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Adriana Koulias talks about her novel Temple of the Grail

Readersvoice.com aims to give people a few good reading tips. You might want to check out some previous issues, too, for more interviews and reading suggestions.There's a bit of a spiritual theme in this issue. I sent off some questions to Adriana Koulias, author of Temple of the Grail (Picador). The novel is a medieval murder mystery, but it's also an introduction to numerous books in philosophical and spiritual classics, medieval history, and esoteric science.Also I caught up with Steve Kilbey at the Queensland Poetry Festival.The author of Earthed, Nineveh, and the Ephemeron (Impressed Publishing), Steve Kilbey is probably best known as a singer-songwriter from the art rock band The Church.His favorite books were of a spiritual nature, too.So for some good reading suggestions, read on...

Temple of the Grail (Picador) by Adriana Koulias is set in the monastery of St. Lazarus high in the Pyrenees in France, 1254.
Andre, a Templar knight, and Christian, his scribe who narrates most of the novel, are sent to oversee an investigation into heretical practices at the monastery.
The inquisition is being conducted by Rainiero Sacconi, who makes life difficult enough for Andre, Christian, and their ally at the monastery, Eisik.
But then the bodies of monks start turning up.
On the surface Temple of the Grail is a murder mystery.

But what really struck me was the amount of reading that went into writing the book.

I asked Adriana Koulias about the writing and researching of Temple of the Grail, and managed to get a wealth of reading suggestions.

Ms Koulias gives a great number of interesting reading suggestions from the fields of history, philosophy, esoteric science, and fiction.

So read on.

READERSVOICE.COM: How did the book start? Was the inspiration for Temple of the Grail a visual image from your memories of visiting monasteries in Spain as a child? What was the trigger for the book and how did it evolve?
ADRIANA KOULIAS: Yes I do think travelling with my parents and seeing monasteries and churches in my youth did influence my love for the middle ages and no doubt contributed to my desire to write a book set in that time.

The trigger for Temple of the Grail came in the form of a picture. I had been reading a lot of history and toying with the idea of writing and I began to imagine a monastery set in a remote corner of the French Pyrenees, secluded from the world, a place both sacred and mysterious, a sanctuary but also in many ways a prison.

I asked myself a question: What secret could it hold that would entice both the interest of the pope, the French king and the Templars?
This question immediately gave birth to another: Who would kill to protect it?
I turned on my computer and set about answering that question.
RV: How did you learn the art of mystery writing and how did you engineer the plot?
AK: I hadn’t intended to write a murder mystery though I had always enjoyed the genre. I like to create atmosphere and my plots are really character driven, so much so that I had written seventy pages before I realised Temple of the Grail was going to be a murder mystery – one of my characters announced it, much to my great astonishment!
This means that I’ve learnt to follow my instincts, to trust that I will know later why a character does something now.
This doesn’t sound very scientific but it does make for a thrilling read since in the case of Temple of the Grail even I didn’t know the identity of the killer until the end.
RV: When you were writing Temple of the Grail did you have a model or map of the monastery of St. Lazarus in front of you?
AK: Yes very early on I realised I would need to make a map of the monastery to keep me from falling over a cliff’s edge when I should be in the garden.

In order to do that I did quite a lot of research on Cistercian monasteries, and their architectural idiosyncrasies.
RV: Is it impossible for people in our time to grasp what life was really like for people in the past, eg. Templar knights and monks in France in 1254, no matter how much research you do, without a time machine? Or do you think research and experience of life now can give an accurate understanding of how things were?
AK: That’s a good question. In order to think like a person from the middle ages you have to ignore most of what you know, that is, you have to forget seven hundred or so years of evolution.
It’s almost like going back to the womb, you have to become child-like, full of awe and wonder because everything still holds a fascination and hasn’t been broken down into atoms.
On the other hand, bloodshed, violence and death were an immediate part of life and I had to imagine its effect on the shaping of character and motivation.
With regards to Christian I had another challenge. I had to think like an old man remembering himself as a youth of sixteen years.
In order to do this I had to call on my own experiences at that age and fuse them with what I could see of my son’s development – all the doubts, fears and hopes that are a part of growing up and the uncanny ability to see what adults often don’t see because they are always thinking.