Professor of Biblical Studies at University of Illinois at Chicago, Aiden Leonardo has arrived at the home of the man who has always treated him as a son to find disgraced, investment banker Lazzaro de Medici, dying. Before he dies, he gives Aiden an encrypted letter concerning a lost Bible.
He needs to follow the clues and find this last message that Christ left his disciples. The secret of Heaven. But he isn’t the only one looking. The Group, a shady group at best, is looking to destroy that very secret and the lost Bible.
Running from the Chicago PD and The Group, Aiden isn’t sure who to trust. With the aid of his fiancé Dr. Miriam Levin—a cultural anthropologist and a professor of historical archaeology along with their friend Nagi, a philologist, religious historian and an eccentric cryptographer, Aiden soon realizes the Lost Bible was written by the only disciple who walked with Jesus and had his gospel omitted from Scripture.
Lazzaro’s own son is working but with who? Aiden or The Group? Nothing is what it seems and no one is who they say they are. It’s a wonderful puzzle we get to unravel with Aiden and Miriam and Nagi, who was one of my favorite characters in the book!
The action starts on page one and doesn’t let up. It may be a work of Fiction, but a lot of it resonated with me, so much so that I kept saying out loud, “That’s exactly what I thought”!
The characters are all well developed and complex, as is the subject matter.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. So much so that I read it all in one sitting and then had to call a friend to tell him about it! I’m really glad this is only Book 1 in the series. I can’t wait to see what happens next!
I was lucky enough to receive a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I actually read this for the first time quite a while back, but waited impatiently for it to go up. I wanted to interview the author when I reviewed the book. So I hope you enjoy meeting author Felix Alexander!
Tell us a little about yourself and your background.
I’m a Mexican-born, American-raised novelist and poet of Mexican and Puerto Rican descent. I dropped out of high school mid-senior year because I didn’t appreciate education as much as I do now. I served for 3 years in the U.S. Army, my final year in South Korea, where I made a name for myself as a the soldier’s scribe before my honorable discharge.
I currently live in a quite Chicago suburb just a few miles away from my children, and when I’m not with them I work at 9-1-1 Consolidated Dispatch Center with a great team and fantastic supervisors that reflect leadership reminiscent of the men and women with whom I served in the military.
2. What were you like in school?
I wasn’t the most studious kid in school. I seldom read the required reading, almost never studied for a test, and when I did decide to study it was always the night before, or the morning of the test. I spent the majority of my time drawing, or writing poetry in class…yet it was during those moments where I focused on my creative outlets that I recalled the lecture of any given subject, which I immediately recalled when I read specific questions on a test. Somehow I often aced the tests, and I still have a paper I wrote in my junior year American Studies class where a teacher wrote a note saying: “If you can do this, how are you not getting an A in my class?!”
Truth be told, I reached out to her about 10 years ago and apologized to her for not being a better student. It wasn’t that I didn’t like school, or learning… I merely wanted to do it on my terms. I’d read history books, but never the chapter I was instructed to read when I was instructed to read it. I’d usually read THOSE whenever the mood suited me. Yes, I was that stubborn.
3. What subjects interested you?
I’m fascinated by a myriad of subjects: philosophy, theology, mythology, ancient civilizations, physics, spirituality, and debating Creationism vs the Evolutionary motif…just to name a few. I’m particularly interested in Morgan Freeman’s new program, The Story of God. I’m really looking forward to sitting down with my children to watch it!
4.What are your ambitions for your writing career?
I want to write stories that will inspire people to think profound thoughts and believe in true love. I have so many stories to share that I hope I live long enough to complete them. And when I do, I pray they will be inspired, and hopeful, and eager to share the wonder of story with friends and family, so that we may never lose sight of the beauty and hope found in books.
5. Which writers inspire you?
George R.R. Martin inspires me to write the rich depth inherent in mythopoeia akin to the legends of fantasy: J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, H.P. Lovecraft and Lucas with the Star Wars series. This is something I strive to accomplish with my historical fantasy, Shadows of Time. For it is in these stories of legends and myth that we capture the true essence of the human imagination.
6. What have you written so far?
First was a collection of poems and love letters titled Dear Love: Diary of a Man’s Desire. Then I wrote The Romantic: A Love Story. My latest two releases include The Secret of Heaven, and Shadows of Time: The Amulet of Alamin.
7. Where can we buy your work?
Currently my works are exclusively available on Amazon. Though The Secret of Heaven is currently only available as an eBook, we do have a scheduled paperback release for May 17th, 2016.
8. Give us an insight into your main character.
Aiden is who I wish I had taken the time to be. I wish I had pursued academic endeavors in my youth and studied Biblical lore, mythology, theology, philosophy and linguistics at the college level, and had eventually obtained a degree in teaching to give lectures in auditoriums for the next generation of free-thinkers.
Aiden generally tends to take life in stride, but feels a strong sense of obligation when it comes to setting things right. He accepted his father’s imperfections, for what are we without them, because what matters most isn’t the time we have left with those we love, but what we do with that time and in the moment.
9. Where did the idea for The Secret of Heaven come from?
My inspiration for The Secret of Heaven came on May 6th, 2014. It was my daughter’s birthday and I had just dropped her off at her mother’s house because visitations always end when I return to work. I was sitting at my desk when I came across an article about a 1,500 year-old Bible discovered in Turkey when government officials confiscated it from a Black Market smuggling ring. Given my interests in history and theology, I immediately saw a story unfolding in my mind!
It felt like the perfect opportunity to share with the world a little of what I knew and to venture into the mystery genre. Truthfully, I wasn’t sure if I could write a mystery novel… I never thought I would, but after writing a literary romance (The Romantic) and a historical fantasy (Shadows of Time)… I felt inclined to expand my horizons and truly test myself as a writer.
10. How much research did you do?
Despite my then-knowledge base of the history of the subject matter I still needed to conduct extensive research about a myriad of things for the details. Everything from the Septuagint to the Smart Car and the private investigator firms to the defense contractors and the controversies surrounding their involvement in the Middle East. With regard to police procedure I picked the brains of police officers with whom I worked for 10 years during my time as a police dispatcher.
11. What made you actually sit down and start writing?
I was too excited about the concept that I set to work immediately! As far as I was concerned, I needed to write this novel.
12. What is the hardest and the easiest thing about writing?
The hardest thing about writing is merely finding the time to devote to it, at least for me. Because once I’m alone without worrying about where I have to be in the next few hours (work, appointment, errands, etc) I easily fall into this realm between sleep and awake where I can formulate dreams and link them to reality.
If there are ever moments when I’m stumped, which doesn’t happen often…I simply read for a few minutes before one word just ignites the creative spark.
13. Do you read much and who are your favorite authors?
I read as often as I can. Some of my favorite authors include: Tolkien, Martin, Rowling on the fantasy side of the spectrum, but also Ken Follett, Carlos Ruiz-Zafon, Dan Brown, Paulo Coelho and the late-great “Gabo.”
14. How are you publishing this book and why?
I pursued the Self-publishing option after numerous rejections from literary agents and editors of smaller publishing houses. I was told about the Kindle Scout publishing opportunity and after a promising 30-day campaign I decided to build on the momentum of favorable public opinion about The Secret of Heaven. I had hoped to present The Secret of Heaven through traditional means, but beta-readers continuously encouraged me to “get this book out there!”
15. What are the advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing?
The advantage is maintaining creative control. The disadvantage is shouldering every aspect of publishing that entails having that creative control. Cover design, synopsis, marketing…and then having ensure proper formatting for the various eReader file-types, paperback (based on size/measurements), and/or outsourcing some of that to someone else at your own expense.
Fiverr is a great resource for cover designers, but either you have to provide the stock image (which can cost a pretty penny), or you pay the cover designer more money to provide it for you. In addition to that expense are the expenses of marketing your book, and providing ARC’s (Advanced Review Copies) to reviewers (cost of book, shipping and handling), etc.
To that end you’re the one rowing the boat, navigating it, and holding the fishing poles…reeling, baiting, casting, etc.
“Any port in a storm.”
16. How much of your time is used marketing your books?
Honestly…more time than I should spend on marketing. I mean, I get it, it’s the business aspect of writing and it needs to be done. The conundrum is when you’re limited on time between family, 40-60 hour work week, groceries, making dinner, karate lessons, paying bills/planning the household budget that the little time you have available for writing your next novel is consumed by researching agents, writing query letters, searching for book reviewers, their policies and responding to emails, or other social media queries/comments in order to remain connected with your audience, friends and peers.
17.What do you do to get book reviews?
I network as much as possible to meet book reviewers/bloggers and/or connect with reading groups. There are sites like the Kindle Book Review and the Author Marketing Club with resources to help authors find reviewers, but there’s no guarantee the reviewer will accept, or if they do accept that they will finish your novel and post a review.
There have been a few instances where writers have contacted me to inform me they had bought a copy of my book, read it and posted a review. I’m truly grateful for those moments…especially because they are so few and far between.
18. Is it difficult to find reviewers?
Indeed it is difficult because some folks already have their reading lists full, others may not be interested in your particular genre, and then there are those who refuse to reading Self-published novels because of their previous experience with Self-published books in terms of poor editing, or unpolished quality. I understand their position. It simply makes the slope a little steeper than it already is when trying to raise awareness and generate interest in your novel.
19. What are your thoughts on good/bad reviews?
This is a subjective business. That reality reminds me of something my Aunt Carmen once said when I was 13 years old, “Mijo, you can’t please everyone.”
As long as the reviews are honest assessments about the story and/or the quality of the writing then that’s all that matters.
20. What are your views on using Social Media for marketing?
It can be a cost-efficient method of getting the word out there about your books, but there’s a learning curve. You figure out how to teeter the fine line between marketing and coming-off like a spam bot. You find what works and you tweak what doesn’t, but be mindful of the options that are a waste of money…and believe me there’s plenty of them.
21. Did you make any marketing mistakes or is there anything you would avoid in future?
I believe the biggest mistake I made was when I spent $3,000 (not including the cost of of 25 ARC’s for The Romantic) for a publicist who after the 4-month agreement produced no reviewers, little-to-no press-releases, and a website that I am unable to update. He was friendly enough, and had been recommended by another publicity firm who only worked with authors PRIOR to the release of a novel (I had already released The Romantic 4 months prior), but in the end the money I had saved for a new computer was a lost investment without a return.
22. What do you think of “trailers” for books?
I think they’re a creative way of drawing attention to a book that a reader may otherwise be unaware of if they haven’t heard about the book, or the author. The first book trailer I ever saw was for Anne Fortier’s JULIET, which I had just finished reading at the time and wanted to read other books by the author when I came across the book trailer.
23. How do you relax?
When I’m not writing, or fielding 9-1-1 calls as a police dispatcher, I spend my time with my children. We play. We talk. We read together, or I read to them, or I show them what real music is, or we find any number of activities to maximize our time together during visitations to make memories. Ultimately, my literary aspirations are with my children in mind. Ideally, I want to be able to provide for them and spend as much time with them as possible, without having to look at the clock.
Once they’re tucked into bed, I kick back with a glass of scotch and an episode of my favorite programs… once again, we have Game of Thrones!
24. Where can you see yourself in 5 years?
In 5-years I see myself sitting here in my home office, with more books on the shelves by other authors, and more published novels under my belt that people will love. My children will be in their teens and I hope to be able to continue to provide for them and make ends meet as a writer, so that I may devote more time to them without having to rush to a 9-to-5 job!
25. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
READ! Read everything and read anything you can get your hands on. And then….read more! Read books you normally wouldn’t read. Read beyond your favored genre(s). Stephen King has said, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.” He was correct!
Not everyone will love your story…That’s okay.
You can’t please everyone! You’re not supposed to.
Write every day! It doesn’t have to be related to a specific story or subject. Just write. Get into the habit of writing everyday… you know, “An object in motion stays in motion.”
In-between all that, connect with other writers. Follow blogs of literary agents who provide a wealth of information about the industry. Learn as much about the business of writing as you can because it is a business.
Take it seriously if you want to be taken seriously.
Never give up. Though if if this is what you were truly meant to do, then you won’t be able to give up.
And when you pour out your heart, make sure you empty it out to the last drop!
26. How can our readers find out more about you and your works?
On Amazon, Goodreads, Facebook and Twitter @foreverpoetic, website:http://www.felixalexanderwriter.com
Thanks so much for taking time to answer my questions!