Mystery Writers Key West Fest: Murder and Mayhem in Paradise!

Interview with Author Chris Kuzneski

Chris Kuzneski, set to be a guest panelist at the Mystery Writers Key West Fest in August, is the New York Times bestselling author of two thriller series — the “Payne & Jones” series which chronicles the adventures of a wise-cracking, high-octane pair of former U.S. Special Forces squad mates, and “The Hunters” series, which follows an elite team of renegades as they seek to recover legendary lost treasures. With millions of copies sold, Kuzneski’s works have been translated into more than 20 languages and have been published in more than 40 countries.


Q&A with Author Chris Kuzneski

Q: Your book titles are evocative —The Lost Throne, The Secret Crown, The Forbidden Tomb... What generally comes to mind first: provocative title or plot idea?

A: Neither. The truth is I know very little about my story when I sit down to write it. I usually have a vague notion of the artifact that my heroes will be searching for — for example, the tomb of Alexander the Great in The Forbidden Tomb — but other than that, I prefer to start writing with as few restrictions as possible. I know this method isn’t for everyone. I know some authors will spend months crafting outlines of their novels before they’re willing to write a single word, but I can’t work like that. For me, I need to have the freedom to write spontaneously. Believe it or not, I’m normally halfway through the writing process before I figure out what my book is really about, and only then will a title come to mind.


Q: The Hunters, the first book in your new treasure hunting series, is currently being adapted to a major motion picture. What can you tell us about the project?

A: Not much, I’m afraid. And in this case, that isn’t a figure of speech. I’m literally afraid to give out any insider information because of all the confidentiality agreements that I had to sign. That said, I can give you some basics. The screenplay was written by Robert Kamen, who is one of the most successful screenwriters in Hollywood. He is the creator of the Karate Kid series, the Taken series, the Transporter series, and he worked on the Lethal Weapon series as well. The director is John Moore, who is best known for Behind Enemy Lines and A Good Day to Die Hard. I’m not allowed to talk about the cast at all, but so far we’ve signed several award-winning actors. Plus, the producers have assured me that I’ll have a cool cameo in the film, so I’m really excited about that. Hopefully, I get to shoot somebody.


Q: Clive Cussler wrote, “Chris Kuzneski writes as forcefully as his tough characters act.” And James Patterson observed, “Chris Kuzneski’s writing has the same raw power as the early Stephen King.” When you began writing your first book – The Plantation - was there a particular author who had inspired you?

A: That’s an easy one: Clive Cussler. I devoured his books when I was growing up. Simply devoured them. I read his sentences over and over, trying to figure out how he did what he did — which was to transport me to some hidden corner of the world where danger lurked around every bend. Given my admiration, you can probably imagine how excited I was when I found out he had read my second book, Sign of the Cross, and had liked it enough to endorse it. That happened pretty early in my career, but it is still one of the best moments of my life.


Q: When I am not researching, writing, or promoting, for fun I…

A: I like to travel. Back when I was a starving, self-published author, I didn’t have the money to visit all of the places that I was writing about. Once my books started to sell, I had the means but I didn’t have the time because I was cranking out two novels per year. Thankfully, I’ve finally reached a point in my career where I’m able to take some time off to visit all of the places that my characters have blown up in the pages of my books.


Q: Your books have been translated into more than 20 languages. Book translations can be a bit tricky. Favorite? Most perplexing?

A: Years ago I received a letter from an American reader who was trying to brush up on his language skills by reading the Portuguese version of Sign of the Cross. In the novel, there’s a pivotal scene that occurs at Fenway Park in Boston. As most baseball fans know, there’s a giant wall in left field that is known as the “Green Monster”, but apparently that nickname hadn’t made it to the internet in Portugal. He ended up describing the playing surface as “the field of the left-handed gardener” and said it was “infested with giant lizards”. Keep in mind that my book was a religious thriller about the crucifixion of Christ, not a disaster film featuring Godzilla. Talk about a plot twist! If that wasn’t bad enough, the book was actually a huge hit in Portugal, but before I was paid my advance or a single royalty, the publisher filed for bankruptcy. I’m just guessing here, but I bet it had something to do with their translators.
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