Exclusive Interview With Author "Kam Majd"
Kam Majd is an Edgar® Award-nominated author of character-driven, edge-of-your-seat suspense novels. Kam has climbed in and out of cockpits for forty-four years, thirty-five of which have been at American Airlines, with his most recent position as a Boeing 777 captain in Los Angeles.
“From the beginning, I wanted to write about subjects and experiences that I was very familiar with,” Majd states. That model has translated into an Edgar nomination for High Wire, as well as a bounty of praise from media such as “absorbing and seductive,” … Publisher’s Weekly, and “Plane riveting,” … New York Post.
Born in Iran, and educated around the world in India, Great Britain and the United States, Kam graduated high school in Arlington, Texas, and attended the University of Texas.
Kam and his wife, Lori, now live in Southern California with their two daughters, Megan and Sydney, nearby.
You were a pilot for over 40 years, what made you make the jump to writing?
On one of the long haul flights to Europe, I picked up John Grisham's novel, The Firm. I loved the story, and thought to myself, “I can do this.” I came home, opened up Microsoft Word and typed Chapter One. Tell us about your book, High Wire.
If you like Grisham and Crichton novels, you will love High Wire; that's according to the New York Post. The book has received tremendous reviews from the media and was nominated for the Edgar Allan Poe awards. High Wire is as much a story of technology, as it is of the human spirit. The story is about a female airline captain who makes a decision to abort a flight when the controls refuse to follow her command. In the ensuing crash, six people die and she is blamed for the first plane crash in New York since 2001. No one believes her, that the controls stopped responding. Not the investigators, not her airline, not the press. They all seem focused on the woman who thirteen years earlier was paraded as the youngest female ever hired by an airline. As far as the world is concerned, Kate Gallagher was a marketing ploy who was not qualified to be a captain, and innocent people paid the price. But Kate knows something was wrong. What she doesn't know is that a computer virus planted within the fly-by-wire control systems caused the flight controls to malfunction. But the truth is buried deep, and unravelling it will require Kate to risk herself and her family, enduring humiliation and blame, until she comes face to face with the madman who created the virus. There, she learns about another passenger plane that he has contaminated. With the clock ticking, she becomes the disabled airliner's only hope. Except in saving them, she will most likely have to sacrifice herself, while the world watches. Your protagonist is a female, why did you make this decision?
There was a defining moment that caused me to switch the lead character from a man to a woman. Decades ago, when the cockpit was far more dominated by men than even now, there was a little-advertised custom of hiding Playboy cutouts in various little hiding spots in the cockpit. Some pilots would glance at them and some would ignore it. On one all-nighter, we had a brand new flight engineer who was a female. We took our seats and the other pilot pulled out one of these pictures and without thinking about it, turned around to show it to us. He very quickly realized that the action was inappropriate and put it back. But by now, the new pilot had seen it, and even though she acted graciously, it became pretty obvious she was uncomfortable. That was the trigger. The more I thought about it, the clearer it was that the protagonist should be a woman in a male dominated field who is more likely to be questioned and judged.
Captain Kate Gallagher seems like a very strong character, is she based on your encounters and experiences with real women in the field/skies?
I have had strong female roles all my life. My mother, my wife and two daughters were a huge part of that. But I have experienced that in the cockpit as well. Whether someone I flew with was a male or a female, seemed to make very little difference. All are qualified, and by far, most are more than competent. But truly I have found no difference between a male and female pilot in all these decades of flying.
What surprised you most about writing your book?
The reception it received was amazing. And whether it was the Edgar nominations, the media's reaction or interest from Hollywood, it has been an amazing ride. But by far, the most gratifying part of this journey has been the letters I have received from readers. Still, it wasn't all a success story. There were many down days through the writing process itself and the publishing process later. But the one thing that continues to surprise me, is the extent to which the writer has to go to market himself.
Who are some of your favorite writers who have influenced your work?
John Grisham and Michael Crichton are two. But there are many others. Can you share with us a memorable experience or two you've had up in the air? Do any of your adventures make it into your work?
In 44 years of flying, I have had five instances where I wished I was on the ground. One such incident occurred as a new hire at American Airlines. I was the flight engineer on the DC-10 coming out from Chicago to Los Angeles. Taking off at dusk, the number two engines (on
the tail) blew up after the go/no go decision speed. That means we were still on the takeoff roll accelerating, but the speed was too high to abort due to a lack of remaining runway. It was the captain's leg who did an incredible job of controlling the aircraft despite the shaking and shuddering and a barrage of warning lights and horns.
Immediately after we were airborne, we got a call from the tower that a 50 foot long flame was shooting out of our tail engine. That was followed by several calls from the cabin, telling us the wings were on fire. Turns out the passengers were seeing the bright reflection of the engine fire at dusk, and believing that the wings were on fire which they were not. We went through our procedures, dumped fuel over the lake and came back to a landing in a sea of flashing lights. We taxied to the gate and after our checklists deplaned to a resounding applause of the passengers who had deplaned before us. Two hours later, the passengers and crew boarded the final flight of the day to Los Angeles in another DC-10. Boarding the plane, everyone wanted to help me with the luggage and ask me questions on what happened. More applause. I took my seat back in the coach, shaking hands and talking to everyone around me until the last passenger showed up with a seat number the same as mine. So after all that, I had to find my bags, and embarrassingly deplane to find a hotel for the night.
In the book, I have used real expectations and events in an emergency. Everything that you read is exactly as it happens
High Wire seems like a fantastic idea for a feature film - which actor(s) would you love to see bring Kate to life?
Jennifer Lawrence would be great in the role. But I am sure there are a few others, too. What are you working on now?
Silent Voices. It's a story of two sisters separated a decade earlier, with no idea about the other's existence. Jessica Niles is a twenty-four-year-old Columbia University graduate, living in New York City. Her sister is the thirteen-year-old Fatima raised as a local in a rural village in Afghanistan with no clue of her true identity, or why she is cursed with the blue eyes and fair skin that gets her so much unwanted attention. It is this attention that has placed Fatima in the proximity of a dangerous warlord being groomed by the United States to take helm in Afghanistan upon America's departure. When Fatima escapes with a secret that can bring him down and destroy years of diplomacy, she is in the crosshairs of Kabul and Washington alike. Now Jessie has to find her sister before either or both are killed. The story takes place thirty days before the US withdrawal of its forces from Afghanistan. Together we take a deep dive into that culture, and the mayhem that places both girls in terrible danger. You can read chapter one for free on my website.
For more information, please visit: https://kammajd.com/