When I set out to write INCOGNITO, I was told by industry people it was impossible to kidnap the Pope.
You can’t just write a novel and create a scene where he gets kidnapped. It has to sound believable, even though the premise is fiction.
But I found a way that sounds plausible after researching everything about the Vatican. Now, advanced readers, including one known industry personality in the United Kingdom, has this to say after reading the novel:
“The premise of such a kidnap is really darkly entertaining and sometimes I think almost highly likely!”
“Dark” seems to be the keyword as another reader left a review on Goodreads that reads, “Definitely the darkest intellectual thriller novel I’ve read this year!”
Incognito is a story about religion and politics, particularly Islamophobia, Christianity, the refugee crisis, the sudden rise of fascism in parts of Europe and NATO’s fear.
The protagonist Ayden Tanner does not believe in God. But he is assigned to find the Pope who is missing.
The question is, how much effort will he put in this mission? Will he risk his life to save someone who has nothing in common with him? Today is 15, May. INCOGNITO is out. I hope you enjoy the read.
Saint Peter’s square, Vatican City. Almost every religious thriller novel and movie about the Vatican will have an image of it. It has become the standard.
In fact, authors have covered almost every inch of the Vatican that’s its really tough to produce original scenes and ideas.
But I had a good creative director when I used to work a short while at an ad agency. I noticed how he saw things differently even if something had been overused. It took me a while to see how he sees things, and then an idea hit me.
I saw something at the square that jumped out at me. I realized how this could work for INCOGNITO. As with my first novel, Smokescreen, expect the unexpected.
I’ve been asked this question a lot: What inspired me to want to be an author? For some authors, it’s the case of reading another author’s novel. For others, it could have transpired after attending a book festival or meet-the-author session. There are plenty of reasons. A life experience could also be a catalyst to push you to want to pick up the pen – well, keyboard, these days… at least for most of us. I, for one, have never understood my own reason. But I would attribute some author-themed movies as having a strong influence on my decision to pick up the storytelling pen. Here’s a few of my favorites:
Tom Selleck plays a mystery novelist Phil Blackwood who is having trouble finding inspiration, so he goes to the courthouse to observe real criminals in action. There he
encounters a gorgeous immigrant charged with a gruesome murder. Convinced she’s not guilty, Selleck furnishes Nina with an alibi and a place to stay. But, as the two begin to fall in love, Phil finds he has grave doubts about her innocence.
Even though Robin Masters was never seen, his mysterious persona was inspiring enough to want me to pick up the pen while Tom Selleck (Thomas Magnum) went about solving cases.
Author! Author! is a 1982 American comedy drama film starring Al Pacino, Dyan Cannon, and Tuesday Weld. The plot concerns a Broadway playwright trying to solve his family and relationship troubles while trying to get a new play into production. My favorite line in the movie: “We’re all depress in this family. We will all stay depress — together.”
Stand by Me
After the death of a friend, a writer (Richard Dreyfuss) recounts a boyhood journey to find the body of a missing boy. The finale scene where Dreyfuss types out the last sentence in his manuscript was meaningful. He wrote: “I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?”
One of my top favorites, a cunning and resourceful housewife Roseanne Barr vows revenge on her husband when he begins an affair with a wealthy romance novelist played by Meryl Streep. I was rooting for Streep. Funny as hell.
The life of a Depression-era family in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains is the subject of this wholesome series. The TV series is seen from the point of view of eldest son John Boy, who becomes a novelist.
A writer (Johnny Depp) is accused of plagiarism by a strange man, who then starts haunting him for “justice.” Yikes!
Michael Nouri plays a Detroit taxi driver with aspirations of becoming a crime writer. He picks up a woman (Joanna Pacula) who turns out to be on the run from murderer.
The movie, adapted from Stephen King’s novel of the same name, revolves around a writer returning to his hometown to discover the citizens are turning into vampires. Freaked me out, this one.
I didn’t set out to write INCOGNITO, my second thriller novel. I accidentally stumbled upon it. The experience was bizarre, I tell you. It started after my encounter with two different women in Switzerland.
The first story took place in Geneva. I was looking out my hotel room window one cold night when I noticed a tall, large woman in black standing stiffly under a street lamp. Later, I decided to go downstairs to talk to the hotel receptionist in an adjoining office as he had invited me for coffee. I took the stairs instead of the ancient traction elevator since my room was only one floor down.
Descending halfway, I saw the same woman in the lobby. She glared at me. There was no one else. I realized she was mentally challenged, but her behavior gave me the creeps. I ran back up and locked myself in the room. Something about her reminded me of a character in a horror movie. And how the hell did she get in? Every guest had a password to open the digital door lock. She was not a guest.
In the second story, I was hiking up a snowy mountain in Saint Moritz. There, I met another woman. I asked her for directions as I wasn’t sure of my surroundings. She then introduced herself and told me she visited the alps regularly for inner peace. She added that she followed a certain religion although she was not born into it. She also complained about how Switzerland was no longer the same. She even denigrated the country’s politicians and bankers. Then, with a finger pointing at Italy, she ranted about the Vatican.
All this while, I was praying the woman wouldn’t ask me about my faith. I was concerned she might also have issues with it. I got the impression she had issues period. She was carrying a hiking pole unlike me. I was worried she might get a bit creative with the stick. If I had to defend myself, it’ll be my word against hers since there were only the two of us on that mountain section. How fast could I run with snow boots on, anyway? But the idea for a story had transpired. Some 3,000 feet up high on the Swiss alps, I suddenly realized I was looking at the vista of a new thriller novel!
Then I visited Italy, which gave me more ideas about what to include in my manuscript. It was like picking fruits in the garden. I had visited several other countries that I felt would be relevant to the plot and theme. So I began crafting with all the ingredients in the pot. Trial and error, rewrites, back and forth… and then it was all done.
In weaving the tale, I wanted a cocktail thriller set on the international scene without the usual players. No CIA, no Mi6… none of those kind of people. I wanted something different – something fresh. So I added a few new elements that in my view sounded plausible. I am happy with the outcome. Honestly? I didn’t think I would ever finish writing the manuscript. But I did. Phew!
I’ll skip the boring details about how I went about writing the story. Every author does the same thing. We research (lots of research), fact check, interview people, make observations — that kind of thing. Nothing glamorous about that. But I knew the story had to be different
Well, I hope you’ll read INCOGNITO when it’s released. And yes, l couldn’t help it, the novel does contain a secret message. Please don’t tell when it’s finally revealed to you … that’s the fun part about sharing a secret.
Over and out.
p.s. A special thanks to Jörg-Thomas Weidtke who worked at Hotel Stille, Saint Moritz for letting me take as much chocolate as I want from the bowl at the reception desk.