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the-pharos-objective.jpgBy Aaron Brown

In 1979, a scientific study tested whether psychics could actually “remote-view” the location of Cleopatra’s lost palace.  Amazingly, they succeeded.

Inspired by this incredible true story, David Sakmyster created The Morpheus Initiative, an exciting new team of psychic archaeologists who seek out the world’s most enduring historical mysteries and mystical artifacts.  The first book in a new series, The Pharos Objective, has the team pursuing the fabled treasure of Alexander the Great beneath the ruins of the Pharos Lighthouse, while contending with diabolical traps and an ancient society called “The Keepers”.

You can view the newly released book trailer for The Pharos Objective on YouTube at the following location:

Best-selling author Kevin J. Anderson calls The Pharos Objective, “Indiana Jones meets the X-Files — an archaeologist adventurer with psychic powers of remote viewing who can see the past, ancient treasures, historical mysteries, action and adventure that crosses the world, and a damned good story.”

I had the pleasure of interviewing Mr. Sakmyster and discussing his new book, his influences, and what ancient mystery The Morpheus Initiative will unravel next.

What led you to choose the treasure of Alexander the Great and the Pharos Lighthouse as the Morpheus Initiative’s first objective?

I had written a short story set in Alexandria during the Roman occupation, and had as the opening scene, Caesar’s men storming the Pharos; and so I had to do a lot of research into it to get my facts right.  And the more I read, the more intrigued I was with its mysteries, including a legend about traps and fabled treasure…  I felt the stirrings of a novel forming, but I thought it wouldn’t work in the present day because there’s essentially nothing left after a series of earthquakes destroyed the lighthouse more than six hundred years ago.  But then I hit on the idea of using the psychic ability of remote-viewing as a way of being able to flip in and out of history, having the same character interact in both a vivid past and present.

I’ve read a few other books, by authors such as James Rollins, which have touched briefly upon the Pharos.  Do you feel that your book will emerge as the definitive work on the topic?

Since writing the novel I learned that others also wrote thrillers involving the Pharos to a lesser degree, but obviously here it’s the central focus of my novel.  In a way, I treated the Pharos itself as a main character, one that I had to carefully develop just as any other – except this one was grounded in historical facts and research.  So yes, I hope I’ve covered it as extensively as possible, and then some.

When I saw that Kevin J. Anderson described your book as “Indiana Jones meets the X-Files”, I was hooked.  That being said, your book isn’t about Mulder and Scully searching for the Ark of the Covenant.  Can you expound upon why fans of these popular series would be drawn to your book?

Fans of the X-files will be thrilled by a lot of what’s going on in this book – psychic abilities, ancient technology, government cover-ups, and a character driven much as Mulder was to determine the truth.  And it dovetails nicely with the Indiana Jones adventures by bringing in archaeology and the rediscovery of mystical artifacts before they fall into the wrong hands.  Using psychic archaeologists opens up the opportunity to explore the heart of these shows’ mysteries in a new way.

What kind of research did you do to learn about remote viewing, the Pharos Lighthouse, etc?

sakmyster-david.jpgFor both the Pharos Lighthouse and the fabled Library of Alexandria (which also features prominently), the research material was limited.  Original sources obviously were rare – very few first-hand descriptions remained, but I read everything I could find, then focused on others’ interpretations and took what seemed the most realistic and useful.  As for remote viewing, there are a lot of good books out there on the subject. I read them all, and I even bought some training DVDs from a legit company called Psi-Tech and I practiced the techniques… without much success so far, but then again, conditions weren’t really ideal and I think writer’s minds don’t quite have the required focus.  But maybe someday I’ll figure it out and view some winning lottery numbers!

Was there anything particularly interesting that you learned through your research that didn’t make it into the book, or something from the book that you’d like to highlight?

There was so much from the research that I wasn’t able to include.  The possibilities this ability opens up are staggering.  I mean, if you had that gift – what would you want to go back and see?  I actually made a list of history’s most perplexing mysteries, and now I’m working a lot of those more intriguing possibilities into books 2 and 3 – and there are going to be some doozies, believe me!  One of the more intriguing things I learned was that back in 1973 a psychic saw and described the rings of Jupiter years before the Voyager probe ever got out there to confirm they existed.

What are you reading now?  What are some of your favorite books/authors?

I just finished William Dietrich’s The Barbary Pirates (another great Ethan Gage historical adventure!) and I’m starting on Robert McCammon’s Mister Slaughter. So many favorites… but I’m really in awe of Dan Simmons and Robert McCammon because they can so remarkably shift between genres and master them all.

What authors have had the greatest influence upon your work?

I think early on, my writing style was influenced very much by guys like Stephen King, Peter Straub and Dean Koontz.  More recently, I’ve been reading (and studying) James Rollins, Matthew Reilly, the Preston/Child books, Brad Meltzer and Steve Berry…

You’ve described your team as “not your typical macho adventurers”.  How are they different?  What sets them apart (other than their obviously unique abilities)?

Well, for instance, my main hero – Caleb Crowe – doesn’t even pick up a gun until halfway through book 2 (and then the thing recoils out of his shaking hands). While Indiana Jones was a professor who could more than take care of himself in a fight with a dozen Nazis, my professor relies more on his intellect and his psychic skills, often tricking his enemies into doing themselves in.  But that’s not to say this book doesn’t have its share of high-adrenaline adventure – it’s just others (oftentimes skilled femme fatales) that are doing the fighting…

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers out there?

Read a heck of a lot.  Know what ideas are out there, what’s been done – and then come up with some new spin, something original.  And keep at it.  You really have to love your ideas and your craft to the point where you become a little dangerously obsessed…

What’s next for the Morpheus Initiative?

Book 2 is called The Mongol Objective, and the team is in a race against a renegade member of their own group to discover Genghis Khan’s true resting place – which of course contains mystical artifacts, and even more diabolical traps and new villains. Historians and treasure hunters have been seeking Genghis Khan’s tomb for eight hundred years and there are all kinds of theories out there about where he rests, but I think I’ve come up with a really satisfying possibility.  Currently, I’m halfway through Book 3, where the fate of the world hinges on whether the Morpheus team can unravel an ancient mystery that involves a mysterious subterranean world, the Statue of Liberty, and some frightening extra-terrestrial discoveries.

David Sakmyster is an award-winning author and screenwriter, with over two dozen short stories and three novels in print, including The Pharos Objective from Variance Publishing.  In 2009, Dragon Moon Press published his epic historical fantasy tale, Silver and Gold. His stories have appeared in ChiZine, Horrorworld, the Writers of the Future Anthology, Black Static, Talebones, Abyss & Apex, and others.

Aaron Brown
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