CTG Interviews KJ Howe about The Freedom Broker

image003

While I was at the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival at Harrogate I met up with fellow debut novelist KJ Howe to chat about her fabulous thriller THE FREEDOM BROKER. Over coffee, we talked research, writing process, and how she created the kick-ass action heroine Thea Paris…

Thea Paris is such an authentic all-action female lead – what inspired you to create her as a character?

I always wanted to write a strong female protagonist. As part of my research I went out to the Phoenix desert and trained in hand-to-hand combat, knife fighting and more. I’m a big believer of if you’re going to write about it you should have experienced it. I’ve got this rolodex of Special Forces guys I can call on – they read the book – and wanted to bring an authenticity to the page. I would have loved to have been a spy! I’ve been zip lining, cage diving with sharks, but I’m also feminine and enjoy dressing up – I wanted to show a woman can be a real woman but also really strong too, but not in a comic book way. Thea Paris has very human baggage and with her diabetes there’s a ticking clock – she has to have her insulin [which can be tricky given some of the situations she gets into during the course of The Freedom Broker]. I wanted to show that if you have a chronic illness it shouldn’t stop you, and if you’re a woman it shouldn’t stop you doing your dream job.

Thea’s job as a Response Consultant [kidnap negotiator/rescuer] is an unusual one – what research did you do?

I’ve spent the last four years immersed in that world and found out first-hand about what it’s like. As well as speaking with people who’ve been in real life hostage situations – like Peter Moore who was the longest held hostage in Iraq – I’ve found out about the world of kidnap and ransom. I attended the Kidnap and Ransom Conference – I didn’t know anyone, and it’s a dark, closed world – but I needed to learn about it so I could write authentically. Now I’ve got contacts all over the world – including special ops people, response consultants, a psychologist who specialises in hostage mentality, and security guys who protect journalists in war zones.

I wanted to do something fresh and unique, and I didn’t want to do FBI or Police as I’m not a rule follower – I wanted the freedom to go wild! Private industry doesn’t have the same restrictions, and it’s interesting how the whole system works – from big companies, to kidnap insurance, through to response consultants [interestingly, Lloyds of London are the people who first started selling kidnap and ransom insurance]. People can be insured for as much as fifty million dollars, and negotiators will often haggle down from the ransom demand – usually 10% or so. In the US and the UK the penalty for kidnap is high, and there’s also a 95% chance of getting caught. But in Mexico there are no laws on kidnap and a 95% chance of not getting caught – so it’s more worth the risk to kidnappers. Plus there’s no lack of potential victims – everyone has loved ones – it’s scary. With every book in the series I’m hoping to explore a different aspect of kidnap.

THE FREEDOM BROKER is super twisty-turny – what was your writing process?

I’m an organic writer. I do plan ahead, but mostly the story is held in my head. I do go back and plant things later though. You can’t fight who you are – if you need to plot to feel in control then do that. I find there’s a freshness from organically writing – the characters come alive. So listen to your heart and write how you want to – my style is ‘pants on fire’ writing. You can sometimes get into trouble writing organically, but for me it’s well worth the risk. If I get into a corner I think ‘what’s the theme of the book?’ – it’s often family – and can work out what next from there.

What got you into writing thrillers?

When you look at the book you’re reading and the books you chose to read there’s always an emotion attached to them. With thrillers it’s energy and adrenaline, with mysteries it’s puzzle solving, with romance it’s hope, and with sci-fi it’s wonder. I’m into adrenaline and energy – I’m a very action orientated person. I read David Morrell’s Brotherhood of the Rose – a spy thriller – and thought I’d love to be an author and be able to do what he did to me to another reader, to take them to another place – like Athens – and fascinate them. The Eye of the Needle and Day of the Jackal are great books. I grew up in different places around the world and wanted a character that can go anywhere – each book will go to different countries.

KJ HOWE

What words of advice do you have for those aspiring to be published?

Embrace criticism from credible sources. I worked on my book for two years and had to go on the journey – it’s 10% about talent and 90% about perspiration – and you have to be in it for the long haul. Everyone I know has been at it for a while. Write every day or as often as you can – get out the junk words and keep going! David Morrell is my mentor and he has a saying ‘Be a first rate version of yourself, not a second rate version of someone else’ – only you can write your book. It’s like with me having had a very international life – I’ve lived in lots of places where the shadow of threat is always there – I can bring to the page what I’ve learnt. Be fresh. Unless there’s great writing and a unique voice don’t do something that’s already been done. Stay the course and get help – never bring your ego to the table. Although I’m published I feel like I’m at the beginning of the journey. I want to stay at it, keep getting better, and then getting word out about my books and reaching readers. Learn everything you can about this business. Do your own social media, and get involved and be part of the writing community (events like the Theakston’s Crime Writing Festival held at Harrogate every July are a great place to start). I try to help as many writers as I can – playing it forward as I’ve had a lot of help from authors. You can contact me through my website and the ThrillerFest website [she’s the Executive Director of the fantastic crime writing festival] – I’m always happy to hear from people.

And with that the coffee was drunk and the interview was over. KJ Howe was a brilliantly fun interviewee and it was great to meet her and talk about all the fascinating research she’s done – she really is an action woman herself!

To find out more about KJ Howe visit her website HERE and be sure to follow her on Twitter @KJHoweAuthor

You can read my review of THE FREEDOM BROKER HERE and then hop over to Amazon to buy it by clicking the link HERE

And check out the ThrillerFest website HERE for all the details on this amazing crime writing festival held in New York every summer.

CTG Reviews: The Freedom Broker by KJ Howe

image003

What the blurb says: “Thea Paris is one of the world’s one elite kidnapping negotiators and the only woman in her field. Undercover operations and high-risk extractions are a part of daily life for Thea. Her only objective: getting her hostages out alive, at any cost.

But Thea is about to face her toughest challenge yet to free a very special client: her father. An oil tycoon on the verge of a world-altering deal, Thea’s father is snatched off his yacht in Greece from right under Thea’s nose. With no ransom demands and only cryptic messages left in Latin, Thea knows it will take all her experience and resolve to bring her father home alive. But with traumatic memories of her brother’s kidnapping 20 years earlier still haunting her and trying to hide her diabetes from her colleagues, Thea Paris could have finally met her match.”

First up, I have to say this is one hell of a story. Plunging straight into the action right from the get-go, we meet Thea Paris – kidnap negotiator – in the jungles of Kwale, Nigeria, leading a mission by stealth to bring back a man held captive for ransom. She’s tough, determined, and focused on the job in hand. And from those very first pages I was hooked.

The Freedom Broker is about a lot more than pure action though (although there’s plenty of that too) it’s about family dynamics and difficult relationships, about how it feels to be a woman operating in a very male dominated profession, it’s about secrets and revenge and how our past informs our present.

And although Thea Paris might be the ultimate action woman – she knows her guns and her helicopters just as well as any man – she’s also feminine and romantic, she’s a loving daughter and caring sister, and she manages a disability that she keeps hidden from almost everyone around her. She’s a character you want to succeed, that you root for, trust in and, after all the action has gone down, the kind of person it’d be great fun to go out for a few drinks with.

The Freedom Broker is a thrilling read, it’ll have you high on adrenaline and heart-wrenched with anxiety, and you’ll love every single minute of it.

Buy it now!

I’m counting the days until the second in the series comes out – for me it can’t be quickly enough!

Find out more about KJ Howe on her website here

And buy THE FREEDOM BROKER on Amazon here

 

Check back in later in the week to read my interview with KJ Howe.

And be sure to check out all the other great tour stops…

The Freedom Broker blog tour graphic

CTG shameless plug: #VoteLori #FearlessFemale @DeadGoodBooks Reader Awards 2017 – thank you!

DEEP DOWN DEAD Dead Good Readers-2

Please excuse the shameless plug but…

I’m totally thrilled that DEEP DOWN DEAD is on the shortlists for two awards – Fearless Female Character and Most Exceptional Debut – at the Dead Good Readers Awards that are presented at the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival at Harrogate this July.

These awards are nominated and voted for by readers – so if you enjoyed DEEP DOWN DEAD I’d be real grateful if you could throw a vote in Lori Anderson and DEEP DOWN DEAD’s direction!

The voting is open now over at the fab Dead Good Books website here: http://www.deadgoodbooks.co.uk/dead-good-reader-awards-2017/

#VoteLori
THANK YOU!!!!

#DeepDownDead DEBUT DIARY: IT’S LAUNCH DAY!

ddd-paperback-inc-quotes

 

It’s 5th January, and that means DEEP DOWN DEAD is out in paperback! It’s so exciting to hold my debut novel in my hands – I feel like I need to pinch myself to check it’s actually happening! 

It’s out in the world and available from Waterstones HERE and Amazon HERE (in the UK) and on Amazon.com HERE (in the US) as well as other great bookstores.

In case you’ve missed it, here’s the blurb:Lori Anderson is as tough as they come, managing to keep her career as a fearless Florida bounty hunter separate from her role as single mother to nine-year-old Dakota, who suffers from leukaemia. But when the hospital bills start to rack up, she has no choice but to take her daughter along on a job that will make her a fast buck. And that’s when things start to go wrong. The fugitive she’s assigned to haul back to court is none other than JT, Lori’s former mentor – the man who taught her everything she knows … the man who also knows the darkest secrets of her past.

Not only is JT fighting a child exploitation racket operating out of one of Florida’s biggest amusement parks, Winter Wonderland, a place where ‘bad things never happen’, but he’s also mixed up with the powerful Miami Mob. With two fearsome foes on their tails, just three days to get JT back to Florida, and her daughter to protect, Lori has here work cut out for her. When they’re ambushed at a gas station, the stakes go from high to stratospheric and things become personal.”

 

I’ve been overwhelmed with the quotes that DEEP DOWN DEAD has been getting from crime thriller writers. Here’s what they’ve been saying:

‘This is a good one – fast, confident, and suspenseful. My kind of book’ Lee Child

‘With a Stephanie Plum-style protagonist in bounty hunter Lori, Deep Down Dead has a Midnight Run feel to it, but much darker. Really, really good’ Ian Rankin

‘Read some great debuts this year but Deep Down Dead is a real cracker. Steph Broadribb kicks ass, as does her ace protagonist Lori Anderson!’ Mark Billingham

‘Crazy good … full-tilt action and a brilliant cast of characters. This is a series and an author to watch’ Yrsa Siguroardóttir, author of I Remember You

‘Deep Down Dead is a blast of a book – fast-paced, engaging and hugely entertaining’ Simon Toyne, author of Solomon Creed

‘Steph Broadribb has written a brilliant, pacey, bounty-hunter tale that marks the beginning of what will undoubtedly become a sparkling career’ Steve Cavanagh, author of The Defence

‘An action-packed crime thriller dripping with intrigue from the Deep South, and with a feisty no-nonsense heroine to boot. It’s a debut that demands to be read, with excitement and exhilaration flying off every page. In Lori Anderson, Broadribb has created a memorable and authentic female lead – and readers will be left wanting the next installment of her adventures as soon as possible’ David Young, author of Stasi Child

‘Tough as a pair of rhino-hide cowboy boots and unremittingly energetic. An explosive, exciting debut’ David Mark, author of Dead Pretty

‘An action-packed Southern road noir that pulls no punches. Single mom/bounty hunter Lori Anderson is an engaging new heroine, and Deep Down Dead is quite simply a hell of a thriller’ Mason Cross, author of The Killing Season

‘A fresh and compelling debut with an intriguing plot, a great new heroine, and a setting that zings with authenticity’ Anya Lipska, author of A Devil Under The Skin

‘If anything, Broadribb and her protagonist, tough Florida bounty hunter Lori Anderson, have more than a hint of Lee Child and Jack Reacher about them, with (literally) no punches pulled. The other parallel with Lee Child is, of course, the fact that this is an English writer making a sterling job of finding an American voice for both the narrative and the characters, and Broadribb proves to be just as adroit in this area as her male counterpart … a promising debut delivered with both energy and colour’ Barry Forshaw, Time Crime

‘Furious, fast and thrilling’ Graeme Cameron, author of Normal

‘Dead Down Dead grabs you like a whirlwind – once you’re in, there’s no getting away till it’s through with you. Pacey, emotive and captivating, this is kick-ass thriller writing of the highest order’ Rod Reynolds, author of The Dark Inside

‘A relentless page-turner with twists and turns that left me breathless’ J.S. Law, author of Tenacity

‘Deep Down Dead oozes authenticity. This is an engaging, original thriller with the type of characters you wish you knew in real life. Fresh, compelling and beautifully written, with a real cinematic quality. Read. Now.’ S.J.I. Holliday, author of Black Wood

‘Lori Anderson is a bounty hunter like none you’ve ever encountered before. This is a series that will run and run. You’ll need to clear some time in your diary to read Steph Broadribb’s Deep Down Dead because you won’t want to set this one aside till the end. A genuine page-turner’ Howard Linskey, author of No Name Lane

‘Fast, furious and utterly addictive, Deep Down Dead is a blistering debut and marks Broadribb as a rising talent to watch’ Neil Broadfoot, author of Falling Fast

‘Non-stop adrenaline rushes in this romantic action-adventure, introducing gritty, earthy, unstoppable heroine in bounty hunter Lori Anderson – and a bad boy opponent/partner who is actually worthy of her. If you love romantic suspense, you’ll love this ride’ Alexandra Sokoloff, author of The Huntress/FBI thrillers and co-author of The Keepers series

‘The story moves at a frantic pace, and the plotting, along with the writing, is so deft and assured that it’s really quite staggering that this is a debut. But what really sets this book apart is the characterization of Lori and JT; it’s kind of like reading early Reacher, where you know you’re at the beginning of something very special, characters that will stay with you, books that you’ll wait patiently for each year’ Chris Whitaker, author of Tall Oaks

‘A stunning debut from a major new talent’ Zoe Sharp, author of the Charlie Fox crime series

‘This is perfect for fans of Lee Child and Janet Evanovich, with the same American charm you find in Charlaine Harris, but it also has a sensibility that is completely unique and totally Broadribb. Lori Anderson is a fascinating heroine, with plenty of secrets and depth, but also totally kick-ass and relevant. Deep Down Dead is just so assured for a debut, and there wasn’t a single false step. It’s fun, thrilling, edge of your seat but also dealing with some seriously dark issues, and introduces a cast of characters I want to meet again! A great start to what is already one of my favourite series. Can’t wait for the next one’ Alex Caan, author of Cut To The Bone

‘Powerful, passionate, and packs a real punch’ Fergus McNeill, author of Knife Edge

‘A gem of a read that delivers thrills at breakneck pace … Lori is a feisty heroine we all wish had our backs’ Marnie Riches, author of The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die

‘There are a couple of different ways to think about this debut. Once is an entertaining bounty-hunter adventure, and on that level it’s quite a ride. But another take is as a character study, with depth – the relationship between protagonist Lori, daughter Dakota and male lead JT. It’s assured and emotionally moving. Will be keeping an eye on this author and she does next’ Daniel Pembrey, author of The Harbour Master

‘A kick-ass American thriller and a great read … crying out to be a Hollywood movie. I couldn’t put it down’ Louise Voss, author of The Venus Trap

‘I ripped through this high-octane, breathlessly paced thriller in almost one sitting. Loved kick-ass Lori and her sexy-as-hell love interest JT – a combo to get your heart racing, and then some’ Ava Marsh, author of Untouchable

‘Steph Broadribb’s debut novel has been a long time coming, but is was definitely worth the wait. Dripping with authenticity, filled with unforgettable characters, and with a plot to die for. The writing is fantastic, making it one of my favourite debut novels for a long, long time. Deep Down Dead is just the first novel in what will be an incredible career for Broadribb. I can’t wait to read the next Lori Anderson book!’ Luca Veste, author of The Dying Place

‘We all need a fast-talking, gun-toting heroine with a heart of gold in our life, and Lori Anderson is a most compelling creation. If you don’t read Deep Down Dead, you’ll really be missing out’ Claire Seeber, author of The Stepmother

‘This writer! This book! I haven’t witnessed such a buzz about a new author for quite some time, and the buzz is entirely deserved. Breathtakingly pacey and authentic. You have to read it’ Michael J. Malone, author of A Suitable Lie

‘This thrilling debut is a masterwork of suspense, as bounty hunter, Lori Anderson, takes us on a road trip fraught with danger, passion and high-octane jeopardy. Steph Broadribb is a top crime talent! Unputdownable’ Helen Cadbury, author of To Catch A Rabbit

‘Finished this at a gallop! Great action scenes and great atmosphere in a top romantic thriller’ C.J. Carver, author of Spare Me the Truth

‘Relentless, breathtaking and emotionally charged. A roller coaster of a read! Jane Isaac, author of Beneath the Ashes

‘Steph Broadribb’s gritty debut will appeal to fans of the Sue Grafton alphabet series. I can’t wait to see what bounty hunter Lori Anderson gets up to next!’ Cass Green, author of Hold Your Breath

 

 

#DeepDownDead DEBUT DIARY: THE BLOG TOUR IS ROLLING!

blog-tour-poster

 

As Crime Thriller Girl I’ve hosted stops on loads of blog tours, but it feels kind of strange that it’s now my debut novel that’s getting a tour!

Strange but very cool!

I’ve been blown away by the number of stops on the DEEP DOWN DEAD blog tour and am totally indebted to the fabulous bloggers who are taking part. There’s going to be reviews, interviews, giveaways and guest blogs from me (and some double acts with a few of my writing mates).

Check out the dates above for details.

Wooooohoooooo – we’re off and rolling!

 

CTG REVIEWS: NIGHT SCHOOL by LEE CHILD

unknown

What the blurb says: “In the morning, they gave Reacher a medal. And in the afternoon, they sent him back to school. It’s just a voice plucked from the air: ‘The American wants a hundred million dollars’. For what? Who from? It’s 1996, and the Soviets are long gone. But now there’s a new enemy. In an apartment in Hamburg, a group of smartly-dressed young Saudis are planning something big. Jack Reacher is fresh off a secret mission and a big win. The Army pats him on the back and gives him a medal. And then they send him back to school. It’s a school with only three students: Reacher, an FBI agent, and a CIA analyst. Their assignment? To find that American. And what he’s selling. And to whom. There is serious shit going on, signs of a world gone mad. Night School takes Reacher back to his army days, but this time he’s not in uniform. With trusted sergeant Frances Neagley at his side, he must carry the fate of the world on his shoulders, in a wired, fiendishly clever new adventure that will make the cold sweat trickle down your spine.”

Lee Child’s latest addition to the Jack Reacher series is Reacher #21 – NIGHT SCHOOL and I was super excited to get my hands on an early proof copy – black covers, very minimal (rather like the great Reacher himself). Or at least it was very minimal, till I travelled to Scotland with it in my overnight bag, and the glitter originally stuck onto the wrapping paper of a gift I was taking relocated itself onto the book cover. I guess I’m probably the only person with a glittery copy of NIGHT SCHOOL!

Anyway, back to the book …

Well, as always, Reacher #21 delivers the Reacher-style goods. It also forces fans to delay gratification on the present day Reacher/Chang what-happens-next question from the end of the previous book – MAKE ME – and instead takes us back in time to when Reacher was still in the military. Not an easy delay for an impatient Reacher addict like me to take, but as Lee Child pairs Reacher back up with Neagley I’m willing to concede it’s a fair trade.

And in NIGHT SCHOOL it’s fascinating to see Reacher back in the structured environment of the military – reacting to the confines of protocol and hierarchy, yet still very much ‘being Reacher’; hard-wired to do whatever is needed to get justice, pushing blocks out the way (or ignoring them), and challenging the status quo. There’s a strong investigatory feel to the story, with lots of twists and turns to keep the reader guessing, and the pace whips along at breath-taking speed.

The relationship between Reacher and Neagley is complex and interesting – the mutual respect, the banter, the attraction yet inability to connect physically due to Neagley’s phobia of being touched. It was a joy to spend time with them in NIGHT SCHOOL and I’m hoping that we might get to see more of their relationship in future books.

NIGHT SCHOOL is everything you want from an action thriller – fast, hard and gripping. Read it now, then go back and read all the rest!

And, for the next book in the series – Reacher #22 (I’m guessing black cover, no glitter) what I REALLY want to know what happens between Reacher and Chang!

You can buy NIGHT SCHOOL from Amazon here

Find out more about Lee Child and the Reacher series at www.leechild.com 

 

CTG REVIEWS: A TIME TO DIE by TOM WOOD

51fo4kdydel

 

Here’s the blurb: “A killer can be a hero. If the assassin known only as ‘Victor’ once had a moral compass, it is long since buried, along with his many victims. But some men are so evil they must die for reasons other than just money. Like Milan Rados, a former war criminal who has escaped trial to become a formidable power. Tracking down and killing this brutal man will win Victor a reprieve for his own recent crimes on British soil. But Victor isn’t the only one who wants Rados dead. One woman will do anything to see Rados’ blood spilled on the snow of Eastern Europe. Now Victor has an unlikely ally – but an army stands between them and justice.”

I’m a big fan of the Victor the Assassin books and A TIME TO DIE is another great addition to the series.

Victor is the ultimate ‘lone wolf’ – he’s known as Victor but has many aliases, he changes his appearance regularly to put anyone on his tail off track, and he has no family or friends. He doesn’t trust anyone, and regards all he meets as a potential threat. He’s cold, calculating and by rights should be very difficult to like. Yet as a reader I find him strangely likable. Perhaps it’s because he’s so up front about how he is – there’s no pretence, he says what he thinks even when it’s not what someone wants to hear (for example, if they ask if he’s going to kill them and the answer is yes!). That said, he does some dreadful things, so I don’t think I’d actually want to meet him!

But reading about him is fantastic.

Tom Wood’s writing has a fabulously cinematic quality to it and in A TIME TO DIE Victor is both hunter and prey. His assignment is more dangerous than is usual even for him. He has to gain the trust of the elusive war criminal Milan Rados – a man with no conscious and a sickening love of the brutal and macabre – in order to get close enough to kill him.

But hard as that is, it’s complicated even further when Victor learns he has a price on his head – a throw back from a previous job – and he becomes the target of other professional assassins.

With some stunning action-packed set pieces, and a pace that whips along from beginning to end leaving you breathless, A TIME TO DIE is a must-read for thriller fans.

You can buy A TIME TO DIE from Amazon here

To find out more about Tom Wood pop over to his website https://tomwoodbooks.com/books/ and be sure to follow him on Twitter @TheTomWood