“Victor Acquista’s terrific new novel defies genres: it’s a techno-mythological thriller-cum-mystical travelogue, with a sassy heroine and a soulful geek at its heart. A Da Vinci Code for the digital age.”— JJ Amaworo Wilson, author of Damnificados
About Serpent Rising: Ever since her great aunt left her alone in a cave when she was ten, Serena Mendez has been haunted by the traumatic incident. Now she’s an unemployed, pill-popping twenty-one year old suffering from nightmares and PTSD. When her psychiatrist suggests she visit her great aunt to get to the root cause of her ailment, she reluctantly agrees it’s time to confront the past.
Accompanied by her geeky friend Bryson, they travel to a Navajo Reservation to meet with her great aunt and return to the cave where it all began. But what she discovers points to an ancient conflict between the Illuminati and a Luminarian sect with origins to Atlantis—and she appears to be at the center of it all. With more questions than answers and only a handful of clues, Serena embarks on a mystical journey across six continents to learn more.
But sinister forces oppose her. Pursued by a powerful enemy, Serena must evade capture and fulfill her true destiny. Can she expose dark secrets and a hidden conspiracy? Or will those who wish to remain in the shadows find her first?
- What inspired you to write Serpent Rising?
Much of my fiction is written with a particular social issue or theme in mind. The characters and plot in a novel are a means to explore that theme. Serpent Rising explores the reality that mankind is unable to reliably discern truth from falsehood. Witness the fake news and agenda-driven spin so prevalent in modern times. This makes humanity vulnerable to lies and distortions that are most often promoted to serve the interests of powerful individuals. I asked myself why this is. Why do we have trouble distinguishing truth from falsehood? Is it intentional? How is this used and misused? This led to the fictionalized War of the Two Serpents with one side representing light and truth and the other side representing darkness and venomous lies. Who would champion the flame of truth? The characters and story also enabled me to explore myths, spirituality, mysticism, esoteric teachings, and human evolution––all areas that interest me––in exciting ways.
- One scene that set the tone for the book to us was when Serena attends a group meeting on conspiracy theories. It seems like most people have at least a passing interest in conspiracy theories, but you go much more in-depth in Serpent Rising. How did you become interested in them and what kind of research did you have to do for the book?
Conspiracy theories are based upon beliefs that some covert or hidden individuals or organizations are responsible for circumstances. In a sense, the book places multiple conspiracy theories under a single umbrella. While I specifically implicate the Illuminati as the covert group responsible for many of these conspiracies, the context is historical with the Illuminati representing the modern version of a much, much older faction that actually ties into the Mystery Schools, Brotherhood of Sun, and other historical factions. I did extensive research to piece together a plausible connecting thread, but much of that research is speculative and not easily verifiable. I am personally interested in truth and the underlying factual basis underlying beliefs about truth, so this research represented a personal quest for truth.
“Victor Acquista weaves a gripping tale of myth and metaphor as we follow Serena’s global quest to discover her true identity…the chase by evil forces leaves us breathless, yet gasping for more…”— Deborah Shlian, MD, MBA, award-winning author of medical thrillers
- Serena is a strong, flawed, driven female character, which I think your readers will really appreciate. What was it like creating and writing her?
I wanted a female character to be my champion and I wanted a heroine’s journey (not a hero’s journey) of self-discovery and transformation. I wanted to avoid some of the uninteresting female character tropes such as beautiful but airheaded, damsel in distress, love interest of the male protagonist, etc. I had a photograph of the actress who played in the Swedish film based upon The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and I realized that actress represented the kind of character I imagined for Serena Mendez. I think a flawed character is much more interesting and appealing to readers. How can flaws be overcome and/or how do they effect the character arc? I enjoyed writing about her and her transformation. In many respects, once a character gets in my mind in detail, they say and do things in my head and I just transcribe it as it plays out.
- Serena’s journey to truth takes her all around the world, and the places she visits seem realistic and fully formed. Have you traveled to any of these places yourself, or are you just a great researcher?
I lived in New Mexico for nine years and I have traveled to Greece, but most of the places she visits I have only been to with the help of Google and an active imagination. The world is filled with interesting people and places. I would love to visit many of the places I have written about. This extends to the places Serena travels to in book two, Revelation.
- How much of the teachings, organizations, and conspiracy theories were drawn from the cultures featured in the book and how much came from your own imagination?
Much of the cultural representations related to Navajo and Hopi story elements are true but the shamanic parts represented by Serena’s great aunt are fictionalized. The Naga Sanctuary in India is fictionalized but in accord with Eastern wisdom teachings that I am familiar with. In Australia, the mythical stories that are referenced are almost all culturally accurate with a few exceptions. The shamanic ritual and representations of indigenous culture are mostly drawn from my imagination.
The portion of the story that occurs in Egypt relates to a fictional organization, The Black Snake Sisterhood, but there are some mythical elements related to Isis, Horus, and Thoth that form the basis for this organization. Much of what is represented at the temple of Hygeia in Greece is a reasonably accurate extrapolation of an Aesculapian healing center in ancient times to modern times; although, there are fictional elements. Some of the metaphysical action that occurs there is imaginary; although, dream interpretation was part of the healing process occurring at these ancient sites. The mythological elements underlying this part of the story are a blend of fact and fiction.
“…an interesting ride through some of the most ancient cultures of the world.”— Jon Lemming, NetGalley Reviewer
The description of places in Mexico and Peru are mostly accurate. Without giving away any spoilers, the ceremony conducted by the Peruvian shaman is based upon a lot of research, but it is still a product of my imagination. I should mention that although I have used “shaman” characters in several different parts of the story, this word derives from the indigenous people of Siberia and refers to “one who knows.” In popular culture, this designation has been adopted more broadly in referring to cross-cultural practitioners and shamanic rituals that often involve hallucinogenic botanicals.
Joseph Campbell wrote a series of books about cultures and mythology that interested readers might want to investigate to learn how these influences are still very much in the world today through symbolism and stories. I also should mention The Good & Evil Serpent, by James Charlesworth. It’s a factual and fascinating account of serpent mythology worldwide and cross-cultural. It’s an eye-opening blend of historical information about serpents portrayed in both favorable and unfavorable ways. Serpent mythology pre-dates all modern religion and represents a rich area to explore and to write about. In my own small way, I have tried to take threads of mythology, mysticism, and world cultural influences and weave them together in a compelling narrative.
- What do you hope readers take away from this book?
I hope they enjoy the story and learn some things that they might want to explore further. I also hope that they think a little more about sorting out truth from falsehood and seeing the influences of media distortion and propaganda. There is an often-quoted statement, “The truth shall set us free.” I hope readers of this novel will pause to ask, “Free from what?”
About the Author:
Victor Acquista has become an international author and speaker following his careers as a primary-care physician and medical executive. He is known for “writing to raise consciousness.” His multi-genre works include fiction and nonfiction and often incorporate social messaging to engage readers in thought-provoking themes.
He is a member of the Authors Guild, the Mystery Writers of America, the Florida Writers Association, Writers Co-op, and is a Knight of the Sci-Fi Roundtable.
When not pondering the big questions in life and what’s for dinner, he enjoys gardening and cooking. He lives with his wife in Ave Maria, Florida.
Revelation, the final installment in the two-book series The Saga of Venom and Flame, is slated for publication in 2021.
Author’s Website & Podcasts:
Check out Victor Acquista’s website for more information about his books, what’s coming next in the series, news & events, and podcasts!
His Pod-Log entries are five-minute quickies keyed off story elements and posted to his website, author FB page, Podfobler Productions, and YouTube channel. There are four entries to date, although more are planned to be produced talking about additional topics such as Thoth and the Emerald Tablets, the Hero’s Journey in classic literature, Shamanism, and other topics.
Available Formats & Purchasing Information:
Visit our website for more retailers and purchasing options.
Purchase direct from our online store at Bookshop.org and help support your local independent bookstores!
Booksellers, Librarians, and Retailers can purchase copies though Ingram, Baker & Taylor, Bertrams, Overdrive, and Perma-Bound. BHC Press also offers attractive pricing and discounts to booksellers, libraries, and retailers. Visit our website to learn more about available retail/library partnership programs.