I know I am very fortunate to have many guests join me for Q & A sessions and with wonderful pieces of writing on some very interesting topics.
Now here’s one I can honestly say I knew nothing about!!
Author of The Freedom Broker, KJ Howe, has written an absolutely fascinating post on Response Consultants and the dangerous lives they lead…
Grab a cuppa. It’s Saturday…..relax and do please read on…
A Response Consultant – What is it?
by KJ Howe
Have you ever heard the term response consultant? If you aren’t familiar with this term, you’re not alone.
There are about twenty-five to thirty people in the world who do this job—although the number of responders is growing because kidnapping has become an international crisis, especially in certain hot zones. Response consultants work for private companies, and they provide support and guidance to hostages and their families.
These experts risk their own lives to help others, and my character Thea Paris is one of these elite consultants. Her personal story is featured in the first book of the series, THE FREEDOM BROKER.
For the last three years, I have researched kidnap and ransom intensively, interviewing response consultants, former hostages, reintegration experts, psychiatrists who specialize in the captive’s mindset, K&R insurance executives, and the Special Forces soldiers who deliver ransoms and execute rescues. It has been a fascinating journey, both inspiring and sometimes heartbreaking.
I have had the privilege to meet several response consultants during this journey. These individuals are patient, tactical, and talented at thinking on their feet. They usually speak at least one other language, as this is a huge asset when dealing with crises abroad. Their backgrounds vary, but most have experience in the security field, often holding jobs at alphabet soup organizations like MI6 and the FBI.
For example, Thea Paris worked with the Defense Intelligence Agency—the DIA—before taking on the role of a response consultant. When she is assigned a case via her company, Quantum International Security, she grabs a to-go bag and travels undercover to the foreign locale.
It’s not an easy life with the constant travel and danger, the long hours and the intense stress of life or death situations. It takes a special person to want to pursue this career. In Thea’s case, she became a freedom broker because of a traumatic childhood experience. When she was eight years old, her twelve-year-old brother was abducted while she watched frozen in fear. Her brother came back nine months later, but he was never the same. Determined to help other hostages, Thea developed the skills necessary to become an elite negotiator. Kidnapping consumed her interest, as it seemed a purgatory of sorts. Hostages are alive, but not really living a full life, dependent on their captors for anything and everything, their freedom snatched from them. And being in captivity is no picnic. Hostages often have to deal with mock executions, batterings, poor hygiene, terrible food, endless boredom, and other hardships.
During my research, I had the privilege of getting to know Peter Moore, the longest held hostage in Iraq—almost 1000 days—and his story touched me deeply. Peter was taken with four British military soldiers, and sadly, Peter is the only one who made it home alive. While in captivity, he spent a great deal of time blindfolded. To keep himself occupied, Peter caught mosquitos between his cuffed hands, keeping count of them as a way of making it through the day. When the blindfold was removed, he spent endless hours staring at the cracks on the wall, designing an entire train system in his mind, which he was able to reproduce on paper after he came home.
Being held captive is difficult under any circumstances, as biologically, we are programmed to fight or flight—or freeze—when under extreme duress. But when you’re kidnapped, you can’t do any of those things without putting yourself in jeopardy. Try and escape, and you might be shot as a way of warning off other hostages to attempt the same. Instead, you need to summon your survival skills and endure the boredom of captivity, the adversities, and the stress of waking up every day wondering if this day might be your last.
You can’t focus on the negativity. Your best bet is to maintain structure and routine in your life, exercising regularly (if possible) and keeping your mind active—and, most importantly, maintaining the hope of returning home. Peter’s story is one of resilience and the strength of the human spirit—and I’m grateful he made it back safely. Peter now devotes himself to helping other former hostages, speaking to groups all over the world.
You might wonder why kidnapping is on the rise. There are a few reasons. Sadly, terrorists are using it as a fundraising mechanism. Groups like ISIS are able to generate huge sums of money via kidnapping, especially since the funds from oil have dried up in many locales. Also, displaced military and police in foreign countries are out of jobs and have no way to put food on the table—but they do have security skills, so they have turned to kidnapping as a way of making a living. The lack of prosecution in these hotspots allows them to kidnap at will, with no major threat of punishment looming.
Although THE FREEDOM BROKER is a fictional novel, I hope that after reading it you’ll feel better educated about kidnapping and learn more about the heroes who help hostages.
I’m constantly building on my research, learning more every day about this critical issue. As I continue the freedom broker series, my goal is to bring awareness about all the hostages out there who still need to come home. I’m also doing travel safety talks, as prevention is our first line of defense.
The more educated you are, the safer you will be. An avid traveler myself, I want people to be able to experience the wonders of the globe and safely return home.
Thanks for taking the time to read. Travel safe, and know Thea Paris is there to help if you every need her.
THE FREEDOM BROKER ~ The first in a brand new series featuring Thea Paris, a kidnap and ransom specialist
There are 25 elite professionals who travel undercover to the deadliest spots in the world to bring hostages home safely by any means necessary. Only one of those 25 elite response consultants is a woman. She brings everything a man does to the job as well as her intuition. She is the inspiration behind professional kidnap negotiator Thea Paris.
At eight years old, a terrified Thea Paris watched as her twelve-year-old brother, Nikos, was mistakenly abducted—in her place—from their home in Kanzi, Africa. This defining experience drives Thea to become one of the top negotiators in the Kidnap & Ransom field. Nicknamed Liberata—because she once secured the release of a captive from the Sicilian mob without paying a cent—she travels the globe bringing hostages home. Twenty years after her brother’s abduction, her worst nightmare is realized when her oil magnate father, Christos Paris, is kidnapped. He disappears off his yacht while it is moored at Santorini; the ship’s whole crew slaughtered mercilessly. Betraying her brother Nikos may be the only way to save her father. Will Thea be able to save him and reunite her family, or will she let her family down again?
Purchase Link ~ The Freedom Broker
Born in Toronto, Canada, KJ enjoyed a nomadic lifestyle during her early years, living in Africa, the Middle East, Europe, and the Caribbean, which gave her an insider’s view into many different cultures. While abroad, she read every book she could find, which triggered in her a desire to create her own stories.
She attended Salzburg International Preparatory School, Neuchâtel Junior College, and Albert College before earning a Specialists Degree in Business from the University of Toronto. KJ found success in the corporate world, but her passion for travel, adventure, and stories drew her back to school where she earned a Masters in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University. She also won several writing awards, including three Daphne du Maurier Awards for Excellence in Mystery and Suspense.
While honing her fiction skills, KJ worked as a medical, health, and fitness writer. She then became involved with the International Thriller Writers as the Executive Director of ThrillerFest, the organization’s annual conference held every July in New York City.
In preparation for writing THE FREEDOM BROKER series, which focuses on elite kidnap negotiator Thea Paris, KJ spent extensive time researching the dark world of kidnapping. She has interviewed former hostages, negotiators, hostage reintegration experts, special forces operatives, and K&R insurance executives.
KJ is an avid tennis player, cyclist, and swimmer. Travel and adventure still rank high on her priority list. She has had the pleasure of riding racing camels in Jordan, surfing in Hawaii, ziplining in the Costa Rican jungle, diving alongside Great White Sharks in South Africa, studying modern combat in the Arizona desert, and working with elephants in Botswana. Home is in Toronto, Canada, but she is often missing in action.
To find out more about KJ Howie you can check out KJ Howie Website
Also on Twitter @kjhoweauthor