Gabriel Farago - A long-forgotten amulet. A holy relic. A stolen painting.
Gabriel Farago is the USA TODAY Bestselling and Multi-Award-Winning Australian Author of the Jack Rogan Mysteries Series for the thinking reader. Gabriel holds degrees in literature and law, speaks several languages and takes research and authenticity very seriously. Inquisitive by nature, he studied Egyptology and learned to read the hieroglyphs. He travels extensively and visits all of the locations mentioned in his books. Gabriel lives in the Blue Mountains in Australia just outside Sydney, surrounded by a World Heritage National Park. If you like historical thrillers, excitement, mystery, and suspense, if you enjoy exotic settings, colorful characters and fast-paced action, if you like to learn about interesting, well-researched subjects that tease your intellect and imagination, then once your step inside, Gabriel will show you his world; the world of the storyteller. Gabriel lives in the Blue Mountains in Australia just outside Sydney, surrounded by a World Heritage National Park. As our Author of the Day, he tells us about his book, The Stolen Altarpiece.
Please give us a short introduction to what The Stolen Altarpiece is about.
Perhaps the best and most effective way to introduce the book is through its blurb. An effective blurb creates interest and curiosity, without giving too much away:
A long-forgotten amulet. A stolen painting. A dark threat reignited. One deadly geopolitical power-play.
Jack Rogan’s discovery of a hidden letter reaching out of the past unwittingly embarks the journalist into a perilous quest to find a holy relic that has the power to fight evil.
As he follows a web of intriguing clues that take him on a dangerous journey to the Middle East, Rogan soon crosses swords with an old adversary, who is determined to destroy him and those he holds dear.
Soon, secrets buried in a famous stolen painting point to Russia and the threat of war in Ukraine. Joining forces with Tristan, a gifted psychic; Abbot Serapion, a Russian monk; and Sasha, the daughter of a Russian billionaire, Jack enters a dangerous geopolitical arena ruled by a deranged, corrupt man consumed by unbridled ambition and lust for power, who threatens to enslave a nation and destroy an entire country to satisfy his misguided vision of greatness.
Can Jack find a way to defeat the dark forces of evil and turn the tide of history before it’s too late, or will the horrors of war continue, and consume a people who dared to stand against tyranny and dream of freedom?
THE STOLEN ALTARPIECE is the eighth standalone historical mystery thriller in the page-turning Jack Rogan Mysteries Series.
What inspired you to write this story? Was there anything in particular that made you want to tackle this?
This book was inspired by the dreadful war in Ukraine which is affecting be deeply. I was asking myself if there was perhaps something I could do, as a writer, to contribute to the war effort that could make a difference. After due reflection, the answer was a resounding YES! The power of the written word, if used correctly, can be huge and far-reaching. By writing a book, in this case a thriller, touching on subjects that are relevant to what is happening in Ukraine right now, I realised that I have a unique opportunity to create AWARENESS not only of the war and the unspeakable atrocities and war crimes being committed by Russia, but of Ukrainian history, especially the terrible 1932/33 Holodomor, Stalin's 'Terror Famine' of which very little is known outside Ukraine, but which is very relevant if we are to understand what is happening in Ukraine right now, and what is motivating the extraordinary bravery and resistance by ordinary Ukrainians to the Russian invasion.
The book is, in fact, dedicated to the Ukrainian people.
Tell us more about Jack Rogan. What makes him tick?
Journalist, celebrated author, hopeless romantic and adventurer. In short, a very likeable, but far from perfect, ‘incorrigible rascal’ with a great Aussie sense of humour.
Obviously, Jack Rogan is the central character (I don’t like the term ‘hero’) in the Jack Rogan Mysteries Series, and therefore features in all my books. I have approached his character gradually, by revealing ‘snippets’ of relevant information about him, his background, habits, strengths and weaknesses, etc. in each of my books. I do this by weaving relevant information into the storyline, particular scenes, dialogue and, of course, the relationships and interplay between Jack and other characters.
With each step, my readers learn a little more about Jack. They find out why he acts the way he does, what motivates him and what frightens him. They learn about his dreams and his nightmares, his strengths and, of course, his weaknesses and vulnerabilities, until a clear picture emerges my readers can relate to and, in Jack’s case, begin to love. Needless to say, this is critically important, as the central character sets the tone for the entire series.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
Ah... Most of them are, of course, secret, but here's a little insight into what they are: The best way to describe them with one word is ... CURIOSITY. In fact, curiosity motivates and drives my writing generally. By introducing subjects that interest me into the storylines woven into the fabric of my books, I am able to explore those subjects in unique and imaginative ways.
Here are a few examples of those subjects: history generally, archaeology, in particular. Philosophy, theology, cosmology, mathematics, astronomy, and chess, to name just a few. And yes, there is also religion, the Vatican, and the occult, to add a little spice and intrigue to the list. Curiosity, coupled with the JOY OF LEARNING, are the cornerstones of my writing generally.
How much research did this book require from you? What was the most interesting part of this story?
Because the overall structure of this book rests on multi-layered storylines drawing extensively on complex and far-reaching historical material, the research involved was huge. I do all of my own research, and travel for about two months a year, visiting the key locations featured in my books. In my view, authenticity, which underpins all of my writing, demands that.
Why did you put a holy relic at the center of your story?
In fact, not only is a holy (Christian) relic at the centre of the story, so is a revered, Islamic treasure - the Amulet of Timur - which also features prominently in the storyline. This has allowed me to introduce and explore both Christian and Islamic concepts and ideas, and weave them into the fabric of the plot.
What was your greatest challenge when writing this book?
For a thriller to become a page-turner, fact and fiction must rub shoulders in a way that blurs the boundaries between the two, so that the reader is never quite sure where one ends, and the other begins. This makes the book interesting and the characters exciting and the overall reading experience gripping and unique. It's all about writing style. This is always the greatest challenge when writing a complex book like this.
You were born in Budapest and grew up in post-war Europe. How did this influence your worldview and writing?
My parents and I left Hungary during the Revolution of 1956. There are significant parallels between that event, and what is happening in Ukraine right now. I have touched on this at the very beginning of the book by including a short biographical piece - Coming Home for Christmas - which throws some light on my journey as a writer.
Coming home for Christmas; 24 December 1956
This will be a sad Christmas, thought the young woman, watching her son play in the snow outside. At least he’s safe. She hadn’t heard from her partner, nor did she know if he was still alive. The horror stories that had leaked out through the Red Cross spoke of summary executions, chaos, hunger and despair; the wages of defeat of a humbled nation that had dared to demand freedom, and lost.
As the little boy pushed the wooden shovel along the path at the bottom of the garden, something caught his eye: a dark shape at the gate.
Squinting through the snow falling all around him like sparkling tufts of cottonwool, he could see a man wearing an old hat and a long coat, standing motionless and silent, watching him. The boy dropped the shovel and walked slowly towards the gate. With each step came recognition, hesitant at first, but then growing stronger and more certain.
‘Daddy?’ whispered the boy, his eyes wide with disbelief and wonder. The man put down his little brown suitcase and took off his hat.
‘Daddy!’ shrieked the boy as he flew into his father’s outstretched arms. It was an embrace neither of them would forget.
Of course, the little boy in the story was me. It had taken my father three weeks to walk from the smoking ruins of Budapest to my grandparents’ home in Austria. Hiding in abandoned stables and chicken coops along the way, and living off the kindness of farmers prepared to risk all to help a fugitive, he finally crossed the border into Austria at night during a snowstorm. I remember his swollen feet looked terrible and he was frightfully thin and very weak. But none of that mattered; he had come home for Christmas.
A couple of years later, in high school, our class was tasked to write a short story about an event that changed our lives. This was my story. The teacher entered it in a little competition run by the local paper. The story won a prize. It was my first step towards becoming a writer.
Gabriel Farago Letters from the Attic (Bear & King Publishing, 2016)
Interesting book cover. Please tell us more about how it came about.
Van Eyck’s famous Ghent Altarpiece features prominently in the book. The cover image is in fact an actual part of that Altarpiece. Once again, fact and fiction rub shoulders ...
Did you plot out your entire story before you started writing, or did some of the twists and turns just "happen" along the way?
My writing style is best described as 'organic.' The story develops and grows as I write. While I have a clear 'outline' of the book prepared at the very beginning, it has sufficient flexibility to grow and change as I introduce and develop my characters, who are, of course, the very lifeblood of the storyline. This approach reflects reality and makes the action and the plot plausible in a way that draws the reader into the world of my imagination. If this is done skilfully, the reader will not only enjoy the experience, but yearn for more.
This is book 8 of the Jack Rogan series. Can it be read as a standalone? How do the other books in the series tie in with this one?
While The Jack Rogan Mysteries are of course a series, each of my books stands alone, and can be read independently. That said, readers familiar with all of my books will of course get a lot more out of the reading experience because the books are, of necessity, 'linked' through both, the main characters, and to some extent, the storylines. Subtle references and nuances embedded in the books will only resonate with readers who are familiar with what has happened before. This will enrich the reading experience that would otherwise be lost to a 'standalone' reader.
Bearing in mind that the series now comprises of approximately 4500 paperback pages and more than 480 main characters, navigating this body of work (consisting of 8 novels and 3 'connected' novellas), can be quite challenging. That is why I have prepared separate 'companion publications' linked to each of my books that assist in that regard.
Those 'companion publications' are only available on my website and can only be obtained if my work is purchased from me directly.
Each of the books in the series has a 'Behind the Scenes' segment which explains what inspired and motivated the writing of the book in the first place.
In addition, each book also has a 'Main Characters' segment featuring some of the main characters featured in the series together with a glossary of characters that help the reader to identify and place the characters in the various storylines and navigate the series generally.
Do you have any interesting writing habits? What is an average writing day like for you?
I write every day. In fact, I have a writing pad next to my bed to jot down ideas if I wake up during the night. I make notes during the day wherever I am, especially while travelling. During the day, I spend a lot of time in my garden and the World Heritage National Park which all but surrounds my house. I take long walks in the rainforest below my home, and find inspiration and energy in the stunning, ancient landscape.
The main writing is done late at night, up in my attic in the Blue Mountains. I have a large workstation with multiple monitors, because I do extensive research and fact checking, while I write. I always listen to music when I work. Bach is my favourite.
What are you working on right now?
Right now, I am working on another novella, which gives me a welcome break from the demands of writing another book in the series. Writing The Stolen Altarpiece was very demanding and certainly one of my most ambitious projects to date by far.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
I have always made sure to be very accessible and easy to find. I publish a monthly newsletter which has 16,000 subscribers worldwide. I am easy to reach. Readers can contact me by email. I am also very active on social media, especially Facebook.
All contact details are on my website at www.gabrielfarago.com.au
A long-forgotten amulet. A holy relic. A stolen painting. One deadly geopolitical power-play. When journalist and private investigator Jack Rogan discovers a hidden letter reaching out of the past, he unwittingly embarks on a quest to find a holy relic that has the power to fight evil. Can Jack find a way to defeat the dark forces of evil and turn the tide of history before it’s too late?