A heroine in a thriller has to overcome many hurdles. But an author writing a series does too! I’m nearly done editing 88 North, the third book in the Nadia Laksheva series, and it’s been quite a task! Here’s the Big Three challenges I had to face:
- How to keep the two main characters – now in a relationship – fresh?
- How could I ‘up the ante’, going bigger in book 3, when book 2 involved a threatened nuclear attack on London?
- How to do something different with the diving element, so strong in the first two books?
Strategy 1 – Separate the two protagonists
In book one, Nadia met Jake. It wasn’t clear if they were going to make it, but in book two they finally really got together and worked as a team. This meant a lot of the tension was potentially lost for book 3. So, in book 3, I split them up. They start off together, but then they are wrenched apart, for almost the whole book, not knowing if the other is alive or dead, each having to work on their own. And I gave them each a strong-but-wrong reason to no longer trust each other.
Strategy 2 – Bring in new characters, to test loyalty
In real life, when we’re separated for some time from those we love, we
meet new people, right? And then the question is whether we remain loyal to our partners, or not. In book 3 I introduced two new characters, each of whom bonded with either Nadia or Jake, due to a forced closeness because they were in and out of live-or-die scenarios. This pushed the Nadia-Jake bond into the background, while the focus was on the new relationships. But the reader knows the real deal is between Nadia and Jake.
Strategy 3 – Pit them against each other
And then, because thriller authors have to be a bit evil with their plots, I hinted several times during the book that Nadia might have to kill Jake in order to avert a catastrophe…
The next big challenge was the plot, and in particular the threat that Nadia and Jake had to unravel, and then prevent. In 37 Hours the threat is known pretty much from chapter one, because a nuke has been stolen. In book 3, the actual threat isn’t known until the last part of the book. What could be worse than a nuke? Well, no spoilers here.
But to keep up the suspense, I have Nadia and Jake travelling all over the place (separately) – from Hong Kong to Sudan, to Sakhalin, to North Korea, to Moscow, and the Arctic – to try and work out what is being planned, and to stop it from happening. Is it worse than a nuke? Hell, yes!
The third challenge was how to keep the diving element fresh. Truth be told, there is less diving in 88 North than the previous two books. But this time they go much, much deeper. Which means the diving is more technical and closer to professional diving than what most of us might do on a holiday, even an adventurous one. And one of the underwater threats Jake has to face… well, I don’t think even divers will see it coming. Which doesn’t make it far-fetched, as I used to talk to commercial divers who did saturation diving on deep-sea oil rigs, about what they encountered, and exactly what might just come at you one day out of the gloom…
So, nearly done. 88 North is out on 14th December. This is the third in the series. Is it the end? The finale?