Today, author Jeff Pollak is guesting at my blog. He’s here to talk about his latest release First Second Coming, book one in the New God series, a supernatural romantic suspense. Don’t forget to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway.
1. What is it about the art and craft of writing that you most enjoy?
Jeff: The answer is editing. I liken the writing process to sculpture. Michelangelo began the Pietà with a huge chunk of Carrara marble. He chiseled away and ended up with arguably the most impressive piece of sculpture that’s ever been carved. Writers start with an idea, the first draft is equivalent to Michelangelo’s block of marble, and we chip away at it until we’re left with our version of the Pietà, however distant that may be from this marble masterpiece. I enjoy hammering away at my story until it becomes as true, and as fully rendered, as I envisioned it in my imagined plotline.
2. What, to date, has been your richest or most fulfilling writing experience?
Jeff: Since Amazon early-published First Second Coming on July 13th, I have to admit that becoming a published author is my answer. I had to be pushed to publish, as I viewed writing fiction as a hobby, something to do during my retirement when not playing golf. People kept urging me to publish the story, and I eventually bought into the idea. Now that there’s an actual book, with a cover that bears my name and a story I hammered out – excuse me, make that chiseled – it’s a very fulfilling feeling.
3. Which up and coming authors are you most excited about?
Jeff: Zach Astrowsky. He’s a sixteen year old I’ll classify as “pre up-and-coming.” I met him last fall at the Irvine Southern California Writers’ Conference. At the time he had already written and self-published a YA thriller. Now he’s working on a sequel. He asked me to edit the second book, which I’m doing in and around marketing mine. Zach still needs to learn the finer points of the craft, but his series is full of interesting characters and a solid plot. Most of all, Zach has the enthusiasm and will to improve that comes with having decided early on what he wants to do when he grows up.
4. What are you currently reading?
Jeff: I’ve just received Utopia Avenue, the newly released book by David Mitchell. He’s one of my favorite authors. Ursula K. Le Guin, one of the most influential writers of speculative fiction in recent decades, described Mitchell’s writing as “relentlessly brilliant.” That’s an understatement, but a true one. As a writer, when you read a passage in Mitchell’s books, you’ll savor the sentences, paragraphs and riffs his unforgettable characters go off on. Most people recognize Mitchell from Cloud Atlas, a book that was unfortunately turned into a terrible movie. His best work so far, in my opinion and many others, is The Bone Clocks. I re-read it once every decade. Mitchell’s writing never fails to leave me in awe.
5. Tell us about your most recent release…
Jeff: First Second Coming is a supernatural/romantic suspense novel that takes place in 2027, mostly in Los Angeles. There are two main threads to the story. In one, Earth’s new God, a planetary turnaround specialist, has taken over for NTG – the deity better known as the New Testament God – who has retired. This new God has to decide whether to include mankind in his plan to bring Earth back into compliance with the planetary operations standards of his employer, Milky Way Galaxy, Inc. How He goes about making this decision is what propels the book’s suspense aspect.
The second thread is the love story of Ram Forrester and Brendali Santamaria, two talk show hosts and journalists. They’re selected by the new god to act as his assistants. They do God’s work by day, their show at night, and also outwit a fanatical religious group while their romance blooms. Ultimately, they try to save mankind from extinction so their love will survive.
First Second Coming is now available for purchase on Amazon in paperback form only. Readers can also pre-order First Second Coming in e-book or hardcover form. Purchases in these formats purchases will be available as of August 1st not only on Amazon but also on Barnes & Noble, Apple Books, Kobo and other online retailers, as well as Flintridge Books in La Canãda.
6. What will you work on next?
Jeff. I’m already at it. The working title is Earth’s Peril, and it’s the second book in the New God Series. At the same time I’m working on a spin-off novel with The Recycling Center as the working title. I’m early on in both books; they’ll be with me awhile.
7. Are there any genres you’d like to attempt that you’ve not yet ventured into?
Jeff: Not really. I see this series as having multiple books, and at my ever-so-slightly advanced age I want to focus on them and the occasional spin-off. To the extent I get better known in the publishing world, this new God idea will also serve as my brand.
8. Who, or what, inspired you to pursue writing?
Jeff. Indirectly, my writing fiction was inspired by 9/11. My career as a civil trial lawyer prepared me to write because trial work is writing intensive. 9/11 planted the seed of First Second Coming’s plot. Watching the World Trade Center collapse was traumatic to us all, but I had clients in that building and my law firm did annual seminars there each May. As I watched, a random thought came and went, or so I believed: this planet needs a planetary turnaround specialist type of God. Fourteen or so years later I decided to write fiction in retirement. That thought promptly bubbled up along with a rudimentary plot and the main characters. So I prepared a basic outline, began to learn the craft and started writing as time permitted.
9. What’s the greatest lesson you’ve learned as a writer thus far?
Jeff: Get as close to your main characters as you possibly can. Make them live in your head so they’ll live on the page. Prepare bios, do anything you can think up to know them intimately. Seriously, it shocked me the first time Brendali, my female protagonist, spoke to me to narrate what was occurring in each chapter as I wrote them. I’d never had someone else in my head. I went with her scene-by-scene narration instead of my outline. This lead to the romance aspects of the story – she’d fallen for Ram, my male protagonist, and he was similarly inclined. I also listened to music they like while I wrote in their point of view, which also brought me closer to them. Both of them come across as real people readers will care about.
Title: First Second Coming
Series: The New God Series Book 1
Author: Jeff Pollak
Genre: Supernatural Romantic Suspense
Blurb: In 2027 the deity known as NTG – short for New Testament God – retires after more than two thousand years of minding the store for his employer, Milky Way Galaxy, Inc. The new god, a planetary turnaround specialist, must decide whether Earth’s dominant species should or should not be included in his plan to bring the planet back into full compliance with Milky Way Galaxy, Inc.’s planetary operation standards.
Earth’s new God introduces himself to humanity by unexpectedly appearing on the Ram Forrester Hour talk show. Ram, an atheist, and co-host Brendali Santamaria, a devout Catholic, are stunned. God’s interview, beamed worldwide, shocks and infuriates viewers. They learn that a sixty-day conference will take place in Los Angeles to determine whether humans are capable of helping him implement his planetary turnaround plan. To earn a coveted spot in this God’s good graces all mankind must do is eliminate religious violence forever, without his heavenly help, within sixty days. Failure means extinction.
God designates Ram and Bren as the conference’s only authorized media reporters. This assignment, fraught with peril, ignites their romance. Not only must the harried couple attend the conference meetings by day and do their show at night, they must also outwit a fanatical religious group bent on killing them. When rising conflicts within the conference intensify, it’s up to Ram and Bren to do whatever it takes to protect their budding romance and mankind’s very survival.
“Jeff Pollak’s debut novel, First Second Coming, combines suspense, romance, and theology in an imaginative, unique adventure!” —Mark Moses, Actor (best known as Paul Young on Desperate Housewives and Herman “Duck” Phillips on Mad Men.)
“Wow! What an outstanding debut novel! Jeff mixes a wide genre to create this intriguing novel. Plenty of romance, action and some theology to keep things lively! Not a mix I’ve seen before but in the ratio he writes=perfect! A fab read. Looking forward to the next book!” —Becca Thompson, The Book Club
“An absolutely fascinating concept mixed with the perfect blend of action, romance and theology. Will humans choose to set aside their petty arguments and live peacefully, working to solve the world’s problems side by side, or will the planetary turnaround specialist assigned to Earth as the New God have to take the ultimate action to ensure the planet’s survival, even if that means human extinction? This book will grab you and keep you reading to the very last page. Can’t wait to see what comes next!” —Kristine Pfeffer Fox, Author
**Get the ebook free in exchange for an honest review HERE!**
“A good afternoon greeting isn’t appropriate on this saddest Christmas Day in Los Angeles’ history. I’m Ram Forrester. In the absence of Jack Allenby, who’s under the weather, I’m here to anchor this special newscast.”
Jack’s had too much eggnog, but that’s nothing new. “A historic local church, an important institution beloved by the Latino community since the city’s founding, has been destroyed. We don’t have numbers yet, but the loss of life is considerable. No one’s claimed responsibility.”
It’s impossible to hide my dismay, though I try. The NITWIT caller said he had ‘bigger fish to fry.’ He must’ve meant this. How’d they pull it off? If they can accomplish this, they’re a much more serious threat than I thought.
“Brendali Santamaria is with us from Olvera Street. Fill us in, Brendali.”
The camera catches the somber look in her eyes. She stays silent long enough for me to suspect she didn’t hear the cue. When she does speak her cadence is slow, soft and melancholic.
“I’m near La Reina de Los Ángeles Iglesia—The Queen of the Angels Church.” She raises a hand to cover her mouth. We hear a heavy sigh.
“This morning’s Christmas church service held an overflow crowd. They showed up not only to celebrate our sacred holiday, but to attend a special sermon given by Mexico City’s beloved bishop, Cuauhtemoc Olin. His body hasn’t been found yet. The explosion occurred—uhh, excuse me.” She turns away, flicks a finger against her cheek and gathers herself.
“The injuries, the fatalities—dozens of each. Men, women, little ones.” Her voice cracks. “I’m heartbroken.” Her eyes close.
Before I decide to end the report, she speaks with a firmer voice. “Let me finish, Ram, please.” Her next breath is so deep her entire upper body heaves. “I walked past this blood-smeared Maria doll lying on the ground earlier.” She holds the bloody doll against her white blouse for the camera.
“For those who don’t know, these doll figures are indigenous children dressed in their tribe’s styles. This one’s a girl from my tribe, Nahua, dressed in a tiny huipil.” She puts the doll in a baggy without appearing to realize her top is smeared with blood.
Ken’s voice rings in my ear buds from the control room. “Pull her. Brendali’s not giving us a report. All we’re getting is emotion.”
Bren’s hard at work despite hurting so much. I’ll damn well let her finish. With the screen focused on her, I emphatically shake my head to refuse his order.
“I thought about the cute little niná who brought this doll to church, dressed in her holiday best. Is the doll’s blood hers? Is she gone, so soon? Who took her life? Are her parents grieving, hurt or dead?”
She puts a hand over her eyes and goes silent. “We expect to hear from Archbishop Delmonico soon. As compassionate as he is, we must ask him how God could let this happen to these innocents on the day we celebrate Jesus’ birth. We need an explanation.”
With no signoff she walks away. The camera gives us an unobstructed view of a ruined church reduced to a mess of wood, pipes and plaster. The building, built in the mid-1860’s, is leveled. We segue to a commercial as the image fades from view, but not from our memory.
The victims share Bren’s faith and culture. She would’ve been among them if she’d arrived fifteen minutes earlier. Did NITWIT mean to kill her? I don’t want to bring up that idea—she’ll feel guilty, that all the victims died for her. I remember our first show, her evident pride when she walked on stage in that stunning white huipil. The doll must’ve triggered that memory and others, too—childhood, her cousin Lilia, the funeral her folks didn’t attend.
I need to comfort her, not sit here with my heart breaking.
Jeff Pollak, the author of First Second Coming and sequels to come, was raised in the Riverdale section of the Bronx by a single mom and two grandparents who lived eight floors up. After graduating from college in Buffalo, Jeff headed west to Los Angeles for law school and spent his entire legal career in and around civil litigation. Now retired, writing fiction is Jeff’s new passion.
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