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Monday, September 28, 2015

GUEST POST: Genesis of The Spider in the Laurel by Michael Pogach

I didn’t come up with the title of this article. My publisher’s Publicity Coordinator emailed me and wrote: “Fantasy Book Critic would love a post about the Genesis of The Spider in the Laurel.” Here’s the thing. She had no idea just how perfect a title that is for a piece on the origins of this novel.

In the beginning, I was a short story writer. Not genre. Literary fiction. Cerebral stuff mostly. Almost all of the action in the protagonist’s head as he or she deals with whatever conflict is there, be it relationships, war, life, death, whatever. So when I decided to try my hand at a novel (a decision which I’ve tried to recall numerous times without any success; I truly have no idea what made me finally say, “That’s it. I‘m writing a novel”) I wanted to get physical. It was going to be an Indiana Jones styled adventure.

The first draft went untitled for about half a year. As it neared completion the need for a title grew, so one night my writers group and I kicked around ideas over pizza and drinks. The winning title was: Genesis Lied. The premise of the novel, at that time, was wrapped up in a linguistic quirk of the Book of Genesis which says, “Let Us make humankind in Our image.” I seized upon the plural “Us” and “Our” to posit that there had once been two Gods. But one had overthrown the other and presented Himself as the only God in Heaven.

Yeah, I know. I’m going to piss off some people with this.

Anyway, I got to liking the title Genesis Lied. And I focused my first revisions on strengthening that thematic focus. In time, I even began querying the book as Genesis Lied. It didn’t sell. But I did get a handful of generous and blunt personalized responses. The idea of the book was well received. The pacing of the action was good, they said. But the main characters didn’t carry the novel.

Back to the drawing board. And the pizza and alcohol. I spent another year revising. The word count went from 80,000 to 103,000. The scope of the novel’s reinterpretation of religion was scaled back. The main characters were redefined. Their relationship became central to the book. The storyline came alive. Only after this did I go back at the religious background. I broke out of Genesis. I sought out older mythologies which influenced the Bible. I invented and reinvented new evolutions of belief. I developed an entirely new view of ancient man’s relationship with the gods. Finally, I changed history.

In tomorrow’s America, belief is the new enemy. That’s the catch-phrase for the book. But I needed a reason for my future America to be secular. A reason for it to have outlawed all faiths and expressions thereof. I looked for times in US history that the nation had been united in a goal. The two best examples were after Pearl Harbor and after September 11, 2001. I chose the latter.

The timeline I built from that day forward involved an America with a singular purpose in the early 2000’s. Eliminate all fundamentalists. And if that meant eliminating all religion, so be it. There was, of course, a war. The secularists won. And out of the darkness of terrorism and extremism, was born the beacon of the Citizens Republic of America.

Raise your hand if you know what happens in fiction when a new government takes over on the promise to build a perfect, harmonious future. That’s right: dystopia!

The book’s new focus in hand, I needed a new title. The Spider in the Laurel is actually a line from a Herman Melville poem titled “The Ravaged Villa.” I’d found the poem while building the story’s new mythos. Part of the thread the heroes follow is an obscure fairytale I invented which features a devilish little golden spider hiding in a laurel crown and whispering into the princess’s ear that it can grant her greatest wish. We all know how that’s going to go, don’t we?

Well, the fairy tale had already taken its name from the poem. And when I made a list of potential new titles for the novel, the fairytale’s title was the most striking of the bunch. Genesis Lied became The Spider in the Laurel.

I started out trying to write an Indiana Jones adventure. And somewhere along the way, I developed a whole new world that was part V for Vendetta and part American Gods. And at the heart of it is a historian who is being forced to destroy the relics of history, and a believer who has trouble believing in anything but herself and her guns. Whatever the title, I hope you’ll read a few pages. Then maybe some more. And, with a little luck, find yourself drawn in.


Official Author Website
Order The Spider In The Laurel HERE

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Michael Pogach began writing stories in grade school. He doesn’t remember these early masterpieces, but his parents tell him everyone in them died. He’s gained some humanity since then, even occasionally allowing characters to escape his stories alive. Michael lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and daughter. The Spider in the Laurel is his first novel.


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