Friday, July 10, 2015

Not in the literal sense

Author CM Palov speaks about her journey towards writing novels with esoteric themes and the process of writing an esoteric novel to reckon with.

While many have made religious conspiracy theories best-seller, few do justice to books on such esoteric topics or obscure religious & spiritual topics, which too can have a commercial angle. CM Palov is an author who comes with a heavy background to write esoteric-themed novels with a biblical conspiracy theory successfully. This Washington native, whose first name is Chloe, comes with a degree in Art History in arm. Ark of Fire, The Templar’s Code, The Isis Agenda, The Templar’s Quest and The Templar’s Secret are the novels, which have made her an esoteric writer to reckon with. Her books are a combination of well-done research and good writing skills. Racy yet revealing is how one describes them. In between writing, she has gone off on odd journeys, best described as quirky yet appealing. She speaks about her novels and the works in between.

The brief about you in books on internet does intrigue me. A degree in Art History, Museum Guide, English teacher in Korea, bookshop manager, a writer, someone obsessed with biblical conspiracy theories … how would you describe yourself?
I’m disinclined to divulge too much as I rather like being a woman of mystery. Although, joking aside, I do think of myself as being equal parts Right Brain/Left Brain due to the fact that my mother was a computer systems engineer and my father is an artist. And while it’s rather prosaic, given that I’m a writer, I am an avid bibliophile, continually adding to my book collection. Hoping to break my habit, two years ago I bought an e-reader. However, I’ve yet to take it out of the box.

What made you decide – hey, how about becoming a writer of esoteric thrillers? 
When I was at university studying art history, I became intrigued with the preponderance of symbols found in European art & architecture, beginning in the Middle Ages. Clearly, these were secrets hidden in plain sight. However, what was the nature of the secret? Moreover, who was it intended for? Curious to know the answers, and dissatisfied with the official explanation for all of this encoded artwork, I delved into the world of medieval occultism and esoteric studies. I’ve been studying it ever since, a decades’ long love affair. As for making the decision to write esoteric thrillers, since I grew up reading Robert Ludlum and John Le CarrĂ©, I was naturally drawn to the thriller genre.

With quite a few writers also into writing such books, is it a bother? How do you rate
C.M. Palov
Actually, I can’t rate the competition for the simple reason that while I write esoteric thrillers, I don’t read them (other than my own, of course). Moreover, I suspect that were I to follow the progress of other writers in my genre, it might stymie my creativity. For that reason, I find it best to work in a vacuum.

Your protagonist, Caedmon Aisquith, is not a regular hero. How did he come about?
I knew from the onset that I wanted my protagonist to be a medieval scholar with an Oxford background – the droll, professorial type. However, given the nature of the thriller genre – action scenes are de rigueur – Caedmon would need to have the skills necessary to extricate himself from a dangerous situation. Because he spent ten years as an intelligence officer at MI5, he has the requisite ‘kill skills’. In that regard, I suppose you could say he’s the thinking man’s action hero. Though Caedmon has both brains and brawn, he’s rather self-effacing. I do like a modest man.

Do tell us of how each book was created, thought about & written. Trying to offer something new & exciting must be tough, considering the genre you are writing.
It’s said that there are two types of fiction writers: plotters and those that write ‘by the seat of their pants, aka ‘pantsers.’ I fall into the former camp, being a methodical plotter. Each book begins in the same manner – with only the germ of an idea (i.e., ‘I think I want to write a book about the Ark of the Covenant.’). After this initial spark of an idea, the next step is to do as much research as I can about the subject, which, in turn, leads to other topics and avenues of exploration. Usually, I spend 5 months, 10 hours a day, researching each book. It’s from this vast compendium of research that the plot begins to emerge. 
Then, before I begin to write the novel, I create a detailed storyboard, outlining every chapter, scene, plot point, and character arc. Using this storyboard, I organize all of my plot notes and research, a process that can take upwards of two months as I typically have hundreds of pages to sort through. When everything is organized, I then commence to writing the book, which usually takes me about 5 months. From initial concept to being able to type ‘the end’, it’s a full year.
As for coming up with something ‘new and exciting’, I trust my instincts and my creative muse. Luckily, they’ve yet to let me down.

Esoteric thrillers – the fun & difficult parts of writing them.
I’ll start with the difficult bits – devising the hidden codes. In my books, arcane secrets are revealed and fabled treasures uncovered. However, before that can happen, my protagonist must follow a veritable labyrinth of clues hidden in artwork, architecture, stained glass, ancient manuscripts, and even embedded in the very landscape itself. All of these cryptic puzzles must not only present a challenge for Caedmon, but must give my readers a brain tease as well.
As for the fun part, in each book I set myself up with an intellectual challenge. For instance, in my first book, Stones of Fire, I had to write four quatrains in fourteenth-century Middle English, the language of Chaucer. In my most recent book, The Templar’s Secret, the challenge was to write a complete ‘lost gospel’ from beginning to end.

How are books like the one you have written accepted by the audience? Based on biblical conspiracy theories, some opposition must have come about.
I have some avid fans, which is quite nice. And to keep things in balance, I also have some avid critics who have accused me of being a religious heretic. I’m always mildly amused by those readers who mistake a fictional story for non-fiction.

How much belief do you have in the themes of your books?
By ‘belief,’ I assume you mean religious or philosophical conviction. Because I consider myself a spiritual seeker, my books explore ideas that intrigue me in that regard. For example, in the New Testament, there are eighteen missing years in the life of Jesus between the ages of twelve and thirty. What was he doing during that time? Did he travel? And if so, where did he go? Egypt? India? Britain? But even as my characters attempt to answer these sorts of questions, they are by no means my mouthpiece. As a thriller writer, I need to create conflict between my characters that is set against the dynamic, forward momentum of the plot. To accomplish that, my characters oftentimes express viewpoints or beliefs that are contrary to my own.

Whom do you read with gusto? 
I think Hilary Mantel is absolutely brilliant. She has such a way with language, with passages that are so pithy, so witty, that I find myself savoring each & every line. Another favorite of mine, also a writer of historical fiction, is Geraldine Brooks. While Mantel’s prose is lean, Brooks is full-figured, her sentences crafted in a lush, lyrical style.

What’s next from you?
I’ve recently returned from an extended sabbatical. Having written four books, back-to-back, I was physically and mentally exhausted. But I’m now back in the fray and have begun the fifth book in the Templar series, tentatively titled The Templar’s Cross. Without giving too much away, there’s a tantalizingly brief mention in the Old Testament (Book of Genesis) about the sons of God leaving the divine realm and coming to Earth to take human wives. This narrative about divine beings inhabiting our world, and helping and/or hindering mankind, can be found in myths & legends the world over. Just my kind of story. If all goes well, my next book will be released summer 2016.

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