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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First Second Coming (The New God Series Book 1) by Jeff Pollak ~ 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
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Is There a Message in Your Novel That You Want Readers to Grasp?
Although First Second Coming is primarily intended as entertainment, the book’s message is about intolerance. Hopefully readers will pick that up. There are two sets of intolerant religious groups in this story. One demonstrates intolerance of other views in an aggressive manner. The other group exercises passive resistance. Examples of tolerance abound within the novel, but these two intolerant groups put mankind’s future at risk.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Because I came to writing fiction from a long career as a trial attorney, I often find my writing style lapse into the stiffer, more formal style that’s normal for writing such boring things as legal briefs, client reports and trial documents. When editing I’m on alert to this tendency, and fix the verbiage whenever I find it unless the character – such as God in First Second Coming – actually has a formal manner of speech.
How many books have you written and which is your favorite?
First Second Coming is my debut novel, so by default it’s my favorite.
If you had the chance to cast your main character from Hollywood today, who would you pick and why?
That’s a very interesting question! On a whim a few years ago, I searched the internet to try to find actors bearing a resemblance to the two main characters in First Second Coming. I was unsuccessful in finding anyone close to my visualization of Ram Forrester. However, a British actress of half Norwegian, half Nigerian descent turned out to look so much like how I pictured Brendali Santamaria, who is Latina, that it was eerie. The actress, Hannah John-Kamen, has been in British TV shows, notable American ones such as Game of Thrones (as Omela), and films including Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Ready Player One and Tomb Raider. She has enough experience to at least audition for the lead role as Brendali. She’s the right age, and although she isn’t Latina she looks it. If she’s not interested or fails her audition, I would want a Latina actress in the role.
When did you begin writing?
I never pictured myself as a fiction writer until roughly 2014. That’s when I began to consider what I’d do with my time once I retired. The idea of trying my hand at fiction made sense. An avid reader, I always enjoyed the writing aspect of litigation, which is very writing-intensive. Of course, I had to learn the ropes of fiction, develop a suitable writing style and practice. First Second Coming took eight drafts, the first few rather amateurish, but that’s a phase we all have to go though. Fortunately, I improved.
How long did it take to complete your first book?
It’s hard for me to answer this question. I wrote part-time from 2015 to 2019. Trials are all consuming, and I had several of them in this time period – four in 2018 alone. Each trial prevented me from writing any fiction for several weeks at a time. Occasional family obligations also took precedent over writing from time to time. So I can’t even estimate what the answer might be in terms of days or hours, but five years did pass while I worked at it.
Did you have an author who inspired you to become a writer?
No, but I am inspired to improve enough to become as good a writer as any of my favorites – David Mitchell (The Bone Clocks); Iain Pears (Arcadia); Haruki Murakami (1Q84); or Daniel Silva (The English Girl).
What is your favorite part of the writing process?
Editing. I liken the writing process to sculpture. Michelangelo began the Pietà with a huge chunk of Carrara marble. He chiseled away at it until what was left became arguably the most impressive piece of sculpture that’s ever been carved. Writers start with a concept, nothing more. The first draft, equivalent to Michelangelo’s block of marble, is what we chip away at it until we’re left with our humble version of the Pietà, however distant that may be from a sculpted masterpiece. I enjoy hammering my story until it becomes as true, and as fully rendered, as I envisioned it in my imagined plotline.
Describe your latest book in 4 words.
Suspense, romance, fantasy – blended.
For those interested in exploring the subject or theme of your book, where should they start?
Although First Second Coming is primarily entertainment, the book’s message is about intolerance. Hopefully readers will pick that up. There are two sets of intolerant religious groups in this story. One demonstrates intolerance of other views in an aggressive manner. The other group exercises passive resistance. Examples of tolerance abound in this novel, but these two intolerant groups put mankind’s future at risk.
The internet has plenty of information about all types of intolerance, but whether the information posted on any given website is accurate can often be questioned. Posts from universities or organizations dedicated specifically to one type of intolerance or another are more credible. (For example, religious organizations often deal with intolerance to their faithful.) Museums of intolerance, which exist in Los Angeles, New York City, El Paso, Albuquerque and other locations, are worth a visit. Simply seeking out people for respectful conversations, to learn from them and compare beliefs or opinions, is invaluable.
How did you become involved with the subject or theme of your book?
9/11 was the inspiration for this book. My law firm hosted annual conferences at the World Trade Center each spring for our clients in the New York/New Jersey area. We were there in May, 2001, four months before the attack. I had clients in the building, had become acquainted to staff members in the WTC’s conference facility at the top of the building, and I grew up in New York City. As I watched the tragedy unfold, all these connections I had with the building brought to mind a random thought – that we need a new god trained as a planetary turnaround specialist.
Admittedly that’s an odd thought. I didn’t dwell on. But somehow the idea stuck with me, coming back to me once I decided to write fiction. A rudimentary plot, characters, the concept and theme spilled out. So I went with it, developing the story over until it became what’s now this book.
What were your goals and intentions in this book, and how well do you feel you achieved them?
This book is the first in a series in which Earth’s new God tackles our many global problems, one or two at a time. So the global issue subject tackled in First Second Coming, the religious violence behind 9/11, became a test of humanity, not a one-off concept. I’m satisfied with the book as a foundation for the future ones that will address other topics of global concern that need attention.
Anything you would like to say to your readers and fans?
Sure – I’d be very, very pleased to have some! Seriously, I began to write this novel simply as a way to enjoy my retirement. People in my critique groups, or who had access to all or parts of the story, urged me to publish. I had to be talked into it and eventually gave in. Now that First Second Coming has been released, I hope it does connect with readers, and that they become fans who will read the sequels and spin-offs, too.
What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
I enjoy editing the most, believe it or not. I liken the writing process to sculpture. Michelangelo began the Pietà with a huge chunk of Carrara marble. He chiseled away at it until what was left became arguably the most impressive piece of sculpture that’s ever been carved. Writers start with a concept, nothing more. The first draft, equivalent to Michelangelo’s block of marble, is what we chip away at it until we’re left with our humble version of the Pietà, however distant that may be from a sculpted masterpiece. I enjoy hammering my story until it becomes as true, and as fully rendered, as I envisioned it in my imagined plotline.
Can you tell us a little bit about your next books or what you have planned for the future?
I’m working on two novels concurrently. One is the sequel to First Second Coming, which has a working title of Earth’s Peril. A spin-off, called The Recycling Center, is the second book. I intend to focus my writing on the New God Series for the foreseeable future, with the occasional spin-off if or when they pop up.
How long have you been writing?
I started writing fiction in 2015. Before that I’d written non-fiction for decades in the form of legal briefs, motions, trial documents, articles for legal publications, etc. Fiction requires a different writing style, and it took me a year or so to develop mine. I enjoy filling up a blank white screen with letters which form words that turn into sentences, paragraphs, chapters and, eventually, a book worth reading.
Can you tell us a little bit about the characters in First Second Coming?
Happy to oblige! I’ll do the three main characters for you.
Ram Forrester is a 38-year old atheist in 2027, the year First Second Coming takes place. He was the evening news anchor at KJCR-TV in L.A. until he was shot by mistake on Valentine’s Day. The shooter was aiming at his ex-wife and missed her. Ram’s doctors called his survival a medical miracle. While he was recovering in the ICU, Ram’s girlfriend of three years, Kate Chung, broke up with him. When Ram returned to the station as the host of the Ram Forrester Hour he’s a more mature man, ready to finally settle down with his “angel” – if only he can find her.
Brendali Santamaria is four years younger than Ram. She’s an extroverted bilingual Latina, a native of Southern California and a devout Catholic. Brendali’s spent ten years as a television news reporter in Veracruz, Mexico, hunting down and exposing narcotraficante corruption. However, when the drug lords put out an order to kill her and murder her boyfriend as well as her best friend, she has to flee. Bren feels guilty for living when she should have been the one to die. She’s also angry at being unable to execute her version of the Golden Rule – that revenge is best served cold. She meets Ram, becomes the co-host of his show and, before long, they’re truly (and literally) a match made in heaven.
Earth’s new, unnamed God takes over management of the planet from NTG – whom we know as the New Testament God and by other names. He’s a planetary turnaround specialist, sent here by Milky Way Galaxy, Inc., his and NTG’s employer. This god is a cross between a more sophisticated version of the Old Testament God and current day corporate turnaround artists, but with a more humanitarian streak he would strive to deny.
If you could spend the day with one of the characters from First Second Coming who would it be? Please tell us why you chose this particular character, where you would go and what you would do.
Brendali’s been talking to me and narrating what’s taken place in the book since the early drafts of the story. We’ve become good friends although she wakes me up at night to pass on the latest twist in the story. Now that I’m working on the sequel she’s doing that again, but I don’t mind. I enjoy our interactions, so she’s my pick.
We’d start with lunch at Porto’s Bakery in Glendale, a Cuban restaurant well known to Angelinos. Their meals, pastries and cakes are superb. We’d lose the calories by hiking the beautiful San Gabriel Mountains trails that wind through Pasadena’s Eaton Canyon.
To finish the day, Bren and I would attend a Gaby Moreno concert. A Guatemalan born singer/guitarist who lives in L.A, Gaby belts out her songs in English, Spanish, French and Portuguese. Bren and I consider her a favorite, so we’ll enjoy the concert regardless of whether Gaby’s playlist consists of Blues, Jazz, Soul or R&B selections. We’d invite Ram, too, though he’s more a rock ‘n roll guy.
What is the hardest part of writing your books?
Because I came to writing fiction from a long career as a trial attorney, my writing style sometimes lapses into a stiff, formal style that’s normal for writing such boring things as legal briefs, client reports and trial documents. When editing I stay alert to this tendency, and fix the verbiage where I find it unless the character – such as God in First Second Coming – has a formal manner of speech.
What songs are most played on your Ipod?
I don’t actually own an Ipod, but some of the most played songs in my iTunes library are Copperhead Road by Steve Earle; Unintended by Muse; Come Unto Me by the Mavericks; Dreamer by the Lil’ Band O’ Gold; Lend a Hand by Jakob Dylan; King of El Paso by Boz Scaggs; Furr by Blitzen Trapper; Chocolate Jesus, a cover of Tom Waite’s song done by Joe Bonamassa and Beth Hart; Quizas, Quizas, Quizas by Gabi Moreno and Killybegs by The Chieftains. I listen to a fairly broad range of musical genres.
Do you have critique partners or beta readers?
During the time I was writing First Second Coming, I was part of two critique groups. One was a three-person group, including me. None of us were published. The other group consisted of eight, several of whom were already published. As part of First Second Coming’s pre-publication process I sent my manuscript to four beta readers and one sensitivity reader, the latter to make sure Brendali, my Latina main character, was realistic and not in any way stereotyped or inaccurate.
What book are you reading now?
I’m reading the newly released novel by David Mitchell, one of my favorite authors. It’s called Utopia Avenue. I’m about 25% through it at this point and it’s very enjoyable, though so far only occasionally up to his usual “relentlessly brilliant” writing style. The quoted phrase belongs to Ursula K. Le Guin, herself a brilliant writer.
How did you start your writing career?
There comes a time in life when you look ahead to mull over what you’ll do in your free time during retirement. That time came for me in 2014. Because litigation is a very writing intensive profession, and I enjoyed the writing aspect of it, I concluded that doing something related to the written word would fit me well. And since I’m an avid reader, the idea of trying my hand at writing fiction made sense, too. I embarked on a self-imposed crash course to learn the craft by attending writers’ conferences, scouring the internet for online websites, and becoming friendly with writers and a few instructors I met at the conferences. I also bought books such as Stephen King’s On Writing and pored through them.
Tell us about your next release
I’m working on two novels concurrently. One is the sequel to First Second Coming, which has a working title of Earth’s Peril. A spin-off called The Recycling Center is the second book. Earth’s Peril is probably the next release, but I’m in the early stages of both books so that could change.