Interview with Kam Majd: On Navigating Suspense & Unique Perspective as a Pilot and Author
Kam Majd has been flying for over 40 years, most recently as a Boeing 777 Captain for American Airlines in Los Angeles, CA. Now, he has officially logged in his last flight and is focusing on writing full-time. But Kam is no stranger to the world of fiction. He is already an Edgar® Award-nominated author, having authored a mystery thriller a few years back that was shelved because of the events of September 11, 2001.
That book was High Wire, a suspense thriller based on the story of a young female pilot flying an aircraft contaminated with a lethal computer virus. You can see why, despite positive praise from various media sources, High Wire was destined for failure at the time of its first release, as it was quickly pulled off the shelves at bookstores nationwide.
Kam is re-releasing the book that Publisher’s Weekly calls “absorbing and seductive” and the New York Post says is “Plane riveting.”
He recently shared some of his stories with us, from his journey as a pilot to the transition into writing, as well as his inspiration for publishing the book. He also delves into the characters in his books, why he chose a female protagonist, and the role of technology in the aviation industry today.
Thank you for taking the time to talk with Fiction Horizon. We’re excited to get to know you and all about your new book, High Wire.
FH: Tell us about your new thriller.
Kam Majd: High Wire is about an airline captain who is blamed for a crash in which six people die. It begins with the last few minutes of flight 394 into Kennedy. All Captain Kate Gallagher wants to do is land and get home to her daughter. But first, she has to deal with blizzard conditions, a confrontational copilot, and something far more treacherous… a lethal computer virus that has already contaminated her plane. When the controls refuse to follow her commands, she has two choices; follow her training or instinct.
The next day as the investigators and the media pour over the mangled remains of Flight 394, attention is focused on the captain who was hired a decade earlier when the airline was under the threat of a federal discrimination suit. Now, with the phrase “She was no Sully,” following her name in the media, Kate has to endure humiliation and blame, uncovering the worlds of technology and corporate greed, until she faces the madman who created the virus.
There she learns he has contaminated another plane halfway over the Atlantic, with no chance of surviving unless she does the unthinkable. With the whole world watching, Kate becomes their only hope. And the price of saving all those lives, just one… hers.
You were a pilot for over 40 years, was this book influenced by your adventures in the air?
Absolutely. In fact, some of the experiences I really wanted to share with the readers are what it’s like in the cockpit when things go wrong. And hopefully, that is what I have done.
Tell us about the book’s hero, Captain Kate Gallagher.
Kate is a first-generation immigrant and a widow with a five-year-old daughter. She has loved flying from a very young age and was hired as the youngest female pilot at Jet-East. She did not know that the airline was under the threat of a federal discrimination suit, and now everyone believes she was never qualified to be in the captain’s seat. The media believes that the airline was forced to hire her, resulting in people dying.
Who is the villain(s)?
Without giving the book away, let me just say that there is more than one villain. As we delve into the world of technology and corporate greed, this becomes clearer.
Did you find it difficult to write your protagonist as a female? How did you find her voice?
The publisher at Bantam Dell Randomhouse asked me that very question. The answer was simple. I did not write about a woman; I wrote about a person. I wrote as if everything that happened to Kate happened to me.
Flight technology has been greatly improved over the years. What are some things you have seen or experienced with these advancements during your time as a pilot?
Technology has improved by leaps and bounds. And all of that has made aviation so much safer. To begin with, three pilots were in the cockpit just a generation ago. Now there are only two. Automation has taken over the work of the last crew member. If something goes wrong now, the plane usually tells you what it is and what you need to do to fix it, rather than the pilots having to figure out the question and the answer. Aircraft systems, air traffic control, maintenance, everything has taken leaps and bounds forward, all for the better.
Your plot involves a computer virus that downs an aircraft — What is the likelihood that something like this can actually happen?
In theory, not very likely. But as I was putting the plot together, I interviewed engineers from both Boeing and Airbus, and they suggested I send copies of the book to the manufacturer’s security departments which I did.
Technology can lead to phenomenal things and advances in almost any field, but do you prefer the old ways when pilots had more of a “hands-on” experience?
Every pilot wants the feel of the machine rather than playing a video game. But you also enjoy going further and higher and to destinations you never could before. So it’s a give and take. Still, if a pilot ever wants the “hands-on” experience, all they have to do is turn off the automation.
The book sounds like it would make a great movie! Who would you like to see play this out on film?
The book is currently being shopped in Hollywood. But if she can hear me, Jennifer Lawrence will make a great Kate Gallagher.
Who are some authors or filmmakers you look up to?
I love the way Grisham tells a story or Crichton. Thrillers and suspense are where I spend most of my time, and as far as movies, anything that has the word Star in the name.
What are you reading right now?
Educated by Tara Westover.
What can we expect from you next?
Silent Voices is a story of two sisters separated at birth. One is raised on the east coast, and the other is an Afghan in a remote village with no contact or knowledge of her true family. Below is the synopsis. You can read the first chapter on my website.
Silent VoicesDesperate to find her mother, an American freelance journalist who has disappeared while on assignment in Afghanistan, Jessie Niles plunges into the chaos of this war-torn nation just weeks before American forces are withdrawn. She discovers that her mother’s real “assignment” had been to rescue a young girl named Fatima—her daughter and the sister Jessie never knew existed.
Fatima’s life is in imminent danger.
Growing up in a desolate village without knowing her true family, Fatima never understood why she was cursed with the fair skin and blue eyes that brought her so much unwanted attention. It is this attention that has placed her in the proximity of Omar Fariq, the feared warlord groomed by the United States to fill the vacuum of America’s departure.
So when she escapes the clutches of Fariq with a secret that can bring him down and derail years of diplomacy. She is in the crosshairs of Washington and Kabul alike.
Now, with the clock ticking, Jessie not only has to stay alive but find her sister before she loses her forever. With the help of Mason Gaines, the renegade Green Beret and a handful of his comrades willing to risk it all set out for what will become the battle of their lives.
Now, where can our readers find out more about you?
My website is a place where I keep everything up to date. It’s http://www.kammajd.com/.