If you are a reader, you may recognize the name Raymond Khoury from his novel The Last Templar. Born in Beirut as the youngest of three, his family moved to Rye, NY. He returned to Lebanon to study architecture at the American University of Beirut. The civil war erupted again a few weeks after he graduated and he was evacuated in February, 1984, by the Marine Corp’s 22nd Amphibious Unit. After living in London and finding unhappiness with architecture, he found his way to screen writing which then led to his popular series of books. We spoke with him soon after his fifth book, The Devil’s Elixer.
Tell our readers about your background. Where are you from, and how did you start writing for a living?
Raymond: I was born in Beirut, moved to NY for High School, went back to Lebanon study architecture at the American University there, then left again and have been living in London ever since. Writing happened by fluke. I left investment banking with the intention of making movies as a film director, and the route I decided to take to get there was by writing screenplays. The writing took off, and it became harder and harder to turn down paid work to gamble and try and set up a movie I would direct myself … but one day, who knows?!
Other than the book you’ve just published, THE DEVIL’S ELIXIR what else have you written that may not be as well known?
Raymond: This is my fifth novel, bringing back characters from my first book, THE LAST TEMPLAR, and my fourth, its sequel THE TEMPLAR SALVATION. Less well known in the US is a BBC television series about spies that’s huge in the UK, it’s called Spooks there (and MI:5 in the US).
Where did you get the idea for THE DEVIL’S ELIXIR? Tell us about your favorite scene.
Raymond: Hmmm… a tough question to answer without giving a major spoiler about the story! Let’s just say the theme at the core of the book (reincarnation and what we really, scientifically, know about it) is something I’ve wanted to explore for a while, and the story just sprang from that. My favorite scene: one of the characters is drugged with a terrifying hallucinogen and let loose in a busy shopping mall…
Tell us about your writing process: how do you write (paper, keyboard, voice recorder)? How do you approach a book (outline, mind-map, just write, begin at the end)? Where do you do your best writing (your office, curled up in bed, in public spaces)?
Raymond: MacBook Pro with Microsoft Word for Mac. Very, very broad outline, really only a vague notion of key emotional or story beats I know will be reached during the story, but no outline, I just let the characters and the story unfurl organically. And best writing place? On a sailboat floating in the middle of the Med…!
In what ways did your childhood influence you as a writer? As a person?
Raymond: I was an avid consumer of movies and television, comic books, and European graphic novels (like Tintin) and all of it just ingrained storytelling, and story structure, into me. It also instilled a sense of scale, of pacing, of arena, of big canvases and epic stories, that I put in my novels. As a person … I have a wild, overactive imagination that sometimes takes me places I’d rather avoid…
Most writers are also avid readers. What authors did you read as a child? What authors do you read today? Do you have a favorite book or author?
Raymond: As a child, and apart from the comics I mentioned, I read The Hardy Boys, then Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald, then Lawrence Block, and Robert Ludlum. These days, I also enjoy Chuck Hogan, Don Winslow, Colin Harrison, Carlos Ruiz Zafon, Lee Child, Michael Connelly and Brad Meltzer.
Now is YOUR opportunity to tell us what we missed! What question should we have asked, that we didn’t (and what’s the answer to it)?
Raymond: If you could be doing anything you liked, what would it be? And the answer to that is, I’d be working at Pixar, basically hanging out there and bouncing around movie ideas with the geniuses who brought us Toy Story, The Incredibles, Up, etc., etc… The Spanish Buzz Lightyear scene in Toy Story 3? Nuff said…