When will your next book be released?
I honestly don't know. My most recent novel is THE MALTA ESCAPE. It was released on November 9, 2018.
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 on The Hunters movie?
As hard as this is to believe, it's been half a decade since I signed the movie option for The Hunters. During the first few years, there was a lot of forward momentum with the project―including an incredible cast and a massive marketing deal with Nissan. But as time went on, I started to have my doubts about the film. The budget kept getting smaller and smaller, and the script kept getting further and further away from the book. Eventually it reached a point where it wasn't my story or my characters anymore.

At the end of the five-year deal, the producers wanted to extend the agreement, but after several sleepless nights, I decided to turn them down. As tough as that was to do, I know it was the right decision.

Believe it or not, I'm actually excited about this development. Now that I have the rights back, my agents are free to shop for a better deal, and so far there has been a lot of interest. That said, I'm not in any rush to sign a new agreement. Now that I've seen the good and bad of Hollywood, I'm going to patiently wait until I find the right studio and/or production team to work with before I sign my next movie option.
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.
Your new website is so different than your old one. Why the change?
Truth be told, my old website didn't fit my personality. It featured a photo of me in a sport coat, which I'm pretty sure I bought for a funeral. Every time I visited my site I felt uncomfortable because I knew that stuffed shirt wasn't me. So I decided to make the change. My friends and family know I hate the cold and moved to Florida so I could wear T-shirts and shorts every day of the year. Lucky for you, that means my new photos feature bulging biceps and hairy calves. No need to thank me, ladies. You're welcome!
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: Bulgarian, Czech, Dutch, English (US & UK), Estonian, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Latvian, Polish, Portuguese (Brazil & Portugal), Romanian, Russian, 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, sometimes humiliating experience that took me several years to accomplish. And the said truth is that my experience was better than most!

So what did I do? 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. And that really pissed me off. 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 when that failed, I got desperate….

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 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: I heard this book will be adapted for the second movie instead of THE FORBIDDEN TOMB. Is this true? And if so, why?
Right now, that's the plan. Obviously it's still early ― I mean, THE HUNTERS hasn't even been filmed yet ― but our investors are excited about the possibility of filming in China, which is where much of GOLD takes place. I'm excited about the possibility, too. I've never been to China!
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.