Episode 143: Writing Strong Female Characters — Interview with K.J. Howe

by Gabriela Pereira
published in Podcast

Hey there word nerds!

Today I’m pleased to have K.J. Howe on the show. K.J. is the executive director of Thrillerfest, the annual conference of International Thriller Writers. This is one of my favorite genre conferences and I look forward to it every year.

Today I’m talking to Daphne du Maurier Award winner, K.J. Howe about her debut thriller, The Freedom Broker and how to craft a strong female lead in this genre. We also talk about why it’s important to give even the most heroic characters a flaw or personal obstacle and for the first time ever on this show, I share a behind-the-scenes look at a personal obstacle I have in my own life. This was such an honest and deep conversation and I hope you enjoy listening to it as much as I enjoyed interviewing K.J. Howe.

In this episode K.J. and I discuss:

  • Some of the challenges of writing a strong female character. How do you walk that line between over-masculinizing her or making her seem like a “token” character in a male-dominated world?
  • Giving your characters limitations that help them feel more realistic on the page. Weaknesses, flaws, and the ability to recognize the limits of their power are important aspects of your characters that keep them from tipping over the edge into indestructible superhero territory.
  • Weaving invisible disabilities into stories. Creating characters who are real, who struggle with real health and mental health issues, but who are not defined by their disabilities.
  • The dynamics and tension between characters and how to bring their relationships to life for the reader.

Plus, her #1 tip for writers.

About the Author

K.J. Howe is the executive director of Thrillerfest, the annual conference of International Thriller Writers. A three-time Daphne du Maurier Award winner, she completed her MA in Writing Popular Fiction at Seton Hill University. She is an avid traveler who has raced camels in Jordan, surfed in Hawaii, and dove with the great whites in South Africa. She became fascinated by the kidnap and ransom (K&R) world after meeting Peter Moore, a British computer consultant who became the longest-held hostage in Iraq and the only person to survive of the five men who were taken that day. The Freedom Broker is her debut novel.

The Freedom Broker

There are twenty-five elite kidnap and ransom (K&R) specialists in the world. Only one is a woman: Thea Paris. And she’s the best in the business.

Twenty years ago, a terrified young boy was abducted in the middle of the night by masked intruders while his sister watched, paralyzed with fear. Returned after a harrowing nine months with his captors, Thea’s brother has never been the same.

This life-shattering experience drove Thea to become what she is today: a world-class freedom broker. Most hostage-recovery work is done at the negotiation table, but when diplomacy fails, Thea leads Quantum Security International’s black-ops team on highly sensitive rescue missions to political hot spots around the globe.

Her childhood nightmare resurfaces when her oil magnate father, Christos Paris, is snatched from his yacht off Santorini on his sixtieth birthday, days away from the biggest deal of his career. The brutal kidnappers left the entire crew slaughtered in their wake, but strangely, there are no ransom demands, no political appeals, no prisoner release requests-just obscure and foreboding texts written in Latin sent from burner phones.

Knowing the survival window for kidnap victims is small, Thea throws herself into the most urgent and challenging rescue mission of her life-but will she be able to prevent this kidnapping from destroying her family for good?

If you decide to check out the book, we hope you’ll do so via this Amazon affiliate link, where if you choose to purchase DIY MFA makes a small commission at no cost to you. As always, thank you for supporting DIY MFA!

Link to Episode 143

(Right-click to download.)

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Until next week, keep writing and keep being awesome!

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