way Forward (with Xenia Wickett), Chatham House, July 2014.  Available at:

  “Four Questions NATO Must Ask,” Chatham House Expert Comment. Available at:  

Co-authored with: Michele Flournoy, Julianne Smith, David Scruggs, Guy Ben-Ari, "European Defense Integration: Bridging the Gap Between Strategy & Capabilities" Available at:

U.S. Defense Strategy & Policy

"The North Korean Nuclear Challenge: Issues for Congress" (Coordinator), Congressional Research Service, November 2017.  Available at:

"Extended Deterrence: The U.S. Credibility Gap in the Middle East, The Washington Quarterly," Summer 2005. Available at:

"Goldwater-Nichols at 30: Defense Reform and Issues for Congress," Congressional Research Service, April 2016

"A Canary in the Coal Mine for U.S. Global Leadership?"  War on the Rocks, October 28, 2013.  Available at:

  “The Goldilocks Approach to U.S. Foreign Policy,” Dialogue, Autumn 2014, Available at:  

Co-authored with Nate Lucas, "Building Partner Capacity: Background and Issues for Congress," Congressional Research Service, December 2015

"Statutory Restrictions on the Position of Secretary of Defense: Issues for Congress," Congressional Research Service, January 2017.

Other Stuff

I routinely speak on these issues to both government and non-government audiences.  I've provided expert comment to media (print, TV and radio) including outlets such as: The Telegraph, CNN, The Financial Times, Sky News, Al Jazeera, CNBC, the BBC and Voice of America.  I am also a Senior Non-Resident Fellow at the Atlantic Council of the United States.

Fiction & Fun Writing

Cultural Commentary

I wrote a piece for The Atlantic a while back about why the show "Homeland" drives me absolutely insane.  Apparently the show has gotten better over the years, but I'm not convinced.

Art of War

For a while, I wrote a column called, "The Art of War" for an online national security magazine, War on the Rocks.


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