Shares a Secret, so Don’t Tell
Interview by Suspense Magazine
Sometimes we get an email that surprises us. Well, when we received an email from the publicist of Katherine Neville asking us if we would be interested in interviewing Katherine about her upcoming project, we couldn’t say yes fast enough.
Katherine burst onto the scene with her book “The Eight” back in 1988. Since then she has written three more books, with her last being published in 2008. She is one of the few authors that doesn’t have to write a book every year to stay on top of her game.
We didn’t know what to expect with her exciting news, and I won’t give it away here, as Katherine herself will explain below. We were thinking it could be anything. Maybe she was going to bring out another book, or maybe she was going to visit our office, we didn’t have any idea.
For those of you that don’t know Katherine Neville, here’s a little background. She has lived and worked in several countries. Holding jobs from fashion model to portrait painter to busboy, she has seen and done quite a bit. Her books have been tough to classify into one specific genre, but they have been translated into forty languages and sold worldwide. She is also the first author to be chosen to become a member of the Advisory Board of the Smithsonian Libraries in Washington, DC.
There is so much more to talk about with her accomplishments, we would fill up the magazine with them. Instead, let’s take a quick look into her first book, “The Eight.” Then check out her exclusive interview.
A fabulous, bejeweled chess set that belonged to Charlemagne has been buried in a Pyrenees abbey for a thousand years. As the bloody French Revolution rages in Paris, the nuns dig it up and scatter its pieces across the globe because, when united, the set contains a secret power that could topple civilizations. To keep the set from falling into the wrong hands, two novices, Valentine and Mireille, embark on an adventure that begins in the streets of Paris and leads to Russia, Egypt, Corsica, and into the heart of the Algerian Sahara.
Two hundred years later, while on assignment in Algeria, computer expert Catherine Velis finds herself drawn unwillingly into the deadly “Game” still swirling around the legendary chess set—a game that will require her to risk her life and match wits with diabolical forces.
S. MAG.: Your last book The Fire (sequel to The Eight) came out in 2008, can we expect another book soon?
K.N.: Yes, I have been working on this particular book off and on for the past 30 years. It’s about painters in the 1600s. As a former professional painter myself, it is a subject very close to my heart, and for the last 3 years, with the help of some modern masters, I’ve been painting (and writing) up a storm! I took my final research trip to Italy this past September, and I plan to deliver the initial few chapters to my long-frustrated literary agents this May. Keep fingers crossed for possible pub date in 2017.
S. MAG.: For new readers just finding out about your amazing work, where would you suggest they start?
K.N.: Over the years, I’ve realized that there is simply no way to describe my work. Readers love my books because they’ve discovered them on their own, and while savoring the stories, each reader extracts whatever has most engaged his/her attention. For that reason, I always recommend The Eight as a starting point for my work. It seems to appeal to readers from 9 years old to 90—and it still remains a beloved book in 40 languages around the globe!
S. MAG.: Is there a certain character in your books that you still think about and maybe will expand on further?
K.N.: Believe it or not, the character that is closest to espousing my personal POV is Ladislaus Nim, who first appears as the mentor of my heroine, Cat Velis, throughout The Eight, and who reappears as mentor to her daughter, Alexandra, in The Fire. Nim is a brain trust, an iconic/ironic figure—hence by definition, a sexy guy (think Sherlock Holmes) whose sexiness has nothing to do with biceps.
“Readers love my books because they’ve discovered them on their own, and while savoring the stories, each reader extracts whatever has most engaged his/her attention.”
I think one of the reasons that so many of my readers are male (historically, more than 65%) is that my characters, both male and female, find intellect in the opposite sex is a really appealing ingredient. Just like real life—no? So the iconic Nim will definitely be appearing in my subsequent work!
S. MAG.: When you write about characters that we have never met, how much research do you do to give them a voice for modern readers?
K.N.: I have to know everything about them. Everything. The secret is, you have to know what they ate, what they saw, what they smelled, what they heard, what they touched. You have to live inside their skin to write them as real historic entities. The one comment that interviewers always made when I was a new author was: Your scenes are so immediate, I felt I was walking around inside the book. And your characters: Catherine the Great, Napoleon—his sister, his mother, his grandmother— you made them all seem so real! When I would reply: “Well, they were real…” people would pause, and say, Yes, yes of course they were! History books and biographies rarely show us what historic figures must have experienced. Only fiction can draw you, with immediacy, into their world.
S. MAG.: Is there still a subject or time period that you would like to explore further in your writing?
K.N.: I am really saturated with, and psychologically living in, the ancient world and simultaneously, the future that is already upon us—the transition between what we call the primitive world and “civilization” (which really means “Civitas,” or city dwellers, where we get our misused term “civilized.”) I’d like to explore a book showing the clash of cultures that’s happening right at this instant: the virtual reality that we must learn to live in, to survive, and the very real reality of nature that we must preserve, in order to live. (Yikes! That sounds way over the top. That’s why it takes me so long to write a book!)
S. MAG.: Which one of your four books was the most difficult to write?
K.N.: “The Magic Circle” hands-down. It’s 2,000 years of story, “From the Rise of the Roman Empire to the Fall of the Berlin Wall.” From the last week in the life of Jesus (Roman Emperors in Capri, Druids in Brigantium, Hebrews in Judea) to 1989 (the year of Tianamen Square and Berlin.) My modern heroine is an expert in nuclear waste, my former profession!
S. MAG.: For new writers just diving into this crazy field, what advice would you give them?
K.N.: There is no shelf in bookstores or libraries for Quest novels: but that’s the oldest form of fiction that we know of. So if you want to write them, just do it. No one can stop you from being a writer and telling great stories. The publishing world is ephemeral. Stories are eternal.
S. MAG.: What can fans expect to see from you in the future?
K.N.: Hopefully, something completely new and refreshing, every time! That’s what I want to read, myself!
We can’t thank Katherine enough for taking the time to share her exciting news and speak with us. All of her books are now in eBook format through Open Road Media. Please visit her website at www.katherineneville.com. ■
Suspense Magazine April 2016 / Vol. 070