GtPGKogPYT4p61R1biicqBXsUzo" /> Google+ Interview: Fantasy Author Jeff Pollak (First Second Coming) + giveaway | I Smell Sheep

Friday, October 16, 2020

Interview: Fantasy Author Jeff Pollak (First Second Coming) + giveaway

What drew you to write in the supernatural/romantic suspense genres?
Nothing. When I first started writing First Second Coming, I thought it would be a magical realism story. Somewhere around the third or fourth draft, I realized it wasn’t MR, but didn’t know what genre it was. So I began to research genres to see what fit. That led me to conclude the novel could be either urban fantasy or romantic suspense, or both. That remained my conclusion through the next five drafts. My publisher convinced me that instead of urban fantasy, the book should be considered supernatural suspense. So I’ve inadvertently wandered into two genres I had no idea I’d publish my first book in. The fantasy is still there, by the way, we’re just not marketing it that way.

What was the hardest thing about writing your supernatural/romantic suspense book?
Finding the time to write while working full-time, sometimes much more than full-time, as a trial lawyer working for myself. I started the book in 2014 and worked on it evenings and weekends except when I was in trial or had family or other commitments. When I retired in 2018, I was on my seventh draft and deemed the book ready for a professional editor, so writing FSC took five years of primarily part-timing the work to get the story finished.

How much research do you do?
Plenty. Regardless of the genre, I thought I was writing in, I wanted as much realism in First Second Coming as I could get. This was especially challenging regarding the religions that make appearances in the book since my familiarity with most of them wasn’t enough. I bought and read books on them and on many different perceptions of God, while writing.
I did a lot of internet research on these subjects and even attended the World Parliament of Religions in Toronto in 2017 to speak to as many religious followers as I could find to get impressions of how my book would be received or to discuss points of their religions that I needed to know about. Over the course of the seven-day parliament, I must have spoken to five hundred people, and I still found time to peruse the Hockey Hall of Fame.

The professional editor I hired mentioned to me in her editorial report that I’d convinced her I’m an expert in religions. That comment was very gratifying.

Do you work to an outline or do you prefer to just see where an idea takes you?
A mix of both. For FSC, I prepared an initial bullet-point outline. For each chapter, I’d have two to four bullet points to remind me of the things that chapter had to cover to advance the story. I free-styled the dialogue and narrative, at least until my female MC, Brendali Santamaria, began to tell me what was really happening in the chapter.

Once I began to hear her telling me what the story actually was, I gave her a semi-free will. I became more of a transcriber than a writer at that point, taking down whatever Bren passed along to me. By the time I reached the end of the first draft, I had a novel rather different, but better, than my outline.

What would you say are the main advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing vs. traditional publishing?
I think the question derives from a false premise – that every writer has the same desires regarding publication. Some people write as an avocation, not for publishing. Others want to publish. Still others are somewhere between these two poles. Business acumen or time constraints play a role, too, in that some people don’t want to take on the burden of marketing in addition to writing, so they want traditional publishing or nothing.

Age also matters, in that the big traditional publishers take forever – well, up to five years – to publish a book. The question also omits the fact that traditional publishers include not only the big ones but small or regional presses, hybrid publishers, and (don’t go here, anyone) vanity presses. With all that said, my own perspectives on advantages and disadvantages have very little value, since they are unique to me and not a generalization. Each writer contemplating publishing should research the many options that exist these days, determine which one(s) fit them best, and then go in that direction.

Great advice! Do you have a good or bad story regarding publishing?
Here’s my good one. The writer’s conference I attend yearly – Southern California Writers Conference, which I highly recommend to anyone – has a feature called the Advanced Submissions, which is a fee-based thing. You pay $50 for a fifteen-minute get-together with your chosen agent, editor, fellow writer, or publisher.

The chosen individual gets the first ten pages of your story in advance of the conference, marks it up, and gives you feedback. If you’ve selected an agent and you’re very lucky, you might get a request for the full manuscript if there is one, or a request that you send it to him or her when the MS is ready.
In my case, I requested one agent in 2018 who I never got to meet because her flight was grounded by bad weather. In 2019 I paid for two conferences, one with an agent, the other with a publisher. The agent lost her father and didn’t show up, but she contacted me to ask for the full manuscript. I did meet the co-founder of a publisher I’d been angling toward over the prior months, who told me she wanted to publish the story based on what she’d read and what I’d done to get to know her company.

So, after about six months of querying, I had a publishing offer and my first agent’s request for a full manuscript, just like that. It took me two months to decide which way to go, but I took the publication offer and I’m very happy I did.

What do you think of “trailers” for books, and will you create one for your work?
I’ve seen some very impressive trailers for books, but haven’t investigated the cost. I also haven’t seen anything quantifiable that can assure me that a trailer is worth the cost. So I’m very on the fence on this one. I’m doing something slightly different because I’m fortunate to have a niece who is a professional animator. She’s going to prepare a brief animation for my author’s page that will (hopefully) be ready by First Second Coming’s publication date, August 1st. It’s not a trailer so much as a treat for those of my future readers who enjoy animation.

What a great idea! So, what do your fans mean to you?
As this is my first book I don’t yet have any fans. When I do they’ll be treated like the clients I worked for. By contract and law I was required to do my absolute best from start to finish – a zealous advocate. Converting that to publishing means, to me, that I must write the best story I can, recognize that the reader has chosen to devote a certain amount of time to my characters and story, show my appreciation for that and make the reader happy he or she spent that time with my tale rather than with the story in the next office (or shelf).

I like how you think. If you could have dinner with three people, living or dead, who would they be and why?
Although I would love to have dinner with my three favorite deceased authors – James Clavell, Frank Herbert, and Tom Clancy – I chose living ones so that the ghosts of those authors of yesteryear aren’t jealous of the meal I assume they can no longer eat.

The living authors I would select are Daniel Silva for his ability to integrate current events into his page-turner suspense stories, as I am doing in mine; David Mitchell for his stunningly brilliant writing and the equally off the charts plots and characters, and Iain Pears for the depth and details he builds into his novels and his ability to write in multiple genres. I’d invite Neil Gaiman and Haruki Murakami to the dinner, too, but the table only accommodates four people.

If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?
I’d pick pizza. Aside from the nutrition I’d gain from the basic ingredients (cheese, starch, sauce), there’s a great deal of variety in the items that can be added. So I could have a Hawaiian pizza – my favorite style – one day; a classic pepperoni pie the next; a barbeque pizza after that, etc. I thrive on variation so this choice would give me a different meal for every lunch and dinner every day for a month. I’d skip breakfast to keep the calories down.

First Second Coming (The New God Series Book 1) 
by Jeff Pollak
August 1, 2020
Genre: Supernatural Romantic Suspense
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!**

First Excerpt from Chapter 1, Stranger In A Strange Land: 
Thirteen hours late, my cross-galaxy voyage to the All-Souls Transit Center ends in a puff of soft lunar dirt on Mare Tranquillitatis. I expect to meet the legendary God of planet Earth in his office, but as I deplane he’s shuffling down the concourse toward his departure gate. He’s easy to spot—inside this small, sparse four-gate terminal we are the only life forms in sight. 

With his stooped posture and unkempt shoulder-length gray hair, God reminds me of the mythical Atlas. His tremors underscore the physical and emotional toll he has had to bear. Did his mental state also degrade? He spent two millennia managing a planet populated by quarrel­some headstrong terrestrials. Over that much time any deity posted to such a world would succumb to the effects of prolonged stress. 

I quicken my pace, catch up to him and extend a hand. “Good day, Lord.” 

“This is how you address your superiors?” The decibel level of his gruff voice implies impaired hearing. “Where are your manners? A bow is in order.” 

Though I have not yet fully adapted to the musculature of this adult male body I inhabit, my flawless execution of a deep obeisance brings a quick smile to my face. 

God gives me a brusque signal to rise. “You’re my replacement, are you?” 

“Correct, Lord. I am humbled and honored to take your place.” I bow again, less fully. 

“Call me NTG if you wish. I prefer answering to that nickname.” 

So the rumor is true. That he calls himself the New Testament God instead of his given name means he has indeed gone native. This explains a lot. 

We sink into a ‘maximum comfort’ couch—or so the attached tag boasts—stuffed full of condensed nimbostratus cloud threads imported from Earth. An ugly green tarp spread over the cushions prevents our clothes from getting soaked by residual moisture. 

God adjusts his overcoat and leans toward me. “I trust you had an enjoyable flight?” 

“I would like to say yes, but what a hellacious trip.” That’s an understatement. “We flew through several cosmic storms, circum­vented an unmapped black hole and limped here on back-up power after the anti-matter fuel engine failed. I will never fly by chartered spaceship again.” 

“Now that you’ve arrived, what makes you think you can take on a tough job like this?” 

“This is my fourth assignment, though the first for Milky Way Galaxy, Inc.” I place my carry-on bag on the tan moon-rock table and open a side pocket. “I have a résumé, if you want to peruse it. In each previous posting, the planets I shepherded returned to optimal status. Whilst this assignment is more complex, I assure you my record shall remain unsullied.” 

“Humph.” He spits into the thin puddle created by the leaky couch and waves off my résumé. “I thought those spineless MWGI decision-makers would send a rank amateur. After only three postings, you expect to fix this mess? You’re still wet around the ears, sonny. Have you even hung your precious university degrees on a wall yet?” He points at the nearby picture window. “On Earth they say you learn more through failure than success.” 

“Elder, I did not travel here to fail. MWGI reached out because of my extensive training as a planetary turnaround specialist. They are confident I am the best available deity for this job.” 

“And you agree with that assessment, do you?” He fidgets, as though trying to stand and walk away, but can’t get off the couch. 

“I would not otherwise have taken the job, Lord. Once I did, I undertook considerable research. The travel delays afforded me extra preparation time. I have learned everything a new deity should know about Earth and its inhabitants. I am ready to take the reins.” 

“Your extensive reading helped you form opinions regarding the humans, did it?” 

I disregard the sarcasm implicit in the question. If I ever reach his wizened old age, young deities will receive better treatment from me than this. His attitude is understandable, though. Forced retire­ment is a difficult pill for anyone to swallow, supreme beings included. 

“Lord, these sentient beings do have many laudable qualities. However, whilst I prefer not to focus on the negative, on the whole humans strike me as a rather unpredictable species.” 

NTG spits again and rummages through the pockets of his black overcoat, pants and vest. “Where’s the damn thing? Did I forget it? Ah, here. Since you’re not dead, you’ll need this to get into heaven.” 

He hands me a Holyday Inn card key with “NTG” stenciled on the back side. I stare at the card whilst mulling over my research, which characterized heaven as an imaginary afterlife sanctuary. With a shrug, I deposit the card in the pocket of my blue denim shirt. 

“Many humans call it heaven, but I consider it home.” God’s melancholic smile comes and goes in seconds. “Souls get over the false advertising once they adjust to their newly deceased status. Follow the overhead signs to the tram that’ll take you to the complex. My office is by the main gate so I can greet arrivals on St. Peter’s days off. Ask for Angie, my chief of staff. She’s a real angel in every sense of the word.”

About the Author 
Website -FB-TwitterJeff 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.

$25 Starbucks Gift Card, choice of Paperback or ebook of First Second Coming – 1 winner each! 

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  1. The animation idea is very cool! I have some low budget trailers on my early books, (back when low budget was just as good as the high budget, unlike now, lol!) and I didn't find they were worth it.

  2. Nice cover. Liked the description of your book and looking forward to reading it.

  3. I like the cover and how it fits the title.