It was my pleasure to interview Scott Pinsker, author of “The Second Coming: A Love Story”, a great read that keeps you enthralled and leaves you pondering the big questions. For the full review, click here.
Below are my questions in italics and Scott’s complete, unaltered answers.
Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Gladly, Anela – and thanks so much for taking the time (and donating the blog-space!) to interview me. I live in Tampa Bay, Florida, and I’m a happily married father of two young boys: eight-year-old Daniel and six-year-old Micah… plus two rescue cats (Leeloo and Jinx) and one 220-pound American Mastiff named Leon. (Oh, yeah: I should also mention my wife, Johanna. PLEASE don’t tell her I’ve listed her after the cats and dogs, ‘cause I HATE sleeping on the couch!)
And I’ve gotta say, being a Dad is the most awesome journeys I’ve been blessed to experience. (In fact, whenever I want to find out where my kids are, I simply disconnect the Wi-Fi cable and wait for the screaming to commence… never takes more than a few seconds. Sigh…)
I’ve also written as a marketing and brand-building expert for a few different websites, including FOXNews.com, the Washington Times and Breitbart.
While my kids and family come first, writing comes second. And speaking of second (shameless plug!), my debut novel is The Second Coming: A Love Story. If you’re unfamiliar with it, here’s a brief synopsis:
Two men claim to be the Second Coming of Christ. Each claims the other is Satan in disguise… but only one is telling the truth. The “hook” is, the reader isn’t explicitly told who’s who. The United States soon splits along ideological lines, with Red America swearing allegiance to the conservative “savior” and Blue America (naturally) worshiping at the altar of the other. A furious Culture War-turned-Holy War erupts, with both sides waging a win-at-all-costs campaign to prove their savior’s supremacy.
It’s finally happened: Red America and Blue America are headed for Armageddon!
What do you do when you’re not writing? Do you have a day job as well?
For the past fifteen-or-so years, I’ve worked in PR and media relations, representing entertainers, athletes, celebrities and corporations. Sometimes my clients have needed to reboot their public image – people like troubled NFL quarterback Mike Vick, for example – and sometimes my clients requested help to publicize an upcoming concert, new album or international tour. I’ve also staged media events at the Super Bowl and Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game. It’s an enjoyable way to make a living, because I’ve gotten to spend time with great comedians like Wayne Brady, Kevin Nealon, Colin Quinn, Robert Klein and Richard Lewis – athletes like Tom Brady, Eddie George, Clyde Drexler and Jerome Bettis – and entertainers ranging from Emeril Lagasse to Jon Secada. (And once, I spent 10-days at the Hedonism II nudist resort in Negril, Jamaica for a National Lampoon film shoot with Kato Kaelin, Olivia Munn and a dozen swimsuit models. I know this sounds like the set-up to a very bad joke, but it actually happened. But just for the record, I was 100 percent good – um, trust me! Kato? Er… not as much. But hey, unlike me, Kato was single… or at least he was by the time he left…)
Has writing always been a passion of yours or one that came over time?
Writing has always been a passion of mine. Always. Even when I wasn’t writing, I was still a writer. You see, the wonderful thing about writing is that it’s a transferable skill-set: Media relations is just another form of storytelling. (In fact, some of the most creative fiction can be found in the news section of your daily paper and the cable news – if you know what to look for.)
For an incredibly long time, I manufactured lame, petty excuses for not finishing my novel, The Second Coming: A Love Story. I didn’t want to write it, because handling media relations for others is easy: I’m communicating THEIR story, and then I’m sitting comfortably on the sidelines. Don’t get me wrong; I take enormous pride in my professionalism and I’m very proud of my work, but there’s a difference between guiding others from behind the curtain – and being in the spotlight yourself. (Especially if you’re not an extrovert. I’m sort of shy.)
I can’t speak for other writers, but for me, writing is a dreadfully painful task – a long, tortuous journey of relentless introspection – and the process of forcing yourself to stand eyeball-to-eyeball with your innermost fears, fantasies and Freudian compulsions. I mean, when I write, I’m offering you my soul on a silver platter. I’m standing buck-ass naked in broad daylight! I feel so exposed, so vulnerable… but writing is akin to breathing. It’s life. I write because I have to write, Anela. If I don’t share these strange ideas ricocheting inside my head, the top of my skull will explode. BOOM!
So I guess more than anything, I write because I ran out of all other options.
Can you elaborate on the title of the book? In what way is it “a love story”?
The overriding theme of the book is love: The love of God to man; the love of man to God; the love of fathers to sons; the love of sons to fathers. It should also be noted that the theme of the New Testament is also love: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son (John 3:16)…”
Love is humanity’s most dangerous, most uncontrollable emotion, because it’s the one emotion that hasn’t evolved over time. Let me explain:
If you force yourself, you can make yourself miserable at Disney World, or on the beaches of Tahiti – and through sheer will of force, there are some very happy people inside of horrible prisons. Clinical depression is a separate issue (and no disrespect to those suffering from it), but for most of us, happiness and sadness can be controlled.
Yet you can’t make yourself fall in love with someone else. Not over the long-term. And you can’t force yourself to fall out of love either. The heart wants what it wants – even when the head disagrees.
That’s the beauty – and curse – of love. We’re creatures of free will… but somehow, love falls outside of its realm.
Many of the themes in the novel are, obviously, biblical and theological in nature. Did you have to study religious texts to integrate these into the plot or do you have a personal background with them that you drew from?
Oh, I studied every theological book and religious text I could find! The Bible, the works of Milton, Dante and so many others – but I also want to make it clear that the goal of my novel is NOT to apostatize for any sect, faith or ideology. I have no desire to argue to the death about what happens after we die. That’s your burden, not mine.
I was also influenced by modern-day horror movies and end-of-times eschatology books – The Exorcist, Left Behind, The Devil’s Advocate, The Seventh Sign, yada yada. I enjoy many of these works, but I had a complaint: They had become drearily formulaic. Either there was a campy, gleeful Devil causing havoc, terror and mayhem (until the scrappy protagonist finally realizes who the Devil is – and how to defeat him), or there are mysterious end-of-days signs that the rest of the population refuses to acknowledge, until critical mass is reached and the protagonist must make some sort of leap-of-faith to survive and/or save the world.
Been there, done that.
Late one night, I had a thought: God might be revealed by faith, because God – by definition – is good. God follows a moral code. But the Devil wouldn’t be beholden to faith or morality. Essentially, the Devil is a marketer – specifically, a Machiavellian marketer who conforms his message to the ears of his target-audience. It might take a theologian to understand the divine nature of God, but it would take a marketer to understand the Devil.
Then I had a further thought: If the Devil was an outcome-based marketer, he wouldn’t do anything stupid, like put horns on his head and tell everyone who he is! That would be bad marketing. Instead, the smartest PR tactic for the Devil would be to attach himself to the specific faith of his target-audience – and weave-in his evil subtly and covertly. Because, bluntly, if I were handling PR for the Devil, that’s exactly what I’d advise him to do.
The scary truth about mankind is that we’re highly susceptible to these kinds of marketing messages. If we’re told something is bad, we stay away. Very few people deliberately align themselves with evil, immoral behavior. But an overwhelming portion of the population will willingly accept evil – if it’s blended by something positive.
We see this with household products: “Try some high-fat snacks! Sure, they’re unnecessary and unhealthy… but you deserve a treat, and these snacks will make you happy! Don’t you deserve to be happy?” “Enjoy a cigarette! They might send you to an early grave, but you’ll look SO cool and daring! Like a rebel! Hey, you only live once…”
Mixed messages are a killer.
Tragically, we see this today with ISIS in the Middle East. Much of what ISIS preaches is morally sound, because it’s based on mainstream Islam… but interwoven with the good are elements of shocking barbarity and unadulterated savagery. Nobody would join a terrorist army and behead innocent men, women and children in the name of Satan – but large numbers are now doing so, because they sincerely believe “God” is telling them it’s a moral imperative.
And make no mistake: ISIS is evil. Evil, perhaps, on a scale unseen since the rise of Nazi Germany.
As a fiction writer, I find this phenomenon much more interesting… and as a realist who lives in the real world, I find it terrifyingly chilling.
Something that one of your characters called out as evidence of God’s existence was the fact that the sun and the moon are exactly the same size in the sky when viewed from Earth. Considering the size and scope of the cosmos, the odds of that happening are rather astronomical. Is this true, and if it is, where did you come across this fact because that’s pretty awesome.
Isn’t that a strange phenomenon? The moon is one-fourth the size of the earth, which is actually abnormally large; none of the other planets in our solar system have a moon as proportionally large as ours. By contrast, the sun is 108 times larger than our bluish-green planet; one million earths could fit inside the sun! But from this one precise spot in the entire cosmos, the sun and moon appear so perfectly identical in height and width in the sky, they literally take turns eclipsing one another. The two most obvious signs in the sky!
Isn’t that interesting?
It seems to me that if an Infinite Being wanted to disprove the existence of a chaotic, random universe, could you imagine a more majestic way to do so than by making the two most obvious signs in the sky perfectly identical – in a way unseen on every other planet, and in a way that utterly defies the Law of Probability?
I’ve never heard anyone else make this observation before. I mean, people have acknowledged that the sun and moon are identical in size, because otherwise solar and lunar eclipses couldn’t both take place. But I’ve never heard anyone use this observation in a theological sense… and quite honestly, I find that kind of weird.
The idea came to me when I tried to imagine what God is truly like. One of my complaints is that most people might talk about God being an infinite, all-powerful being in a theoretical sense… but very few people have taken the time to consider what that actually means. Instead, when people think about God (or portray Him in film or literature), they tend to visualize an older, wiser version of us. But “infinite” has a meaning! It means that an infinite God would be infinitely greater than anything we could imagine. It’s a differential that’s infinitely greater than trying to explain quantum mathematics to a gnat – infinitely greater than the intellect of an earthworm and an Einstein.
Think about that.
It’s an intellect far beyond our earthly capacity, but I do believe we can attempt to comprehend God by truisms: A loving God would therefore desire positivity over destruction, because love is positive. A moral law, morally applied, should not lead to an immoral outcome. And an Infinite Being would have infinite meanings in His creations, meaning there’d be more than one reason why things are as they are. A simple mind can only think in one dimension – i.e. singular creations with singular meanings – but an infinite mind would have infinite levels of complexities.
So with that thought, consider the sun: A bright, glorious star that gives us light – and the possibility of life. Consider the moon: A cold, dead, lifeless orb that can only reflect the glory of the sun – and a pale, barren landscape utterly incapable of original light.
Yet they’re both absolutely identical in height and width in the sky, and the total antithesis of what you’d expect to find in a random, chaotic universe!
Is it just a coincidence?
Maybe. After all, the moon is slowly drifting away from the earth, and the sun is slowly expanding – it’ll eventually become a Red Giant star, before it enters its death throes, billions of years in the future. But at this one precise moment in time-space, just look up in the sky!
Because maybe it’s the exact opposite of a coincidence.
Is there a message in your book that you want readers to grasp? Or is it more a question that you’d like pondered, and if so, how would you frame it?
It’s funny, my four all-time favorite books are Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, George Carlin’s Brain Droppings, Richard Bach’s Illusions and Frederic Bastiat’sThe Law. On the surface it’s a weird quartet, because many of the ideas in one book are violently rejected in the other (Rand would hate Bach! Carlin would hate Bastiat!). But here’s what they all have in common: Each book has provocative ideas and a peculiar world-view that sticks in your head long after you finish the final chapter.
And I LOVE that! Look, I know plenty of people adore Ayn Rand and plenty of people despise her, but there’s a potency to her thought-patterns that are simply off-the-hook brilliant. George Carlin was a groundbreaking satirist and I’ve been a fan of his ever since I first watched him on HBO as a young boy (before my parents dragged me away!), and I might disagree with some of his statements, like “all property is theft,” but I’m so grateful for his insight and originality. Bastiat and Bach as well…
That was my goal in writing The Second Coming: A Love Story. I guarantee you, I’ll give you some wild ideas to consider! I guarantee you, I’ll leave you with some strange concepts to play with! You might agree or disagree, but in some way, you’ll view the world in a slightly different way when you’re done reading.
And what could be more worthwhile than that?
So I hope this book helps you reconsider the nature of God and man. I hope it helps you reexamine what true, unconditional love really is. I hope it makes you contemplate why our flaws and insecurities forge our character – and how evil men use this to their advantage.
What was the hardest part of writing your book and what was the most enjoyable?
The hardest part was forcing myself to finish it! I began writing this book 15+ years ago, but I was dissatisfied with it. There was more I needed to say. And over these 15 years, my life changed dramatically: I left college. I got married. I began a career. I moved from Washington, DC to Hawaii to Los Angeles to Charleston, SC to Tampa Bay. I had children. I experienced gut-wrenching tragedy. I experienced pure, boundless joy.
As I changed, so did the major elements of the book, because I kept writing and rewriting it on an OCD binge… in fact, it was more like CDO than OCD (that’s OCD so severe, you have to alphabetize the letters!).
There are parts of the story that I wrote while dangerously depressed. It’s very painful for me to reread these sections, because the words carry me back to that awful place and time. The words themselves are almost an emotional bookmark…
The best part was finishing the story and sharing it with others. I had anticipated that the book would have a few fans, but also a lot of haters – because I’m writing about religion and politics, and no matter what side you choose, you’ll always end-up alienating half the population! But to my astonishment, it’s been almost universally well-received – by both self-declared atheist reviewers and steadfast followers of Christ. And that’s so unexpected for a book that has so many polarizing elements. There are 40+ reviews on Amazon, from America, Canada, England, India, Australia, Romania, Holland – and the average review is something like 4.5 out of 5 stars. Ain’t that cool?
I’m just so grateful that a wide, diverse audience has found my book worthwhile. It really makes me happy.
How has your experience with self-publishing been thus far? Any memorable challenges?
Oh, I love it! My challenge is the same that all self-published authors face: The sheer volume of literature in the marketplace makes it enormously difficult to find an audience. My dilemma was compounded by the fact that this story didn’t fit neatly into any one category. (Next time I’m gonna write about a boy wizard, or Vampire lovers, or a kinky billionaire who’s into S&M!) I mean, how do you find a target-audience for a book about religion and politics thatsounds like it’s Christian Fiction – but it’s really not?
I’m anticipating that it’ll be a long, slow burn over several years: Hopefully people will continue to find my book, and via word-of-mouth and positive praise, I’ll gradually build a wider audience. (That’s what I hope, at least!)
Can we hope for a sequel to this book??
Yes, absolutely! I was originally planning on releasing a follow-up book: Three Days Later: A Revenge Story, and then writing one more book in the trilogy, but I’m holding-off for now. One of the things I’ve learned about the literary marketplace is that the middle book is difficult to market, so I’m waiting until the second and third book are both complete, and then I’ll be releasing them simultaneously. So it’ll take me a little longer, but I hope it’ll be worth the wait.
And in the meantime, I strongly encourage readers to give The Second Coming: A Love Story a chance. It can be purchased on Amazon, and the feedback from fans, readers and critics is enormously helpful, because the writer/reader relationship is symbiotic: We cannot exist without the other. We need each other.
So, from the bottom of my heart… THANK YOU!!
Many thanks to author Scott Pinsker for taking the time to be interviewed on Amid the Imaginary!
A celebrity publicist-turned-author, Scott Pinsker has worked with a vast array of Super Bowl champions, Grammy-winners and entertainment icons, managing everything from crisis communications to film properties. His analysis of publicity trends has been showcased multiple times on FOXNews.com, where he occasionally contributes as a marketing expert. His debut novel is The Second Coming: A Love Story.
To learn more about the author and his work, explore his website at The Second Coming Is Here.