Steve Berry The Balkins Escape & my interview with him!

Yesterday I had the pleasure of sitting down and chatting with NYT Bestselling author Steve Berry. He was very engaging, put me at ease immediately, and was very engaging. We covered a variety of subjects, some old, some surprisingly new and he was nice enough to throw a few tidbits to share with everyone. But first I want to get in a few thoughts on his digital short story that sheds some light on his current novel The Emperor’s Tomb , The Balkans Escape.

Here is the synopsis of the roughly 6,000 word digital short:

“Steve Berry's first ever eBook exclusive short story finds an adventurer in a strange and forbidding land, in search of a long lost treasure, and very much in harm's way.

As a favor to enigmatic billionaire Henrik Thorvaldsen, Cassiopeia Vitt treks into Bulgaria's Rila mountains in search of a buried stash of exceedingly rare artifacts from a bygone civilization: the ancient tomb of a Thracian king. But when her presence is discovered by a shadowy group of Russians secretly mining the area, she needs a way out. Who to trust becomes the question, and her life depends on choosing the right option.”

I enjoyed the read and it answered some questions for me that I had as I was reading The Emperor’s Tomb. The character of Vitt for me is not my reason for reading Berry’s books. The promise of some answers and a tie in that I had not read before was my only reason for whipping out the Kindle and devouring this read. It contained all of the usual elements I enjoy in his writing: the research, the history, the incredible attention to detail. Having said all that, reading this out of turn didn’t damage the read, but made my memory of The Emperor’s Tomb better, and put a smile on my face as I felt it all fall into place.

Now to the interview. I tried to touch on a few different subjects with him and here is the substance of the interview:

Giovanni: “What would you like to discuss first- The Emperor’s Tomb or The Jefferson Key?

Steve Berry: “Let’s stick to The Emperor’s Tomb for now. I began to have some interest in China, found it intriguing and began to research it. Then I tied into that, the fact that the Chinese did indeed drill for oil 2500 years ago along with the discovery of the Emperor’s Tomb. I wanted to tie those three pieces together, China, the oil discovery, and the Emperor’s Tomb.” Check out our post on the novel for the background on the novel and the back story.

Giovanni: ”I have read that you do an intense amount of research, sometimes using 200-300 different resources for your novels, is that true?”

Steve Berry: “Yes, I enjoy the research and try to get my hands on as many resource materials as possible to accomplish that. I go to the Chamblin Bookmine bookstore to find most of my resource material.”

Giovanni: ”How long does it take you to research and pen a novel? You seem to be on a one a year cycle.”

Steve Berry: “It actually takes me 18 months to start and finish a novel. I am finished with The Jefferson Key, and while I was doing that I had already begun to research the next novel and have begun writing that. Now while I am writing this next one I am deep in my research for the 2013 novel.”

Giovanni: ”I mean no disrespect when I ask you this, but your first three novels were stand- alones, then you went on a run with Cotton Malone. I am a big fan of Malone. I can say I am a Malone Clone, but are you going to go in another direction anytime soon.”

Steve Berry: “Funny you should ask me that question. I received a phone call the other day from Malone. He said to me, ”Steve, I am a bit tired, can you give me 2012 off, I need a vacation.” So that is what I am going to do. 2012 is going to be a stand-alone with an all new set of characters. The plotline I don’t want to give away at this point, but it will be wrapped around a really neat period of history and it is going to be something that hasn’t been done before.”

Giovanni: “You and your wife have an organization called History Matters, (here is the link for that ); how does that work?”

Steve Berry: I get to go into different towns and teach a 3 1/2 to 4 hour session on how to write a novel, really break it down into its key elements. The money we raise from that session stays in the community and helps to restore or preserve something of historical significance there. Just the other day I was at the University of South Carolina and we had one of best groups. There were over 60 people there, all very serious writers, and the session was intense and fun. Thus far we have raised over $42,000.”

Giovanni: ”I have read that you have had over 85 rejection letters for your first novel. Is there any envy or jealousy now that someone can come up with an idea, run with it, and put it up on the internet without having to go through that entire process?”

Steve Berry: “No, not at all. I think it is great for everyone involved. The market will be the one to decide what stands and what doesn’t. The path I chose, I would probably still go that route again today. I had always wanted to be a commercially successful author and the benefits of having a publisher is something that I enjoy. The self-publishing and ebooks are only going to get bigger and bigger; I think it is great.”

Giovanni: ”Maybe it is just me or maybe not. I live near Philadelphia, and have noticed that not too many authors come around here too much. Is there a stigma attached to city of cheesesteaks and TastyKakes?”

Steve Berry: “No not at all. I have been to Philadelphia a number of times, Chester County in particular. But I think that what you are taking notice of is that the author tours are different than what they used to be. They are becoming more of a special and unique thing; it isn’t your basic sit down and sign books. With the increase in the use of the internet and the social media, we as authors are able to get closer to our readers now in a variety of ways. I am talking to you, discussing the novel and you will post this on your blog and various social media. What you may find now is that the book signing tours may be shorter but we may incorporate other elements into it to make it easier for us to reach more of our fans.”

Of note – Steve Berry will be in Scranton,Pa. on March 19,2011 to receive an award, here is the link for that:

Giovanni: ”Do you have any questions for me at all?”

Steve Berry: ”I checked out your blog before we spoke, it doesn’t seem to me as if you have read my short story, The Balkan Escape, that story would explain a few things as you go into The Emperor’s Tomb.”

Giovanni: “No I haven’t had the pleasure yet, I just got a Kindle, so I will get on it right away.”

We are planning on featuring at least one author a week throughout the remainder of the year. I will post the upcoming author interviews in the New Novel Releases for the week we put up on Tuesdays. If you have a question for that author, email me at Hit me with your question and you will be given full credit here on the blog and with the author for your question. Coming up next week, Michael Palmer, his newest novel is entitled A Heartbeat Away. Please have your questions to me by Monday. Thanks.

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