Book Related Misc. Reviews

GUEST POST: Writing about a dying heroine by J.F Kirwan (& giveaway!)

I’ve been running the 88 North blog tour over on my blog tour Twitter account @NeverlandBT all week and today is the final day and I’m bringing you a fascinating guest post written by the author, J.F Kirwan. Unlike many other Spy Thriller’s, 88 North has a bit of a twist in that the main character, Nadia, who’s the heroine of all 3 of books in the series, is dying – given weeks to live. I find this element really interesting as it’s certainly not something you hear much of in books! So I hope you enjoy this guest post and don’t forget to scroll down to the bottom for a very generous giveaway – just in time for Christmas!

Guest post

88° North has an unusual premise, since the heroine, Nadia, has radiation sickness from her last encounter with her nemesis, Salamander. She’s been given weeks to live. She could go to an exotic island with her partner Jake, from MI6, and live out her last functional days diving with him in crystal waters before her illness takes hold. But Salamander is still out there, and she knows he is planning one final attack. He has said he will make the sky bleed. She doesn’t know what that means, but it can’t be good.

As a writer, you occasionally kill off your protagonist, and it’s never easy. But this book has proven a particular challenge. On the technical side, there is the aspect of radiation sickness itself, but I used to work in the nuclear industry, and I know a lot about cancer (don’t ask, please), and I don’t dwell too much on the specifics. The real challenge is how she handles it, both on the surface when interacting with Jake and others, and in her internal monologues and how she behaves and thinks when alone.

Initially she thinks she has hidden it from Jake, but hey, he’s MI6, right? So, early on, in a scene that was hard to write, located at the Peak restaurant in Hong Kong, she confronts Jake, and tells him, and of course he already knows. But telling your partner you’re going to die is tough. The scene is a page. It took me a long time to write. For once my fingers were reluctant to dance on the keyboard.

Various doctors want to try and save her, or at least prolong her life. But Nadia knows how Salamander works, squeezing dry any leverage he has on his enemies. She decides the only way to take him down is by knowing that she has nothing to lose. How does she handle it when alone? She has dark moments, one scene when she is in a shower, she screams, rages, breaks the tiles with her fist, turns the shower to cold and shivers in the rain. But she goes back to the job afterwards.

I injected some humour into the book, which is how Nadia handles it most of the time. She doesn’t want sympathy, because it will slow her down, distract her. And when Salamander kidnaps Jake, she has no time to worry about her deteriorating condition, except to tell the doctors to keep her on her feet and able to aim straight.

There is one thing she tries to put right. It’s not on her agenda, but her sister was forced into prostitution in the first book. Her sister isn’t around anymore, courtesy of Salamander, and Nadia decides to free one young woman from a life of misery in Hong Kong’s Tonnochy Road ‘kitty-kat’ dens. I put this in because I think if you know you are dying, you want to fix certain things if you can. It doesn’t quite work out the way Nadia intends.

Does Nadia die at the end? Does she kill her nemesis? Well, of course, you have to read it to find out. At its core, 88 North is a thriller, and as with such thrillers there is plenty of action, betrayals, a few exotic locations, some diving because that’s my other passion, but also loss, because when the stakes are this high, people do get killed. But the epilogue, at least, ends on an upswing. Maybe that was more for me, as the author, because I needed it. I’m not sure I’m as strong as Nadia.

Links: Amazon | Goodreads
Blurb: The deadliest kind of assassin is one who is already dying…

As the radiation poisoning that Nadia Laksheva was exposed to in Chernobyl takes hold of her body, she knows she has mere weeks to live. But Salamander, the terrorist who murdered her father and sister has a deadly new plan to ‘make the sky bleed’. Nadia is determined to stop him again, even if it is the last thing she ever does…

The only clue she has are the coordinates 88˚ North, a ridge in the Arctic right and one of the largest oil fields in the world, three thousand metres below the ice. If Salamander takes hold of the oil field, he could change the climate of the whole planet for generations to come.

But can Nadia stop him before her own time runs out?

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.


Wanna win yourself one of three £10 Amazon gift cards, just in time to treat yourself (or a loved one) to a last minute Christmas gift? Of course you do! Click HERE to go to the Rafflecopter page which tells you how you can enter! Good luck!

Giveaway ends: Midnight 17th December


Jenny in Neverland

Twenty-something lifestyle blogger from Essex. Book lover, Slytherin, organisational wizard and enjoys Motorsport, Disney and Yoga.

1 Comment

  1. Lovely guest post! This book sounds thrilling and sad and it’s making it so captivating…I’m quite intrigued to see the final outcome.

    xx Lena |

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