By George Ebey
Chris Kuzneski is the author of an exciting series featuring intrepid adventurers Jonathon Payne and David Jones. Beginning with their stunning debut in THE PLANTATION, Payne and Jones have done everything from unraveling ancient conspiracies to uncovering lost treasures. Now they are back in what might be their most harrowing adventure yet.
Bavaria, 1886: King Ludwig II is declared insane by his government and forcibly removed from the throne. A day later, Ludwig’s corpse washes up in the shallows of Lake Starnberg. Rumors swirl about the tragedy, but few know why the eccentric king was really killed— and what secret was silenced by his death.
Germany, present day: Hidden amongst the crates in a newly discovered World War II bunker are documents stamped with a black swan, the insignia of the murdered king. As a favor to a friend, Payne and Jones fly to Bavaria to investigate the discovery, but soon face a deadly battle against an unknown enemy. The duo must solve the mystery behind the king’s death, or else they’ll share his tragic fate.
I recently caught up with Chris who gave me a firsthand introduction into the world of THE SECRET CROWN.
THE SECRET CROWN is the sixth installment in a series featuring your characters Jonathon Payne and David Jones. For us newbies, could you tell us something about these men and the work that they do?
Payne and Jones are ex-military. The two of them used to lead the MANIACs, an elite Special Forces unit comprised of the top soldiers from the Marines, Army, Navy, Intelligence, Air Force, and Coast Guard. Whether it was personnel recovery, unconventional warfare, or counterguerrilla sabotage, the MANIACs were the best of the best. The government’s secret weapon. And even though they left the service a few years ago, the duo is still deadly—and always looking for adventure.
How do you keep these characters fresh over the span of such a large series?
I don’t—at least not on purpose. The last thing I want to do is to change things about my characters just for the sake of change. Instead, I throw my characters into new and exciting situations, then I sit back and figure out how they would react. In my opinion, you learn more about characters from their actions than multi-page descriptions—particularly in plot-driven novels like mine. I mean, I can’t remember the last time I watched an action movie and said, “I wish I knew more about the hero’s childhood.”
I can tell from your body of work that your books have a strong grounding in historical lore. Was history a subject that interested you before you became a writer?
Yes and no. When it comes to history, I tend to be fascinated by one subject in particular: historical mysteries. Lost treasures. Unexplained events. Ancient conspiracies. That’s the stuff that gets my juices flowing. Well, that and caffeine.
What led you to create a story that centered on King Ludwig II of Bavaria?
I’ve always been fascinated by King Ludwig II. He practically bankrupted his country by building some of the most extravagant castles (Neuschwanstein, Linderhof, etc.) that the world has ever seen. Toward the end of his life, there were rumors that he was planning to build the biggest castle of all time. But before he had a chance, he was declared insane by his government. A few days later, he was found dead in Lake Starnberg, having drowned in less than a foot of water. The government ruled it a suicide, but most people in Bavaria assume that he was murdered. My book—which involves a treasure hunt in modern-day Germany—explains what really happened back then.
If you could jump into a time machine and take a vacation in any historical period, what would it be?
As boring as this sounds, I’d like to visit America in the late-1950s—if for no other reason than to meet my parents when they were teenagers. I think that would be an eye-opening experience. Plus, I’d like to meet the Fonz.
CHRIS KUZNESKI is the international bestselling author of THE PROPHECY, THE LOST THRONE, SWORD OF GOD, SIGN OF THE CROSS, and THE PLANTATION. His thrillers have been published in over twenty languages and are sold in more than forty countries. Chris grew up in Pennsylvania and currently lives on the Gulf Coast of Florida. To learn more about Chris, please visit his website.