FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
When I’m interviewed or do a book event, I tend to get asked the same questions over and over. As a service to everyone, here are the answers that I usually give. (Of course, my answers may vary based on how much caffeine I’ve had that day.)
1) How do you pronounce “Kuzneski”?
My name is a lot easier than it looks. The best way to remember the pronunciation is to make it rhyme with “was pesky.” Kuzneski was pesky. (Yeah, I know it’s not the most flattering rhyme, but it seems to be memorable.)
2) When will your next novel be released?
The Einstein Pursuit (Payne & Jones) will be released in the UK on August 29. The US paperback of The Death Relic will be released on August 6. I still don’t have an American release date for The Hunters, but as soon as I do, I’ll be sure to post it here.
3) Why are your books released in the UK several months before the US?
Even though I’m an American writer, my books are a lot more popular in the UK ― at least for the time being. Because of my success overseas, my British publisher rushes my books to print because they know they’ll fly off the shelves. Meanwhile, my American publisher takes the “regular” amount of time to release my books. They use the extra time to send out review copies to the media and critics. That delays the release by several months.
4) When will one of your books be turned into a movie?
Hopefully soon. Over the past few years, many producers in Hollywood have approached my film agent (Jon Kassir at CAA) about the rights to my books, but I’m waiting for the right fit. Once I sign a deal, I’ll be sure to post all the details on my news page.
5) I saw a foreign edition of one of your books. Which languages are they available in?
Rights to my books have sold in more than twenty languages. Here are the ones I can remember: Bulgarian, Czech, Dutch, English (US & UK), Estonian, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Indonesian, Italian, Latvian, Polish, Portuguese (Brazil & Portugal), Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Slovenian, Spanish, and Turkish.
6) I heard you’re launching a new series. Can you give us some details?
The first book in The Hunters series was released in the UK in January 2013. Click here for more information about the book.
7) Hold up! Does this mean you’re ending the Payne & Jones series?
Absolutely not. My new four-book deal with Headline includes two new books in the Payne & Jones series. Starting in 2013, I’m going to start releasing a new book every eight months, alternating between the two series. The next Payne & Jones thriller (The Einstein Pursuit) will be released in the UK on August 29, and the next Hunters book will be released in 2014.
8) How long have you been a writer?
I wrote my first book as a fourth grader and can remember entering several writing competitions in junior high school ― even though I never won any of them. In senior high school, I entered a Writer’s Digest contest that was open to writers of all ages and somehow took second place. Not bad for an acne-faced teenager, especially since I was competing against thousands of professional writers…. Unfortunately, I went into a severe slump after that. My next work wasn’t published until I started working for my college newspaper.
9) Did you REALLY play football at Pitt? You look kind of scrawny.
Thanks. But I was an offensive lineman for a very good Pitt team in the late-80s. Unfortunately, my career got cut short due to a freak foot injury, which contributed to my massive weight loss. (I was around 270 pounds in college; now I’m 200.) At the time, it was pretty devastating ― to me, NOT the team. But all things considered, it was probably the best thing that could’ve happened to me. Instead of spending all of my time in the weight room, I was able to focus all of my attention on writing and sleeping past noon. Click here to see a football photo.
10) How did you get an agent?
First of all, let me make one thing clear: Finding an agent was a painstaking process that took me several years. I did what all writers are supposed to do; I wrote a query letter to every agent who was looking for new clients. Unfortunately, that got me nowhere. After that, I decided to take a different approach. I wrote letters to many of my favorite writers, asking them to read an unpublished version of The Plantation. Amazingly, most of them agreed to do it, and before I knew it, the endorsements started rolling in. Eventually I decided to self-publish my book, hoping it would get me enough money to pay my rent. Remarkably, it did more than that . . .
Scott Miller, an agent at Trident Media, bought one of those self-published copies in a Philadelphia bookstore and liked it enough to e-mail me. At the time, I had a folder with over 100 rejection letters, yet the best young agent in the business bought my book (at full price) and contacted me. Not only did I get a royalty from his book sale, but I also got the perfect agent.
11) I want to read your books in the order they were written. Do you remember the order?
Of course I remember the order. What, do I look like a moron? Wait! Don’t answer that!!!
1) The Plantation
2) Sign of the Cross
3) Sword of God
4) The Lost Throne
5) The Prophecy
6) The Secret Crown
7) The Death Relic
8) The Hunters
The first draft took roughly nine months to complete, but it was way too long to hold a reader’s interest ― coming in at 220,000 words. I ended up cutting a few characters, one major plotline, and over 100,000 words during the next few months. All told, the book was done in about a year.
2) How did you come up with the concept for The Plantation?
I’ve always been interested in the concept of revenge. You know, what motivates people to seek retribution. Sometimes it’s a hatred that’s been festering for years; other times, it’s a quick, violent reaction (i.e. a crime of passion.) Anyway, I was pondering the concept of revenge while I was driving from Pittsburgh to Hilton Head, SC. If you’ve ever been to South Carolina, you know the state is filled with plantations, some bigger than Rhode Island. Eventually, something clicked in my mind. I realized a plantation would be a great place to get revenge. Not only because of the isolation but also because of the violent history of the South.
3) Why does your story take place in Louisiana?
The biggest reason was New Orleans. I wanted Payne & Jones to look for clues in a major city, and South Carolina doesn’t have anything the size of New Orleans. Besides, the history of Louisiana is so different than any other state that I felt it would make an interesting backdrop for The Plantation.
4) Ariane Walker was Payne’s girlfriend in The Plantation, but I don’t remember her in any of your other novels. Did Payne kill her?
Don’t be stupid. Of course Payne didn’t kill her. But my agent did. . . . Let me explain: The Plantation was my first novel. It was published by a small publisher, but it did so well I signed a three-book deal with Penguin USA. When I wrote Sign of the Cross, Ariane appeared in the first draft. Payne called her when he was in Spain, and she popped up in a few other chapters. However, when my agent read it, he felt the book needed to be shortened. (It was really long.) The easiest sections to eliminate were the ones with Ariane since she was nothing more than a supporting character. So that's what I snipped ― all the parts with Ariane. Once the book was released, my agent and editor loved the formula. Payne & Jones were single, giving them freedom in future novels. And I have to admit, I liked it, too. Will Ariane ever reappear? Possibly. But for the time being, Payne and Jones will be free to play the field.
5) Why hasn’t The Plantation been published in the UK?
I have absolutely no idea. Not only is it the first book in the Payne & Jones series, but it has endorsements from some of the biggest names in the genre (James Patterson, Lee Child, James Rollins, etc.) Someday it will be published in the UK ― even if I have to do it myself.
I finished the first draft of SOTC long before I’d even heard of Dan Brown. I came up with the story in the late 1990s, but I didn’t feel comfortable writing it until I had a chance to do all the background research. If you don’t believe me, check out the Paradox edition of The Plantation, which was released a year before The Da Vinci Code. In the back of the book, there’s a huge ad for SOTC…. That being said, I’m sure the massive success of The Da Vinci Code helped my sales on SOTC. What’s the expression? A rising tide lifts all boats. Well, The Da Vinci Code was a tidal wave.
2) I’m fascinated by the history in SOTC. Can you recommend any books on religion?
I came across several titles while I conducted my research. Although I didn’t read them, I saw these mentioned enough that they’d probably be a great place to start.
· Holy Blood, Holy Grail by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln
· Rosslyn: Guardians of the Secret of the Holy Grail by Tim Wallace-Murphy and Marilyn Hopkins
· Jesus and the Lost Goddess by Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy
· Map of Bones by James Rollins
· The Last Templar by Raymond Khoury
· The Expected One by Kathleen McGowan
· The Genesis Code by John Case
· Daughter of God by Lewis Perdue
· The Templar Legacy by Steve Berry
Yes, Penguin UK asked me to write an additional 10,000 words for their version. That’s roughly 50 extra pages. My main focus was fleshing out the character of Shari Shasmeen and the members of her archaeological team. In addition, I extended the conclusion of the story, adding a twist that fans of Sign of the Cross will enjoy.
2) Payne and Jones belonged to a military group known as the MANIACs. Does such an organization exist?
During times of war, the U.S. Military has experimented with all-star squads. That is, taking their best soldiers, regardless of their branch, and throwing them together on important missions. Over the years, these squads have gone by many names, and some of them still operate today. In my novels, Payne and Jones are former members of the MANIACs, a Special Forces squad that they once commanded. MANIAC is an acronym that stands for Marines, Army, Navy, Intelligence, Air Force, and Coast Guard.
Yes, I visited for over a week and saw most of the major sites. After spending a few days in Athens, I toured the countryside, stopping at Delphi, Mycenae, Sparta, Olympia, and many towns in between. I also took a boat to some of the islands in the Aegean. That was probably my favorite part of the trip. The islands were simply gorgeous.
2) Where did you first learn of archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann? How did his story provide the inspiration of The Lost Throne?
I was a student at the University of Pittsburgh, taking a course on the Greek Classics. One of the lectures focused on Heinrich Schliemann’s life, particularly how he used The Iliad to discover the lost city of Troy. Or, how he didn’t. That was the incredible thing about Schliemann. No one knows what to believe because he was such a brilliant con man. Half the time he was taking credit for things he didn’t do, the other half he was denying things that he actually did. As an author, that gave me a lot of fodder to work with.
3) What was the strangest story that you uncovered about Schliemann?
Anytime Schliemann would invent a new fact about himself―for instance, he claimed he had dinner with the President―he would actually change his diary to cover his tracks. Sometimes he even glued in additional pages if he didn’t have enough room for all of the fictional details. Keep in mind, I’m talking about his personal diary, something only he got to read during his lifetime. How bizarre is that? I’m not sure if he did it to help keep all of his tales straight, or he did it because he knew scholars would read his diary after he had died. Whatever the reason, it spoke volumes about the man and his ego.
4) What was the most interesting thing you learned while writing this book?
Even though I had heard of Mount Athos, I didn’t know much about its history or its role in the Orthodox faith. But the more I researched the place, the more I realized that it needed to be in my story. It’s almost like a separate country inside of Greece―similar to the relationship between Vatican City and Italy, but not as distinct.
5) I’d love to read Allison Taylor’s dissertation, the one mentioned in your Author’s Note. Do you know where I can get a copy?
I have to admit, this is one question I didn’t expect. Why? Because I was simply joking around in the Author’s Note. The truth is Allison Taylor is a fictional character, so she never actually did any research. But I wish she had. It would’ve made my job as an author a heck of a lot easier!
1) Unlike your other novels, there was a cliffhanger at the end of THE PROPHECY. Will there be a sequel?
Normally I pride myself on tying up all the loose ends in my novels, but in this case I felt a cliffhanger was appropriate because of the subject matter. When it comes to Nostradamus, there are never any definitive answers.
2) Umm, you didn’t answer the question. Will there be a sequel?
Nope. No sequel. Unless, of course, an eccentric billionaire offers me a shitload of money to write a sequel, in which case I would strongly consider it. Other than that, no sequel. (“So you’re saying there’s a chance. . . .”)
1) When will THE SECRET CROWN be released in America?
Putnam will release the hardcover and e-book on January 12, 2012. The paperback will be released approximately nine months later. Once I get an exact date, I’ll be sure to post it on my website.
2) Does Ludwig’s secret grotto actually exist?
Believe it or not, it really does exist. Click here to visit the virtual tour page for The Secret Crown. The pictures are great.
1) When will the paperback of THE DEATH RELIC be released in the US?
Putnam released the hardcover (and the e-book) in January 2013. The paperback will be released on August 6, 2013.
2) You described “a serpent of light” that crawls down the side of the pyramid at Chichén Itzá. Is this a figment of your imagination?
The serpent is quite real. The Maya angled the pyramid in such a way that sunlight (in the shape of a snake) crawls down the balustrade at sunset during the spring and autumn equinox. At any one moment, the snake is nothing more than sunlight and a series of triangle shadows—cast by the western corners of the pyramid—but viewed with time-lapse photography, the serpent of light appears to slither along this railing. Click here to visit the virtual tour page for The Death Relic for photos of this fascinating event.