Interview with D.J. Niko, author of The Riddle of Solomon

Publisher: Medallion Press

Publish Date: July 1, 2013

Order Links:  Amazon / Barnes & Noble

Synopsis: Cambridge archaeologist Sarah Weston and anthropologist Daniel Madigan team up for another expedition and adventure in this second book in the Sarah Weston Chronicles. While working on the Qaryat al-Fau archaeological site in Saudi Arabia, the pair uncovers a mysterious ancient scroll composed as a riddle. As they attempt to date and decipher the scroll, a flurry of ills befalls their expedition and the scroll is stolen. A trail of clues leads to India, Jerusalem, and the Judean wilderness, where the two discover the scroll was written by the enigmatic King Solomon as a map to an ancient manuscript. Meanwhile a privileged young Briton, Trent Sacks, has invested years and a fortune looking for his manuscript. Believing he is the last descendant of the House of David in the line of Solomon, Sacks will do whatever it takes to amass the ancient relics which will prove he is the Jewish Messiah. Leaving a string of murders in his wake, Sacks vows to crush Sarah and Daniel for challenging his quest. Journeying through the worlds of the occult, corporate greed, geopolitical conflict, Judaic mysticism, and biblical archaeology, Sarah and Daniel race to uncover the powerful ancient message that could have an explosive impact on modern Israel.

Author Bio: D.J. Niko is the nom de plume of Daphne Nikolopoulos, an award-winning author and journalist. Her first novel, titled The Tenth Saint, was released in March 2012 to rave reviews by both readers and the trade. In March 2013, it was awarded the Gold Medal for popular fiction in the prestigious, juried Florida Book Awards. An archaeological thriller embroidered with historical motifs, The Tenth Saint takes readers on an adventure across the globe: Ethiopia, the Syro-Arabian Desert and Abyssinian Empire circa fourth century, London, Paris, Brussels, and Texas. The Tenth Saint is the first book in The Sarah Weston Chronicles series. The second, titled The Riddle of Solomon, releases July 1, 2013.

Daphne is now at work on a historical novel set in tenth century B.C.E. Israel. The epic story details the collapse of the United Monarchy and the glory and fall of the empire built by King Solomon. It will be released in early 2015.

As a former travel journalist, Daphne has traveled across the globe on assignment, or for personal discovery. She has been to some places most of us don’t realize are on the map, and she has brought them to life through her writing for various magazines, newspapers and websites on an international scale. Her travel background and rich experiences now bring authentic detail, color, and realism to her fiction.

She also is the editor in chief of Palm Beach Illustrated magazine, a 62-year-old luxury-lifestyle glossy. She also is the editorial director of Palm Beach Media Group, and in that capacity oversees 11 magazines and 3 websites.

She is the mother of twin toddlers and, in her spare time, volunteers for causes she believes in—literacy, education, child advocacy, and the advancement of traditional and tribal arts from around the world. Born in Athens, Greece, she now lives with her family in West Palm Beach, Florida.

For more information, please visit D.J. Niko's website. You can also follow her on Twitter and Goodreads.

Interview: Q. Please tell us about The Riddle of Solomon. 

It is Book II in The Sarah Weston Chronicles series of archaeological thrillers, and it explores biblical archaeology, which is extremely controversial. My characters, Sarah Weston and Daniel Madigan, come upon an ancient scroll with a message in the form of a riddle. As the story unfolds, they attempt to decipher the text--with many setbacks, of course--and discover it was written by ancient history's most influential king, Solomon. The revelations the scroll contains are astounding and have present-day ramifications. Sarah and Daniel risk everything to keep the message from falling into the hands of a delusional, extremely dangerous madman who believes he is the Messiah. I was inspired by recent reports of Israel, traditionally an oil-poor nation in the midst of the world's richest oil reserves, potentially finding oil and natural gas, and the conflict that has ensued as a result. I put that present-day conflict together with ancient prophecies and the beliefs of Jewish Messianism to weave a plot that brings together the present, past, and future in an action-packed but smart adventure.

Q. How did writing The Riddle of Solomon affect you? 

In researching biblical archaeology, ancient Israel and Judaism, all things with which I was not intimately familiar prior to writing this book, I discovered some fascinating facts and controversies that I vowed to learn more about. I dove into these topics even more and based my next book on them (see below). In addition, I began to lecture about my research into biblical archaeology to universities, academies, and private groups. So it has opened up some new avenues for me.

Q. Can you tell us about the journey that led you to writing?

I am a journalist, so I am a career writer. But writing fiction has been a bit of a different journey. I have traveled widely, and to many places way off the beaten path, on assignment or for personal pleasure. Those experiences have shaped my outlook on the world and my voice as a writer. Over twenty or so years, I had amassed so many rich memories and life-changing adventures that it made sense to weave them into a different form of storytelling. So I decided to write international thrillers set in exotic locales where I have personally spent time. And because ancient history is another passion of mine, I wove a ton of historical research and archaeological motifs into my books.

Q. What is the hardest part of writing for you?

Finding enough time to do it. I am the mom of 4-year-old twins, which is a full-time job in itself, and have many other professional commitments. So I wake up every day (even weekends) at 4 a.m. so I can have 2-3 hours of solid writing. It’s the only time my house is quiet!

Q. Do you have a musical playlist you listen to while writing? If so, what kind of music?

Believe it or not, I play no music whatsoever when I write. I find it too distracting. I need relative silence in order to write.

Q. What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

When I write dialogue, I speak it as I write it. It’s a really weird thing to watch (my kids think it’s hilarious), but it helps me make the dialogue more pliable and believable.

Q. Do you plan any subsequent books?

I do! Currently, I am working on a historical novel about the fall of the United Monarchy in Israel and the decline of King Solomon’s golden reign. Set in the tenth century BCE, it is the historical complement to THE RIDDLE OF SOLOMON, so it will elucidate many of the historical references in that book. A great deal of research has gone into it—I jokingly call it my PhD project. It will be presented as an interactive TREEBook with multiple branches and alternative story endings, which is really fun.

Q. Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?

Gosh, there are so many. In nonfiction, I love Bruce Chatwin. His travel writing goes way beyond a sense of place; it has a deep emotional resonance. In fiction, I will forever be in awe of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ ability to use magical realism to make vital sociopolitical statements. In more contemporary fiction, I read everything by Junot Diaz and Dave Eggers.

Q. Please tell us your latest news (book-related or not!).

My debut novel, THE TENTH SAINT (which The Bibliophilic Book Blog reviewed previously), just won the Gold Medal for popular fiction in the Florida Book Awards, which is a pretty highbrow juried competition. I was stunned, to say the least, since my fellow award winners were authors like Carl Hiaasen, Dennis Lehane, Gilbert King, and Michael Grunwald. It was also very cool to accept the award from Florida First Lady Ann Scott and Secretary of State Ken Detzner.

Q. Please tell us a fun-fact about yourself!

In my late 20s, I sold everything and left my job to backpack around the world. I was gone for a solid two years and went everywhere, living out of a backpack the entire time. It was an incredibly educational experience, even during the dodgy moments: being rushed by a silverback while gorilla tracking in the impenetrable forests of Uganda/Congo; sleeping among tigers in Sumatra; having my notes confiscated by government officials in Zimbabwe; getting some bug in Nepal that took me months to get rid of; and others too numerous to mention. But the good absolutely outweighed the bad!

Q. Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Thank you for giving me a chance to entertain you. I appreciate you more than anything and love to hear from you, so please connect with me on the Web, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest…or come see me at any of my book signings.

Find the Author:
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Tour Schedule
Book Signings

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