Afternoon everyone. I hope you’re all having a good bank holiday weekend so far! Today I’ve got two posts for you, starting with a wonderful Meet the Author. Today I’m chatting with Jeff Pollak – Enjoy!
Supernatural Romantic Suspense, to my surprise. Thought I was writing Magical Realism.
What inspired you to start writing and where do you get your ideas?
I was inspired to write fiction by my son’s college graduation in 2015. He moved directly into a job with Microsoft and no longer needed financial support from mom and dad. That meant I could retire whenever I wanted – which I did, in 2018. It also raised the question of what I’d do with all that free time. I like to be productive, and decided to write fiction since I’ve always enjoyed reading.
The idea for First Second Coming came to me initially as the World Trade Center collapsed on 9/11. I thought it was a random thought, but it never left me. When I sat down at my computer in 2015 to conjure up a plot for the first time, that random thought returned: “earth needs a new god, one who’s a planetary turnaround specialist.” Along with it came the names of the two main characters (Ram Forrester and Brendali Santamaria), a conceptual plot and three possible endings. Just like that, First Second Coming, an award-winning novel, was born.
Which of your characters would you want to be stranded on an island with, and why?
At first I thought I’d pick Brendali, the spunky Latina talk show host who is the female main character in First Second Coming. We’ve known each other for years now. But then I realized I should name Earth’s new God. After all, he’s the only character in the book capable of getting me off the island, and I did him a favour by providing free publicity in advance of his arrival here in 2027 by featuring him in my novel.
What other jobs have you done other than being an author?
Most of my working career I’ve been a trial lawyer. During law school, which I attended at night, I supervised a group of medical examiners at an insurance company. In college I worked during summer breaks as a waiter at a resort in upper New York State; in high school I was a cook in a McDonald’s type of hamburger joint.
Other than writing, what else do you enjoy doing?
I’m an avid music lover – in particular rock, country, folk, bluegrass, Irish, Latin rock, and Americana. Baseball and hockey have been my lifelong favorite sports. (Go Angels! Go Ducks!) Golf became an enjoyable pastime in my adult years, even more so in retirement. I also read fiction and non-fiction voraciously, which is why I decided to write a book as retirement neared.
What is the strangest thing that has ever happened to you?
I grew up in New York City with a close knit group of kids – boys and girls. At age sixteen my mother died, so I moved away to live with an uncle (my father passed away when I was three). I soon lost touch with all those friends, regaining it thirty years later through coaching a youth baseball team.
One day, as the team waited for two other teams to finish their game and vacate the field, I had a conversation with the mother of one of my team’s players. It was the usual “where are you from” discussion common in L.A., as so many of us migrate here from somewhere else.
Vicky and I soon realized we grew up in the same neighborhood, and that her high school boyfriend was one of my childhood friends. A chance encounter like that – 3,000 miles from our hometown – is unusual, but not strange. But when Vicky told me she was still in touch with Ira? That was strange. She promptly called him. We conversed as I coached, and exchanged numbers.
Shortly after that conversation, my friend, through his mom, passed my phone number to one of her friends, who had remained in touch with almost the entire group of kids. That lady called and gave me the phone numbers and addresses of a dozen friends I’d lost. Voila! Instant reconnection. We’ve all stayed in touch, and we’re planning to have our first reunion in July.
What’s your favourite film of all time and why?
I particularly enjoy movies that invert the usual genre trope, build a creative and comedic plot around the inversion and execute it perfectly. Two come immediately to mind.
Beetlejuice: the typical ghost story becomes a “weird human, normal ghost” tale. Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis perfectly portrayed the two newly-deceased ghosts. Catherine O’Hara and Jeffrey Jones accentuated the weirdness of the Deetz family. Michael Keaton and Winona Rider stole the show as troublemaker Beetlejuice and Lydia Deetz, respectively. And the comedy – unparelleled in any ghost story movie I’ve ever seen. The classic, priceless scene around the dining table while Harry Belefonte’s well-known song Day-O accompanied the merriment was superb.
Men In Black: Take the usual detective/espionage thriller, drop it into an urban fantasy (or sci-fi) context and behold, a masterpiece of imagination. Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith click. Tommy’s a super-serious, by the book old hand. He has to teach Will Smith, the maverick new guy in the inter-galactic customs unit, to keep track of all the aliens secretly dispersed all over the world. Why? To insure that no one knows aliens are actually here. What a concept. What characters. The comedy is played to the hilt.
What is the best thing you’ve done in your life so far?
First Second Coming fits the bill. This debut novel required a lot of time and effort. I learned to write compelling fiction, did a ton of research to ensure the realism and accuracy of the story, and wrote eight drafts before finding my publisher.
All that work paid off. Just three months after publication Literary Titan magazine bestowed a Gold Award for writing excellence on First Second Coming. Other magazines have been very receptive, as have readers. To top all that off, in April the novel was nominated for the 2021 RONE Award for fantasy, and the book was featured in a CBS Morning News segment. All of these accolades are very flattering, were entirely unexpected and exceed any other endeavour I’ve accomplished.
What is something you can’t live without?
Music! Seriously, I’d rather do without food or oxygen than be without music. Don McLean’s American Pie lyrics pretty well describe how I’d feel if the music died; here’s two of the stanzas:
Did you write the book of love
And do you have faith in God above
If the Bible tells you so?
Now, do you believe in rock ‘n’ roll
Can music save your mortal soul
And can you teach me how to dance real slow?
Well, I know that you’re in love with him
‘Cause I saw you dancin’ in the gym
You both kicked off your shoes
Man, I dig those rhythm and blues . . .
But I knew I was out of luck
The day the music died
Music’s in my heart and constantly in my ears. That’s why the title of every chapter in First Second Coming is a song title.
What is your favourite genre to read and why?
I’m partial to suspense novels. John Le Carré, Ken Follett, Daniel Silva, Tom Clancy, Martin Cruz Smith – these are just a few of the suspense authors I read. I like the espionage, the internationalism of the stories, the in-depth characters who continue from story to story and the surprise twists and turns. Add fantasy or a historical element like David Mitchell or Iain Pears do and the book is even better.
What project(s) are you working on now?
I have two projects in the works. One is a sequel to First Second Coming, as that’s the first of a planned set called the New God Series. The sequel’s working title is Earth’s Peril, and it will have Ram and Bren, with the new God’s assistance, tackling the issues of climate change and overpopulation, which are linked to a fuller extent than most readers may realize.
The second project is what I consider a spin-off. The new God is a characterin it, but none of the others are in the New God Series. The title for this project is The Recycling Center, but it’s not about plastic, glass or paper recycling.
And finally, tell us about your most recent book and where we can find it?
First Second Coming is available on Amazon as an eBook, paperback or hardcover, and on various other online retailers through this universal link: https://books2read.com/u/47XNMg
Here’s a short synopsis of the plot:
After the 2027 retirement of Earth’s God, the planetary turnaround specialist replacing him has to decide whether to include homo-sapiens in his global restoration plan, or exclude them.
Earthlings meet this Supreme Being through his unexpected appearance on the Ram Forrester Hour talk show, which the new God beams worldwide. Ram, co-host Brendali Santamaria and viewers everywhere hear God’s announcement: a 60-day conference will convene in Los Angeles to determine mankind’s fate.
Those invited by God to attend must prove that humans can cooperate with each other and help him achieve his goal. The test: within sixty business days a permanent solution to one complex cross-cultural issue must be devised, or the human race will perish.
God designates Ram and Bren as the conference’s only authorized media reporters. Their love affair blooms following threats made by zealots hell-bent on killing them for promoting a false god. This menace imperils their romance, as do inter-conference conflicts that increase the likelihood of humanity’s extinction. Spurred to act, and with no one else able to communicate directly with the new God, the burden of saving humanity rests in Ram and Bren’s hands.
Thanks so much for chatting with me Jeff! If you have any questions/comments make sure you get in touch!