Author Chat with Shamim Sarif (The Athena Protocol), Plus Giveaway! ~ (US Only)
Today we're excited to chat with Shamim Sarif, author of
The Athena Protocol.
Read on for more about Shamim and her book, plus an giveaway!
Meet Shamim Sarif!
Shamim Sarif is a novelist, screenwriter, and director. She lives in London with her wife, Hanan, and their two sons. The Athena Protocol is her first novel for teens.
Meet The Athena Protocol!
Athena operatives are never supposed to shoot to kill—so when Jessie can’t stop herself from pulling the trigger, she gets kicked out of the organization, right before a huge mission to take down a human trafficker in Belgrade.
Jessie needs to right her wrong and prove herself, so she starts her own investigation into the trafficking. But going rogue means she has no one to watch her back as she delves into the horrors she uncovers. Meanwhile, her former teammates have been ordered to bring her down. Jessie must face danger from all sides if she’s to complete her mission—and survive.
~ Author Chat ~
YABC: What gave you the inspiration to write this book?
A sense of social justice. It drives me a little crazy that in our technologically advanced world, it’s often women and children who still remain second class citizens. Who are trafficked, exploited or, in many parts of the world, left with few real rights. The Athena Protocol gave me an exciting way to explore the ways we can make a difference in the world. And I asked myself—what if three successful women had enough of charity lunches? What if they were so determined to help the downtrodden, that they took the law into their own hands, using young female agents? Crossing those lines creates moral dilemmas that are compelling.
YABC: Who is your favorite character in the book?
You ask tough questions! Although this is a thriller, the characters and their inner journeys were the most important elements of the book for me. We live the story from the point of view of Jessie, the youngest, most immature, and most talented of the Athena agents. Jessie’s so smart and highly skilled with weapons but she’s also a little arrogant. During the story, Jessie is made vulnerable by her ongoing issues with her mother, Kit (one of Athena’s co-founders) and then by her attraction to the daughter of the trafficker she is trying to bring down. So, I felt deeply her confusion and the process of growing up that she endures. But I have a soft spot for all of my characters, especially Hala, one of Jessie’s teammates—she’s suffered tremendous loss in her past and is morose, quiet and cynical. But that gruff exterior hides a very gentle heart.
YABC: What scene in the book are you most proud of, and why?
There are some breath-holding countdowns and close calls, but I think my favorite scenes are the emotional beats between Jessie and Paulina, a possible suspect in the mission. I like scenes where more than one thing is going on. In these moments, Jessie is busy trying to further her mission, but meanwhile, she can’t think straight around Paulina. It adds layers and more danger. Another of my favorite scenes comes after Jessie is fired early on in the book and decides to go rogue. She has to con her way back into Athena and use her friendship with Amber, the head of tech, to break in and take her own IDs and weapons. Again, the emotional drama of betrayal is as tense as the way Jessie has to avoid alarms and cameras to get what she needs
YABC: Thinking way back to the beginning, what's the most important thing you've learned as a writer from then to now?
I think I learned to have confidence—in two ways. Firstly, that I could make writing a way of life and a way to make a living. But that also meant I needed to learn all the time, to stretch myself, and to get better and better. And secondly, I’ve learned to truly respect the craft of writing and to let that respect show in my habits. I wrote my very first book, The World Unseen, while working full time and with a young child, so it wasn’t that I lacked determination. But now, the first thing I do work-wise each day is get to my desk and write those 1500 words, no matter what.
YABC: What do you like most about the cover of the book?
I like the way Jessie is sitting. There’s a lot of action and momentum in this book, but at its core, it’s about character. And there’s a feeling of thoughtfulness, tension, even sorrow, in the image. The red triangle is cool too——it’s a sort of A for Athena, I feel…
YABC: What was your favorite book in 2018?
I’m picking two. I think that’s enough stress to inflict on an avid reader…I loved Release by Patrick Ness. When I say he is a beautiful writer, I don’t mean flowery. He excavates emotions and his words can just open up your heart like a scalpel. And then, An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir which I read last year. High stakes (life and death), but the attraction between Elias and Laia, trained to hate each other, lifted it to another realm for me.
YABC: What's up next for you?
I’m about to start edits on the sequel to The Athena Protocol. That book will be out October 2020. In the meantime, I’m also developing the Athena books for TV, which is really exciting—with six characters with messy personal lives (and a lot of missions). I hope it will make a fantastic series.
YABC: Which was the most difficult or emotional scene to narrate?
Towards the end, Jessie’s been through hell, has nearly died several times, and finally makes it home. There’s a tentative reconciliation with her mother, Kit, and they also address the fact that Jessie is queer. It’s a tender moment, with very little said, but I wanted it to be emotionally charged.
YABC: Which character gave you the most trouble when writing your latest book?
I have trouble when characters are one-note. If anyone starts out that way, it becomes my mission to understand what their unspoken desires and conflicts are. Once I have that, walking the tightrope is no problem. When Jessie is telling us one thing but feeling another, it makes it easier to write, because it feels true, and more intriguing.
YABC: Which part of the writing process do you enjoy more: Drafting or revising?
Revising is easier eight times out of ten. Because you don’t have to face the horror of the blank page. There’s something there you can craft, chisel at, polish up. But nothing beats the moments when you write a draft for the very first time and you nail it. (I’ve somehow avoided every choice you threw at me in this interview? Can you tell I’m not great at choosing one thing?!)
YABC: Is there an organization or cause that is close to your heart?
I’m passionate about causes that help the vulnerable, especially women and girls, and I like to find ways to give back. I’ve teamed with Headwaters Relief Organisation on sales of The Athena Protocol. I wanted to see if we could help trafficking in real life as well as through my fictional heroines! Headwaters helps young people in the U.S., Nepal, and all over the world, be aware of the dangers of trafficking, especially after natural disasters, when they are most vulnerable. And Headwaters also use storytelling and books to help kids be more resilient after what they’ve suffered. The power of stories is something I deeply believe in.
The Athena Protocol
By: Shamim Sarif
Release Date: October 8th, 2019
Two winners will receive a copy of The Athena Protocol (Shamim Sarif) ~ (US Only)
*Click the Rafflecopter link below to enter the giveaway*
The cover is intriguing the premise is very exciting. I can't wait to read this one! Best wishes on your new release!