Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Interview with Shamim Sarif for The Athena Protocol

The Athena Protocol

by Shamim Sarif
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: October 8th 2019
Genre: Young Adult, Mystery, Thriller, LGBT
 photo addtogoodreadssmall_zpsa2a6cf28.png photo B6096376-6C81-4465-8935-CE890C777EB9-1855-000001A1E900B890_zps5affbed6.jpg


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.

Can you briefly describe your novel THE ATHENA PROTOCOL and the characters in it?

Jessie is the youngest, most talented, and most headstrong agent working for an underground organization called Athena (after the Greek goddess of wisdom and war) that’s dedicated to tackling human trafficking and other issues affecting women and children that governments don’t bother to deal with. When Jessie breaks protocol during a daring rescue of kidnapped schoolgirls in Africa, she is fired. But she’s determined to find a way back to help her team take down a major trafficker in Belgrade. But now there’s no-one watching her back and she’s trying to evade her teammates while uncovering a bigger danger than they had all bargained for.

Jessie and the other agents are young women just trying to figure out who they are, and over the story, Jessie creates a stronger family-style link with the morose, quiet Hala, and team leader, Caitlin. All the characters have their own internal struggles, which I thought would make the central thriller plot more meaningful.

Who would you say is your favourite character from the story and why?

Jessie’s is our window into this story. She is super smart and highly skilled when it comes to wielding weapons but, emotionally, she has to navigate all the highs and lows, attractions and confusions, that every teen goes through. So, she’s not always the most reliable narrator. I liked the disconnect between the amazing spycraft that Jessie pulls off, and her own inner uncertainties. And that, by the end, she grows out of the arrogance that she showed at the start, and becomes a better team player, which is not something that comes naturally to her.

How did the story occur to you? Did you find inspiration anywhere?

I was very inspired by a sense of social justice. It bothers me that in our technologically advanced world, it’s often women and children who still remain second class citizens, and who are exploited and, 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. Over the past years, I’ve watched governments come and go – and it struck me that the people who are committed to change over the long term are often individuals or even corporations with a sense of mission. I wanted to push that idea to the limit with Peggy, Kit and Li – all successful women in very different fields (politics, music and tech) who start to cross moral lines in their desire to help.

If you could choose one song to describe your book, which one would it be?

That’s a tough one – I always create a playlist for inspiration when I write. But if I had to choose one that captures most of the ethos of the book it’s Lorde’s version of ‘Everybody Wants to Rule the World.’ It’s about power but she also conveys the danger of that power.

If your book was going to be made into a movie, who would play your characters?

Even though I’ve also written and directed movies of my earlier books, I’m not someone who gets fixated on a particular look for a character – casting is all about essence and attitude for me. But I could see actors like Margaret Qualley or Josephine Langford as Jessie. I think Kate Beckinsale or Lena Headey would be fantastic as Kit, Jessie’s mother – a former music star from South London, who has a very up and down relationship with her daughter. And there are so many fabulous actors who could play Peggy, like Angela Bassett or Jada Pinkett-Smith. 

Fall is here and we love to go find our perfect spot and enjoy a good book. What drink and place do you think will go with your book to have a perfect book date?

Jessie would tell you to find a hip coffee place and have a macchiato but Kit would go for green tea. I’d say THE ATHENA PROTOCOL is best served with the kind of healthy smoothie that the Athena agents use to keep their energy up - and a place with a very comfortable chair so you don’t have to stop page-turning…

Can you recommend your readers any other books in case they are left hungry for more once they finish THE ATHENA PROTOCOL?

Well the sequel is out in October 2020 but that might be a bit long to wait! In YA, I’ve really enjoyed The Ember in the Ashes series by Sabaa Tahir. Or for something brilliant and poetic, Toni Morrison’s Beloved.

What’s next for you?

I’ll be involved in developing THE ATHENA PROTOCOL for the screen, which is exciting. In between, I’m doing some TV directing this fall, working on a romantic comedy script, and final edits on the book sequel, THE SHADOW MISSION…so keeping busy!

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.


  1. This sounds like a taut thriller about a pretty dire subject!

  2. This book intrigues me with the female spies. I enjoy thrillers and mysteries, so it sounds fun to read.