“The Vril Codex” by Ben Manning is an unsual and to me a highly original read. While the main protagonist is a widower and tries to overcome his grief with a work trip to Berlin, the plot edges into paranormal area and sheds light on some supernatural cult around Hitler and his hardcore followers. I have read quite a few stories and articles about it, all handled as rumours, but their existence is so persistent that the plot – speculative conspiracy as it may be – sounds very plausible to me. The book is well written and held my interest throughout. The most pleasant aspects of the book are that the characters are so real and believable, more dimensional and that the storyline is far from flat, as I find so often with books in the genre. I found it a compelling and fascinating read.
Your novel has quite an unusual theme. Can you explain it to my readers quickly. How did you hear about it and when did you decide to write this story?
Sure I was influenced to write this novel series – the Vril Chronicles – by reading “Morning of the Magicians”- a cult new age book that covered everything from secret societies to the unexplained. It was strangely written and published back in 1962 ish but influenced me as did a rather tacky but interesting history channel documentary aired in 2009. It was in 09 that I completed my first draft, which I rewrote at author workshops in 2010. Then I got it published in 2011 and 2012 but the final edition with a reputable publisher has come out in 2013.
How did you research for it? Especially since so much of the information is contested. What was the most fascinating aspect in the research and the writing for you?
I enjoyed travelling to Germany a lot and finding obscure libraries and meeting characters that influenced the book. To be honest the internet was useful but I enjoyed meeting real people such as Anthony J Hilder who is probably the most unusual conspiracy theorist out there with a fascinating past in entertainment. I also wrote off to lots of obscure people and cults to differentiate what I was writing with what’s really out there, when it comes to Vril. There are some rare books on the subject but not a lot is out there. Not many people realize the esoteric traits of Hitler and especially Himmler, either with the Vril Society or the Thule Society or the Black Sun. There is some on youtube and many obscure pamphlets were printed about it after the war.
Were the plot and subplots completely planned from the start or did they change during the process, and if so, how?
Well the plot was kind of roughly planned but I added to it as I went along. I knew nothing much had been written on Vril and the Nazi’s but paranormal Nazi’s have been written on a lot – from Indiana Jones to James Herbert – so I wanted to create my own myths and figures rather than just using Norse myth and Hitler. That would have been obvious; they were just the starting point. Hence my characters such as Helena Hister and the whole mythos around that, that I invented. More recently there have been a few more vril novels out there but it is still few and far between. There are hundred on the spear of destiny and the Nazi’s for example. As I often say – mine was the first ever on vril and the nazi’s – a fact I am proud of.
This is part of a series. How many books will there be and can you tell us where this will be going – without any spoilers?
Well part 2 was self-published in 2012 but that will have a proper final release, possibly with Double Dragon Publishing. That is set in Dresden and is called the Dresden Benefactor. It is more of a mystery and the one I am working on right now is more of a thriller perhaps.
How did you choose the characters for the story?
I wanted characters people could relate to. It is hard trying to be original because you have to produce characters that are familiar so to an extent they have to be based on universal types. I did base Warwick Blake – a psychic archaeologist – on the late Michael Baigent who was co-author of “The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail”.
How did you come to writing in the first place? Apart from this historically themed blend did you have other genres in mind, too?
I wouldn’t call the Vril series historical fiction as it is set in the present but yes there are historical elements. I did think of making it more science fiction like because of the aliens and UFO’s but then the whole vril universe is very “Fantasy” too – couple that with the fact that there are paranormal romance elements and crime thriller ones that we have one of the strength’s to critics a possible weakness . It is primarily a thriller but does genre hop. But why not break the rules?!
I wrote short stories as a small child and poetry (cringe!) and as a teen and in my twenties mainly did journalism. Then in my thirties I decided to turn to novels as I felt the need to be creative.
Who is your favourite character and why?
This is simply because he is an interesting outsider. I imagine him portrayed by Michael Gambon.
Are you like any of the characters (and how so)?
I guess Bob is loosely based on me. Make of that what you will!
Did you have any say in the cover art and who was that process?
To be honest both covers came largely from my idea. I still do not think there has been a definitive cover and vril 2 and 3 are yet to have a professional cover done. I do like vril codex’s second “alien” cover most which I designed with Riley Steel.
What are the best and the worst aspects of writing?
Best aspect is when people like it and the worse is when people don’t but then no writer in history is liked by everyone. I love the creative highs but I don’t like the writer’s block lows. I am also dyslexic which makes me a slow writer.
How do you balance marketing one book and writing the next?
With difficulty! I know the internet has opened up some opportunities but it is also a boon to criminal publishers. I worked in marketing and part of me is repulsed by mixing it with my creative side. In the past, if you had the money to self-publish – pre web – marketing had to be done by the writer or paid for. These days whether you self – publish or go with a publisher you still have to promote which is kind of a shame as it used to be more the domain of marketing at the publishers.
What do you do when you don’t write?
I am a keen actor.
What would be the cast in a Hollywood or British film?
Michael Gambon or Bill Nighy as Warwick
Rufus Sewell as Bob – depending on budget! If not – me!
Romola Garai as Jane
Who are your biggest influences?
Hammer Horror and Amicus – Vincent Price, Peter Cushing ect…
Which are your favourite books and authors?
I have always loved I Claudius by Robert Graves.
Other favourites are Douglas Adams, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, James Herbert and Isaac Asimov.
I would also pick Roald Dahl as an author and Samuel Taylor Coleridge as a poet. Dahl always fascinated me with his short stories for “Tales of the unexpected” on the TV from “someone like you” and “kiss kiss” – but what im most impressed by is that he could write, horror, humour –in a book like “my uncle Oswald” and for children with stories like “Charlie and the chocolate factory”. I think he understood the way people think – in terms of how children feel and react and also the very adult world of intrigue, where there is always a moral twist. A tribute I wrote to both him and Coleridge is at the Roald Dahl museum here in the UK.
ST Coleridge – I would love to know his theories on the universe and life in general, as well as the subconscious and life after death. Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner is incredible and I used to work at his cottage where he lived in 1797 and wrote it.
Douglas Adams – “The Hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy” Aldous Huxley –”Brave new World”
Voltaire – “Candide” *** Charles Dickens –”A Christmas Carol” *** George Orwell – 1984
*** Edgar Allen Poe – Murders in the Rue Morgue *** Mary Shelley – Frankenstein.
Which indie writers can you recommend?
Terry Ravenscroft. His books make me laugh a lot.
What would you take to an isolated island?
Who would you like to invite for dinner?
What else would you like us to know about yourself and your books?
I am in a forthcoming major horror film called “Zombie Snuff Movies” and I am interviewed in the major magazine “Haunted after Dark” who are sponsors of the British Horror film festival held in Leicester Square, London.
New from DOUBLE DRAGON publishing…the number one award winning publisher…the VRIL Codex…a paranormal thriller and the first to ever be written on vril and the Nazi’s…conspiracies and norse myth…