MARIO READING is a multi-talented writer of both fiction and non-fiction. His varied life has included selling rare books, teaching riding in Africa, studying dressage in Vienna, running a polo stable in Gloucestershire and maintaining a coffee plantation in Mexico. An acknowledged expert on the prophecies of Nostradamus, Reading is the author of eight non-fiction titles and five novels published in the UK and around the world.
The Templar Inheritance is the second book to feature your modern day protagonist, John Hart. What can you tell us about this latest story that won’t give too much away?
The Templar Inheritance is far more of a two timeline book than it’s predecessor, The Templar Prophecy. In fact there are two parallel stories in the book, one following Baron Johannes von Hartelius and his illicit and potentially fatal romance with the Princess Elfriede von Hohenstaufen via Germany and into the Holy Land in 1198, and the other following photojournalist John Hart through present day Iraq and Iran, where he shadows his ancestor’s footsteps, not least in his conducting of an illicit romance with his young Kurdish translator, Nalan Abuna. Both men, in paralleling each other’s stories, risk their lives in their search for King Solomon’s Copper Scroll, which allegedly contains the secret of Solomon’s Treasure, destined for the rebuilding of a Temple in the new Jerusalem. Both men – twin souls born almost a thousand years apart – put love and friendship before their own personal safety, and suffer the penalties. Will they survive? That is for my readers to find out.
The story is set in both the past and the present. Dual time stories must be tricky to write - how did you control the narrative, or did the narrative ever control you?
My narrative always controls me. It is directly dictated by the nature of my characters, and never, ever dictated by me. My characters cause things to happen to themselves, and I follow where they lead. I have a vague idea of where I want things to go, and I hope and pray that I am not carried too far on the wind of my story. But if I am, so what? As long as the whole thing hangs together (which it invariably does if one has conducted one’s research correctly) what better way to be seduced than by one’s own characters? What better people to live with over the course of the year it takes to write and research a novel?
Your writing is very atmospheric – how do you ‘set the scene’ in your novels and how much research did you need to do in order to bring The Templar Inheritance to life?
I set the scene by visiting the places that I write about. Only then do I research them (after I have LOOKED, in other words). On the ground, in my initial journeyings, I watch and look out for everything, and take literally hundreds of photographs of things that may or may not prove to be significant later during the writing of the book. Often I have found that something I paid no real attention to at the time attains enormous significance later, ans I am very grateful indeed that I added it to my portfolio when I did. These things set themselves in the brain, and only leach out when needed. As for writing ‘atmosphere’, one must be very cautious indeed not to overdo it, or else it becomes the be all and end all of a scene to the detriment of action and drama. My books are all about drama. I like to place my characters in untenable situations to see what they do to get out of them. Whether they are moral, or whether they are not. It is easy for a moral person to behave morally in an unchallenging environment . But to do so in an extreme situation is a very different matter indeed. Atmosphere aids that. But it does not and should not constitute the fundamental drive of a scene.
Whilst you are writing you must live with your characters. How do you feel about them when the book is finished? Are they what you expected them to be?
Not losing characters one loves is one of the great advantage of writing serial fiction (in the sense of having one or two main protagonists one can use in differentiating ways throughout a number of books). I did it with Adam Sabir and Captain Joris Calque in The Antichrist Trilogy, and I am doing it with John Hart, Amira Eisenberger, Johannes von Hartelius, the Amir and the Princess in my John Hart series of novels. The difference in the John Hart series is that each novel is a standalone novel – one does not need to read the other novels to gain an insight into that particular story. While each novel in my The Antichrist Trilogy can stand alone, they are much better read in concert, as in the Kindle collected text. And to answer your final question, no, my characters are never what I expected them to be. They always surprise me by carving out lives for themselves despite all my best endeavours.
How do you manage to balance writing with your everyday life and what type of book do you read for pleasure?
Writing is part of everyday life for me – it is not something other. It is a part of me that I cannot, and will not, shake. It is hard wired into my neural system. Everything I see or do is potentially grist for the mill of my writing. When I sleep at night I dream of my characters, and of what might conceivably happen to them (or of what they might bring down upon themselves). I read anything and everything for pleasure. I like US pulp novels from the 40s and 50s, I like first rate biographies and autobiographies, I read art books and books on medieval accoutrements. I read philosophy and crime novels, books on the cinema and books on esoterica. Anything good, and honestly written. One can tell. The first false note and I am off and running to something else. Life is too short to waste on false emotion. Any book has to be written by conviction. Not for an end. Not for publication. It has to have its own authority. To operate under it’s own unique aegis.
And finally.... a fun question.
If you could invite three people from history to your dinner table, who would you choose and why?
I’d have Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin and Mao Tse-tung. And the purpose of the invitation would be to ask each of them one simple question. Why?
Find Mario on his website
Follow him on Twitter @marioreading
Huge thanks to Mario for his insightful answers to my questions and to Alison Davies at Corvus for my review copy
The Templar Inheritance
2 April 2015
The Templar Inheritance
2 April 2015
|Published 2 April 2015
A Templar secret, hidden for centuries…
1198: On the eve of his execution, disgraced Templar knight Johannes von Hartelius writes a last confession. The parchment conceals the location of the Copper Scroll, said to hold the secret of Solomon’s treasure.
In present-day Iraq, John Hart discovers the message hidden in his ancestor’s testament. Accompanied only by his beautiful Kurish translator, Hart sets out to find the Copper Scroll.
John Hart must travel in his forefather’s footsteps to Iran and the hollow mountain known as Solomon’s Prison…but will he share the Templar’s fate?
My Review of The Templar Inheritance
The Templar Inheritance sees the return of modern day protagonist John Hart, a skilled photo journalist, who becomes caught in the aftermath of an Iraqi car bomb. Together with his guide and translator, Nalan Abuna, John must travel through the dangerous borderlands of the Middle East in his search for the lost copper scroll of Solomon.
In the twelfth century, disgraced Templar knight, Johannes von Hartelius, facing his execution, conceals the secret of Solomon’s treasure within his last confession. What then follows is a thrilling adventure which flips backwards and forwards in time in order to reveal secrets which have remained hidden for centuries.
The Templar Inheritance gets off to a tense beginning. The modern day opening is filled with danger and very quickly draws the reader into a time of great uncertainty. I enjoyed the development of the relationship between Hart and Abuna, the interesting chemistry between them makes for fascinating character analysis. In the uncertainty of the twelfth century, Johannes von Hartelius risks everything he has for love and in doing so puts himself, and others, in grave danger, and by concealing the location of the copper scrolls, he not only seals his fate, but also the fate of generations to come. There is no doubt that the author gives us two worthy male protagonists and even though both men are superbly flawed, they are each memorable in different ways. Both are very much of their time and this is reflected in the way their characters are allowed to behave, and whilst they are both not always likeable, they are certainly memorable.
I found much to enjoy in The Templar Inheritance; the fast action pace of the narrative is exciting and filled with an adventure that keeps you on the edge of your seat. The dual time element is controlled really well with neither story outshining the other, and I enjoyed being immersed in the present day conflicts of the Middle East, and yet, felt equally comfortable in the twelfth century company of Hartelius and his Templar knights. Overall, this is a really good adventure story with more than enough twists and turns to keep you guessing right until the end.
Just to add, that reading The Templar Prophecy, the first book in the series is helpful, but is by no means essential, as The Templar Inheritance sits at ease in its own company, and works well as a standalone story.