About Chris Kuzneski
An Interview with Chris Kuzneski
More About Chris Kuzneski
Chris Kuzneski is the internationally bestselling author of The Secret Crown, The Prophecy, The Lost Throne, Sword of God, Sign of the Cross, and The Plantation. He grew up in Pennsylvania and now lives on the Gulf Coast of Florida.
Chris Kuzneski’s passion for ancient Greece and how it inspired the story of The Lost Throne.
My latest thriller, The Lost Throne, is a book that I’ve been waiting to write for most of my life. And that isn’t an exaggeration.
Although I grew up in Pennsylvania, several thousand miles away from Europe, I fell in love with Greece when I was eight years old. Three decades later, I can still remember the moment when my fascination began. My classmates and I were sitting on the carpeted floor of our classroom. Our teacher Mrs Fleming was holding a large piece of yellow cardboard in her wrinkled hands. It was turned away from us, so only she could see its contents. It was like she was the guardian of an ancient secret, one that she wanted to reveal to us, but only if we proved our worth.
Gazing down at us, she asked, ‘Who can name a country older than America?’
Talk about a simple question. Remember, this was thirty years ago, back when the Cold War still raged. Other than a few African nations that none of us could pronounce, every country was older than the United States. It didn’t get much easier than this.
All of us launched our hands into the air, hoping to be the lucky student who was allowed to speak. Mrs Fleming picked someone up front, and correct answers started to flow from all corners of the room. England. Italy. China. France. Scotland. And many more. She kept calling on students until there were no more hands in the air.
Satisfied, she smiled at us and showed us the other side of the cardboard. A title was written at the top in big, bold letters. It read: ANCIENT CIVILIZATIONS.
Underneath she had glued several pictures of famous archaeological sites. The Roman Colosseum caught my eye because it looked like an American football stadium. All that was missing was a green field and seventy thousand screaming fans. I recognized the Great Wall of China and the Pyramids of Egypt. Even as a child, I knew what they were and where they were located.
And that’s when I saw something amazing. The Acropolis. A flat-topped rock that stood nearly five hundred feet above the city of Athens. The plateau was covered with ruins, the most impressive being the Parthenon, a massive temple honouring the Greek goddess Athena. I ignored the scaffolding that held its broken pillars in place and tried to imagine how it looked more than two thousand years ago when it was originally built.
For some reason, that image always stuck with me …
Flash forward to my college graduation. I had just earned a writing degree from the University of Pittsburgh. As a gift, my parents offered to pay for a graduation trip. Most of my friends would have selected a party destination like Las Vegas or Cancun. But not me. I wanted to visit Greece. My parents and sister liked the idea so much that they decided to join me—whether I wanted them to or not!
Anyway, we had a chance to see all the major sites in Athens before exploring several islands in the Aegean Sea and the Peloponnese. We visited Delphi, Mycenae, Olympia, Sparta, and several villages along the way. It was like walking through time.
While touring the battlefields that I had read about in The Iliad, a story of my own started to form. One of fire, deception, and ancient gold. Of bloodshed and betrayal. Of modern-day soldiers and secrets from the past. Unbeknown to me, I was envisioning the first draft of The Lost Throne.
It would take more than a decade for this story to evolve into a novel.
But in my mind, it was well worth the wait.
For more information on Chris and his books go to www.chriskuzneski.com.
Thinking of becoming a writer? Read about Chris Kuzneski’s rise to fame
Chris by Chris
I grew up in Indiana, Pennsylvania, with my parents and three siblings. As a fourth-grader, I wrote my first book, The Monster Cookbook, a work of fiction that detailed the culinary and nutritional needs of a dozen creatures that I’d created. The school’s librarian was so impressed that she had it hardbound and placed in the school’s library with all the books that my classmates enjoyed reading. Unbeknownst to her, a career in writing was born.
I attended Indiana High School, where I was voted Class Clown of my senior class, and anchored the line of a team that won back-to-back championships. I continued my football career at the University of Pittsburgh – playing with the future NFL stars Tony Siragusa, Jeff Christy, Mark Stepnoski, Craig ‘Ironhead’ Heyward, Marc Spindler and many others – while working on my BA in writing. Unfortunately a freak foot injury ended my athletic career. (That, and a severe lack of talent.)
While studying at Pitt, I wrote for The Pitt News, the Indiana Gazette, and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, eventually earning my BA in writing and my MA in teaching. From 1992 until 1998, I taught English and coached football in two western Pennsylvania school districts and was selected to Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers. But in my mind, I still wasn’t doing what I wanted to do. I wanted to be a writer. So I quit my job and took a leap of faith…
I finished my first book, The Lesson, in 1999 and was confident it would get me noticed. Alas, I was only half-right. My 1000-page monstrosity did get me noticed by several agents – just not in a good way. Their advice? Write a second book and make it 600 pages shorter. Otherwise you’ll be back on cafeteria duty before you know it.
Well, I ain’t stupid. I followed their suggestions and finished The Plantation less than a year later.
I then wrote letters to many of my favourite 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 – including ones from James Patterson, Lee Child and Nelson DeMille. Before long, 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 email 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!
In 2004, I moved from Pittsburgh to the Gulf Coast of Florida where I’ve been enjoying the sun, surf and hurricanes ever since. As of right now, I am currently single (and looking)!
For more information on Chris and his books go to www.chriskuzneski.com.
Interview with Chris Kuzneski
How long have you been a writer?
Since I was old enough to hold a crayon and not try to eat it. In the fourth grade, I wrote my first book, The Monster’s Cookbook, which was filled with dozens of creatures that I’d created and what they should be fed. The school’s librarian was so impressed that she had it hardbound and placed in the library, right next to all the books I grew up reading. From that point on, I knew I wanted to be a writer. Either that or a professional athlete. I ultimately chose writing because the money is so much greater and the groupies are better looking.
Why did you choose crime fiction?
When I was growing up, my parents always read mysteries and thrillers, which means they were always lying around the house. The books, not my parents. Anyway, that’s the main reason I got started with this genre. It’s what I was exposed to as a child. And what I continue to read today.
How did you come up with the concept for Sign of the Cross?
As a student at the University of Pittsburgh, I had a class called “The Bible as Literature” where we analyzed the Bible from a literary perspective, not a theological one. We actually broke down the word choice of the writers, comparing individual passages to other religious texts, and so on. That opened my eyes to a lot of things about Christianity, both good and bad. Biblical events that I had always assumed were historical facts suddenly seemed suspicious. After that, I knew a story like Sign of the Cross was plausible. It was just a matter of how I wanted to tell it.
And England is part of that story. How did that come about?
I’ve been to England twice in my life, and on both trips I spent time in the city of Bath. There’s something about that place that I’ve always loved. On one hand it’s a charming English city, filled with wonderful parks and pubs, yet it’s known throughout the world for its Roman baths. For some reason, that dichotomy always fascinated me. I remember walking near the edge of the River Avon, just listening to the water and admiring the architecture of the surrounding buildings, while I took mental snapshots of everything around me. This was several years ago—long before I started the book—but I knew that I’d write about the city and its history someday. I just wasn’t sure how.
Eventually, things fit together like pieces to a jigsaw puzzle. I knew I wanted to explore early-Christianity and realized the Romans had a strong presence in Britain back in the day, so I figured I could combine the two, using Bath as part of the back-story. In Sign of the Cross, an English professor stumbles across a bronze cylinder while on an archeological dig near the Roman baths. Inside he finds a document written by Tiberius, who was the emperor at the time of Christ’s death, that describes the site of a great shrine that was built in the tufa underneath the modern-day city of Orvieto, Italy. The professor travels to Umbria, hoping to find this ancient tomb, but ends up finding something much more important. Of course, I’m not going to ruin the book by telling you what he found. Besides, dozens of people have been killed over the years to protect the secrets of Orvieto, and at this stage of my career I can’t afford to lose any readers.
But Orvieto is just part of the story. Your novel is divided into three separate plots that are seamlessly woven together.
I’ve always enjoyed stories like that. As a reader, you’re not quite sure where the author is taking you or how you’re going to get there, but that’s part of the fun, trying to figure out how one set of events has something to do with another. In the case of Sign of the Cross, the book opens with a violent murder on the shore of Hamlet’s castle in Denmark. This is the first of many more murders to come, all of them linked together. From there, the book goes to Orvieto where the professor is searching for the lost shrine. Finally, the spotlight shifts to a prison in Pamplona, Spain, where the two main characters are temporarily incarcerated.
Those characters, Jonathon Payne and David Jones, got their start in your first novel, The Plantation. Did you know they were going to be recurring characters?
I hoped they would be, but I didn’t know for sure until I got such a positive reaction for The Plantation. When the characters started getting fan mail—people actually wrote letters to Payne & Jones—there was no doubt in my mind that I’d bring them back. In the beginning, I was hoping to create two characters that were different from each other in a lot of ways (different races, different talents, different upbringings, etc.) yet still managed to be best friends. Like I mentioned, I knew I wanted to write a series and figured their differences would give me plenty of things to explore in future books. Unless, of course, I hit the wrong key and accidentally kill one of them off.
There are fabulous twists and turns in your novels. Do you know all of these from the beginning or do they evolve as you write?
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I typically know the beginning of my story and have a vague notion of the conclusion, but all the stuff in between just happens to emerge through a combination of research, trial and error, and pure luck. Sometimes things fall into place, and when they do, I breathe a huge sigh of relief. To be honest, that’s probably one of the reasons that my readers don’t know what’s going to happen next—because I don’t know what’s going to happen next. Sometimes I think I became a writer to find out how the stories in my head actually end.
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