Interview with John Paul Davis
Hello, John – please tell us a little about yourself …
John Paul Davis is an author of thriller fiction and historical non-fiction. His debut work, Robin Hood: The Unknown Templar, has been the subject of national attention, including articles in The Sunday Telegraph, The Daily Mail, Yorkshire Post and Nottingham Evening Post, mentions in USA Today and The Independent and reviews in the Birmingham Post and Medieval History Journal. His second work, Pity for the Guy, is the first full length biography of Guy Fawkes and was featured on “The Alan Titchmarsh Show” in November 2011.
His first novel, The Templar Agenda, an historical based thriller, peaked at #16 in the UK chart and has been ranked in the top 3 bestselling thrillers on Amazon UK and #1 in the religious categories.
What inspired you to write?
For as long as I can remember I’ve had a wild imagination. I never really cared for mainstream academia, though for 21 years I tolerated it. Maintaining a decent level of concentration in school was hard because of my ridiculous tendency to day-dream. The one thing I did enjoy during primary school was writing stories – usually about pirates. I had a go at short stories from time to time, but back then I struggled to find anything to focus on. I tried again shortly after graduating uni and decided wholeheartedly this was what I wanted to do with my life.
How many books have you written?
As of late 2012 I’ve completed two thrillers novels, The Templar Agenda (2011) and The Larmenius Inheritance (release Jan 2013), and three ‘popular histories’, namely: Robin Hood: The Unknown Templar (Peter Owen, 2009), Pity for the Guy – a biography of Guy Fawkes (Peter Owen, 2010), and The Gothic King – a biography of Henry III, (Peter Owen, release 2013)
Briefly, give us the lowdown on what they’re about, including genre and titles.
Robin Hood: The Unknown Templar was my first book. In short, it was an historical investigation into the legend, and historicity, of the Robin Hood of the original ballads. My original intention had been to research a novel on the Knights Templar, later released as The Templar Agenda, but the startling coincidences between the ballads of Robin Hood and what little is known of the fall of the Templars prompted me to put that project on hold. I spent the best part of a year researching the subject inside out and wrote my conclusion. The book was released in 2009.
Pity for the Guy is the first biography of Guy Fawkes to centre on his life as a whole, and not only his infamous role in The Gunpowder Plot. Despite the plethora of reading material on the subject, I was disappointed nothing more detailed had been written on Guy Fawkes himself. The Gothic King, set for release in 2013) is a popular biography of Henry III, the man who ruled England, and its wider empire, during the years 1216-72.
The Templar Agenda is a thriller with religious/historical connotations, concerning the premise that the Knights Templar survived their persecution of 1307-12 and developed into a sophisticated secret society, whose continued existence has influenced both the history and political structure of many of the world’s most important countries and companies.
The Larmenius Inheritance also concerns the Templars, but it is not connected to The Templar Agenda. The book will be released in January 2013
Where can we find your books?
The Robin Hood and Guy Fawkes books are available pretty much anywhere, including some Waterstones in the UK.
The fiction is just on Kindle, for now
What or who is the driving force behind your creativity?
As long as I’m passionate about something then I always see it through.
What was your first reading experience that ignited your imagination?
I can’t remember 100%, but I do remember being read a story of Robin Hood when I was very young. I also enjoyed reading the Biggles series by Captain W.E. Johns. When I was young, I was particularly into the fantasy genre. I loved the Hobbit and enjoyed practically any book on far off lands or stories of knights and chivalry.
In your thriller ‘The Templar Agenda’ you bring the age-old story of the Templar Knights into the 21st Century. Why did you choose this theme as the basis of your first fictional thriller?
I’ve always loved the crusade period, and the Templars are particularly fascinating. Of all the religious military orders of the Middle Ages, the Templars are by far the most steeped in legend. A lot has been written about the order over the past thirty years, much of which is complete nonsense. That said, there are also a lot of brilliant facts and theories that deserve further inquiry. For The Templar Agenda, I was especially enthralled by stories of the P2 lodge during the Banco Ambrosiano scandal and of the Templar continuation, such as the legendary Zichmni/Zeno voyage. The Zeno map of 1558 remains one of history’s most baffling enigmas.
What’s your favourite meal?
I’m something of a carnivore, so pretty much anything with meat.
You have enjoyed success both in print and in eBook format. How do you feel about e-publishing compared to traditional publishing?
Traditional is very different from indie. For traditional, the process is far more mapped out, starting with the idea, and seeing it through to the typesetting and proofreading stages. I learned so much during the period when the Robin Hood book was commissioned through to the end of its first year on the market, and enjoyed immensely the evolution of the book, including the attention it got from so many newspapers, both home and abroad. With traditional publishing, you can get some very good support, and editorial assistance.
That said, indie has its advantages. It’s great having total autonomy over a project. Price is paramount to any success, and Amazon’s current system allows the author the opportunity to profit.
E-books are the future – that much is clear – but I don’t believe books will ever die. Hardback and trade books will continue.
What’s your favourite movie?
Good question. I love thriller movies as much as thriller novels, the Die Hards, Bonds, Indiana Jones’s to name but a few. For me, picking one is a struggle between Once Upon a Time in America, without question a work of genius, and the Errol Flynn Robin Hood, my favourite film when I was a child. I also love the story of A Christmas Carol, starring George C. Scott. I still watch that every Christmas.
What’s your all-time favourite read?
I like A Christmas Carol a lot, so perhaps that.
Who is your favourite author?
Robert Ludlum…sorry, I mean Keith Houghton
In your novel ‘The Templar Agenda’ you have a clearly-defined hero and heroine love/hate relationship. What made you choose this kind of emotional conflict for your characters?
I think many people who have read The Templar Agenda will be familiar, on the one hand, with the tale of the princess and the stable boy, but unfamiliar, on the other, with the class structure in Switzerland. In the early years of the Swiss Confederation there were a number of families who owned large amounts of land, usually as vassals of nearby kingdoms such as the Holy Roman Empire. Due to Switzerland’s early history being so fragmented, there was no central monarch figure. Instead, many nobles ruled their own land. In St. Gall, where the Leoni family in the novel hail from, the most powerful families apparently formed a society so to speak in 1778 to define their status et cetera. For someone like Gabrielle, growing up in the shadows of such ancestry, her attitude would have been extremely single-minded. Though her education included a certain Americanisation process, thus softening her compared to many other women of Swiss nobility, a woman of her stature would have been effectively royalty. Mike’s upbringing was completely different. Though raised in the States, he was born in St. Gall and of humble upbringing. The St. Gall influence would have instilled the desire to become a Swiss Guard – many of the order come from that canton – but having completed his training in the Swiss Army, as required of any Swiss Guard, he would have been a disciplined soldier. Historically, the possibility of such a relationship would have been prohibited by class. Fortunately their feelings eventually have the final say.
What other interests do you have besides writing?
I love sport. I’m a supporter of Aston Villa, the Wigan Warriors, and the Baltimore Orioles and Ravens. I love playing sport, particularly cricket, and often work out at the gym. Like most authors I enjoy reading, and watching films. I have a passionate interest in history, particularly the Middle Ages, and enjoy researching subjects that take my interest. I love travelling and always enjoy visiting sites of interest such as castles and cathedrals.
Chocolate or candy or neither?
Do you draw from personal experience when writing, such as situations and
Columbus once said ‘there is more imagination in life than in our dreams’. I understand that. Though the thrillers are made up, I do draw from both fact and experience – often to the extreme: in The Templar Agenda the real life train times actually coincide with the scenes in the novel. I do enjoy travelling and have visited the majority of places mentioned in my books. There is no substitute for real life.
Are the characters in your books based on real-world people (you don’t need
to name names!)?
They can be, though not on friends or family or anything of the sort. If I’m including a pope, politician, et cetera in a book, I’ll try to find real life examples to learn from. I’d love to see my books adapted for big screen one day, so I do try to imagine the actors who could play them. That certainly influences characteristics as well.
If you could morph into any animal, what would it be, and why?
A dinosaur. Simply because…
What kind of music do you listen to?
My favourite genre is rock/indie-rock – particularly if I’m seeing a live act. I love bands like the Foo Fighters, Guns N’Roses, U2, Green Day, Muse and the Manic Street Preachers – I loved Oasis until they split. I also love many of the legends from the 70s and 80s. Bon Jovi and Springsteen are also high up.
Where’s your favourite place in the world, and why?
As mentioned, I love travelling and have visited some spectacular places. That said, when all is said and done, there’s no place like home.
Technophobe or technophile?
I like technology but I don’t always like the way it’s used. When I’m out and about, I ignore my phone. One of my pet hates is people who always play with their phones in public. Idiots talking on hands free in the middle of a shop also grinds my gears. Seriously, why do people do that? I think it’s important to be able to leave such things alone. There’s so much more to life.
If you could sit down with any author and have a chat, who would it be, and
Terrific question. Ideally, I’d probably choose one from the past like Dickens, Verne or Hardy and basically just ask them what it meant to be a writer back then – and how they feel about their posthumous reputation. I’d also love to have a chat with Ludlum and ask him how much of his novels were based on fact, particularly the neo-Nazi and new world order aspects.
In the modern day I’d probably go for someone like John Grisham.
In your Amazon bestselling book ‘The Templar Agenda’ you speak in depth about the world financial systems. Is this something of interest to you outside of writing?
Yes, I suppose. My degree was in Business Economics and Finance. My favourite part was a subject called comparative banking. I thoroughly enjoyed learning about the subject, though I was never cut out for a career in such things. Stories of the failings of BCCI, Barings, Johnson Matthey, Franklin et cetera, I found to be tantalising. In the 1970s, the Vatican Bank faced its own scandal due to the collapse of Banco Ambrosiano.
World peace or a piece of the world?
Do you use social networking such as Facebook and/or Twitter, and if so, how do you find it and can we have your details?
I’m on both, though I try to limit my use. Any writer who spends more than an hour a day on Twitter or Facebook isn’t spending enough time working on their writing. My twitter handle is @unknown_templar
If you won the lottery what would you spend it on?
I don’t play the National Lottery. Funny question, though. I heard a story once, Keith – I think it was set somewhere in Europe – that a man made a habit of praying before the statue of a saint, ‘please, please, please, allow me to win the lottery.’ Sometime later the statue came to life and responded, ‘My son, please, please, please, buy a ticket!’
As the old saying goes, if you don’t buy a ticket, you don’t win the raffle.
How do you market yourself and your books?
Being honest, I’ve largely neglected marketing since The Templar Agenda broke the top 100 – after a gradual rise, these things kind of take care of themselves. When the Robin Hood book came out I was interviewed by a wide range of people and institutions. I had a publicist at the time, which was a really interesting experience. I’ve also appeared on TV and radio a few times.
I do use twitter, but I don’t go overboard. So many authors are trying to make themselves heard. It’s not good to bombard the reader with spam!
Do you plan writing a sequel to ‘The Templar Agenda’ at some point? If so, would you incorporate some of the same characters?
You know the drill, Keithster. If I told you, I’d have to…
Judging from your writing it is fair to say that history interests you. Have you any plans to pen more factual books such as your biography of Henry III ‘The Gothic King’?
Yes, definitely, probably even more so in the future. Research involves a very big effort, though the internet has helped – thanks to Google books I’ve had the opportunity to read books that would otherwise take months to track down. I enjoy researching the things I’m interested in. I also include a ‘facts behind my fiction’ section at the end of my thrillers, so that the reader knows what was real and what was not.
What got you interested in history?
When I was five, my parents took my brother and I on a two-week holiday to south Wales. There, I visited all of the great castles: Caerphilly, Carew, Pembroke, Kidwelly, Llansteffan, Manorbier, Laugharne, Lamphey Bishop’s Palace…It was great. It completely captivated me. The appetite has been whetted ever since.
If you owned your own planet and the laws of physics didn’t apply, how would you have it?
I’d love to see travel become easier, both in distance and through time. I’d also like to see the laws of gravity relaxed, but not completely – just enough to be able to float.
If you could sum yourself up in one word, what would it be?
If others could sum you up in one word, what would that be?
I guess you’d have to ask them. My mates would probably say ‘banterous’ because of my sense of humour, and frequent use of the word ‘banter’
What does the future hold for you and your writing? More fiction? More factual?
My dream is to be a New York Times bestselling author. I’m already a published author; I’m also a bestselling thriller author. Everyday I’m evolving, moving ever closer to my dream and I won’t stop until I realise that. I plan to write more novels, and have plot structures in place for well over twenty. I also have a burning desire to continue to investigate history’s most fascinating enigmas. More historical works will definitely be on the way.
Lennon or McCartney or neither, and why?
Lennon, but preferably without Yoko – believe it or not, Yoko and I share a publisher, how mad is that? I like Macca a lot, but there was just something unique about Lennon.
Who is your #1 hero and why?
Jesus Christ, for the gift of faith – and forgiveness
If you were stranded on a desert island, and needed to burn books for
kindling in order to survive, which of these would go into the flames
first – The Bible, Catcher in the Rye, the Complete Shakespeare or War and Peace?
I’d hope the island had something better than paper, but if it came to it, it would probably be a toss up between Catcher and War and Peace. Being honest, I haven’t read either, so maybe my opinion will change one day. I do admire Salinger for his perseverance. Once the fire was up and running I’d make a continued effort to sustain it, so no further books would have to suffer.
Thank you, JPD, for your your Interview responses!
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