Author Q&A With Michael Koep: When Art Comes To Life

Imagine paintings that hold the secrets to the meaning of life, and death—or scribbled words that can alter past and reshape the present. We know art imitates life, but in Michael B. Koep’s thriller fiction trilogy he brings the arts to life in an action-packed tale spanning seven centuries.

A new book, The Newirth Mythology: Leaves of Fire (June, 2015) tells of how a journal has inadvertently created real lives off the page, changed history, and made myths and their characters real. There is a battle for life on Earth – and the Afterlife – and the fate of existence itself hangs in the balance. The war of the immortals has begun. Koep’s latest installment entwines seemingly unconnected lives from different time periods and deeply explores myth, memory, revenge, and the hope of forgiveness.

“I have always had a love for myths and how myths frame a culture’s narrative,” says Koep, “and ultimately, I wanted to try my hand at my own mythology.”

Amid swordfights, shootouts, betrayal, secret guardians prone to poetic monologues and murders – in a milieu of fine art, fine food, secret lovers, myth, mafia, ancient languages, and the loud music of classic vinyl LPs, Koep’s trilogy will leave the reader questioning what it means to be human and what lies beyond this world.

 

The following is a Q&A with Michael Koep:

 

MEDIA CONNECT: Michael, what inspired you to launch your thought-provoking, supernatural thriller series?

Michael Koep: A number of things inspired the writing of Part One of the Newirth Mythology, The Invasion of Heaven, for the story has been haunting my notebooks for a little over 15 years. Looking at the book now I’m thrilled to see that I managed to fit nearly all of my obsessions into the story: music, painting, poetic monologues, sword fighting, bits of psychology, poetry, mafia, international travel and mystery. I even got to explore the big why are we here questions.

I dedicated Part One to my mother. She has suffered from depression for most of her adult life, and growing up watching her battle the illness was a confusing and helpless experience. Reading helped me through those years. Psychology became a poignant interest, as did escape vehicles like fantasy and science fiction– and because I didn’t have the kind of mind to become a psychologist myself I felt that the best way in which I could help my mother was to entertain her with stories and music. The character of Loche Newirth appeared in my journals very soon thereafter– and as a mental health professional, Loche could explore not only the difficulties of being human, but he just might discover a cure to the darker parts of our nature. Maybe even depression. Of course, he hasn’t yet become the kind of hero that I had imagined, but he’s trying.

As a touring rock musician, my travels influenced large parts of the story, too.

 

MC: Your story involves mythology. Could there be truth to our mythologies? Is there a need to create a new mythology?

MK: Certainly mythologies contain truth- human truth. Consider the term mythos: the pattern of basic values and historical experiences of a people characteristically transmitted through the arts. Or, made up stories to make sense and express the inexpressible. Myths tell two stories at once. On the surface they are usually straightforward, plot based narratives with symbolic characters facing fantastic circumstances–very often supernatural at their core. Simultaneously, these stories can provide transformative insights and footholds of understanding about the mysteries of existence and the human condition. Mythology can change not only the behavior of the individual, but so, too, an entire culture. It is this transforming characteristic of storytelling that is of great interest for me– and it is the central theme of The Invasion of Heaven and Leaves of Fire. I am fascinated with the deeply held beliefs that people have for stories–and how those stories dictate both love and fear.

As long as there are questions about our existence, there will always be stories reaching for answers. The historical cannon of myth over thousands of years has changed along side our ability to reason and adapt. Though we still worship the sun (at the beach, mostly these days), our little star no longer holds the divine nature it once did for the ancients. The Sumerian gods fell to the Greek gods– and they to the recent cast of divine characters that hold their place on the current metaphysical and religious stages. When a new evolutionary burst of thought happens for humankind, it is to be expected that another system of belief flourish.

In The Newirth Mythology I wanted gather all mythological narratives, the stories themselves, the events and characters and their metaphorical values, and pronounce, simply: they are all true– they all happened– it is all very real. What main character Loche Newirth discovers, however, is that there is always more to the story.

 

MC: The balance of good and evil is weighed throughout your story. Can we know one without the other?

MK: With volumes written on the problem of evil, I’m not sure that I can add much other than providing another story to hopefully keep the discussion going. Unlike classical myth, The Newirth Mythology leans away from the black and white nature of morality. I am more interested in the many sides and emotional levels of characters, their pasts, their fears, their hopes and what motivates their actions. The character of Helen Newirth, for example, has been called evil by some of my readers in emails and letters. In fact, I’ve been asked more than once by readers at book events, “Why is Helen such a bitch?” I have to agree because the story paints her rather unfavorably, but I often add laughing, “You don’t know Helen like I know Helen.” In other words, there is more to the story. Her past is dark. Her upbringing was a horror– and how she survived is touched upon in Part Two, Leaves of Fire. In other words, Helen operates out of what she knows and out of the environment she has been dealt. Does that make her evil? I’m not sure. I tend to agree with Plato’s idea: “Ignorance, the root and stem of all evil.” It is my hope that Helen will find redemption by the end–and hopefully not continue her spree of bad choices.

 

MC: In your series, art comes to life. Pictures influence behavior and a journal’s words create real people out of the writer’s imagination. What role should art play in our lives?

MK: Art is transcendence. It is a time machine. It is the shiny thing. It is the mirror.  I had intended to use art as a sort of character in the trilogy, though, it didn’t quite work out that way. Instead, art became the environment and setting. It surrounded the story.

Like most artists and writers, I walk beside my characters, I live with them, I see what they see and I (safely) experience their joys and horrors. I’m often thankful that I am able to leave them on the page and escape. I remember thinkingwhen I was creating the writer/psychologist Loche Newirth: wouldn’t it be nightmarish if he couldn’t escape his creation–his art? If what he made came into being?

From that point dominos tumbled, and a huge pile of notes with “what if?” (my favorite question of all) scribbled at the topn of each began cluttering my desk. What if Loche changes history? What if God couldn’t escape his own creation? What if all myths and gods exist in reality? What if art is the vehicle between this life and the next?

Art’s role in The Newirth Mythology is just that–a vehicle to the unknown–to what if. But hasn’t art always been just that? Art transports us beyond ourselves and guides us out of ignorance to empathy and knowledge. To me, art is the singular proof of a soul.

 

MC: You are a bit of a renaissance man- educator, world traveler, poet, artist and rock musician- as well as a novelist. Do you hope your books further the arts and inspire others to create new worlds- and nourish ours? 

MK: Art should knit us all together. It should inspire, elevate and excite. So yes, it is a humbling delight knowing that readers are identifying with my work. Learning that what you’ve created resonates with others and inspires is the primary aim–and better still, the connection invigorates the entire process–from wanting to continually pursue improving one’s craft, to new approaches, reaching further, and dreaming wider and longer. I like to think of art as a good conversation that you don’t want to end–so you order more drinks.

 

Related: Author Q&A: Howard Schatz’s Books Capture 1,100 Best Images out of 4 Million

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MEDIA CONNECT Deskscape Series: What’s On Partner & Director of MC Satellite Kristin Clifford Creedle’s Desk?

The following article is a part of our Deskscape Series. Many of us spend up to eight or nine hours at our desks per day, making our “deskscapes” a creative reflection of the book publicity work we do for our clients every day.

 

Partner & Director of MC Satellite Kristin Clifford Creedle shares some of her favorite parts of her deskscape:

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Working from home has allowed me to better balance my two worlds: new mom and Partner at MEDIA CONNECT… and I’m forever grateful!

Having just settled into my new desk after my maternity leave I haven’t had much time to decorate my new office space, but there are two items sitting on my desk that never fail to make me smile. One is a picture taken of my husband and I on our wedding day, and the other is an adorable calendar my mother gave to me for Christmas this year. This month features two bright pink seahorses giving each other a little smooch.

After a client call, writing a new business proposal, brainstorming or hashing out the latest billing, it helps to be able to look around and clear my head. For me, most days that now means taking a few steps into the living room and visiting my 6-month-old twins, Vivienne and Liam, but for those moments when there’s no time to take even five minutes I can take two seconds and recall the thrill I felt on the day I got married, and that in turn reminds me of how lucky I am today.

And then there are those times when my household comes to visit me… my cat Lily has decided that she’s my new co-worker and often settles herself in my inbox. I can’t say she’s very helpful but she’s guaranteed to make me smile.

 

Related: MEDIA CONNECT Deskscape Series: What’s On Associate Publicist Emily Labes’s Desk?

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MEDIA CONNECT Deskscape Series: What’s On Digital Publicist Johanna Dickson’s Desk?

The following article is a part of our Deskscape Series. Many of us spend up to eight or nine hours at our desks per day, making our “deskscapes” a creative reflection of the book publicity work we do for our clients every day.

Digital Publicist Johanna Dickson shares some of her favorite parts of her deskscape:

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I’ve been known to personalize my spaces wherever I’ve worked. I abhor blank walls and much prefer to fill my cube with photos of my favorite people and places. The collage wall is full of holiday cards, drawings by my little cousins, art prints, and photos of my family and our pets. I have several little photos of my dog Molly around my desk to keep me smiling all day long.  The oddest thing at my desk has to be the Bat Boy bobble head doll my best friend got me years ago for my birthday. It was too creepy to display in my bedroom and so I moved him here. He’s a good conversation starter, although he’s slightly hidden in case a client happens to stop by.

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MEDIA CONNECT Deskscape Series: What’s On Associate Publicist Emily Labes’s Desk?

The following article is a part of our Deskscape Series. Many of us spend up to eight or nine hours at our desks per day, making our “deskscapes” a creative reflection of the book publicity work we do for our clients every day.

Associate Publicist Emily Labes shares some of her favorite parts of her deskscape:


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“I’ve been a part of our team’s Take Your Children to Work Day activity for the last two years. Since we’re the book division, we printed out black and white images of our favorite children’s book covers and had the kids color them in while we played Mad Libs. Even though Take Your Children to Work Day comes but once a year, I keep the crayons in a prominent spot on my desk year-round for a few reasons. First, and most importantly, they remind me how lucky I am to work at a company that allows me the freedom to exercise my creativity. Looking at them also helps quell my massive Peter Pan complex; as clichéd as it may be, I like knowing that while I may not be able to stay young forever, I can always be young at heart.

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MEDIA CONNECT Deskscape Series: What’s On Senior Publicist Adrienne Fontaine’s Desk?

 

The following article is a part of our Deskscape Series. Many of us spend up to eight or nine hours at our desks per day, making our “deskscapes” a creative reflection of the book publicity work we do for our clients every day.

Senior Publicist Adrienne Fontaine shares one of her favorite parts of her deskscape:

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“The Twizzler-shaped object on the left is my iSound speaker, which provides my soundtrack to the day, daily news, and Skype audio. It’s a bit of modern design that goes well with what a colleague calls my “Merv Griffin chairs.” The mug on the right featuring the one-and-only David Bowie as the Goblin King keeps me energized and inspired, courtesy of Johanna Dickson. The real magic happens when I listen to Bowie while drinking coffee.”

-Adrienne Fontaine

 

Related: Meet Our MEDIA CONNECT Team: Adrienne Fontaine

 

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MEDIA CONNECT Interview Series: Scott Olster of Fortune

OlsterQ&A

The following Q&A appeared in the the latest edition of the MEDIA CONNECT newsletter. To subscribe for future editions, click here.

 

MEDIA CONNECT: How do you prefer to be contacted? Phone, fax, e-mail? Are there specific days or time of days that you prefer to be contacted? (i.e. What are your cut-off times before and after the show?)
Scott Olster
: E-mail is always best.

 

MC: What do you want to see and when? Catalogs? Galleys? Finished books? Do you want to see all books or only select titles? Please be as specific as possible.
SO: 
I prefer to receive galleys or review books as far in advance as possible. Ideally, electronic copies.

 

MC: What is your lead-time? How far in advance would you like to know about upcoming books?
SO:
 3 months or so is ideal.

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MEDIA CONNECT Interview Series: Ray Hennessy of Entrepreneur.com

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The following Q&A appeared in the the latest edition of the MEDIA CONNECT newsletter. To subscribe for future editions, click here.

 

MEDIA CONNECT: How do you prefer to be contacted? Phone, fax, email? Are there specific days or time of days that you prefer to be contacted? (i.e. What are your cut-off times before and after the show?)
Ray Hennessy:
 I prefer to be contacted via e-mail — anytime.

 

MC: What do you want to see and when? Catalogs? Galleys? Finished books? Do you want to see all books or only select titles? Please be as specific as possible.
RH:
 We receive a large volume of books each day, many of which go unread; therefore, it’s best for you to reach out to an editor directly with a short pitch and see if there’s any interest before you send. Topics of greatest interest to us include leadership, productivity and management. We accept both galleys and finished books.

 

MC: What is your lead-time? How far in advance would you like to know about upcoming books?
RH:
 As an online publication, we are able to work quickly. Ideally, we’d like to receive two to three weeks’ notice before a book drops so we can coordinate coverage accordingly.

 

MC: Do you prefer to deal with one person at each house? If so, who? Or are you open to contact from individual publicists?
RH:
 I’m open to contact from individual publicists.

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MEDIA CONNECT Interview Series: Martin Zwilling of Startup Professionals

ZwillingQ&A

The following Q&A appeared in the the latest edition of the MEDIA CONNECT newsletter. To subscribe for future editions, click here.

 

MEDIA CONNECT: Do you prefer being pitched by email or are you open to phone calls?
Martin Zwilling: 
Email only.

MC: Are there specific days or time of day that you prefer being contacted?
MZ:
 No preference.

MC: What business topics currently interest you the most?
MZ:
 Entrepreneurs, startups, business leadership.

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MEDIA CONNECT Interview Series: Jim Pawlak of Biz Books

PawlakQ&A

The following Q&A appeared in the the latest edition of the MEDIA CONNECT newsletter. To subscribe for future editions, click here.

 

MEDIA CONNECT: Do you prefer being pitched by email or are you open to phone calls?
Jim Pawlak:
 Email.

 

MC: What business topics currently interest you the most?
JP:
 Anything of broad appeal to readers; that said, I don’t review books on ethics/governance/Boards and personal finance/investments.

 

MC: Do you like receiving galleys?
JP
: No.

 

MC: Do you prefer physical or e-versions of a book?
JP: 
Physical only.

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MEDIA CONNECT Interview Series: Skip Prichard of Leadership Insights

PrichardQ&A

The following Q&A appeared in the the latest edition of the MEDIA CONNECT newsletter. To subscribe for future editions, click here.

 

MEDIA CONNECT: What is your background and interest in books?
Skip Prichard: 
Today, I am the CEO of OCLC, a global technology company serving libraries. Previously, I was the CEO of Ingram Content Group, the largest trade book wholesaler and also Lightning Source. I have a lifelong love affair with books and read a book a day (no sleep!).

A few years ago, I launched my blog, Leadership Insights, to share ideas and inspiration from people I meet and books I read.

 

skipQuoteMC: Do you prefer being pitched by email or are you open to phone calls? Do you like receiving galleys? Do you prefer physical or e-versions of a book?
SP: 
As a busy CEO who is traveling extensively, phone calls are impossible. You can contact me via “email” from my blog site. My team monitors email and can help answer questions. If the author is not interested in a written interview (or in person), then do not send a book. Though I own multiple devices, I prefer written galleys if they are available.

 

MC: What business topics currently interest you the most?
SP:
 We look at topics that interest a wide variety of readers. We rarely feature self-published authors. Questions we ask: Will this article make a difference in someone’s life? Make them more effective or a better leader? Will they be able to run a better meeting or learn effective communication techniques?

Our filter is whether it will serve the audience. It is an honor to provide the opportunity to enhance people’s lives.

 

MC: What’s the most common mistake publicists make when approaching you?
SP: 
We tend to work only with the best in the business. I personally enjoy developing a rapport and building a relationship.

For those who have not worked with us, I would say that the top 3 mistakes are:
1. Expecting a book review. I don’t do book reviews. I read every book before it is featured, then send a list of questions. Alternatively, we accept guest posts. There are some books I read that I do not think fit the audience and then we decline.
2. Expect a telephone interview I don’t do them. I don’t transcribe them. If I did, the results would be poor.
3. Sending a book without a commitment for an interview. My time is valuable. Don’t send a book if you don’t want an interview.

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