88° North by J F Kirwan **Blog Tour Interview, Review & Giveaway**

I am happy to be on the Blog Tour to introduce J F Kirwan's third and final book in the Nadia Laksheva Spy Thriller series,

88° North.

I reviewed Book 2, 37 Hours here. I am also lucky to be able to feature an interview with the author. There is also a Giveaway- details on how to enter are at the end of this post.

The world’s most-wanted terrorist is on the loose, and this time the threat is global. To stop him, Nadia infiltrates his organization, from the triads of Hong Kong, to the refugee-smugglers of Sudan, to the Mafia gangs running oil platforms in Sakhalin. But in the end, she must travel to the top of the world and confront her sworn enemy on the Arctic ice, where she will face a terrible choice.

Welcome to Books, Life and Everything. Would you like to start by telling us a little about yourself and how you started as a writer?

I’m a Brit, but I live just outside Paris, and work in aviation safety across Europe, so I travel extensively. I’ve had an interest in books and writing from an early age, and at fifteen started writing a weekly thriller series for my classmates. I then got stuck into work, and wrote four technical books about safety. It was when I moved to Paris in 2001 that I joined a writing class as a way to make friends, and I got hooked. After a few short stories, I wrote a series of four science fiction thrillers which were published via two small indie presses. However, scuba diving is one of my passions, and following a back injury, I couldn’t dive for a couple of years, and so I wrote 66 Metres.  It was the closest I could get to actually diving while remaining dry. To my surprise, HarperCollins loved it and offered me a three-book deal.

88° North is the third in a series. How have you set about planning for a series of books?

The first book (66 Metres) establishes Nadia’s character, and the world of espionage in which she and Jake – her love interest – live. But at the end of that book, there’s a hint that it’s not over, because although she gets the bad guy, she finds out he was not the one pulling the strings. The second book sees Nadia accepting her destiny – which she resisted as long as possible in 66 – as a killer, and the sequel (37 Hours) is pretty much non-stop action-adventure, albeit deepening her character, as she goes through a lot of pain. But she meets her nemesis, Salamander, and thwarts his attack on London, but loses a lot in the process.  88° North is the last in the series, and it marks Nadia’s final effort to hunt Salamander down and end him, because she knows he is planning one final attack, where he promises to ‘make the sky bleed.’

Yet the finale of this trilogy is also about redemption, and sees some of the original Nadia resurface. So, the plot is steadily climbing throughout the three books, raising the stakes each time, whereas for Nadia, her journey is more circular. 

Without spoiling the plot, please could you tell us a bit about 88 North?

Nadia and Jake go to Hong Kong to track down the world’s most wanted terrorist, Salamander. They know he is planning something big, but don’t know what. However, soon after their arrival, Nadia is framed for a murder and finds herself as public enemy number one, while Jake is kidnapped and operated on. Disowned by both the FSB and MI6, Nadia enlists the aid of one of the triads, and in their joint hunt for her nemesis, she travels to Sudan where she encounters awful injustices she cannot ignore, and although they detract from her search, she acts to stop them. Meanwhile, Jake awakens in the Sakhalin oilfields, and knows something has been done to him, but doesn’t know what. He is coerced by Salamander into disabling an oil rig’s defences, with devastating consequences, and then taken to Pyongyang and interrogated by the North Koreans. After tracking down Salamander’s son, Nadia returns to Moscow, where she finally pieces together what he is planning, and then heads towards the top of the world, at latitude 88 North, where she will finally face him. But Jake is there, too, and the operation on him means that Nadia must make a terrible choice if she is going to bring down Salamander. 

On a broader level, 88° North is about whether you look at the ‘Big Picture’, and act accordingly, or whether you focus on the ‘small pictures’ of individuals and their lives. 

Nadia is there for the Big Picture, but increasingly finds she cannot ignore the smaller ones.

Talk us through how your professional experience has influenced your plots.

I used to be a scuba diving instructor, and have also worked in nuclear power and offshore oil and gas. So, the diving element is clear for me, and people tell me the underwater sections are the most vivid. But working in nuclear certainly helped with writing 37 Hours, as a chunk of the book occurs in Chernobyl. In  88° North, there are two sections set on oil rigs, and I’ve worked on them, so know how hostile it can be. However, I’ve also spent a lot of time looking at accidents and how they tend to start off small and slow, then accelerate. This makes them difficult to detect and stop, because first we don’t notice what is building up, and then when we do, we don’t realise how quickly events are going to unfold. All three books are plotted this way, but in 88° North Salamander actually uses this understanding to plan his revenge, and only Nadia realises what he is up to and how imminent the threat is.

In all your books, travel and exotic locations figure hugely. How do you go about researching locations?

Well, the best way is to go there! I really enjoyed the Hong Kong section in 88° North, because I know Hong Kong well – the sights, sounds, smells, temperature and the humidity! For Sakhalin in north-eastern Russia, I based it on my time spent in Norway and on North Sea oil rigs. For Sudan, I’ve not been there, but I’ve travelled in North Africa, and recently was diving in the Red Sea, north of Sudan. But I went to a photography exhibition on Sudan, and some of the images in the book are based on photos from that exhibition. I also had to do some reading up on the area and its complex politics, and the people-smuggling business (not easy reading). For the final section, at 88° North, it’s based on my travels in Northern Norway, and I’ve always had a fascination with the two polar continents, so the info was kind of sitting there waiting to be used.

The cover of 88° North continues the strong water theme. Were you involved in the choice of the cover?

Absolutely. My editor at HQ Digital and I had a discussion about it up front. I originally wanted an oil rig on the ice, but that may have been tricky. Still, when I received the cover image, I was blown away, as was everyone I showed it to! The covers for all three books have been amazing!

Your books have a strong cinematic feel. If 88° North became a film, who would you like to star and why would you choose them?

I honestly don’t know, no current actors spring to mind. I guess I’d prefer two new ones to be given the parts for Nadia and Jake, as I wouldn’t want them to have a ‘legacy’ from other films that might interfere with their characterisation. Nadia would need to be played by someone who comes across as focused and resolute, but who also cares deeply about her family. Jake has tragedy in his past, so someone who is strong yet haunted. 

Finally, can you give any hints about any upcoming books you may have planned?

MI6 have sworn me to secrecy, lol. More seriously, I have a habit of killing off great secondary characters, like Lazarus in 66 Metres (though I’ve considered doing a prequel based on him). But in 88 North, I left a handful alive, just in case one of them has a story of their own worth telling…

Thanks so much for answering my questions and letting us in on your thoughts about 88° North

My Thoughts 
Fast paced and crammed with incidents and characters, you are taken on a roller coaster of a journey. Starting off with a character who seems to have nothing to lose, having lost her family and being apparently on borrowed time, Nadia keeps going to track Salamander down. You have to empathise with the gutsy way she goes for it and how her desire to save Jake burns brightly.

    I felt that it was quite an exhausting read to be honest as the story unfolds relentlessly. Having read Book 2 however, I was invested in the characters and wanted to see how it would all pan out. I wasn't disappointed.

In short: For lovers of spy thrillers and action packed adventures- a great read.
About the Author

J. F. Kirwan is the author of the Nadia Laksheva thriller series for HarperCollins. Having worked in accident investigation and prevention in nuclear, offshore oil and gas and aviation sectors, he uses his experience of how accidents initially build slowly, then race towards a climax, to plot his novels. An instructor in both scuba diving and martial arts, he travels extensively all over the world, and loves to set his novels in exotic locations. He is also an insomniac who writes in the dead of night. His favourite authors include Lee Child, David Baldacci and Andy McNab.

You can follow the author here: Website   |  Twitter   |  Facebook
 Book link: Amazon UK

                                                       Giveaway ( International)

To be in with a chance to win a £10 Amazon Gift Card, follow the link below . (3 winners)


Popular Posts