Great Neck author Micah Dank discusses his new book, Decoding the Phoenix
For Great Neck author Micah Dank, life is one big mystery that doesn’t present clear answers. In his book Decoding the Phoenix, Dank encourages readers to ask questions about life rather than seek solutions.
The fictional thriller revolves around Graham Newsdon, a student at Harvard University who struggles with alcoholism. He discovers a strange letter from his Navy Seal brother, who is deceased. Newsdon, with the help of his friends, must determine the meaning behind the letter, the implications of which affect not only him, but the entire universe and its history.
“I wrote this story around a bunch of astrology and astrotheology, and the origin of the Bible,” said Dank. “I was going to write a nonfiction book, but I thought it would be more interesting to write a fiction book because no one has done this before.”
Newsdon opens up the novel proclaiming that he discovered the “world’s deepest secret” through digging up information about the cryptic letter.
“[The book] talks about the struggle between religion, religious texts and God,” Dank said. “People struggle to come to terms with religion but they also don’t understand the origins of it. There are a lot of things in the Bible that don’t make sense but they all have some astrological and astrotheological background because, if you think about it, [early civilization] followed the stars to check the season. So, I take those aspects and try to make sense of things in the book.”
The novel is told from Newsdon’s perspective which, in the eyes of Dank, makes it easier for readers to connect to him. “It cuts the barrier between the reader and the protagonist,” Dank said. “It makes it more real and you can be sucked in a little deeper.”
Dank also thinks Newsdon is easy to connect with due to the struggles he goes through in his life. “He is following a predetermined life set out for him,” Dank said. “And he’s bored, is what it is. He drinks because he wants to fill a void. He has a long-term girlfriend, but they aren’t really moving toward marriage or anything. He was pushed into his career by his parents.”
After readers finish Decoding the Phoenix, Dank wants them to start looking at things in a different way. “I want people to have more questions than answers. But new questions. Ones they never thought to have. Things that open up the possibility that the Bible is not a literal story that is meant to be taken word for word.”
Dank, who currently works in the logistics department of a startup company, wrote
the story itself in two weeks, but the book took two years to edit and put together for publishing. He started by crafting the story before developing the characters, with each character including attributes of people in his life or even from his own personality. He grew up in a religious household, where he was always wondering about the background of famous stories in the Bible. Even though Decoding the Phoenix is fictional, that doesn’t mean the concepts are something to be taken lightly.
“This is a very real thing that I wrote about,” Dank said. “The science behind it is real. I have a degree in English in Language, Literature and Criticism from Hunter College. Just like in college, I took a book [the Bible], I criticized it, I checked the language and I broke it down. I found the answers to be more satisfying than what I grew up with.”