Legends can be considered the skeletal structure of our society. Think about it. Everything that makes up the fabric of western civilization is built around legends. Romulus and Remus, orphaned and raised by a she-wolf, are said to be the founders of Rome. Rome, in turn, has become the staple of western society and a sort of blue-print of the United States government in many ways. Legends have been interwoven into our lives just as much as science, logic, and philosophy. So it’s no small wonder that we have an absolute fascination with legends. Even more intriguing are the kernels of truth behind each myth…the little nugget that forms the foundation of stories such as Hercules or Thor, Osirus or Quetzalcoatl, or even the story of Jason and the Argonauts and their search for the Golden Fleece.
It is this search for the truth behind these legends that compels one of the heroic creations of today’s author, Sean Ellis–Nick Kismet, former soldier, adventurer, treasure hunter, and seeker of the truth. Kismet is a hero in the mold of Indiana Jones, Dirk Pitt, and perhaps Jason himself…and a hero that I guarantee you will enjoy getting to know.
Well, for that matter, Sean Ellis is an AUTHOR that you would enjoy getting to know as well. It’s no secret. I’ve said it before…he’s an independent author. Very few people know who he is (yet)…but he is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors out there. His books never cease to entertain me. What’s more…they are exceptionally well written and well thought out. The fact that I’m the guy who gets to publish some of his stuff is just icing on the cake.
If first realized that there was something special about Sean the moment I picked up the manuscript of The Adventures of Dodge Dalton in the Shadow of Falcon’s Wings (then, it was only called Falcon’s Flight)…I breezed through it and knew immediately that we had something really special. I couldn’t publish it fast enough. And I’ll reveal a little secret here…it’s probably one of my favorite books! Definitely one of my favorite series of books. So when Sean approached me to publish the second book in his Nick Kismet series, I knew I definitely wanted to give it a shot. I breezed through it as well…and though it is distinctly different in scope and feel to Dodge Dalton, I knew it was a winner as well.
Sean’s most recent release is called Into the Black and is the second novel in the Nick Kismet series. But don’t worry…you don’t have to read them in order. And whether you read it or The Shroud of Heaven (published by Samhain Press) or even the Kismet novella, The Devil You Know, you will be thoroughly entertained!
Here’s a synopsis for Into the Black for your consideration:
Nick Kismet will go anywhere, do anything, to protect the treasures of the ancient world. But to stop an ancient symbol of power from becoming a weapon of unimaginable terror, he’ll have to go further than he’s ever gone before….
When an old college flame tries to entice him into smuggling a precious relic into the Unites States, Nick Kismet knows there’s something more going on. But before he can get at the truth, a former rival appears out of nowhere, inviting Kismet to join him on a search for the mythical Golden Fleece. Although Kismet dismisses the possibility that the Fleece is real, he soon realizes that the search may bring him one step closer to unmasking the mysterious Prometheus group and solving the puzzle of his own origins.
Accompanied by the beautiful daughter of a kidnapped Russian exile, Kismet follows in the footsteps of the legendary Argonauts, and sets out for the Republic of Georgia, the site of the ancient kingdom of Colchis. There he will discover that the Fleece is no mere story, but is instead the key to a devastating new weapon.
Kismet’s quest will take him from the deserts of North Africa to the urban jungles of Manhattan to the snow covered mountains of Georgia…but to keep the Golden Fleece from falling into the hands of his greatest enemy, Kismet will have to go…
…Into the Black.
Sounds great, right? Check out this cool book trailer too!
You can pick up a copy of Into the Black here:
Recently, I had a chance to talk to Sean about Nick Kismet, Dodge Dalton, writing in general, and what he has planned for the future. Here’s what he had to say:
1) Tell us a bit about Into the Black. In your own words, what is it about?
Into the Black centers around a modern day hunt for the Golden Fleece, from the Greek legend of Jason and the Argonauts. I like to think of the Jason story as one of the original adventure stories, and I love stories that revolve around famous relics. In the novel, a rather unscrupulous pop archaeologist named Harcourt, tries to convince Kismet to join him in the search for the Fleece. Kismet initially demurs, but because he thinks the archaeologist might be connected to the mysterious Prometheus group, he decides to follow him. He discovers that Harcourt, working with a disgraced Pentagon official and a gaggle of mercenaries, has kidnapped a Russian engineer who might know the location of the Fleece. The villains have also taken his daughter, Irina, to use as leverage. Kismet manages to rescue Irina, and vows to help rescue her father as well. And because he still thinks the trail might lead to Prometheus, decides to try to beat Harcourt to the prize. Kismet and Irina travel to the Republic of Georgia, where they get into one scrape after another, leading to a showdown on the stormy waters of the Black Sea.
2) Nick Kismet is an interesting protagonist with a very mysterious past (even from him). What can you tell us about him? Who is he? Where did he come from? What were the circumstances that moves him to protect the world’s greatest treasures?
Okay, it’s kind of embarrassing to admit, but Nick Kismet started off as…I probably shouldn’t say exactly who he was originally, but let’s just say that this story was originally set in the late 1930’s and featured a heroic and rather well-known fictional archaeologist trying to protect the Fleece from Nazi agents. I was told in no uncertain terms that novels featuring this licensed character were not welcome, and no amount of arm twisting could change that. An editor at Bantam suggested that I change a few key details, and of course the name, and try it as an original piece. I was stumped to come up with a name, but at the time I was also writing a very experimental fantasy novel with a character named Nick Kismet. It was the best name I could come up with on the spur of the moment.
Later, I realized that bringing the story into a contemporary setting would give me a lot more creative freedom.
Kismet’s backstory was also a product of that process. I needed him to be more than just an archaeologist bent on fortune and glory; he had to have an important reason for going after these ancient treasures. I gave him this very mysterious past—I don’t want to say too much because I plan to reveal it a little at time in each book—but he knows that he is a person of interest to a mysterious group he knows only as “Prometheus” (no connection to the uber-intellectual society of the same name). Kismet believes Prometheus may know more about his true parentage—he was a foundling—and because they are interested in relics of the past, Kismet decides to go to work protecting those relics for the United Nations, in hopes of finding more information about Prometheus.
4) What was the inspiration for the Kismet series? How did it evolve into what it is today?
Okay, I probably already answered that, but let me expand on it a little more. The book that is now Into the Black was actually the first Nick Kismet novel I wrote (with some changes). As part of the rewrite that brought Kismet into the 21st century, I wrote a prologue establishing his first encounter with Prometheus, and a character named Hauser, set in Iraq during the First Gulf War back in the early 90’s. But some of my beta readers correctly complained that the prologue didn’t really seem to fit with the rest of the book. Not long after that, when the second Iraq war kicked off, there were reports of artifacts being looted from the Baghdad museum, and that inspired me to write The Shroud of Heaven, and that original prologue was a much better fit there. That’s how The Shroud of Heaven became the first Nick Kismet novel.
There were some other important changes. The character Lysette Lyon, Kismet’s former college flame who plays an important but not quite central role in Into the Black, was originally imagined as sort of a wise-cracking Joe Pesci type character. That worked pretty well when the story was set in the 1930’s, but for a modern setting, it just didn’t really fit with Kismet’s backstory. That’s when I got the idea to make him a her, and to make her Kismet’s once, and perhaps future, love interest. Oh yes, you did read that correctly, and you will see Lyse again. Oh, and just to get an unpleasant image out of your head, I would cast Sarah Michelle Gellar in the role of Lyse.
5) Who/what are some of your greatest influences (i.e. authors, books, TV, movies, etc.)?
Well, it goes without saying that Raiders of the Lost Ark was a huge inspiration for me. I love the non-stop, cliffhanger pacing of that movie, and I’ve always believed it possible to put that level of action into a novel. In fact, I consider it my mission as an author. But growing up, I loved reading Clive Cussler’s Dirk Pitt novels, and more recently, I’ve become a big fan of James Rollins and Jack DuBrul—I actually discovered the debut novels from both authors—Subterranean and Vulcan’s Forge, respectively–on the same day while perusing the shelves at a bookstore.
6) What other Kismet books should our readers look for and what are they about? Any future Kismet books in the works?
I’ve already mentioned The Shroud of Heaven, which is chronologically the first in the series. Shroud is very much the origin story, explaining how Kismet came to work for the Global Heritage Commission, a fictional arm of UNESCO. Shroud starts with Kismet going to Iraq shortly after the fall of Baghdad, ostensibly to track down stolen antiquities, but he’s soon drawn into a search for the relics of Solomon’s temple, which were captured and taken to Babylon in the sixth century BCE. As with Into the Black, Kismet isn’t as interested in the relics so much as he is the possibility that Prometheus might be involved.
There’s also a novella called The Devil You Know, in which a beautiful journalist, who happens to be the granddaughter of a New York mob boss, is kidnapped by a drug cartel on orders from a demonic priest who has tapped into the power of the rope that Judas Iscariot supposedly used to commit suicide in the Bible. I say supposedly because…ah…you know what? No spoilers.
The next book in the series is in want of a title, but it’s mostly done and will tie together elements from the Epic of Gilgamesh, the Biblical Genesis account, and a couple other pretty well known legends having to do with the search for immortality. I’ve sketched outlines for several more Kismet novels, and there are some big revelations coming.
7) You have another adventure series as well…The Adventures of Dodge Dalton. Tell us a little about that. How is it different than the Nick Kismet series? What can readers who pick up Dodge expect from his adventures?
Well, I write action-adventure novels, and those unquestionably have their roots in the hero pulps of the 1930’s (e.g. Doc Savage). Unlike Kismet, which represents the modern evolution of the pulps, Dodge Dalton is an unapologetic homage to that style of storytelling. The Dodge Dalton novels are set in the 30’s and feature a lot of larger than life characters, doing larger than life things. The pulp genre allows a lot more freedom to indulge in fantasy and science fiction elements. The first Dodge Dalton book opens with a gang of bad guys wearing, for want of a better word, jet packs, swooping down on the White House Rose Garden and kidnapping FDR. You can’t really get away with stuff like that in a contemporary novel.
I’d like to think that the novels would be equally appealing to contemporary readers. Basically, I’ve always followed the rule of writing the kind of stories I would like to read. I suspect there are other adventure fans out there who like to change it up once in a while.
8) What projects do you have lined up in the near future for publication? What can we be looking forward to from you?
The second Dodge Dalton novel will be out this summer. I’ll also be taking part in an anthology of stories inspired by the classic short story The Most Dangerous Game. Around the end of this year, I’ll be releasing the first book in the Dark Trinity sequence—called Ascendant—which will feature a kick-ass psychic heroine on the trail of…what else…ancient relics. Beyond that, it’s my goal to keep the Kismet and Dodge Dalton adventures coming on a regular basis, so as you can imagine, I’ve got my work cut out for me.
[By the way, I can’t wait to read Ascendant! Variance Publishing will be handling this title and it’s on my to be read list as soon as it’s available!]
9) If you could give only one piece of advice to aspiring writers out there, what would it be?
My advice would be to take your time. This is a very interesting time to be an author. There are so many ways to get your book published now, it’s become a sort of mania. But just because you’ve written “the end” doesn’t mean you’ve finished your book. Don’t rush the editorial process in your haste to get to work on the next book.
And above all else, persevere. I wrote the first draft of the novel that is now Into the Black about 12 years ago. Good things do sometimes come to those who wait.
Thank you Sean for such a great interview! I wish you the very best in your writing career!
If you want to learn more about Sean, check out his website at http://www.seanellisthrillers.webs.com/.
And if you want to pick up copies of his other books, here are some links: