Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Gary Val Tenuta - Speculative Fiction Writer

If you're looking for this month's Indie Life post, please click here.

I'm thrilled to introduce this week's Speculative Fiction Writer, Gary Val Tenuta. Today he's going to answer that frequently-asked question, where do you get your ideas from?

How An Obscure 60-Year-Old Mystery Became a Modern-Day Supernatural Crime Chiller

Ever read a novel and wonder how the heck the author came up with the idea for the story? I do that quite often even though, as an author, I should know a story idea can come from just about anywhere and often at the least expected moment. For example, here’s how I came to write my latest novel, Ash: Return Of The Beast.

I was browsing through a second-hand bookstore one day and came across a biography of the notorious British occultist, Aleister Crowley (1875-1947), the man the British press once labeled as “The Wickedest Man In The World”. Having had a long time interest in all facets of the supernatural, paranormal, and generally anything that resonates with those topics, I was familiar with who Crowley was. I knew he identified with the number 666 and often referred to himself as “The Beast”. But I’d never read a full biography about him. I paged through the book and, toward the end, my speed-reading eyes almost passed over a remarkable little factoid that I’d never heard about before. I did a double-take to see if it said what I thought it said. It did.

According to the biography, Crowley’s body was cremated upon his death. Curiously, however, the urn containing his ashes mysteriously disappeared. Its disappearance has remained a mystery to this day. I thought, wow, if that isn’t a great set-up for a supernatural tale, I don’t know what is.

This idea wouldn’t leave me alone. I mulled it over in my head for days, maybe weeks, trying to come up with a good story based around this intriguing little bit of Crowley trivia. Eventually, it came to me and I couldn’t wait to get started. Three years in the works, it finally emerged as Ash: Return Of The Beast, a supernatural serial killer chiller steeped in the occult and drenched in esoteric lore. I knew I had something here, something even better than I imagined it would be.

So, is it a horror story? Well, yes, but not the gory, slasher type of horror. It's more the quiet, subtle sort of horror that creeps up on you, gaining momentum, pushing you further and further into the darkness until you have nowhere to run. As one reviewer put it:

“I was reminded of Dennis Lehane. Very different from other horror fiction stories... even gave the whole Necronomicon tale a new spin." (Cyma R. Kahn, reviewer)

As many novelists will tell you, sometimes the author thinks he knows how the story will end. But, as the characters begin to take on a life of their own, the story can evolve in directions the author never anticipated and the ending can turn out to be something quite different from what was originally planned. Such was the case with Ash. Another reviewer said:

"An ending you will never see coming. Highly recommended." (Lila L. Pinord, author of Skye Dancer and Min’s Monster)

Believe me, as the author, no one was more surprised by the ending than me.

The story begins with the death of Crowley in 1947 and provides a surprising answer to the disappearance of the urn. Then the timeline shifts to the 1990s and the emergence of a death-metal rocker, with the unlikely name of Rodney Duckworth, whose path to fame and fortune is curiously linked to the mystery of the missing urn.

Finally the story shifts to the present day where Brian Kane, a gruff and gritty street-worn Seattle Police Detective, reluctantly teams up with the mysterious Rowena Ravenwood, an attractive and rather unconventional female FBI agent assigned to a most unusual investigative unit. Their task is to figure out why good, healthy, God-fearing preachers in their fair city are suddenly dropping dead... one at a time... nine days apart.

As the intense and baffling investigation continues, Ravenwood cannot help but suspect Detective Kane is keeping something from her. What is the disturbing secret that he’s holding so close to his chest?
The investigation catapults Kane and Ravenwood headlong into life-threatening situations as they feel their way through the strange, dark labyrinth of the world of the occult and find themselves battling for their lives against the powerful forces of ritual magick.

A bloody carnage of an unimaginable horror is about to be unleashed upon the world. The survival of the entire human race hangs in the balance and the clues to help solve the case are in desperately short supply. Worse yet, so is the amount of time left to stop the mysterious killer's reign of terror before all Hell breaks loose. And – according to Special Agent Ravenwood – that’s not just a figure of speech.

Gary Val Tenuta is an author and book cover designer with a degree in Social Psychology. His professional writing career began as a contributing writer for Fate Magazine in the 1990s. One of his feature articles about the mystery of the alleged secret U.S. military UFO-research group known as Majestic-12 resulted in requests to appear on radio programs across the U.S. and Canada. His debut novel, The Ezekiel Code (1997), became an best-seller for over 57 weeks. His latest novel, a supernatural crime chiller called Ash: Return Of The Beast (Kindle & paperback) is receiving rave reviews and has been compared to the likes of Straub, Koontz,  Stephen King, Dan Brown and Dennis Lehane. He is currently working on a series of short stories for his series called Twisted Tales From The Files Of The Second Chance Limousine Service. Three of those stories ("A Bite Out Of Time", "1st Avenue Annie", and "Atonement") are currently available in Kindle format from Gary lives with his big black cat, Bear, in a cozy condo in the Pacific.

Thank you for sharing the inspiration behind your novel, Gary. As a writer and avid reader, I'm always fascinated by where a story idea comes from.

That's it for this week. I'll be back on Monday when Taking Time hits the Kindle bookstore. I can't wait to share my stories with you all.


  1. This sounds so intriguing. I love when a novel is based on a little taste of fact and then finds its own life. For some reasons stories like this are more haunting, maybe because there is an element of truth.

    I also like how that idea snagged you. I do that all the time when I read or learn something-- what a great piece that would make!

    1. Hi Julie - Thanks for the comment and I agree, of course! LOL The little element of truth behind the fiction tends to add a little more substance to the "What if?" factor upon which it's based. If you read the book, I'd love to get a review from you. :-)


  2. It does sound pretty interesting. I read on io9 a fascinating article about Aleister Crowley, L.Ron Hubbard, and the guy that invented jet fuel. It was crazy.

    1. Michael - Yes! Jack Parsons! What a story, indeed. The acronym, JPL (for Jack Parsons Laboratory) became the now famous Jet Propulsion Laboratory associated with NASA. I've been toying with the idea of writing a novel based around the strange Parsons-Hubbard-Crowley connection for years. ;-)

      Thanks for posting your comment.

      - Gary -

  3. Love the journey of this book from idea to publication. And that's a creepy-good cover!

  4. Thank you, Damyanti! I actually designed the cover even before I started writing the book. I've done that with all the stories I've written. Having the cover in front of me helps keep me inspired during the writing process.

  5. I love how a simple detail gave you the idea for the whole book! Your muse must've been in the zone! Wishing you much success. :-)

  6. Ash sounds intriguing and the cover is awesome.


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