NCC English Professor’s Novel is Full of Action, Suspense
by Myra Saturen ,
Will mythology professor Rafael Ward escape the menacing man with a mustache and a gun as he unravels the secrets of a futuristic, fictional American government that has banned religion and religious artifacts? How will the endangered Ward get involved in a clandestine revolution against Relic Enforcement Command, as he races to find a forbidden vase prophesied to restore faith? To find out, you'll have to read "The Spider in the Laurel," Associate Professor of English Michael Pogach's first novel, published by Ragnarok Publications. The book knits fantasy, action and adventure together.
Pogach read from and answered questions about his book during "An Hour with Michael Pogach," on February 9 at Northampton Community College (NCC).
Like the hero of his book, Pogach researched mythology, the Bible and pre-biblical sources to incorporate into his plot. And, during the four-year process of writing it, he did not hesitate to change course; his title is a substitution made weeks before the projected publication date. In like manner, characters evolved, plot twists took different directions, and the first chapter got a rewrite as he wove his tale. "Everything that I thought would happen didn't," he said.
Wards' flights take him and a friend to the famous bookstore Shakespeare and Sons to the Basilica of St. Denis and into cathedrals of stunning beauty. At Shakespeare and Company, Rafael lingers in Hemingway and James Joyce's favorite hangout, where "ramparts of books" and "the smell of cigars and genius" surround him.
In a question-and-answer session, Pogach imparted his own secrets for writing and getting published:
* He puts a great deal of thought into characters' names. For instance, Rafael is an Old Testament name, and Ward means "protector." Sometimes Pogach goes to sports teams for inspiration. He strives for depth that never seems forced.
* Participation in a writers' group proved invaluable. There he could brainstorm and receive honest input rather than flattery.
* In an age of fewer bookstores, he and his publisher are publicizing his book on Amazon, social media, at speaking engagements, and through guest blogs.
* He started out with an Indiana Jones-kind of novel in mind, but followed his imagination where it took him.
* He chose a title inspired by Herman Melville's poem "The Ravaged Villa."
* Persistence and a strong belief in his work led Pogach to a publisher.
Pogach earned a bachelor's degree in American studies from Penn State and a master's degrees in humanities and English from Arcadia University. He is the founder and faculty advisor for The Laconic, NCC's literary magazine. He teaches English I, English II, Plays: Classical to Contemporary, and other courses. Pogach is also the author of "Zero to Sixty," a short story collection.
"The Spider in the Laurel" is now available through Amazon in print or e-book form and via Barnes and Nobles's website. Pogach expects his novel to be on bookstore shelves in the future. You can read the first chapter here.