Please welcome our current featured author:
With the release of THE COLUMBUS AFFAIR (previously reviewed on New Mystery Reader) author Steve Berry continues his attack on the best-seller’s list. THE COLUMBUS AFFAIR is his fourth stand-alone novel and the biggest since his debut --- THE AMBER ROOM in 2003. In between, he has penned seven novels in the highly successful Cotton Malone series as well as three E-Books originals.
We had opportunity to ask Steve a few questions while he is currently on tour promoting THE COLUMBUS AFFAIR.
New Mystery Reader: There has always been discussion surrounding Christopher Columbus and his alleged Jewish heritage. What made you want to explore this as a central plot point?
Steve Berry: I had read books on the subject of Christopher Columbus but as soon as I read “Sails of Hope: The Secret Mission of Christopher Columbus” (1979) by Simon Wiesenthal I knew there was a story there.
NMR: Aside from the cameo appearance of Stephanie Nelle (from the Cotton Malone series) THE COLUMBUS AFFAIR was a stand-alone novel. How did you come to the decision not to make this a Cotton Malone novel?
S.B.: I was interested in creating a new set of characters and hope that this would attract new readers. Readers sometimes can feel turned off by a series and think that they have to read every book in order to enjoy it --- which is not the case with the Cotton Malone series. I would like to revisit the character of Tom Sagan again and the ending of THE COLUMBUS AFFAIR provides that opening. In a series, characters can present some limitations like family issues and other constraints. Stand-alone novels have their own challenges in that you are creating everything from scratch.
NMR: I was at a book reading given by Brad Thor a few years back and he referred to the fact that his colleague and fellow author, James Rollins, keeps a ‘magic box’ where he would throw in random magazine and newspaper articles that interested him and then return to the box when he needed the impetus for a new novel. Where do you get your ideas and how do you begin the research process?
S.B.: It’s true that James Rollins has a ‘magic box’ and I’ve seen it! I keep a ‘magic file’ myself and fill this with topics of interest. I want to use ideas that interest me and the reader. The research process is always going to be intense and I typically spend 18 months with each novel. As a matter of fact, the idea for the next Cotton Malone novel comes from a conversation I overhead while in London.
NMR: The Cotton Malone series is one of the most popular in the overcrowded historical fiction genre. What’s next for Cotton? Also, Brad Thor, James Rollins and yourself have had literary ‘shout-outs’ in your novels where characters from each of your respective series have been mentioned in each others books. Any more of that planned and why is it important to create a fictional world/alternate reality where these characters exist?
S.B.: I’m working on my next two novels --- one with Cotton Malone which will take him to the U.K. followed by a novel featuring Cassiopeia Vitt, respectively. As an author, I am in total control of where recurring characters are going next and typically have that planned out for several novels in advance.
I like the amount of competition in the historical fiction genre. There’s certainly a lot of it out there!
Jim Rollins was the first to start the shout-outs by mentioning Cotton Malone and I have followed suit along with Brad Thor by dropping occasional mentions. Raymond Khoury has also followed suit in his Sean Reilly series. A little mention like that fits nicely, and if it works, stick with it. It’s also a good way for authors to see how many cross-readers there are for each of their series.
NMR: Is there a challenge in depicting historical events with fictional characters? Have you ever received comments from historians about any of your novels?
S.B.: The goal is to entertain while ensuring the story is historically accurate. This is a challenge and I always include a Writer’s Note at the back of each novel to explain what is fact and what is fiction. I have never heard from any historians but have heard from History teachers who like the fact that my novels make history accessible to their students. However, I have never been tempted to write any non-fiction.
NMR: What message do you want readers’ to take away from THE COLUMBUS AFFAIR?
S.B.: THE COLUMBUS AFFAIR deals with a subject people know little about. There are things they will learn about Christopher Columbus that will surprise them.
NMR: As you continue to tour with THE COLUMBUS AFFAIR do you have any interesting events coming up?
S.B.: Next week (the first week of June) I will be at Hunter College in NYC teaching a course on creative writing as well as a History Matters course. Information on these courses including enrollment can be found on my website --- www.steveberry.org .
I will be attending the annual Thriller Fest in NYC in July and participating in different panels as well as teaching a workshop on Point of View.
Interview reported by Ray Palen for New Mystery Reader
"If Ian Fleming and Doris Kearns Goodwin had a lovechild, it would be Steve Berry, the bestselling author of The Jefferson Key, The Emperor’s Tomb, The Paris Vendetta, The Charlemagne Pursuit, The Venetian Betrayal, The Alexandra Link, The Templar Legacy, The Third Secret, The Romanov Prophecy and The Amber Room. A fixture on the New York Times bestseller lists, Berry has been translated into 40 languages with more than 14 million printed books in 51 countries, worldwide.
Steve Berry was raised in Georgia and graduated from the Walter F. George School of Law at Mercer University. His road to publication was a long one, a process that took him 12 years and 85 rejections over five different manuscripts before he was able to sell a story. He credits the nuns who taught him in Catholic school with instilling the discipline needed to both craft a novel and find a publisher.
A devoted student of history, Berry is dedicated to researching his novels. In 2010 he and his wife, Elizabeth, founded History Matters—a nonprofit organization dedicated to aiding the preservation of the fragile reminders of our past. Since then, they have traveled the world raising much-needed funds for a wide range of historic preservation projects. Berry is also extremely active in the writing community and is a former president and founding member of International Thriller Writers.
Berry’s latest book, The Columbus Affair (Ballantine, May 2012), introduces a new protagonist – Tom Sagan – a disgraced Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist. Sagan has lost his wife, his daughter, his parents, and his career. Worst of all, he was set-up, destroyed on purpose, and there’s nothing he can do about it. Tom is about to kill himself when Zachariah Simon appears. Simon is hunting for an ancient prize, sacred to millions of people, one that continues to hold cataclysmic political significance. To find that treasure Simon has kidnapped Tom’s daughter and delivers a chilling ultimatum: “Give me what I want and I won’t hurt her.” To save his daughter, Tom must solve a 500-year-old puzzle created by Columbus, face down a shocking family secret, and confront a host of ghosts better left alone. On a perilous quest from Florida to Vienna to Prague and, finally, to the mountains of Jamaica, Tom Sagan’s life will be altered forever—and everything we know about the man who discovered America will change."