Author Interview – K.J. Howe, Author of “The Freedom Broker”
Born in Toronto, Canada, KJ enjoyed a nomadic lifestyle during her early years, living in Africa, the Middle East, Europe, and the Caribbean, which gave her an insider’s view into many different cultures. While abroad, she read every book she could find, which triggered in her a desire to create her own stories.
She attended Salzburg International Preparatory School, Neuchâtel Junior College, and Albert College before earning a Specialists Degree in Business from the University of Toronto.
KJ found success in the corporate world, but her passion for travel, adventure, and stories drew her back to school where she earned a Masters in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University. She also won several writing awards, including three Daphne du Maurier Awards for Excellence in Mystery and Suspense.
While honing her fiction skills, KJ worked as a medical, health, and fitness writer. She then became involved with the International Thriller Writers as the Executive Director of ThrillerFest, the organization’s annual conference held every July in New York City.
Tell us more about you and what ignited your passion for words.
I was born in Canada, and I consider Toronto home, but I had an eclectic upbringing, as my father worked in telecommunications. We lived in the Middle East, Africa, Europe, and the Caribbean, and I enjoying learning about different cultures and countries. Always the new kid, I loved the escape that books provided.
I’ve was quite passionate about thrillers, and when I read David Morrell’s BROTHERHOOD OF THE ROSE and Lisa Gardner’s THE PERFECT HUSBAND, I thought—wow, if I could ever provide the kind of wonderful escape these talented writers did for me to someone else, then it would be a dream come true.
I started studying writing and attended Seton Hill University to complete my Master’s in Writing Popular Fiction. I’ve also studied with some talented authors in the genre, including David Morrell, Lee Child, Steve Berry, and they have taught me so much about storytelling and craft, and serve as inspiration to keep working hard.
Writing is a lifelong journey, and I hope to keep improving with each book.
What type of book are you writing? Can you tell us more about it or where we can find it if already published?
My book THE FREEDOM BROKER is a thriller set in the world of kidnap and ransom, and it is available everywhere books are sold. My character Thea Paris is a strong, talented woman with humanizing vulnerabilities, including type 1 diabetes.
I enjoy books that are character based, so I’m hoping Thea might resonate with people, and perhaps encourage anyone with an illness that they can still reach for their dreams.
Given my extensive research into kidnapping the last three years, I wanted Thea to be an elite kidnap negotiator—a freedom broker—who travels to the world’s hotspots to bring captives back home. The world of hostage retrieval fascinated me, as it lurks in the shadows of society, a heartbreaking and dangerous milieu.
Thea Paris became a freedom broker after she witnessed her brother’s kidnapping as a child. While her brother returned home nine months later, he was never the same. As a result, she was determined to help other hostages.
There are over 40,000 reported kidnappings every year, and the number continues to grow. Displaced military and police in third world countries are turning to kidnapping as a way of putting food on the table, and they have the requisite security skills to do so. We need our freedom brokers to help negotiate for the release of hostages to bring families back together.
Would you mind sharing a high, a low or something special you experienced writing this book?
While researching THE FREEDOM BROKER, I had the honour of meeting and then befriending former hostage Peter Moore who was the longest held hostage in Iraq, his captivity lasting almost 1000 days. Peter suffered many hardships, including mock executions, batterings, poor food and hygiene, and profound loneliness.
He was abducted with four British military men, and only Peter survived. Kidnappings can have gut-wrenching endings, but they can also be inspiring. Peter’s was both. I was sad to hear about the poor men who never made it back. Heartbreaking. But Peter coming home and returning to a normal life offers hope for other hostages.
There is much work to be done in this field, and I’m hoping to bring awareness about kidnapping via travel safety talks to prevent them from happening.
Are you working on anything new? At which stage are you with this new project?
I was fortunate to sign a two-book deal, so SKYJACK, the next Thea Paris adventure, will be coming out next February, and it is almost completed. Thea is shepherding two former child soldiers from Africa to London when the plane they are on is hijacked. The adventures kick off from there.
The novel features secret stay-behind armies from WWII, the Sicilian Mob, the CIA, and the Vatican. Warning: do not read it on a plane.
I’m also researching future Thea Paris novels, as I have many rabbit holes to explore in the world of kidnapping. I love visiting the locales where I set the stories, so I can bring a ring of authenticity to the settings. Travel and adventure are my passions, so it’s no hardship to spend time abroad.
What advice would you give to a new writer?
Writing novels is a long-term project, especially if you plan on writing a series, so be absolutely passionate about your subject matter. You will have ups and downs in the writing business, as it is competitive and challenging.
But if you’re truly inspired by what you’re writing about, you’ll be able to weather the tough times and keep persevering. Becoming a published author requires sacrifices, and you’ll need to make many before reaching your goals.
That said, when you do receive that phone call saying you’ll be published, it will be that much sweeter.
Besides writing, what do you enjoy most? Can you tell us something about what you do outside of writing?
I adore sports, travel, and adventure, which dovetails well with writing international thrillers. Visiting the locales that I include in the book is critical, as I like to bring the sights, smells, and sounds of the location to the reader. And when I travel, I seek out adrenalizing activities.
I had the pleasure of racing camels in Jordan, diving with Great Whites in South Africa, and ziplining in Costa Rica. Learning new things is incredibly stimulating, so I jump at the chance to take on new challenges.
In addition to being an author, I’m the executive director of ThrillerFest, the annual conference of the International Thriller Writers, a not-for-profit organization that supports thriller authors.
You can learn more about the event at www.thrillerfest.com. It’s a fun and friendly event, and I hope to see you there.
Learn more about K.J. Howe and her debut novel, “The Freedom Broker” by visiting her website.