John Kenny on his IRDA Winning “The Spark”

the sparkWhat is the name of the book and when was it published?

The Spark, a novel – published Oct. 6, 2013

What’s the book’s first line?

“The windows were black with soot.  Tendrils of smoke seeped from the edges of the flat roof and wove themselves together, like a dark shroud rising into the night.”

What’s the book about? Give us the “pitch”.

Searching for the truth is the most dangerous thing firefighter Donny Robertson will ever do. The blaze in the old factory has left him physically and mentally scarred. And Fitz was dead, nothing was going to change that. But there were no traces of arson and no signs of foul play. Everyone is eager to put the tragedy behind them and move on – everyone but Donny.

As pieces of the puzzle begin to fit together, evidence and people start to disappear. By the time Donny realizes he’s in over his head, it’s too late. He’s become a loose end and someone is cleaning up. Framed for the murder of his last remaining lead, Donny’s only chance is to find and confront the person pulling the strings. It’s a desperate plan and it will cost him everything he loves.

What inspired you to write the book? A particular person? An event?

I got the basic idea soon after I became a firefighter, over 25 years ago. There were so many suspense/thriller books about cops, detectives and spies, but almost nothing with firefighters. The plot kept rolling around in the back of my mind until finally I had to sit down and write it.

My other inspiration was a desire to show what firefighting is really like. It’s not like the movies, with walls of flame. The smoke is so dense you’re literally blind. So you’re groping in the dark, searching for people or the seat of the fire and the clock is ticking and all that time the heat, the unimaginable heat is pressing in on you. It can be pretty intense. That makes the relationships between firefighters special.  Hollywood shows us as calendar boys and two dimensional heroes. In reality we’re ordinary people who are privileged to do extraordinary things to help people at the worst moment of their lives.

What’s the most distinctive thing about the main character? Who-real or fictional-would you say the character reminds you of?

A lot of people have asked if Donny is me. The short answer is no. I’ve used a lot of my own experience to create him, and he embodies the values that I love about being a firefighter: loyalty, honour, commitment to service. In the end Donny is probably a better firefighter than I am and hopefully I’m not quite as neurotic or obsessive as him.

His name, Donny Robertson is a tribute to three of my brothers who died in childhood. Donny and Robert were toddlers and a third unnamed boy died shortly after birth – so Donny Robertson. I did that for my parents. They taught me a lot about acceptance, endurance and joy.

What’s the main reason someone should really read this book?


The Spark is a fast paced, intelligent thriller. It “keeps you on the edge of your seat” as one reviewer put it. The bonus is, it also gives you an insider’s view of life in the fire department. Sane people don’t run into burning buildings. This allows you to find out what that’s like from the safety of your armchair.