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Interview: Jeff Abbott, Author of Adrenaline

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Jeff Abbott’s new book  lives up to its title. Sometimes book titles imply action or urgency but fall short. Not Adrenaline. This one hooked me and didn’t let go. I was reading this at the same time I was reading Jeffrey Deaver’s new James Bond novel, Carte Blanche, (interview on that in the works) – I mention this because Bond books and movies are fast-paced and this one by Austin resident Jeff Abbott made that one look like it was slow going in comparison.

Author photo - Amy Melsa Photography.

Like coffee this book should not be read before you go to bed unless you truly don’t want to go to sleep. It’s the kind of book where if you think you can stop reading at the end of a chapter, you are deluding yourself. Each chapter seems to end with a cliffhanger so you have to read on to see what happens next, and soon you realize you’ve just read another 30 pages and you can forget about getting a good night’s sleep.

Abbott does a great job with pacing and switching perspectives. Check out this book, Adrenaline – you will thank me later.

One other thing: I ask in the interview about the television series Burn Notice because it reminded of the best parts of it. Both are about company men in trouble, who explain to the reader ways to disarm people, fix potentially violent situations, etc., that you are not aware of. Calling it “educational” would be a stretch but it adds another interesting element. If you like Burn Notice I think you’ll also like this book. If you don’t watch Burn Notice then you should check it out.

But first get this book. See why it’s getting praise and hype and be happy that this time — unlike so many hyped books — it’s well deserved.

Don’t believe me? Let me share two blurbs.

Laura Lippman, who I last interviewed here and respect greatly, wrote this:

“This is a wonderful book and the start of one of the most exciting new series I’ve had the privilege to read. Jeff Abbott has been one of my favorite writers for more than a decade and Sam Capra is now on my short list of characters I would follow anywhere. Adrenaline provides the high-octane pace one expects from a spy thriller, while grounding the action with a protagonist that anyone can root for. Sam Capra is the boy next door — assuming the boy next door to you is a CIA-trained agent who will do whatever is necessary to find and protect his loved ones.”

Harlan Coben writes, “Adrenaline has everything-relentless action, mind-bending intrigue, and twists and turns you won’t see coming. It’s exhilarating, and confirms Jeff Abbott as one of the best thriller writers of our time.”

After hearing Abbott speak at the great Book People in Austin I asked for an email interview with him which he gratefully did. Here’s the resulting interview:

Would you mind setting the stage for readers curious about this book?

Adrenaline is a thriller about family. It opens with CIA agent Sam Capra, who lives in London with his seven-months pregnant wife. She calls him one morning at his office and asks him to come outside. When he does, the office behind him explodes and he sees her in a car, driven by a stranger, roaring away from the carnage. Accused of treason by the CIA, Sam must escape from government custody and find out who has taken his wife and child, all while being hunted by the CIA.   

How did you go about doing research on this book? I’m particularly curious if you tried to learn how to do any of the parkour moves described in the book?

One of Britain’s top parkour runners, Dan Edwardes, kindly helped me with that aspect of the research; it’s amazing to watch what he can do. I also spent a lot of time in London and Amsterdam, where most of the book is set. 

How would you describe the protagonist, Sam Capra, and in what ways are you similar and different from him? 

Sam is rather young to be the hero of a new suspense series; he’s only 25, and has been with the CIA for three years. He grew up wandering the world; his parents worked for a relief agency so he had an unusual childhood. He joined the CIA out of Harvard when his older brother was killed doing relief work in Afghanistan. He’s finally believing he has a perfect life with his new wife and soon-to-be-born child and he’s very determined to get his family back. 

What’s it like to get so much praise for this book including a starred review in Publishers Weekly, a Good Morning America summer read and Entertainment Weekly Book of the Day, and an Amazon Best Books of July pick? 

Adrenaline was the only book this summer to be both a Today Show and Good Morning America best summer read pick and an Amazon Best Books of July, and all that happened within a week. It was amazing, and with all the other reviews it felt like winning the publicity Triple Crown. I have no control over how people respond to the book, but it was all very exciting and humbling. 

What was it like to make The New York Times bestseller list? I saw and publicized your piece on that distinction. Was that a career high? What are some other career highs and lows?

It was a career high, just in that you know your book is reaching a lot of people. And also nice because my books have been bestsellers in other countries for a while now, so it was nice to know I was really reaching readers here at home. But the next day, it was, well, got another book to write, get back to work. Re career lows, I think those just come if the writing is going badly. You just have to work through those periods, work is the only cure.

I’m curious what you think of the TV series Burn Notice which, like your book, has a company man get burned and trying to get back into their fold while dealing with personal issues? I like both the series and your book.

I’ve not seen the show, sorry, but have heard that it’s very entertaining.

Is this book the start of a series? Why start a series? What are the advantages of writing a series vs your usual style of standalone books?

Yes, it’s the start of a series. The next one is called The Last Minute and will be out next summer. I only wanted to do a series if I thought of a character who was well-suited to multiple books, and I’m having a lot of fun writing about Sam. I think readers really do enjoy series; people have been telling me they can’t wait to read the next Sam. I always like it when they say “the next Sam” instead of “the next book.” 

Why is the book coming out in England before it comes out here in the U.S.? What book number in the series are you currently working on?

I changed publishers in the U.S., hence the time difference. I’m currently writing Sam #3.

I’ll end with what I call my bonus question: What question do you wish you would get asked in interviews but that you are not asked? Here’s your chance to ask and answer it.

I’ll quote Amy Tan, when Stephen King asked her the same question in On Writing: No one ever asks about the language. At least they don’t ask commercial fiction writers. And the choosing the language in stories is the hardest part of writing. Probably because talking about craft doesn’t lend itself to the short and snappy answer. But the best thriller and mystery writers think a great deal about craft, and select their words with care in creating the effects that readers expect: suspense, terror, relief, romance, and more.

Jeff Abbott photo credit: Amy Melsa Photography.

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About Scott Butki

Scott Butki was a newspaper reporter for more than 10 years before making a career change into education... then into special education. He has been doing special education work for about five years He lives in Austin. He reads at least 50 books a year and has about 15 author interviews each year and, yes, unlike tv hosts he actually reads each one. He is an in-house media critic, a recovering Tetris addict and a proud uncle. He has written articles on practically all topics from zoos to apples and almost everything in between.
  • M

    “Like coffee this book should not be read …”

    Look up the phrase “dangling modifier.” When was the last time you read coffee?

  • scott butki

    ever hear of a coffee table book:)?

    ok, you’re right – my bad.

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