Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Who do you call when your loved one is kidnapped?

Interview with K.J. Howe author of The Freedom Broker Series – an international thriller series about kidnapping and ransom.

Thank you for this interview. Learning about your life and your character’s life has been fascinating. Both of you have active, busy lives. With my current interviews, I’m exploring whether writers are born or created by their lives –the basic nature versus nurture concept. So that’s the intent behind some of these questions.

  • 1)      You’ve lead an international life with a wide variety of activities. Do you think that life prompted the writing urge? If you’d never left Toronto, or had grown up and stayed in a small community, would you still have started writing novels?

I definitely feel that I would be writing whether or not I’d had my eclectic upbringing, as I love books, stories, and the escapism novels provide. I started reading at an early age, and I always wanted to be a writer. That said, I believe my choice of international thrillers is firmly rooted in the experiences I’ve had abroad. Because I have lived in the Middle East, Africa, Europe, and the Caribbean, I’m comfortable creating stories set in those places. I work hard to create verisimilitude by immersing myself in the locales I’m writing about, as I love to transport readers there, bringing them the smells, tastes, and sounds of a country. Thrillers appealed to me because I’ve always been an adrenaline junkie, something that was fostered by my father. He introduced me to motorcycles, scuba diving, and other adventures, and I’ve been enjoying a life of action ever since.

  • 2)      In Thea Paris’s bio, we learn that her brother’s kidnapping led her to become a negotiator for kidnap situations and an advocate for the families. What in your life prompted you to choose this career path for your main character?
With over 40,000 reported kidnappings a year, this issue is becoming a global crisis.  Kidnapping intrigues me.  It’s a purgatory of sorts, as the hostage is alive, but not really living life.  Every single item a hostage wants, whether it be food or privileges, he/she must obtain permission for it—but the kidnapper can never take your mind or sense of self unless you give it to him.

I spent a lot of time in countries with high threat levels, so there was always a shadow hovering over me—and being abducted was a prominent fear.  When I met former hostage Peter Moore, the longest held hostage in Iraq (for almost 1000 days), I had the deepest respect for the courage he showed under enormous duress.  Peter was taken hostage along with four British military gentlemen, and sadly, he was the only one to come home alive.  What made Peter able to cope?  I explore issues like this in my book.  I wanted to create a character who would help bring hostages home, a strong female who would do anything to help others.  And Thea is personally motivated to be a kidnap negotiator because of her brother’s experience.  It’s more of a calling rather than a job.

  • 3)      Your research has been extensive. Many of those you talked to are almost covert in nature. How did you connect with the various people and organizations for the research?
The world of kidnapping is a very dark and secretive one.  Knowing I wanted to write about this subject matter, I attended a conference and was fortunate to build relationships with a few key figures, and they have introduced me to others. I continue pursue more research, as kidnapping is a diverse topic, and I hope to write many novels about Thea’s exploits.
Link: Freedom Broker
  • 4)      How much of yourself ends up in your character and in what fundamental way are you and Thea different?
Most authors inject themselves into their characters because writing is a catharsis, a way to making sense of our world. I feel a strong collegiality with Thea Paris, as I never wanted the fact that I was a woman to stop me from pursuing any passions. Thea and I share a love for travel and adventure, but Thea is far braver than I am. I’m not big on being shot at, but she rushes into the fray. And Thea has type 1 diabetes, which is a serious vulnerability for her, especially when she travels abroad, as insulin is her elixir—without it, she would die.

  • 5)      You are creating a series. Did you have outlines or ideas for more than the first book when you started to write? Did you decide on your overall story arc for the series in the beginning?
There are many facets of kidnapping, from kidnap for ransom to virtual kidnappings to tiger kidnappings.  I could also explore extortion and piracy in the series because Thea works in those areas as well.  And there are endless hotspots in the world, so I do have countless settings for future novels.  I definitely considered the overall story arc, but I also left wiggle room for being impulsive.  Like any seasoned operative, Thea left me egress routes all planned out.
  • 6)      What do you want your tombstone to say?
She was the one who got away.

  • 7)      What are you working on now? What new adventure is ahead for Thea?
I’m currently working on book two, and it’s called SKYJACK.  Thea Paris is shepherding two former child soldiers from Nairobi to London when the plane they are on is hijacked.  The adventures kick off from there.  SKYJACK involves secret stay-behind armies from WWII, the CIA, the Vatican, and more.  Warning:  do not read while flying.

Fast and fun questions. Please answer yes or no. Have you ever: (A few words of explanation are allowed).

  • 1.      Danced naked in the rain?  Heck, yes.
  • 2.      Ridden a motorcycle?  Absolutely, I have my license.
  • 3.      Jumped out of a plane?  Not yet, but have been in an aerobatic plane doing a few twists.
  • 4.      Been in a bar fight? More a lover, not a fighter unless someone is being bullied. 
  • 5.      Gotten lost in a strange city?  It has become a habit.
  • 6.      Shared your ice cream cone, lick for lick, with your pet?  No, I gave the dog the whole cone.
Thanks for taking the time to provide answers. We’ll be watching for Thea Paris and The Freedom Broker Series.

Find out more about KJ