Riddle Me This: A Middle Age Treasure Hunt
The Big Thrill Interviews Beth and Boyd Morrison
THE LAST TRUE TEMPLAR is the second book in the Tales of the Lawless Land series that kicked off last year. The sibling authors Beth and Boyd Morrison take readers through a mighty quest in the year 1351. We meet Gerald and Willa not long after the events of the previous book, and as fate should have it, they get caught up in trouble for saving a woman from certain death because, you know, that’s what knights-errant do.
Afterwards, they learn that the woman, named Luciana, holds the key to finding the legendary treasure of the Knights Templar. But along with the treasure is a document that can save Luciana for good. The three take on the perilous journey following clues to the treasure. Not a step behind is Signore Carosi, a powerful and wealthy man from Florence who wants the Templar’s riches to set his mark in history.
The Big Thrill caught up with the authors to talk about this new adventure, how they envisioned it, and the troubles they took to plan it, or should we say, map it all out.
THE LAST TRUE TEMPLAR is a proper treasure hunt filled with clues to discover the prize. How did you come up with this story?
BOYD: It’s always so hard to trace the germ of an idea, but I know Beth and I were interested in doing something with the Knights Templar since they are so intricately tied to the Middle Ages. What is unique for us is that we were able to explore the Templars through people in our story who had first-hand knowledge of them before they were wiped out less than 40 years before our main plot taking place in 1351. And of course, we couldn’t feature the Templars without having our characters search for their legendary treasure, which they race to find for an unusual reason you’ll discover in the book.
BETH: We think readers will enjoy seeing how we interwove real facts about the Knights Templar into the novel without contravening the course of history as we know it. That definitely added to the challenge of writing the book, but we couldn’t resist including the famed Templar treasure.
Following and figuring out clues is an essential part of any treasure hunt. Was it fun to write it?
BETH: Because all the clues involve medieval artwork or architecture and I’m an art historian, writing up the clues largely became my job. Each section of the book revolves around solving one clue, so the clues themselves provide the structure for the narrative. It felt like a lot of pressure, but it was definitely the most fun part of the creative process for me. I wanted to make the clues hard enough to be a challenge but not so obscure that they would make no sense to the reader. I also wanted to play with language to make the clues sound enigmatic and slightly medieval in flavor. In fact, we ended up using individual phrases taken from the clues as section headers, such as ‘The Golden Veil’ and ‘The Knight’s Hour.’
BOYD: When we first started coming up with the riddles, we both took a stab at it, but mine were terrible, and Beth’s were clever and lyrical, so, of course, we went with those.
What can you tell us about the research and several places we visit in this book?
BOYD: The Lawless Land ended in Italy, so we knew that’s where we’d have to start in THE LAST TRUE TEMPLAR. We chose to write about the beautiful cities of Siena, Florence, and Venice, some of the wealthiest and most powerful in the Middle Ages. They were also attractive because they have such well-preserved medieval architecture, which served the riddles we created for the treasure hunt. Siena’s Palazzo Pubblico, Florence’s Duomo (only half-finished in 1351), and Venice’s St. Mark’s Basilica are all crucial locations in our story that you can still visit to this day.
BETH: We took a lot of inspiration from Siena, which I had never visited before. Although Siena was one of the most powerful city-states in Europe at the beginning of the 14th century, for various reasons, it had begun to decline by the middle of the century, and it basically collapsed after the Black Death. So, in many ways, Siena was kind of frozen in time around 1350, just the time period of our novel. Wandering the streets, it was easy to envision what Gerard and Willa would have experienced.
”Each section of the book revolves around solving one clue, so the clues themselves provide the structure for the narrative.”
What can you tell us about Gerard and Willa’s relationship at the beginning?
BETH: Like many new couples, Gerard and Willa are not exactly on the same page, at least at the beginning of the novel. We wanted to make sure to show the relationship changing and growing during the course of the narrative. The dramatic events of the first novel had led them to fall for each other quite quickly, but in THE LAST TRUE TEMPLAR, the first blush of love gives way to facing daily life. They rapidly find that they each had different expectations for what being together would look like. But over time, they begin to realize what a great team they make and that trusting each other is the key to making their relationship work. By the end, they find that they bring out the best in each other, and they can’t imagine life apart.
BOYD: And I think it’s safe to say that if they didn’t go on the adventure in THE LAST TRUE TEMPLAR, their relationship would have ended up in a very different place.
Can people start reading the series with this book? And if so, how do you manage that?
BOYD: Readers can definitely start with THE LAST TRUE TEMPLAR because we catch you up on the important events in the previous book. However, there are some juicy twists in The Lawless Land that will be spoiled if you start with book two.
BETH: We hope that if readers happen to read Book 2 first, the adventures of Gerard and Willa will make them want to return to the first novel in the series to find out what brought the characters together in the first place.
Has your method of writing changed from book 1 to 2, and if so, how?
BETH: When we began the first novel, I think Boyd, as a professional novelist, took a lot more of the lead. He was responsible for the writing, and I contributed my knowledge about the Middle Ages. I remember being really surprised when I read a lot of the scenes for the first time because we hadn’t talked about them in depth. The second novel was much more deeply steeped in historical events, and Boyd and I had to consult far more to make the narrative work within the historical constraints we had set for ourselves. We would discuss each chapter in detail, both the action elements and the growth of the characters. I think the second novel represents a new level in our partnership. We have such fun working together, and I think that is evident in the novels.
BOYD: I think Beth and I have gotten into a comfortable rhythm when we were working on the book, and it certainly helps me to have her so involved with the plotting now since the events of the story depend so heavily on details and elements specific to the time period.
One thing is certain: the Morrisons know how to keep their promises. Back in 2022, when interviewed about the first book, they pledged to show a scene with pasta, and well, just remember that when reading chapter eight of THE LAST TRUE TEMPLAR.
The Big Thrill Interviews Beth and Boyd Morrison