When will your next book be released?
I honestly don't know because my current focus is the Hunters movie. Once that wraps, I'll figure out what I'm going to work on next. In the meantime, I recently released the Hunters trilogy in a money-saving, three-book bundle. You can read more about the anthology here.
I'd like to read your books in the order they were written. Do you know the order?
How do you pronounce "Kuzneski"?
The easiest way to pronounce my name is to make it rhyme with “was pesky.” Kuzneski was pesky. (I know it’s not the most flattering rhyme, but it seems to be memorable.)
What's the status of The Hunters movie?
Lots of things are going on behind the scenes, including some new personnel in key positions. The best way to stay informed is to visit my movie page.
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. Later in 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 a pimple-faced teenager, especially since I was competing against hundreds of professional writers.

Unfortunately, I went into a severe slump after that. My next work wasn’t published until I was hired by my college newspaper in my sophomore year at the University of Pittsburgh.
Do you have any favorite authors?
The author who influenced my career the most was Clive Cussler. In the world of action-adventure novels, he is the gold standard. One of the biggest thrills of my career was getting to spend a day with Clive at his home in Arizona. He even took me for a ride in one of his classic automobiles. If you'd like to see some photos of that incredible day, click here.

Another personal favorite was
Michael Crichton. Most people know him from Jurassic Park ― an all-time masterpiece ― but I loved so many of his books (The Andromeda Strain, Sphere, Congo, Rising Sun, Timeline, etc.) that I'd be remiss if I didn't mention him. He was a remarkable talent, who fueled my imagination.
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. That doesn't mean every book of mine is available in twenty-plus languages. It simply means that at least one of my books has been sold in the following: Bengali, Bulgarian, Czech, Dutch, English (US & UK), Estonian, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Latvian, Polish, Portuguese (Brazil & Portugal), Romanian, Russian, Sinhalese, Serbian, Slovenian, Spanish, and Turkish.

At least those are the ones I can remember. I think I may be missing a few.
You look kind of scrawny. Did you really play football at Pitt?
Ouch. But yes, 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 closer to 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.
How did you get your agent? Was blackmail involved?
First of all, let me make one thing clear: looking for an agent sucks. For me, it was a grueling, often humiliating experience that took several years off my life. And the sad truth is that my experience was better than most!

So what did I do to get an agent? I did what all new writers are supposed to do: I wrote a query letter to every agent who was looking for new clients and hoped someone would be impressed. Unfortunately, my letters got me nothing but rejection. So 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. I figured, if anyone knew what it felt like to search for an agent, it would be other writers.

Amazingly most of them agreed to read it, and before I knew it, the endorsements started rolling in. Armed with blurbs from James Patterson, Lee Child, Nelson DeMille, James Rollins and many other top authors, I figured someone would take a chance on me. But I was wrong. And that's when I did something completely crazy….

Years before ebooks existed, I decided to self-publish my book with the help of a bank loan. I printed 10,000 trade paperbacks, stored them in a warehouse, then drove across the country selling the book out of the trunk of my car. Truth be told, I merely hoped to make enough many to pay my rent, but something remarkable happened.

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 an agent from one of the largest agencies in NYC bought my book (at full price) and contacted me. Not only did I get a royalty from his book sale, but I also landed an agent. Without blackmail.


THE PLANTATION: Payne and Jones belonged to a covert military group known as the MANIACs. Does this organization exist?
During times of war, the U.S. Military has experimented with all-star squads. In other words, they took their best soldiers, regardless of branch, and threw them together on important missions. Over the years, these squads have gone by many names, and some of them still operate today.

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.
THE PLANTATION: Ariane Walker was Payne’s girlfriend in The Plantation, but she doesn't appear 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 self-published, 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. 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.
SIGN OF THE CROSS is a religious thriller about Jesus Christ. Were you trying to cash in on The Da Vinci Code craze, or was the timing a coincidence?
I finished the first draft of Sign of the Cross 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 Sign of the Cross….

That said, I know the massive success of
The Da Vinci Code helped my sales on Sign of the Cross. What’s the expression? A rising tide lifts all boats. Well, The Da Vinci Code was a tidal wave.
SWORD OF GOD: I heard the UK version of Sword of God is much longer than the American version. Is that true?
Yes, that's true. 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 Saudi Arabia. In addition, I extended the conclusion of the story, adding a twist that fans of Sign of the Cross will enjoy.
THE LOST THRONE: What was the strangest story that you uncovered about German historian Heinrich Schliemann?
Anytime Schliemann would invent a new fact about himself ― for instance, he claimed he had dinner with the President of the United States ― 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 Schliemann 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.
THE LOST THRONE: I would love to read Allison Taylor’s dissertation ― the one you mentioned in your Author’s Note. 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. Because, you know, she isn't real. But I wish she was. It would’ve made my job as an author a heck of a lot easier!
THE PROPHECY: 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, so I opted to end the book the way I did.
THE DEATH RELIC: You described “a serpent of light” that crawls down the side of the pyramid at Chichén Itzá. Is that 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 the railing.
THE EINSTEIN PURSUIT: I loved this book, but it’s quite different from recent Payne & Jones novels. Why the change?
Since the Hunters series will focus on archaeology and lost treasures, I decided to write a book that focused on something completely different ― in this case, a scientific breakthrough. Thankfully, the reviews have been great, so it seems like I made a good choice!
THE HUNTERS: Did the Romanian treasure train actually exist? If so, did they really send it to Russia for safekeeping?
Other than a few relics that I added for creative purposes, the contents of the treasure train were described accurately in the book. And yes, the Romanian government actually sent the train to Russia where it disappeared in the chaos of the revolution.
THE FORBIDDEN TOMB: There's a shocking twist toward the end of the book. Did you plan that ahead of time?
Nope. Unlike some authors, I don't outline my books. I prefer to write them by feel. One of the biggest advantages of this technique is my ability to shock readers with twists. There's no way they can see them coming because I don't know what they are when I'm writing the earlier chapters. Sometimes I have to go back and tweak things to make my twists work, but I definitely don't plan them in advance.
THE PRISONER'S GOLD: Were you surprised that this book won an ITW Thriller award?
Shocked is more accurate. Not because I didn't think THE PRISONER'S GOLD was a worthy novel, but because the action-adventure genre is typically ignored by award committees. Prior to my nomination, the only adventure author to be a finalist for a Thriller Award was Clive Cussler, way back in 2007. And he didn't win. So, yeah, I was definitely shocked that I flew home with the award.
BEFORE THE STORM: I prefer the feel of a book in my hands and have no plans to buy an e-reader. Is BEFORE THE STORM available in paperback?
Unfortunately, no. BEFORE THE STORM is approximately 12,000 words, so it's far too short for a paperback. If you'd like to read the novella on your computer, simply download the Kindle app for free.
THE MALTA ESCAPE: You've been mentioning Malta in your books for years. What's your connection?
To read the full story, click here: Malta.