Hey guys! I’m so excited for today’s post because I’m interviewing Shamim Sarif, the author of The Athena Protocol, a book I’ve been anticipating for months. I don’t really have much else to say, so let’s get right into the questions!
1. How did the premise for The Athena Protocol come about?
I’ve always felt a strong sense of social justice and this premise 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 women and kids that governments don’t really take care of, that they took the law into their own hands, using young female agents? Crossing those lines creates moral dilemmas that are compelling.
2. What is it like directing movies based on your own novels?
It’s usually insanely busy and I try to completely forget about the novel and put on my director’s hat. But there are moments on set when it’s a head spin. I remember right before a take on DESPITE THE FALLING SNOW, watching Rebecca Ferguson standing there waiting for me to call ‘action’ and it hit me – this is Katya, brought to life, right here in this pretend park in Moscow, with movie snow falling on her – all to create this story moment. It was magical. Then, it was straight back to the busy chaos of the shoot!
3. When did you decide you wanted to start directing?
I saw directing as another way to tell a story, but using the language of visuals and light and with actors. I had a lot to learn when the chance to direct my first film I CAN’T THINK STRAIGHT came up – but I took the opportunity and went for it. It was a baptism of fire and painful at times, but it was the best film school ever.
4. Was there one particular event that inspired you to start writing stories?
I remember very clearly growing up and hearing stories about my grandmother’s life in South Africa. As an Indian Muslim woman, she was married at 16 to a man she hardly knew, and she was raised to believe her life’s only purpose was to have children and look after them and her husband. In a patriarchal society, in a country where races were segregated under apartheid laws, she lived a life without any choices. I felt that injustice and my first book THE WORLD UNSEEN came out of me asking – what would it take for a woman in that time and place to realize there might be options for her to live a different life?
5. What have you learned from writing The Athena Protocol?
I learned a huge amount writing this book. It’s not only my first YA novel, but my first thriller/action genre book. I really enjoyed grappling with the core plot to bring down a human trafficker – I wanted reversals, surprises and twists. But I also learned to feed in the character arcs for the Athena team – it was important to me that they were not superheroes but real women who need to get through the challenges life throws them, just like we all do.
5. What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
Sit down and write! Try to create a routine that keeps you writing at the same time and ideally the same place each day. Those routines help prepare your mind after a while, even if your writing time is short. I wrote my first book while working full-time, but I made it a habit to write in the evenings and on weekends. Another tip I have if you’re struggling to get the words out is to do something physical that doesn’t take much mental energy – taking a walk first thing works for me and often I listen to music that reminds me of some emotional part of my book. It gives my brain time to come up with a snippet, an idea or just a line – something to hang your hat on when you sit down to get going.
Jessie Archer is a member of the Athena Protocol, an elite organization of female spies who enact vigilante justice around the world.
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.
Born in the UK, Shamim is an award-winning novelist, screenwriter, and director.
Her next book, The Athena Protocol, is an all-female YA contemporary action thriller that is published by Harper Teen in September 2019.
Her debut novel, The World Unseen, won a Betty Trask award and the Pendleton May First Novel award.
Shamim has adapted and directed the films of three of her novels including, most recently, Despite the Falling Snow. The book was published by Headline in the UK and St Martin’s Press in the US. The movie stars Rebecca Ferguson and Charles Dance in a story of love and betrayal in cold war Russia. Her films have won 47 awards internationally.
Shamim’s third novel, I Can’t Think Straight, formed the basis of her cult hit film of the same name.
Shamim’s book festival appearances include Hay-on-Wye, Cheltenham and Edinburgh.
An accomplished speaker, Shamim has spoken at TED events worldwide, at the INK Conference in India and DLD in Munich. Corporate speaking events have included Deloitte, Goldman Sachs, Citibank and Disney.
Shamim lives in London with her wife, Hanan, and their two sons.
Prize: Win a copy of The Athena Protocol (US Only)
Starts: 2nd October 2019
Ends: 16th October 2019