Avanti Centrae is the author of the VanOps thriller series. You can find out more about her on her website: www.avanticentrae.com, or by clicking here, read her last post here, and see her books here.
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to know what’s going to happen? Whether your love interest will call, if you’ll get that raise, or —- what the United States would do after you invade one of Taiwan’s outlying islands?
After penning the first two books in the VanOps series, The Lost Power and Solstice Shadows, I wanted to tell a different tale, one that looked at the ability to tell the future from a military standpoint. I also wanted to delve into the history of VanOps, which is not your typical black ops organization. It was created to be a deeper shade of black, to rise like a phoenix from the ashes of the CIA’s failed parapsychology missions from the 70’s, back when ‘the company’ was trying to weaponize out-of-body experiences to compete against the Russians.
Additionally, I wanted that story to also probe the origin of the deep-seated conflict between Maddy Marshall and her twin brother, Will Argones. A newly minted VanOps officer, Marshall is a tall, emerald-eyed truth seeker with special arts abilities. Her long-legged brother is a skeptic, an engineer by training, and uses his cynical nature to poke holes in black ops mission planning. Before this novel, all we knew was that the six-year-old twins were emotionally wounded when their mom died in an icy accident. I wanted to rip off that scab by delving into their mother’s backstory. Was Mom’s death really an accident?
Those ideas were bouncing around in my head like pinballs when I hit upon the jackpot idea of using Nostradamus to pull it all together.
I usually spend months researching before I begin to write a novel. I knew Nostradamus was famous for his predictions, but I had no further knowledge about him. Pouring over biographies, my jaw dropped. This man, back in the sixteenth century, predicted the death of Henry II, the Great Fire of London, Napoleon’s conquest, the discoveries of Louis Pasteur, Hitler’s rule, and Charles de Gaulle’s reign. Those are just a few prophesies that were called out as “shockingly accurate” in a Business Insider article from 2014. Tying into my nascent ideas about plot, he truly did devise a method of hiding his meanings by using word games like anagrams, and a mix of other languages, such as Italian, Greek, Latin, and Provençal. And I learned the seer had a mysterious walnut box that he passed on to his daughter. No one knew what was inside. You can probably guess how the ancient mysteries side of the plot came together from there.
Besides all that background about Nostradamus, I had a great time weaving other facts into the tapestry of this story. The current-day threat in The Doomsday Medallion follows a fictional Chinese tanks-on-the-beach invasion of several contested islands between the mainland and Taiwan, so the novel includes a little factual background around the Chinese Civil War and the ripped-from-the-headlines Chinese fighter jet flyovers that have been happening frequently in the South China Sea.
Once I had the framework of the novel, which is basically two global superpowers trying to gain military supremacy by tracking down a formula hidden by Nostradamus that will allow anyone to see the future, the settings came together like puzzle pieces. The scenes needed to play out in places that the prophet would have had visited. He lived in a pastoral area in the south of France, but traveled widely throughout Europe. The settings also needed to fit the theme. To track down clues, Marshall and Argones visit ancient caves in the south of France, a crypt in Belgium, and a Greek temple. There are shootouts at several Renaissance chapels in Italy, and an extended action scene on foot, jetski, and car that happens in the Marseille harbor.
On the fictional side, one of the characters is of Taiwanese descent and has grandparents who live in Taipei, armed only with kitchen knives and icy determination to fight off an invasion. At the heart of this story, we have a new character, a sixteen-year-old French student who has the gift of prophecy. The girl, Avril, uses a gecko as an avatar in her TikTok video predictions because her face and neck are mutilated by a horrific burn scar. The primary antagonist, Henri Seymore, also known as The Watcher, has been wanting to kidnap Avril for years. When she accurately predicts the invasion, he finally gets his chance…
This Post Has 18 Comments
Wow! Avanti, this is a thriller in all subplots. Sounds like a fabulous story and one that is going onto my TBR list. Thanks for sharing your process!
Hi Margaret, I hope you enjoy the ride!
Holy Cannoli — it sounds great!
🙂 Thank Laurie! It was a blast to write.
What fun when research and coincidences and such come together to make a plot. Of all your characters, Avril intrigues me the most. I always love a strong teen girl rockin’ the plot.
Hey Christine – thanks for your comment. Avril definitely has that strong teen vibe and as such, rules the story in many ways…
I love the way research and puzzles and action come together in your plots. This one is spectacular!
Thanks Saralyn. I do enjoy weaving the history and puzzles into action stories!
Sounds intriguing! I love that you love to research—like me!
Hi Laurie, indeed! I find research adds those details that allow readers to get lost in our stories.
Avanti, isn’t researching so fun and enlightening? I love its “awe” factor. To answer your initial question, I would not want to peek into the future. Peeking would be too nerve wracking for me!
Hi Sherrill – how interesting that you’d turn down the crystal ball! What if it led you to a winning lottery ticket??? 🙂
When I hear “see the future,” I am always intrigued!
Hi Sheila – I agree! Future telling is fascinating. It makes one wonder if Nostradamus really knew how to do it.
Avanti, Doomsday Medallion was a fantastic thrill ride, so it’s interesting to see where your research took you. Can’t wait for the next one!
Thanks Tracey! Hard at work coming up with fun ideas 🙂
Fun glimpse into your research/writing process, thanks!
Thanks for reading and commenting!