Goth Chick News: 13 Questions for Robert Browne, Author of The Paradise Prophecy

Goth Chick News: 13 Questions for Robert Browne, Author of The Paradise Prophecy

image0022In spite of it being a gorgeous, sunny couple of weeks in Chicago, I remain unnaturally pasty.

No, that’s not normal for me, but thanks for asking.

Even I occasionally venture out of the subterranean offices of the Black Gate headquarters for a little fresh air, some more salt for the margaritas, or to affix sticky notes with snarky comments on the paint-ball equipment posters of the boys in the upstairs staff room.

But for the last few days I have remained glued to my comfy chair and Robert Browne is to blame.

One of the joys of this job is the occasional pre-publication copy of a soon-to-be-released book. Even more joyful are those that turn out to be a decent read. But the pinnacle and rarest of joys is the book that is one-of-a-kind special.

The Paradise Prophecy is one of those.

Not that I wasn’t prepared to be skeptical (because frankly when am I not?). But almost literally from the first page I was hooked. And so there I sat in my comfy chair; bereft of vitamin D and not even bothering to reach over to press “crush” on the blender controls, totally enslaved by one of the most uniquely told tales I’ve come across in a very long time.

The official teaser reads like this:

When God cast the archangel Satan into Hell, ending the War in Heaven, peace prevailed on Earth. Until the fallen angels took revenge in the Garden of Eden. Ever since, mankind has been in a struggle between good and evil, paradise and apocalypse: the fall of Rome, The Crusades, World Wars, nuclear proliferation, the Middle East Crisis… The War in Heaven never really ended-it just changed venues. For millennia, God’s angels have been fighting Satan’s demons on Earth, all in hopes of bringing about Satan’s greatest ambition, the Apocalypse.

Satan has never been closer to his goal than right now.

Agent Bernadette Callahan is a talented investigator at a shadowy government organization known only as Section, on the trail of a serial killer with nearly supernatural abilities. Sebastian “Batty” LaLaurie is a religious historian who knows far too much about the other side- and that hard-earned knowledge is exactly what Callahan needs. This unlikely duo pair up for a race across the globe, decoding clues left in ancient texts from the Bible to Paradise Lost and beyond. In the process they stumble upon a vast conspiracy-one beyond the scope of mankind’s darkest imagination.

Robert Browne
Robert Browne
Even though this is the briefest of descriptions, it’s not difficult to understand why The Paradise Prophecy grabbed my imagination; angels, demons, a war in Heaven and a professor named Batty LaLaurie? Game over.

The moment I finished it, I had to know more about the person who wove such a tale. Was he a reclusive genius with a Milton fixation? Where in the world did he learn about the Steganographia and the Devil’s Bible?

Would he like a margarita?

I found author Robert Browne to be as interesting in person as he seems to be from his writing and I’m very excited to introduce you to him and his new novel, The Paradise Prophesy.

Robert, meet everyone; everyone, meet Robert…

An Interview With Robert Browne

Conducted and transcribed by Sue Granquist, July 2011

GC: How did you first get into writing? Was it to meet girls?

RB: Haha. There’s a pretty famous joke in Hollywood about a starlet who tried to get the part by sleeping with the screenwriter… No, I took up guitar to meet girls. My desire to be a writer was inspired by a serialized novel by Donald Westlake that I read in Playboy magazine when I was thirteen. So I guess, in a way, girls WERE involved.

spiderman-unlimited-cartoon-series-1999-1 You’ve spent more than a decade as a screenwriter. If Black Gate readers aren’t familiar with your previous works of fiction, where would they have encountered you on the big or small screen before now?

I was one of those guys in Hollywood who spent all his time writing — sometimes even getting paid handsomely for it — and never seeing anything reach the screen. Well, except for a few Saturday morning cartoons like Spider-Man Unlimited. That was shortly before I decided I’d rather be writing novels than playing the Hollywood game.

Of course, the irony of it is that once I had success as a novelist, Hollywood came calling. My first novel was shot as a pilot for CBS television and The Paradise Prophecy is in development with Temple Hill, the folks who brought us Twilight. (GC: We’ll forgive them that Twilight bit then…)

Your previous works have been thrillers with hints of the supernatural. Have you always been interested in such things? Does your interest stem from any personal experiences you can tell us about?

A Gustave Dore illustration from Milton’s Paradise Lost
A Gustave Dore illustration from Milton’s Paradise Lost
I’ve always been a sucker for two types of stories: crime thrillers and fantasy/horror/supernatural thrillers. I’ve always had the philosophy that you should write what you’d like to read, so why not marry the genres? This new book merely takes that philosophy and runs with it, giving you fantasy and horror and crime all rolled into one, playing out on a fairly broad canvas. I wanted to do something big and bold and exciting and, hopefully, I succeeded.

But I’m sorry to say I have no personal experiences with the supernatural. No angels or demons in my life. Then again, maybe I’m not sorry.

Your police, FBI and detective characters are so 3D that one would think you are drawing from personal experiences. Are there are real-life law enforcement officers in your family or if not, where and how do you gather your background information?

One of the first “adult” jobs I ever had was working for Hawaii State Public Defenders office, where I not only met and worked with a lot of attorneys, but also the investigators who were former cops. I worked directly with a lot of criminal cases doing intake work — processing defendants, preparing case files, etc. — so I’ve had a lot of exposure to that world. Then, of course, there were all those arrests as a teenager. (GC: Ah HAH! I knew there was a sordid past in there somewhere.)

The gorgeous illustrations in the book are nearly a story unto themselves. Was utilizing Gustave Doré’s work a personal choice for you?

I’ve long been a fan of Doré’s work. I think it’s absolutely beautiful and just full of emotion—which is what I respond to in any kind of creative work. I think most of us do. And when I was researching Paradise Lost I revisited all of the beautiful illustrations he did for the poem and decided to include one of them in a scene in the book. When I chose the Milton quotations to include, the folks at Dutton latched onto Doré and went for it. I think the book design is amazing.

The Steganographia
The Steganographia
I was totally fascinated by the story of the Steganographia. Can you tell us a bit of background there and how the historical tale fit into The Paradise Prophecy?

I was actually turned on to Steganographia by my editor, who knew I was hunting for interesting manuscripts that might play into the story. In its day, Steganographia was so controversial that the author, Johannes Trithemius, pulled it from publication.

Trithemius, a sixteenth century Benedictine abbot, who was an expert in cryptography, got into some hot water after he completed the three volumes of the work, because the friends who had read it thought he had fallen prey to the dark arts. On the surface, the book seemed to be about magic and communicating via angels, but it was really an exercise in hidden text that created quite a stir when it was privately circulated, despite Trithemius’s ban on its publication.

The volumes weren’t published officially until after his death—much to the chagrin of the Catholic church—and once the code for the first two volumes was cracked, experts found that Trithemius had been telling the truth about its contents. That the text was nothing more than a clever exercise in cryptography. Or was it?

When I read all of this, I knew I had something special here, as if it were tailor made for The Paradise Prophecy. And I knew my two modern-day heroes—Bernadette Callahan and Sebastian LaLaurie—would find the work very useful in their quest to solve the Prophecy mystery.

The Paradise Prophecy story goes all over the world; from Italy, Turkey, Brazil and the Netherlands, to Florida and Louisiana. Were you able to personally explore these exotic locations for both divine and supernatural inspiration?

Oh, don’t I wish I were a globetrotting author. If authors went every place we wrote about, we wouldn’t be able to eat, let alone have time to write. As much as I would have loved to visit all of those places, I had to do a lot of research and watch travel videos and ask friends who live or visited there to read passages to make sure I got it right. The trick is finding the flavor of a place and running with it. Fortunately, it seems to have worked.

Does the character of Sebastian LaLaurie, a professor in Louisiana have any connection to the famous LaLauries of New Orleans?

Oh, Lord. Absolutely none at all. In fact, I’d say that Sebastian is pretty appalled by the infamous LaLauries and their treatment of slaves. Who knows, maybe some of that will come up in a future book… (GC: Oh please, oh please, oh please…)

The Codex Gigas (The Devil’s Bible) in the National Gallery of Sweden
The Codex Gigas (The Devil’s Bible) in the National Gallery of Sweden
Can you tell us a bit about The Devil’s Bible? How did you come to hear about the legend?

I honestly can’t remember where I heard about the Devil’s Bible. I think it was probably just one of those things I stumbled upon while doing research for another book and it stuck in my mind as something that might be useful one day.

The story behind the Codex Gigas is that it was written in a single night by a condemned Benedictine monk with the help of Satan himself. I was intrigued by the legend, but what really caught my attention were the seven missing pages. No one knows what’s on those missing pages, which gave me a lot of room to speculate…

I and my readers definitely want to know; were you give permission to view the actual Devil’s Bible in the National Library of Sweden?

The only person in my family who’s actually been to Sweden is my son, who lived there for a number of months. Fortunately, the National Library has a wonderful website that allowed me to view the book online, and I do have plans for an actual viewing sometime in the future, time permitting. The thing is fascinating and I just salivate at the idea of seeing it up close and personal. (GC: If you need someone to follow you around and take notes…)

image004You clearly know your Milton! What was your primary inspiration for the story? Was it Paradise Lost? Or did you weave its elements in after you already had the framework of the story?

The story grew out of conversations I had with my editor, Ben Sevier, who was the editor on my first book before he moved to Dutton. We both thought Paradise Lost would be a great launching point for a thriller, and I immediately began to reacquaint myself with Milton and his poetry and found the man and his work both complex and fascinating.

The framework of the story had basically been laid out in my mind, but reading Milton helped me give it the weight and depth it needed, and also helped shape the ultimate direction of the plot and some of the key plot points. And when I discovered that Milton had once paid a visit to Galileo—who also went blind—I knew I had something amazing.

As a screenwriter, would you like to see The Paradise Prophecy adapted for the big screen? If so, would do you imagine Bernadette and Sebastian?

I think The Paradise Prophecy would make a terrific movie and, fortunately, its currently in development at Temple Hill, the folks who produced Twilight. But I always have problems casting characters. After seeing Lincoln Lawyer the other day, however, I’m thinking Matthew Mcconaughey would be terrific as Sebastian. As for Callahan, I’m not sure. There isn’t that one name that jumps out at me. (GC: Well, Matthew McConaughey jumps out at me, so good choice.)

A rare depiction of Satan from The Devil’s Bible
A rare depiction of Satan from The Devil’s Bible
All indications are that The Paradise Prophecy is going to be a huge hit, which means your readers are going to be clamoring for more. What’s next for you? Can we look forward to a sequel in the future?

Well, I have to admit I like the words “huge hit.” I think every writer does. For those who do pick up the book, rest assured that I already have a storyline in mind for the sequel that will expand on what we’ve already learned about Callahan and LaLaurie.

It’ll be a while before I’m done with these characters. And the more I think about their world and the places they’ve been, the more I want to explore. I’m happy to invite everyone along with me.


Consider my bags packed!

If you want to come along on what I sincerely hope is only the first of many adventures with intriguing cast of characters, you’re totally in luck. The Paradise Prophecy hits store shelves today.

So what are you waiting for? You’re going to love it, I promise.

And while you’re out there, would you mind bringing me back a lime…?

Click here to watch a cool animated teaser on The Paradise Prophecy and tell me what you think. Have you read any other works by our new fave Robert Brown? Post a comment or drop me a line at sue@blackgate.com.

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