Now that the AAR Annual Readers’ Poll results are out, it’s time to turn your attention to another poll – the Romantic Times American Title III competition, where voting is set to end in 4 days on 4 March.
As for me, I’ve already cast my vote and I’m so very honoured that Kim Howe, whose book One Shot, Two Kills is in the running for the competition, has so kindly agreed to an email interview. Kim spent her childhood living in various continents and for this book, she took up a tactical training course to understand more about the demands of sniping. Someday, I’d love to hear about her experience growing up in farway and exotic lands, but for today, we’re going to focus on her book. Without further ado, here’s her response to my questions, which I’ve reproduced [below] unedited:
[IMB]: What/who inspired ONE SHOT, TWO KILLS?
[Kim]: I read a magazine article about the 2,000 Russian women who were snipers in the battle of Stalingrad. Only 500 of them survived, but they were an integral part of winning the battle. I decided to tell the story of the American-born granddaughter of one of the Russian snipers, Kenya Alexikova, a woman whose sharp-shooting skills landed her a dream job with the US Army. Kenya is more than capable of taking care of herself physically, but emotionally she is quite vulnerable, and that keeps her interesting.
With my heroine discovered, I started thinking about theme and what issues I’d like to explore. Sibling rivalry has always fascinated me, so I decided to ramp it up to the most extreme level and create a sociopathic brother who wanted to kill his sister. A unique antagonist, to say the least. Kenya’s brother Rurik knows her deepest fears and has no compulsion about exploiting them.
After creating such a dangerous antagonist, I felt it only fair to give Kenya a little help. The hero in the story is Jack Travis, a CIA psychologist who has the potential to heal Kenya so she can finally stand up to her brother and survive.
[IMB] I like the unconventional occupation of your heroine. How did you go about researching her?
[Kim]: I started by reading every sniper book I could get my hands on. I ordered videos from sniper organizations and the History channel, and learned about a sniper’s life. The story of legend Carlos Hancock provided fascinating insight into the mind of a sniper. I also enrolled in a tactical training course to get a sense of the physical demands of sniping.
After doing the background research, I needed to interview experts. One of my mentors from Seton Hill University was Pat Picciarelli, a former NY homicide detective and Vietnam sniper turned author. He shared his expertise and read through the novel to ensure it was accurate. A well-renowned police sniper also vetted the novel and made several excellent suggestions to fine tune the technical information. Any mistakes that are left are mine. I believe in working hard to get the facts right. Nothing turns off readers faster than a glaring error.
[IMB]:Tell us more about Jack Travis. Was he modeled after any hero we know?
[Kim]: Jack was a fun character to create. Although he is a CIA agent, his specialty is persuasion. His mind is his weapon of choice. Definitely a direct contrast to Kenya’s physical way of solving problems! Jack has his own psychological wounds to heal. When his son was killed in a dirt bike accident, his wife blamed him and the marriage ended. Jack is chosen to recruit Kenya for the job of recovering a Russian satellite that has fallen into St. Lucia’s waters because he has unique insight into her case. Jack surprises himself when he is more interested in healing Kenya’s wounds than exploiting them.
I see the scenes in my books as full color film clips. When I think of Jack, I see Matthew McConaughey, a laid-back Southerner who has a devilish twinkle in his eyes.
[IMB]: What’s planned for your next book?
[Kim]: I’m halfway through RED DIAMOND, a romantic adventure novel set in Kenya featuring ex-Air Force pilot Sierra Lazarus. After injuring her back in Iraq, Sierra recovers at her grandfather’s house where she stumbles on a priceless red diamond hidden inside the teddy bear her CIA father gave her when she was eight, just before he mysteriously disappeared. The discovery catapults Sierra into a quest to finally uncover the mystery of her father’s disappearance. She rushes into the arms of undercover Interpol agent Carson Lockwood and they are both immersed in an underworld of diamond smuggling, conspiracy, and betrayals.
[IMB]: Please share your experience in the American Title III Contest.
[Kim]: The American Title III Contest is an elimination-style contest patterned after American Idol, co-sponsored by Romantic Times BOOKReview magazine and Dorchester Publishing. Over 250 entries were originally submitted and ten finalists were chosen. Every month, excerpts from the novel are showcased online and in the magazine. Experienced editors judge the entries (in a scathing and entertaining fashion), but the voting is completely in the hands of the readers.
The two manuscripts with the lowest number of votes are eliminated from the competition every month. We’re now down to the final round where the winner secures a publishing contract with Dorchester in New York and publicity with Romantic Times.
The final round showcases the “best romantic scene.” Voting runs until March 4th and the winner will be announced at the annual Romantic Times conference in Houston, Texas where the winner’s book cover will be unveiled on stage. I’m thrilled to be in the top two of the contest!
If you would like to support Kim’s sniper heroine, please vote by sending a blank e-mail to webmaster [at]romantictimes.com with ONE SHOT, TWO KILLS in the subject line.
[IMB]: To whom would you attribute your writing style and influences?
[Kim]: Great question. David Morrell’s THE BROTHERHOOD OF THE ROSE gripped me from start to finish and made me want to become a writer. I love consummate storyteller Wilbur Smith and his family saga tales of South Africa. My copy of Sydney Sheldon’s RAGE OF ANGELS is dog-eared. Lisa Gardner’s THE PERFECT HUSBAND also inspired me to try my hand at writing.Adventure, suspense, and psychological dilemmas really appeal to me.
[IMB]: I’ve read an excerpt of ONE SHOT, TWO KILLS, and to me it seems more of an action thriller for women than the conventional Romantic Suspense. How would you describe your novels? Do you see a growing demand for such books? Why?
[Kim]: Your assessment of ONE SHOT is very accurate—the novel is an interesting mix of genres. I wrote the book of my heart, and it definitely straddles the romantic suspense/action thriller subgenres. Women are becoming active in many pursuits like adventure racing, the Eco-Challenge, and other activities that push them to their limits. We’re breaking through glass ceilings in corporations and leading countries. I wanted to make my heroine the one with the dynamic skills, a girl who can take care of herself. However, I hope her emotional vulnerability will make readers root for her to succeed.
As our roles change in society, I think our reading tastes change as well. I believe that today’s women might enjoy a change from the traditional “woman in jeopardy” novels that populate the romantic suspense shelves.
[IMB]: Tell us a little about the places you’ve traveled to. Which is the most memorable? Where’s the one place that you dream of visiting one day?
[Kim]: I’ve been very fortunate to see a lot of the world. My father worked in telecommunications so we moved around quite a bit. I lived in Austria, Switzerland, Puerto Rico, East Africa, Saudi Arabia, and I traveled to other countries for short jaunts. There are many memorable places, but I think Kenya stands out for me. The vistas are breathtaking, the animals are magnificent, and the people are warmhearted and generous, even though they have so little. Kenya has captured my heart, and that’s why I decided to set my next novel there.
The one place I dream of visiting is the South Pacific. There is something inherently magical and mystical about the islands and the hidden depths of the turquoise waters. I have a feeling I’ll be inspired to set a novel there soon which will require an in-depth research trip!
A big thank you to Ag for inviting me to drop by and chat about the American Title III Contest and my novels. Please stop by my website at http://www.kjhowe.com/ and say hello. Kenya considers it her duty to protect all visitors, so you won’t have to watch your back anymore!