Alen Paul Silverrstieen is a global serial entrepreneur with over 20 years experience & is the current CEO & founder of Imagination Park Technologies Inc., an augmented reality cloud enterprise platform . . .
International & New York Times bestselling author Steve Berry is one of our most popular & successful thriller writers with over 20 million books in print in over 50 countries around the world. History is at the heart of every thriller he writes . . . more.
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Alen Paul Silverrstieen is a global serial entrepreneur with over 20 years’ experience & is the current CEO & founder of Imagination Park Technologies Inc., an augmented reality cloud enterprise platform.
Previously, he founded Recruitment USA/India software rms which leveraged artificial intelligence & machine learning to optimize job candidate sourcing. Alen Paul has also represented one of the leading Indian post-production studios & contracted over 60 Hollywood movies in the past five years.
Alen Paul is known as one of the pioneers of North American prepaid communications leading his company to an IPO on NASDAQ within three years & executing license deals with MLB, Marvel, NHL, Led Zeppelin, and many others.
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Steve Berry is the New York Times and #1 internationally bestselling author of The Malta Exchange,The Bishop’s Pawn, The Lost Order, The 14th Colony, The Patriot Threat, The Lincoln Myth, The King’s Deception, The Columbus Affair, The Jefferson Key, The Emperor’s Tomb, The Paris Vendetta, The Charlemagne Pursuit, The Venetian Betrayal, The Alexandria Link, The Templar Legacy, The Third Secret,The Romanov Prophecy, and The Amber Room. His books have been translated into 40 languages with 25,000,000 copies in 51 countries. They consistently appear in the top echelon of The New York Times, USA Today, and Indie bestseller lists.
History lies at the heart of every Steve Berry novel. It’s his passion, one he shares with his wife, Elizabeth, which led them to create History Matters, a foundation dedicated to historic preservation. Since 2009 Steve and Elizabeth have crossed the country to save endangered historic treasures, raising money via lectures, receptions, galas, luncheons, dinners and their popular writers’ workshops. To date, over 3,000 students have attended those workshops and nearly a million dollars raised.
Steve’s devotion to historic preservation was recognized by the American Library Association, which named Steve its spokesperson for National Preservation Week. Among his other honors are the Royden B. Davis Distinguished Author Award; the Barnes & Noble Writers for Writers Award given by Poets & Writers; the Anne Frank Human Writes Award; and the Silver Bullet, bestowed by International Thriller Writers for his philanthropic work. He has also been chosen both the Florida and Georgia Writer of the Year. He also is an emeritus member of the Smithsonian Libraries Advisory Board. In 2010, a NPR survey named The Templar Legacy one of the top 100 thrillers ever written.
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Full Episode Transcript
Are you ready for an open discussion with the best of the best and the best of what’s next? Welcome to the Tony DUrso Show join in on a great conversation today with some of the world’s great influencers as they showcase great advice and techniques that made them the game changers they are today. Now here’s Tony DUrso.
Allen Paul Silverrstein
Welcome. I’m your host Tony DUrso, I interviewed some of the top entrepreneurs in the world and I thank you for joining us. I broadcast every Friday at 2:00 PM Pacific on Voice America’s Influencers channel and you can listen to all of our shows on your android or apple device. Go to tonydurso.com/mobile and get the app, Tony d u r s o.com/mobile before we get going, here’s a big thank you to some amazing sponsors of our show. Please stay tuned for an important message from Wix to see how easy you can build a website, whether a novice or a pro. Get a free design to more info on them. Just the head. So please stay tuned. Today show is with Allen, Paul Silverrstein and Steve Berry, Imagination Park and the Malta Exchange.
All right, here’s some info on Allen Paul Silverrstein. Allen Paul is a global serial entrepreneur with over 20 years experience and is the current CEO and founder of Imagination Park Technologies Inc an augmented reality cloud enterprise platform. There we go. Welcome to the show, Allen. I am very excited to talk about augmented reality. I’ve been through the videos. This is a trip and an honor to have you. Thanks for being on our show.
Thank you very much, Tony. I greatly appreciate your taking the time and have us on the show and discuss all the new and exciting things that are happening in the world of augmented reality, which is a pretty fast moving technical field these days.
It is. I’m going to ask the audience several times, check out the videos of what this is. It’s absolutely mind-blowing, but before we get into it any more, Allen, the first thing I’d like to know is how did it all start for you? What’s your backstory?
Related to augmented reality of life before augmented reality Tony?
The life of Allen,
The life before. I’ll leave my family out of it. My mom will tell it to him when he’s stories coming from New York. But if you go back to my past, I think some of the key areas of growth and excitement that I had in one of my previous projects was one of the original founders of the prepaid phone card industry of the United States. And I actually started that business on my kitchen table outside of New York and initially started walking the streets around New York and the urban areas looking to sell plastic cards when no one even knew what a phone card was.
Absolutely amazing. So it’s your fault, huh?
My fault it started back then, but actually grew exponentially big. We didn’t take the direction of most other companies back then. People still trying to understand what a phone card was. I actually partnered with a pretty well-known person, Shelly Finkel, he’s a boxing promoter. He was the manager of Pernell Whitaker Evander Holyfield and other very famous fighters and in conjunction with him as well as financing through him. We were able to go out and secure a lot of the major licenses in the world of phone cards. So if you ever saw our phone card with marvel entertainment, Spiderman or Major League baseball work with Mickey Mail before he died, US Post Office, we put those images on cards and that became the key to our success and grow the company very quickly and ultimately went public on Nasdaq within three years from founding the company.
Absolutely phenomenal. Very impressive what a career.
Well, I have, well, actually, funny enough, the story that always goes with that is how I met Shelly, which is, I actually own the Muhammad Ali robe he wore for the Zaire Foreman fight, the rumble in the jungle and actually ended up selling that to Shelly. And that’s how we got together and began building the phone card business through the following years.
Thanks for sharing all that. And so now you’ve stumbled upon augmented reality if I said that right. You also referred to it as AR.
Absolutely correct. Yeah. So most of your audience, most people are familiar with when Pokemon Go was big in July, 2016 and everyone’s running around and it was all in the news, people running around with their phones collecting Pokemon Go characters and that business alone generating I think, well over $1 billion since it was founded, but that was really the keystone AR event and Ar, meaning I download an app to my phone and utilizing the app, I either point to something or either I’m at a specific location and then I get an activation digitally means something shows up on my screen.
And in that case, back in Pokemon go, it was a cartoon character of all the Pokemon and that really became the intro to augmented reality around the world. We’re now three years later plus, and the industry has exploded and grown significantly since then. No longer delivering cartoons, but the ability to overlay youtube videos, coupons, sweepstakes interaction, images, anything you want while your phone is either pointing at something in the real world or you’re at a certain location, either one of those. So it’s really becoming a new engagement and activation opportunity for businesses. And we built one of the most comprehensive platforms for augmented reality we’ve been building over the last couple of years and its focus is being a very simple activation, meaning any business anywhere in the world that wants to create an ar experience to promote their business, their product, their service can utilize our platform and create an air experience in minutes, which is pretty cool through the phone and since most consumers and people around the world hold onto their phones for like for dear life, 24 hours a day and seven days a week, it’s a great way to engage and activate with your target, but also get the information about those people you capture the email address and other information.
So it really becomes an ability to measure your campaigns and the ability to connect with people in a new way. Ar really looked to be the next digital communication channel. I remember decades ago, Tony, like when people were building websites and when they first started, nobody knew even why they needed a website and they spent extraordinary amounts of money building those websites. Now you’re not even in business unless you have a website. This is where ar is. AR is moving to be a standard, one of the communication channels like social media, AR is going to be there as well. The ability to connect and communicate and deliver those kinds of messages directly to consumers wherever they are. We focus on consumer brands, we focus even on sports teams that want to engage with their fans at the stadium as well as when they leave the stadium. So Ar really is becoming that next level interaction and initially, it’ll be on the phone and that’s how Pokemon Go began and it’ll continue this way through our platform and some other products. But as we go forward into the future, Apple, Microsoft, they’ll be coming out with wearable lenses that you actually wear around, like you’re wearing glasses and as you walk around, the AR will be delivered through your phone to the glasses that you’re wearing as you walk around the real world and interact.
Very impressive. And for our audience, if you go to imaginationpark.com you’ll see some amazing videos on this product. This is something you have to see and experience. And by the way, the music is really good too. So check that imaginationpark.com. Now, Allen, this seems to be something that is important for businesses to promote, to give coupons, to give discounts. How do consumers take advantage of it? I know you say we could walk around with glasses, but do we need to walk around with our cell phone and how can we tell when a business we go to has an ar experience at their location?
That’s an excellent question, Tony. So, and that’s part of the adoption and education in the marketplace right now. Apple, Google, Facebook, Snapchat, Microsoft they’re spending hundreds of millions of dollars on augmented reality to educate and get the technology out into the market. The people that get engaged and use it, AR activations have to occur when you are notified, right? You can’t just be walking around with a phone and say, hey, there’s an AR here. There could be a physical sign at a location or promote it in print or through social media of a business or where the sticker outside the window. But if you download our app, which is called Xeno play, x, e, n, o, p, l, a, y, it’s in both mobile stores today, IOS and Apple. It will give you a notification that there is an AR near you, we actually call it the AR hot zone.
So if you’re in specific locations where AR has been set up, you’ll be notified through your mobile phone that there’s an in your experience for you to enjoy while you’re there. Whether again, whether it be an ability to receive a coupon, enter sweepstakes, or see something visual entertaining like a Hologram or a dancing character. All those are capable of being delivered direct to the consumer to enjoy, and that’s what it’s all about. It’s engagement. It’s a new way of gamification for people enjoying their phones and for businesses. It’s a new way to connect rather than putting out the static type of coupons or static advertising or even posting to social media and saying, okay, how do I measure the direct result of that messaging? How do I get it out? So AR is a way to do that, to connect with people and then measure it in a campaign.
We talked to a number of retail brands and they are looking at how do I know when someone walks through the store, they look at my item they get activated and maybe I get a recipe. How do I know if that’s effective that’s on get it. Did they activate it? Can I measure it? Can I see what they did? And where in the locations when I run these kinds of campaigns, are they happening? Are they certain geographic territories, certain markers? All of this is the new methodology that’s coming and ultimately augmented reality grows, the integration of artificial intelligence and AI will occur. That’ll start fine tuning those kinds of interactions and engagement if that makes sense to you.
It does. It’s very, very interesting. Allen and a preponderance of my audience are entrepreneurs, solopreneurs, small business owners as well as corporate level executives. And we do have people who are career minded looking for something. How can the average consumer take advantage of this? I’m just not sure where they would go with this. Could you give us some help on that?
Absolutely, that’s a great idea. And when we look at AR, it can be used in a multitude of opportunities you can use to promote a business. It could be used for education, it can be used for promotion. We had, for example, we have a college that’s going to use it for recruiting students to their school. So when they go around to do student tour, they’ll have their phone pointed signs at buildings or certain locations and a video. We’ll play all about that school, like the school of business and the chairman of school tell them why that school’s been successful and alumni stories.
It’s a way to communicate. So when businesses want to get their messages out, there’s a couple of ways they could do it. They could say, how do I promote myself? Well, maybe I wrote a book, so if I point my phone at the cover of the book, I can have youtube videos that I can post up that automatically get engaged when someone points their phone at that book whether, on a weekly or a monthly basis, it’s a way to engage in further promote themselves or even pointing at websites or digital signage. So when you look at the entrepreneur world, AR is going to be a fast growing, exponentially growing industry. It’s going to be pretty significant. NAACOS I’m saying it because we’re doing it, but when you look at all the reports and the analysis out there, whether it’s Goldman Sachs or other highly respected investment firms, everyone’s looking towards augmented reality be a significant new revolution that’s going to generate significant amounts of revenue.
Organizations, entrepreneurs can even contact imagination park to see how they can get involved in potentially reselling or doing a sales referral program that we have set up for them to get involved in taking AR to their network, their relationship should their target audiences and we help train them and teach them how to take AR and how to set up campaigns effectively. What we built as a platform that can be used by almost anyone without any technical knowledge and that’s the key. It’s the ability to focus on delivering the content, the messaging and the connection. We provide the entire foundation platform to deliver that in an easy to way fashion using menus. All the content that people have is actually staying up in the cloud and it comes down and deliver it to the phone when required. Tied to whether it’s pointing your phone at something or it’s your certain location.
It can be used for tourists we could use for restaurants. If I pointed the sign outside a restaurant, it can provide coupons to me. It can give me a video of the top dishes that they serve at the restaurant. It’s any type of communication, education, recruitment, sports engagement in a stunning industrial consumer brand. It’s almost endless and the key is for entrepreneurs when they look at augmented reality at a fine-tune their messaging and focus really in a sniper fashion, how they want to get their message out there and communicate to their audience and focus on that engagement. That activation allows them to build that relationship and that’s what AR is going to be about and that’s why it is such a significant interest these days out in the market.
This is the Tony DUrso show just ahead the chat continues with Allen Paul Silverrstein and Steve Berry Imagination Park and the Malta exchange. But first, it’s time for us to take a short break. See you back here in just a moment.
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All right, we’re back on the Tony DUrso Show today’s shows with Allen, Paul Silverrstein and Steve Berry, Imagination Park and the Malta Exchange. Previously Allen Paul founded recruitment USA, India Software Firms, which leveraged artificial intelligence and machine learning to optimize job candidate sourcing. Allen Paul also represented one of the leading Indian post-production studios and contracted over 60 Hollywood movies in the past five years. All right, and now back to the chat with Allen is very interesting. Allen and you said something earlier about someone can point the phone to even a website and receive what other information, discount coupons or other experiences that website owner or company wants the consumer to know about.
Exactly. Isn’t that great? Like so you can put out special messaging tied to even your website or your social media. When the way Ar works is when you point the phone, there are two ways to activate it. One is called a marker based. The market means an unusual image, a shape, a company logo, a picture, something that has a lot of contrast to it. So when the phone with our app Xenoplay points at it, it recognizes it and then it knows what content that business delivered with that to directly to that consumer or the person who’s reading it. The second way is called location based. So if I want to set up the interaction of a commercial with coupons for a chain of stores, you just load it up into the cloud and it’s delivered to the phone, insulate to anyone who’s nearby there. They get notification of it.
But yes, it works on websites. It worked in social media, the digital signage industry. We got a number of relationships in the digital signage industry because when people pass by digital signs, how do you know they looked at it? How do you know they’re engaged or had the opportunity to understand the messaging? Well, if you overlay augmented reality, whether it’s a digital sign or even a flat sign, you can overlay an ar message right in front of it, almost like a virtual billboard right in front of the physical sign. So it’s another way to interact and overlay an additional message beyond just what’s there and then delivers that business opportunity. Whether again, it’s the coupon or we also have a sweepstakes engine built in, enter into sweepstakes.
When we look at sports teams, we’ve been talking to, they want fan engagement, they want the fans to come to the ballpark. You want to visit around the Ballpark, they want to engage them. We can create on our platform scavenger hunt similar to the Pokemon go scavenger hunt. You could do your own throughout a whole ballpark. They could do, you know, famous plays and moments from that team and put them out throughout the entire ballpark and people go find them as a scavenger hunt and we have a built-in scoreboard and whoever wins, wins and autograph baseball or some other piece of memorabilia. So it’s a lot of flexibility and capability that’s built into the platform. It’s all made and driven, but an entrepreneurial mind really could see this opportunity significantly to go out there and build, whether it’s a communication channel for themselves, for the services or with clients they’re working with, leveraging AR and mobile phones. And what you mentioned before, Tony was pretty funny. It’s like how do people, you know to use their phones? I don’t know anyone who doesn’t carry their phone 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I think that’s, that’s kind of a point that people put them in their bed as well. Besides when the carrying around all the time.
Oh, there’s no doubt about it. The person doesn’t go out of their house anymore without his cell phone. I’m certain about that. I was referring to, how does a person know when there’s an ar experience and, I understand now that the app can be set up to let the person know, hey, check it out. There’s something here. And it gives them a notification.
The standard notifications you have and all the other kinds. Exactly. And that’s how it operates. Now as we continue to grow the AR community, the way our platform works is saying I’m sitting in a certain city and there’s a promotion by company ABC. And as I’m going around, I happened by another company that may have set one up. I’m already notified saying, Hey, I’ve got a notification that you have seen a play. There’s another AR experience for you locally, right near here that you can enjoy as well. So there’s some cross-pollination that allows each of the communities to help build and work off each other. And right now AR is new. It needs that. It needs to build a community, build the interaction and the air companies, we’ve got to build exciting new things to interact and engage with as well. So we built this platform is pretty unique. We’ve actually filed patents on it. And by the way, Tony, we’re actually a Canadian public company. We’re listed on the CSC under the stocks of Bill IP. We’re also listed on the OTC QB here in the US so we are a public company and if people think ar is something of interest to them and it has a tremendous future, you can also invest in a company like ourselves who are focused solely on the augmented reality marketplace around the world.
That is absolutely fascinating. And Allen and can the consumer at this point program what they want? For example, can I go in and program it? Is it at that stage or does your company have to program whatever I need per my needs, let’s say for myself, for my podcast?
Exactly. That’s a great question. So the way we built it is any business, there’s no programming involved. It’s all menu driven. You can create an AR activation in minutes, Tony, whether it’s pointing to your website or if you wrote a book or you send out brochures, you can activate any of those and you don’t need a programmer, you don’t need to it to the mobile store. You can just use you know, Xenoplay activated and when it points to your particular website or your specific book it white labels immediately and puts your branding all over it so you don’t even have to worry about detaching your branding to any activation. It won’t be generic. It’ll be your messaging, your branding, your logo, your information. We really built it as a strong platform that in a sense gives any small or medium-size businesses an opportunity to an AR activation with their logo as if they are one of the fortunes 100 at yet a cost that extraordinarily economic and affordable and as we proceed forward, we’re looking to build this as we go forward to become ultimately a self-service platform that people create AR activation in minutes don’t even need to talk to anyone.
That’s amazing Allen. Can we go to imaginationpark.com right now to sign up and find out how to implement that for our business, our book, or whatever?
Absolutely you could just go onto the contact us section and just send an email. We have a sales team and we’re expanding and then we will get back to you very quickly and then we’ll set up how to move ahead. Whether as a referral program or reseller or even if you’re interested in your own business to do your own AR activations. I’m a, you know, if I’m a retail store single one or a chain, how do I get that opportunity to provide that cool engagement, activation, sweepstakes, scavenger hunts or just even doing AR activations pointing at something and get a message from yourself to the customers.
It’s a really cool way and a new way to activate and engage with people and it’s leveraging the mobile phones with everybody is walking around with already so it ties together very nicely. It’s very advanced and ar is going to take another bump this summer, the same group Night Tannic that launched Pokemon go in 2016 they’re launching their version of Harry Potter this summer. So that Harry Potter, you’ll see again a tremendous response in the market with people running around doing Harry Potter as augmented reality on the phone. But that will further educate consumers and businesses about the exciting things you could do with ar engage with it, interact and that should help take the AR to a whole new level. It’s pretty exciting. It’s, it’s fun to do and it’s something that we’ve been preparing for the last couple of years and we’re ready to go and serve as many companies and businesses and brands that are ready to put the own AR activations on phones. And again, the key is you don’t need a program with our platform, which makes us extraordinarily unique in the marketplace.
I absolutely love it. Again, I urge everyone to go to imagination park.com these videos are amazing. And by the way, Allen, there’s a movie trailer on the site. What’s that all about? Cause there’s no AR. So I thought I’d ask am I supposed to pick up my phone now and pointed at it.
No as when imagination park was originally started in a number of years ago. It actually started as a content company focused on creating movie original movie content and selling it. And if any of your listeners saw on Netflix in November, it was the kindergarten teacher starring Maggie Gillan Hall. We were actually involved in the production of that movie. We’re also involved, there’s a movie coming out this spring or summer and it’s called The Informant and that is also another area that we have been in.
So we came from the content side, which is also important because as you go into augmented reality, it’s all about the cool interaction, the visual engagement that you do. And we have a background in that area. We have production resources both here in the United States and offshore. That can create some cool interactions holographically as well as visually for our clients. So we kind of show where we came from, our roots and as we go and build up, and recently we just became a Microsoft partner as well for augmented reality. So we’ll be working in conjunction with them and their sales teams as well throughout North America.
Allen, I am blown away by this and I get this visual now of using those glasses while I could use the phone going to a movie or watching a movie on TV on Netflix, at the theaters and seen and a dish and getting receiving and the additional experience, is that coming out? Is that available now? Where’s that?
You hit it where it’s going. So when you look at the movie theaters, they’re having a very challenging time now as well as malls. We recently did a mall of America scavenger hunt for the holiday season because malls need to drive people in. You know, the online businesses have had a significant negative impact on real estate and malls and retail stores. AR is a great way to provide a new engagement, new gamification within that environment in the mall of America. They set up a 10-foot nutcracker and rocket ships and stuff throughout the entire mall. And then they had on her map to go find those AR interactions and share them a new way of engagement. And by the way, you know they had a sweepstake tied to it so somebody would win a free gift card. This is going to be some of the future for malls, but also movie theaters. Movie theaters have been doing the 3D for years.
This is the Tony DUrso Show. Just ahead the chat continues with Allen Paul Silverrstein and Steve Berry Imagination Park and the Malta exchange. But first, it’s time for us to take a short break. See you back here in just a moment.
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All right, we’re back on the Tony DUrso Show today shows with Allen Paul Silverrstein and Steve Berry Imagination Park and The Malta exchange. And now back to the chat with our guests.
Now, what you just said is where it’s going, where I could sit in a movie theater and I’ve got my glasses on. But again, that number economically has to come down and make it more cost effective. But we’re not going to be there for a number of years. But imagine I was sitting and watching Jurassic Park version 19 I don’t know what movie will be out by then and while I’m sitting there I’ll turn my head to the right and there’ll be a dinosaur walking down the aisle or there’ll be additional information from coming to screen of types of dinosaurs or what’s coming or different plot lines. That is where it is going and that is what’s going to happen. So it’s a pretty exciting time as we go forward and you’re going to see that kind of intersection of entertainment with augmented reality, with the visual glasses all combined together with an edge.
Not only AR, but AI will be part of it as well. So it’ll help launch and direct the future as those engagements start to occur. So it’s a pretty exciting time. It’s going to grow very quickly. AR is already growing. We get a tremendous amount of interest already from a multitude of companies and sports and brands. Right now, everybody’s looking from a business standpoint or next level engagement beyond just social media and AR seems to be the focus and of tremendous interest to all of these companies today.
This is absolutely amazing, Allen. Once this starts going at a movie at a sports park, and other people see those with the glasses, having this additional experience, well, everybody’s going to want to get down and they’ll feel left out. They’re like, what am I missing? It’s gonna create a panic and a rush.
You know, it’s funny when you talk to people who’ve been in the AR space, we always call it the minority report event, the Tom Cruise movie. When you’re walking around with the glasses and the contacts and you see the overlay of information, and actually there were some great articles, a actually recently in Wired Magazine and the writer called , a professor from a Harvard’s former term, the mirror world, that for everything that exists in the world, there’ll be an augmented reality overlay of digital information of that item, and they call it the mirror world is calming and you’ll be able to interact with it. You’ll be able to engage with it and that is going to be the next level as we go forward. And right now when you look at the things that can happen in AR, you could do games with it, you can interact with these items, you can take selfies with holograms, you know, these things are coming.
The millennials, they’re familiar with Snapchat. There’s a lot of great filters on it. But what I’m talking about with the are that we provide a platform and where the future is, is to monetize a drive revenue and engagement and relationship besides entertainment. So it has a direct impact on your business. The malls need something to get people on. Imagine I could do an Easter egg hunt scavenger on in a mall that gives out coupons and so on is entered into a sweepstakes or movie theaters that go forward to do away where AR is engaging right now. It’ll be phone driven, it’s mobile base, but in the next three to five years it will grow ultimately to glasses and our platform is prepared and could deliver those messages both in mobile and in wearables as we go forward. So we’re prepared for now as we continue to grow as well as the future of the market of augmented reality.
Very impressive, this is Allen Paul Silverrstein. He’s the CEO and founder of Imagination Park Technologies Inc and listen to this interview again and get the information on the stock market. They’re public in Canada. Check it out. Go to imagination park.com I’m blown away and I really do like that music.
Absolutely. Thank you for having us on Tony greatly appreciate it. I hope your audience has the opportunity to, check out our website. Take a look at our, we’re a public company on the CSC as well as on OTC QB. Have you believed AR is going to be the next big thing? Well, here’s a company that is totally dedicated to the world of AR. It’s exciting and one thing I can say confidently is that in the next 12 months, everyone who’s on the phone is absolutely going to have an AR experience. It doesn’t matter if they’re not familiar with it now, it’s going to grow that big. They’re all going to experience AR.
Amazing, thanks once again. Thank you, Allen.
Thank you Tony.
And now we have Steve Berry joining us. International and New York Times bestselling author. Steve Berry is one of our most popular and successful thriller writers with over 20 million books in print in over 50 countries around the world. History is at the heart of every thriller he writes, here we go. Welcome to the show, Steve, so great to have you on back again with another blockbuster, The Malta Exchange. How are you today?
Steve: Doing very well, thank you, sir.
The honor is mine. Your book has been on the New York Times, this latest book, The Malta Exchange been on the New York Times for at least three weeks now running. And by the time this interview hits, who knows where. So again, hats off to you for an amazing story and I want to just mention right off the bat that when I got an advanced copy of your book, my wife who’s an avid reader snatched it from my hands and just devoured in it and absolutely loved it. So I just wanted to mention that to you and the readers. If you want a great thriller, you want to like really sink your teeth into something. This book has it. We’re going to talk more about that seat, but I just wanted to mention that.
Steve: Thank you
You’re very welcome and as we have a growing audience, some new members, maybe, maybe some members not familiar with you. Let’s kind of go and step back a moment. Tell us a little bit about you and how did you get into this? What’s your back, story.
Steve: I was a lawyer for 30 years and when I was 35 years old, I wrote my first word. I started kind of late in life. But from the day I wrote my first word to the day I sold my first word was 12 years. I wrote eight manuscripts. During that time, five went to New York houses. They were rejected 85 times. So, I made it in the 86th time, 12 years after I started. And that was with the Amber Room in 2003, which was my first published book. Since then, there have been 17 more, 14 of those or Cotton Malone in the Cotton Malone series. And the books have grown and done very well and I’m not a lawyer anymore and I get to write thrillers. My thrillers are action, history, secrets, conspiracies, I take something from the past, something forgotten, something you may not know a lot about and I’m hoping you want to know more about. And then I weave a modern-day thriller around this historical thing. And this book is the example that I take The Knights of Malta and it’s a 900-year-old organization and I, weave a modern-day thriller around them,
I would like to mention to the audience that at the very end of the book is something called Writers Note where you actually go over painstakingly everything that’s true and or what you’ve created in order to weave the story. Absolutely amazing the amount of true stuff that you have in here.
Steve: Well, that’s my niche. My niche is as I keep my story about 90% to history, I keep it as close to history as I can. I have to trip it up a little bit because I’m writing a novel and I’m here to entertain you. And that’s why I put the Writer’s Note in the back to tell you exactly what’s true and what’s false so that when you’re finished, you can fill in those final gaps and you leave the book knowing what’s real and what’s not. But what you’re going to be surprised when you read that note is about 90% of what’s in the novel is true.
That’s right. Very surprisingly, and I must say there are so many facts and there’s so much information, it’s hard to remember it all. It’s like, how do you do it?
Steve: Well, you just have to, it takes 18 months process to write one of these novels. So it’s a long process and during that time I read the novel about 50 plus times. So, I go through it pretty thoroughly. I know it so much. I know it by heart. I read it so much that I actually never want to read it again. As long as I live like other people to read it, I’ve read it more than enough. So, I’m very intimate with the story. I’m very close to the story. I do all my own research. Everything is done by me. There’s no big staff. There’s nothing there. It’s just me.
That’s absolutely amazing. I think you are your best fan having read the book over 50 times.
Steve: Yeah. Well and very, fortunately, one of the rules of writing is rewriting. And so you have to go over and over and over a manuscript to Polish it up as best you can. And for me, that’s around 50 plus times.
I understand that with my own book. So. Totally agree on that. That’s amazing. Steve, you’ve written so many novels, so many good thrillers with Cotton Malone. Let’s take it from the beginning. What inspired you to write the Malta Exchange?
Steve: Well, I did three religion books. I did a third secret, which dealt with the Catholic Church. I did the Templar legacy, which dealt with the Protestants. And then I did the Alexandria Link, which dealt with the Jews and the Arabs. And so I kinda covered a wide spectrum. And then I did the Lincoln Myths, which dealt with the Mormon. So I, I’ve covered a pretty wide spectrum, even though the Lincoln Myths, not really a religious book, it’s still involved, the Mormons. But I had one other story with religion that I wanted to do and I was curious to see that no one had ever done it. No one had ever touched this particular, so what the thing that matters today and this aspect of religion were very interesting to me and I held it for years waiting to see if anybody was going to do anything nobody ever did.
So I decided to do it myself. And it revolves around what happened in the summer of 325 AD in a little town in Turkey called Nicea where all the world’s bishops, or at least a group of them, enough who could make the journey there. Gathered for the very first time and they basically created a religion. They created an entire religion during that summer of 325 AD. It’s a religion that still exists today. It’s one that’s still around today. It’s called Christianity. And that religion was formulated there and what those folks decided Nicea still affects us today. And so I wrote a modern-day thriller around that.
This is the Tony DUrso Show. Just the head the chat continues with Allen Paul Silverrstein and Steve Berry Imagination Park and the Malta Exchange. But first, it’s time for us to take a short break. See you back here in just a moment.
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All right, we’re back on the Tony DUrso show today shows with Allen Paul Silverrstein and Steve Berry Imagination Park and The Malta Exchange history lies at the heart of every Steve Berry novel. It’s his passion, what he shares with his wife, Elizabeth, which led them to create History Matters, a foundation dedicated to historic preservation. Since 2009, Steve and Elizabeth have crossed the country to save endangered historic treasures, raising money via lectures, receptions, galas, luncheons, dinners, and their popular writers’ workshops. To date over 3000 students have attended those workshops and nearly a million dollars raised. And now back to the chat with Steve. What are some of the facts that peaked your interest? Real history facts that peaked your interest to the point where you realize you needed to write this? Let’s cover some of them.
Steve: Well, I came across the letters this is legendary. No one’s ever seen them. There’s a legend that there are letters between Mussolini and Churchill that dealt with the island of Malta. That was pretty fascinating. I came across this codex document that was buried inside an obelisk in Rome in the 1930s by Mussolini himself. It’s still there to this day. That was fascinating. The Knights of Malta, a 900-year-old organization, the last of the warrior monks, still around today. Fascinating. The island of Malta itself incredible living history, Museum of a fascinating place. And in the Vatican, all of that put together. And you wove all that together with what happened in 325 AD and you get the Malta Exchange.
I think between the Vatican and the island of Malta, we have the two smallest nation sovereign nations in the world.
Steve: That’s what usually when you rank the small nation in the world that the Knights of Malta would be that they are located in two villas in Rome, and those villas are autonomous. They are at autonomous sovereign territory. 150 nations in the world recognize the Knights of Malta as a sovereign nation, and so those villas carry that distinction is the smallest country in the world.
And as I understand it, for the nation of Malta, you cannot become a citizen. You have to be born in it to be a citizen of Malta.
Steve: Well, you have to be you. It’s very difficult to become, to become that. Yes, there’s a lot that you have to go through to be there. You just can’t go there and say, I want to become a citizen.
Let’s talk about this a little bit more. See what are, what are some of the fascinating facts about Malta, the Knights of Malta? I want to get more into how it became just, you had no, almost had no choice. You had to write this because of all these facts and how it seemed to line up.
Steve: They’re a cool group other than they really are. I mean, they started in the 12th century and they still exist today, which is quite an accomplishment today. Today they’re a worldwide humanitarian organization that deals with medical relief, but I resurrected something inside them that used to exist centuries ago, but supposedly no longer exist anymore. We don’t really know because it’s a secret society, so we don’t have any idea. I resurrect and brought it back. The life inside the knights themselves, the whole point of the knights surviving the purge, the Teutonic Knights were eliminated. The Knights Templar were eradicated, but the Knights of Malta, which at that time were called the Hospitallers in the 12th 13th 14th century. They survived. They managed to weather all the political storms and survived and the pope’s never lost favor with them and they were in fact awarded a lot of the Templar property.
When the Templars fell, they survived and always fascinated me. How did they survive? How did they manage to pull that off? Did they have some help? Did they have a little bit of coercion? Did they have something that could keep everybody off balance that they could survive all of this is possible? And then Mussolini, Mussolini rises to power. The 1920s he takes over Italy. The Catholic Church could have stopped him at any time. They could have stepped in and ended it before it even got started. Yet they didn’t, they did not do that. In fact, they gave Mussolini a pretty wide birth and left him alone. Why did he have something on them? Did he have something that he could control them with? Those things tickled my interest and that’s how the Malta Exchange got born.
Steve is the Knights of Malta. They’re known as a warrior religion warrior race?
Steve: There are warrior monks, not anymore, but up until 1798 when Napoleon invaded Malta and threw them out. They were warrior monks. To that point, after 1798 the order changed quite a bit and they were not allowed back on Malta. And their purpose went back to medical release. So they’re there. They haven’t been a warrior monk and over 200 years,
Well I think they were pretty darn good warriors because they stopped a Turkish invasion. I believe
Steve: They did 1565 they, they, they were given the island of Malta, by the Holy Roman Emperor. Not as a gifted, but he wanted them to be the first line of distance for Europe. If the Turks decided to take Malta. In those days, if you controlled Malta, you controlled the Mediterranean. And so the multiple was a very important island. It sits right past Cecily, right in a very important part of the Mediterranean. And in 1565, the Turks decided to try to take Malta and they had a great battle and a great war, but the Knights held them off and survived and protected Europe. If Malta I had fallen, very possibly all of Europe would have fallen to the Turks because they could have swept up from the south, controlled the Mediterranean had been a big problem for them. But Malta held the nights held and they kept the island from around 15, 20 to 1798.
Very interesting. Steve, what is the relationship today, whether it’s true or perhaps suspected relationship between Malta and the Vatican and the influence that they may or may not carry?
Steve: Well, they’ve had a very tumultuous relationship over the last few years. It’s been somewhat of a civil war within the Knights Malta this is real. And I incorporated all of that into the novel. The actual spike there was a war that broke out between the Knights of Malta and the Pope and the people representative, the cardinals that were assigned to oversee the Knights of Malta. And it led to a wholesale reorganization of the nights. The grandmaster resigned. They had a very tumultuous relationship with the Vatican over the last few years. And I incorporate that in the story. So the reader’s going to get a full appreciation for that.
So it seems that the Knights of Malta, any hold they may have had on the Vatican and seems pretty much to avoid wain and gone away with,
Steve: It went away a long time ago probably. You know back to the 19th century and I’m not saying that even had a hold on the Vatican. It’s just interesting that they were able to survive all of the purchase and still there. And so I’ve just thought that’s part of the 10% that I make up.
Totally got It. And somewhere in your book, you know that better than me, so you could refer it. The agent saboteurs, the hitman, the assassins, is that the Knights of Malta back in, back in the day?
Steve: Well, no, they had a group inside of them called the Socratic and the Socratic was an organization that kind of protected their secrets, whether that still exists or not, I have no idea it once. Did, and I just resurrected them inside there. The Knights of Malta really weren’t assassins. They were warriors. They went out and they fought and they protected pilgrims in the holy land and they fought for the pope as the Templars did. And as the, as the others did, all the other organizations’ warriors monks over. So a bunch of them, they’re all gone except for one that still survives today. And that’s the Knight of Malta.
Yeah. They seem so parallel with the Templars that are more well known as to being a warrior monk and fighting in the Crusades and so forth.
Steve: Very similar, very similar.
It’s still so fascinated about Malta and there are myths, there are rumors, there are legends. I still don’t understand how they keep their power, but I understand now it’s what they’re doing. And so how does Cotton Malone get involved? Because he’s been in a number of your books. And so now what is it that gets him chasing this?
Steve: Well, he’s doing a favor for someone. That’s how I usually start things now. And he’s looking for those letters between Mussolini and Churchill and he gets caught up in something that gets a little bigger and gets a little bigger and keeps getting a little bigger. And as it keeps getting a little bigger, he keeps getting drawn in deeper and he just sort of is there and he’s in the middle of it and then also I brought back a character of mine Luke Daniel’s a younger version of Cotton Malone who’s growing up, and becoming a seasoned agent and learning how to do things. And so this was kind of a romance novel with those two characters involved and how they interact with one another. They usually have a somewhat tumultuous relationship. And here it’s that way, but it’s getting a little bit better, as Malone recognizes the Luke is, not the rookie that he used to be. So there’s a little bit of character growth going on there. And so Cotton kind of gets drawn in and as he gets drawn he just gets deeper and deeper and until he’s finally in it full bore,
If I recall my information right in your book, Luke likes to parasail and so do you,
Steve: Well I did it in Malta. I did it there and when I was up there I saw the watchtower that is in the novel and I got an idea for a scene to put there. So yes, we both did the same thing. Luke has a little more, perilously towards experience at it than I did.
Steve, was your parasailing part of writing a book that you did help you weave the story? You did that with an agenda in mind?
Steve: Yeah, well, I did it. I went out there to do it. I didn’t know what I was going to see when I got up there. I just thought it’d be pretty cool to try it. I thought I’d like to put it in the novel. And when I got up there and I saw the site and I saw the watchtower and I saw all the other stuff, I said, no, this is great, this will be perfect. And so that’s where all those things came from.
Do you believe that your book has solved some mysteries or you know, tied things up a little bit for people that may be interested or curious about some of these historic elements?
Steve: Probably not tied anything up but yeah, I’m hoping it tickled their interest where they want to go and read more about the Knights of Malta and Mussolini and Churchill and what happened to the island of Malta in World War II and what happened to the island in 1520 and all the things that went on with, there are some very interesting things there. And of course, it all revolves around, as I said, what happened in Nicea in 325AD which I hope will get people interested to want to read more about that. Cause it’s, it’s fascinating what happened there. It altered the course of history and it’s still affecting us today.
True, and you put this in your book, once upon a time in the year 1300 and something, anybody could become a pope, but today it’s limited to a select amount of cardinals. Did you get involved in understanding what did the Vatican open up and show you the process, how they worked, how that whole pop selection process happen?
Steve: Oh no, no, they don’t do that for me, that’s a totally secret process, but there are tons and tons and tons of books that deal with this issue, so it’s not hard to figure it all out. And even today, anyone can be pope. You don’t have to be ordained to be a pope. You can still, anyone can be a pope. Even today, they just not, they’re not selected a non-cardinal in 700 years.
You just have to be in that room or the Sistine Chapel to be, to be voted upon, yes?
Steve: They can pick anybody. They want any Catholic who’s in good standing with the church, who is unmarried, any unmarried Catholic in good standing with the church and not a subject to disseminate, which means he has no relationship to anyone in the room from a blood relationship. If you meet those criteria, anyone can be elected pope, they can pick anybody they want to in the world.
That’s very interesting.
Steve: Since the 14th century, they’ve always picked a cardinal.
Got It. And what about the Socrates and I believe there is another person who is the pope’s spy.
Steve: Well, the interesting thing is that the Vatican has the oldest and most one of the most effective intelligence organizations in the world. A lot of people don’t know this and this is another surprise that I think the reader will go like, wow. And I’m hoping they’ll want to read and learn a little bit more about it. It’s called The Entity. It is an intelligence agency within the Vatican headed by one cardinal in the Vatican who they keep secret. The Vatican does speak of the entity. They don’t even recognize that it exists, but it’s been there since the 16th century. It’s now recognized today is one of the finest intelligence agencies on the planet. And it’s very interesting that a church needs a CIA. It’s kind of fascinating that they need one, but they have one and this book, it will highlight that the reader is going to learn a lot about that.
I’m curious, Steve, why does a religion, why does the church need an intelligence agency within themselves?
Steve: In the old days, they, they would take care of the church’s enemies. It was created to kill Elizabeth the first. They wanted to assassinate her and get her and get rid of her. So the Catholic goes back on the throne of England. So that’s how it was created. And for centuries it was designed to take out the church’s enemies. Today it’s interesting. I don’t know. It just gathers information. It’s recognized, as I said, it’s very effective and very, very thorough in doing that. And so, it is fascinating that a church needs to CIA.
I think part of its effectiveness is the fact that no one knows who’s in it, which then allows them to be very clandestine.
Steve: No one has a clue what’s in it. Not at all. No, everything about it is secret.
Amazing! Steve, you mentioned that it takes 18 months to write a book. It took you 18 months to write this.
Steve: It’s 18 months from start to finish. There are six months of preliminary research, then 12 months of priding and additional research.
I can’t fathom 12 months of writing it. I mean I can fathom writing, but for a whole year that is quite something, but the book is so good. My wife could not put it down and it’s just absolutely amazing. She’s absolutely loved to learn so much and it still astounds me, Steve, so much of what you have, 90% or so is so true.
Steve: That’s my niche. That’s the niche I kind of carved out for myself to try to keep it as close to reality as I can. I’ve got a trip it up a little bit, but Jack, keep it tight in there. So I think the readers going to get a really good appreciation for everything.
You’re doing a great job. And so I have to ask the next question, Steve, do we have Cotton Malone coming and if so, can you tell us a little bit perhaps what it might be about?
Steve: Yeah, it’s all finished and done in the book business. You stay a year ahead of yourself. So that one’s all done and it’s called the cotton going to head to Poland, one of my favorite places in the world and, he’s going to get involved in a very interesting adventure in Poland is called the Warsaw Protocol. It’ll be out in March of next year,
The Warsaw Protocols. So I’m going to get gathered at it has some part of its basis in world war two and what happened
Steve: Has a little bit more of the Cold War involved in there and some interesting history going back further back and now one of my favorite cities in the world will be front and center in the novel as well as the salt mines that are located outside of Krakow.
So you’ve done your six months of research and now you’re into…..,
Steve: It is done, it’s completely finished, done, finished and turned in. I’m actually researching and beginning writing the book that I will turn in a year from now, which will be published in 2021.
Can you give us any insight into that at all?
Steve: Nothing on that one because I don’t want anyone to steal it and to get ahead of me on it. So I don’t talk about that one. The Warsaw book I can talk about, cause I’m not the only one that knows anything about it. But, that one no, it’ll be another Cotton Malone adventure though. I will say that dealing with something that I’ve been fascinated with for a long time. It’s pretty interesting stuff.
I love it. Steve, I just wanted to thank you so much for sharing about the Malta Exchange, telling us about the book. If you’d like to sink in a book and really zone into it and get this amazing adventure, which only a book can do, I think as opposed to like a movie, the Malta Exchange is really good. I urge you all to go check it out. It’s quite something. Steve, I look forward to finding out more about the Warsaw book next year when it comes out. Thank you so much.
Steve: Ok, talk to you then?
Oh also for our audience, you can find out about Steve’s books at steveberry.org, Berry is- B e r r y steveberry.org. Thank you so much, Steve.
Steve: Thank you, sir
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