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Locally Writ: Michael Koep explores behavioral impact of storytelling in his fantasy trilogy ‘The Newirth Mythology’

Born and raised in Coeur d’Alene, author Michael Koep has been at various times a poet, painter, fencing competitor, cliff-jumper and member of a rock band.

Each of these hobbies, among others, has contributed to the wild, psychological adventure that is Koep’s fantasy series, “The Newirth Mythology.” Koep started with poetry and short fiction and then added journaling.

“That, I think, is my primary voice,” he said, explaining how this daily habit has contributed to the comfort he feels with first-person storytelling.

Koep would eventually earn a degree in literature at Gonzaga University, but his writing education really began in 1977 when he saw “a little-known film called ‘Star Wars.’ ”

“I remember seeing that film and realizing I wanted to tell a story,” Koep said. “That movie really shaped a lot of people … it certainly lit me up.”

Like many authors before him, Koep started with imitation, taking characters from his favorite films and moving them through original scenarios and plots, experimenting with storytelling as he learned the ropes.

“And I really haven’t stopped, although I’m not really writing about Luke Skywalker anymore,” he said.

Like his “Star Wars” heroes, Koep wasn’t always certain about his path. In school, he discovered a talent for percussion, and the fear of having to choose between writing fiction and making music started to gnaw at him.

“But thankfully I discovered this beautiful marriage between music and words,” he said.

Poetry and lyricism are still integral parts of his writing life, but these days, especially since the beginning of the pandemic, Koep spends more time writing fiction than playing music.

Now in development for television, Koep’s fantasy trilogy, “The Newirth Mythology,” has been his primary focus for the better part of the last 20 years.

“When the first book was published, I always knew that I wanted to see it in some sort of visual way,” he said. “I’ve always had an interest in film, and I’ve always wanted to see this story make it to the screen.”

Over the last three years, he and his team have gathered a set of producers and started consulting screenwriters.

“I thought I’d take a shot at writing the screenplay,” he said. “That’s a pretty tall order.” But screenwriting, he explained, is “a whole different set of skills.”

Regardless of medium, Koep has always been inspired by stories and the effects they can have on readers.

“I used to try to read the ‘Lord of the Rings’ once a year,” he said. “I became fascinated with the way that the stories we hear change our behavior and how we interpret stories.”

Koep explores these concepts in the trilogy, sometimes more literally than others. After a series of surreal and traumatic events, psychologist Loche Newirth finds himself hunted when he stumbles across a painting that opens a window to the afterlife. Mysterious forces gather on all sides seeking to control the art, chasing Newirth from the relative security of Upper Priest Lake across time and space.

Impossibly lost, Newirth begins to record his experiences in hopes that his mentor, Dr. Marcus Rearden, might interpret the revelations he is struggling to bear.

“It’s up to the reader and the characters in the book to see if that is going to shift how they move forward in their decisions,” Koep said.

To aspiring authors, Koep offered the following advice.

“Start with journaling,” he said. “Buy a journal and put it in a place that’s handy with a pen or pencil next to it. Then, no matter what you do, every single day, get up and write the date.”

“That’s all you have to do, just write the date. If you want to write something else, even better. Describe the sky, what you’re going to eat for breakfast, some other beautiful thought that you’ve had – scribble it out.

“But just make sure that you write the date, and, after a while, you’re going to find that you’re not only writing the date. That you’re there, with the book, every day.”

Koep’s “Newirth Mythology,” beginning with “The Invasion of Heaven,” is available at Auntie’s Bookstore.

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