Talking Thrillers with Author Avanti Centrae: The Doomsday Medallion

Avanti Centrae
Author biography: Avanti Centrae always wanted to be a writer. Her father served as a U.S. marine corporal in Okinawa, gathering military intelligence during the first decade after the Korean War and her mom was a teacher. She grew up haunting silver bookmobiles in the Midwest but her practical family urged her to get a degree in computer technology, which she did. 

Eventually, she became a Silicon Valley IT executive, but her heart wasn’t in it. Before her hair began to turn gray, she had a health scare, which forced her to face her own mortality. At the top of the bucket list was becoming a bestselling author. She decided to break free of the golden handcuffs to pursue her dream. 

After years of drafting, editing, and finding an agent and publisher, her debut, VanOps: The Lost Power, released as an instant Barnes and Noble Nook bestseller. It went on to win three literary awards. Solstice Shadows, VanOps #2 quickly became a #1 Amazon bestseller in the U.S. and Canada, before winning a bronze medal at the Readers' Favorite book awards and nabbing the Chanticleer Global Thrillers Genre Grand Prize. 

The Doomsday Medallion won an Honorable Mention at the Southern California Book Awards. She’s honored that her work has been compared to that of James Rollins, Steve Berry, Dan Brown, and Clive Cussler. When not travelling the world or hiking in the Sierra mountains, she’s writing her next breathtaking thriller in Northern California, helped by her family and distracted by her German shepherds.

TFx: Where did you come up with the idea for The Doomsday Medallion?

Centrae: After penning the first two books in the VanOps series, The Lost Power and Solstice Shadows, I wanted to tell a story that probed 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, green-eyed truth seeker with special martial 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 traumatized when their mom died in an icy accident. I wanted to rip off that scab by digging into their mother’s history. Was Mom’s death really an accident? I also wanted to delve into the backstory of VanOps, which is not your ordinary black ops organization.

It was created to be a deeper shade of black, to rise from the ashes of the CIA’s failed parapsychology missions from the 70’s, back when they were trying to weaponize out-of-body experiences to compete against the Russians. 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. 

TFx: Speaking of Nostradamus, your VanOps thrillers are all about ancient mysteries and modern threats. What type of research goes into writing them?

Centrae: I spend months researching before I ever begin to write. Using the old seer as an example, 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.

TFx: With all that research, how much is fact? How much fiction?

Centrae: 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, even as recently as last week.

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…

TFx: How did you choose the settings for this novel?

Centrae: 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.

TFx: What’s next for your writing?

Centrae: I’m currently researching and outlining my next thriller; it’s too soon to share details. But I can give you the inside scoop that I have a standalone separate from this series titled Kiss of the Cobra: Cleopatra’s Vendetta, that will be released in conjunction with Gal Gadot’s Cleopatra movie. Here’s a little about it:  It’s a bold, unforgettable story of truth and courage.

Think Mission Impossible meets Taken with an undercurrent of The Handmaid’s Tale:  When CEO Angie Stryker is kidnapped during an Italian holiday, she and her Special Ops husband, Timothy, must shake the deeply-buried pillars of western civilization to save their four-year-old daughter from an unspeakable fate. To stay up to date with the latest release news, thriller fans can follow me on social media or join my newsletter from my webpage.

TFx: What are you reading now, and what good books have you read lately?

Centrae: I belong to a terrific group called The Blackbird Writers and recently enjoyed an advance review copy of Saralyn Richard’s latest mystery, Blood Sisters. It’s a five-star mystery about a mortician likely to end up on the wrong side of the family business. Readers looking to discover new mystery and thriller authors can find a spectrum of works from a number of award-winning and bestselling writers, such as Rick Treon, Tracey Phillips, Jeff Nania, and Margaret Mizushima. I’m currently reading Gregg Hurwitz’s Dark Horse, and love it. He does a masterful job with character growth over the life of a series while incorporating plenty of action.

Get Centrae's latest release, The Doomsday Medallion, out now on Amazon.

doomsday medallion

Sixteenth-century French prophet Nostradamus predicted the Great Fire of London, Napoleon’s conquest, Hitler’s rule, and the atomic bomb. Can the VanOps team keep the old seer’s secrets out of blood-stained hands?

Aikido black belt Maddy Marshall is celebrating the completion of her black ops training when news of a military takeover in the South China Sea shocks the world because it was predicted by a sixteen-year-old French student. When intel chatter spells danger to Avril, the young seer, VanOps Director Bowman assigns Marshall and her twin brother, Will Argones, to protect the girl.

Emotions between the siblings are running hot due to their aunt’s recent stroke, which has reminded them of the childhood accident that scarred both his chin and her heart. Tensions ratchet higher when they arrive at Avril’s home to find the instant social media star has been kidnapped, leaving them with only clenched fists and cryptic clues that lead to a formula encoded on an etched-bronze medallion.

While Taiwan fears an invasion that will set off an apocalyptic chain of events, Marshall and Argones race through medieval French towns, Italian cathedrals, and ancient Greek temples attempting to find Avril before their enemies use the girl to discover the Holy Grail of military intelligence. If the team fails, they won’t need a crystal ball to know millions of innocent souls will be destined to join Nostradamus in the afterlife.

The Doomsday Medallion is an electrifying, globe-trotting thriller that delves into humankind’s timeless fascination with prophecy and illuminates the mesmerizing and dangerous potential of a weaponized oracle.

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