Jeff Abbott's thriller Adrenaline, the first in a series, introduces Sam Capra: former CIA agent, husband, and soon-to-be father.

Are you doing something different in Adrenaline compared to your previous thrillers? If so, what and why?

Sam Capra is an ex-spy who owns bars around the world. I had no idea when I started it how he would get kicked out of the agency, or how he'd come into ownership of a bunch of very different bars. But I wanted to create a character with the skills of a spy that at the same time wasn't bound by bureaucracy, a man who had a legitimate reason to travel the world and find trouble, and a family man as opposed to a loner. In his mid-20s, he's younger than most thriller protagonists.

What specifically interests you about relatively ordinary people thrown into extraordinary circumstances?

Sam Capra is a fully trained undercover operative, but only worked for the CIA for a few years, so he's relatively green. But we do see ordinary people who are drawn into the dangerous criminal world that Sam fights. I want the reader to be in the shoes of everyday people who are facing incredible dangers and wonder if they would make the same choices. But even Sam, with his background as a spy, is an ordinary man in many ways. I don't want him to feel like a superhero.

Do you think your readers become most swept up in your characters or in your plots?

I believe the most intricate plot won't matter much to readers if they don't care about the characters, especially in a series. So I try to focus hard on making each character, whether villain or hero, have an interesting flaw that readers can relate to. I often think about these characters' childhoods, their life experiences. What shaped them into the people who, in this moment, are facing the greatest challenges of their lives? That said, it being a thriller, you have to deliver plot as well. But to me character comes first.

Looking ahead, how do you want to be remembered as a writer?

I want to be a writer you can always depend on for a good read during your vacation, during your flight, during a time in your life when you want to forget the world around you. The nicest notes I've received from readers are those that tell me I've gotten them back into reading for entertainment. For me, there is no greater compliment.