Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Interview: Gary Val Tenuta

I am very pleased to present this interview with Gary Val Tenuta, author of Ash: Return Of The Beast, which will be our Book Feature on Friday.

Gary Val Tenuta is an author and book cover designer. His illustrations and articles dealing with the UFO phenomenon and other subjects related to the paranormal and esoteric lore have been published in Fate Magazine in the U.S., Beyond Magazine in the U.K., and other periodicals. He resides in a cozy condo in the Pacific Northwest of the U.S. with his big black cat, Bear.

Ash: Return Of The Beast is his second novel, preceded by The Ezekiel Code and his award-winning short story, A Bite Out Of Time.

SpecFicPick: What role do you believe speculative fiction plays in society?

Gary Val Tenuta: Ah! The sociology of speculative fiction. Honestly, I hadn't given that perspective much thought but it would make an interesting scholarly dissertation. The first thing that comes to mind is the broad spectrum that speculative fiction encompasses. It covers a variety of genres from fantasy to sci-fi, from horror to just plain weird. In every case, however, one common denominator is "escapism". Speculative fiction plays the role of the proverbial rabbit hole into which we can all follow in Alice's footsteps. Where will it take us? What amazing worlds and situations will we find ourselves in? But the role isn't just escapism. It can be, but it can also be more. It can be a mind-opener, an education about aspects of our "real world" that we might not have considered before, or may not have even known about before.

SFP: Why do you write in this genre?

GVT: It's not really by choice. My work just happens to fit into the broad definition of speculative fiction. That is, it doesn't neatly fit into the definitive mold of science fiction or horror or fantasy or any other specific genre yet it often includes various aspects of those specific genres all mixed into a single work. For example, my current novel, Ash: Return Of The Beast, is a combination of mystery, crime fiction, paranormal fiction, supernatural fiction, horror, and could even be said to include what some might call urban fantasy.

SFP: How did you come up with the idea for Ash: Return Of The Beast?

GVT: I was browsing the shelves in a second-hand bookstore and came across a biography of the infamous occultist, Aleister Crowley (1875-1947). Due to my life-long fascination with all things paranormal, I was at least somewhat familiar with Crowley. I knew he identified with the number 666 and referred to himself as “The Beast”. I knew he was revered as a master of ritual magic or what some call the Dark Arts. I knew his picture appeared on the cover of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper album and I knew that several musicians of the hard rock variety were into him. I knew he’d been branded by the British press as ‘The Wickedest Man In The World’ and I knew Musolini had kicked him out of Italy. I even had a copy of a strange little book entitled, Liber Al Vel Legis (The Book Of The Law), that was allegedly dictated to Crowley by a nonhuman entity near the Great Pyramid in 1904.

What I didn’t know was that he was cremated in England and that the urn, containing his ashes, was sent to a man named Karl Germer in New Jersey. Germer buried the urn under a large oak tree on his property. Sometime later, he decided to move to California and he wanted to take the urn with him. But, when he went to dig it up, he found it was no longer there. How it disappeared and where it ended up, has remained a mystery to this day. When I read that, the light bulb went off in my head. I thought, “Man, if that isn’t a set-up for a good paranormal mystery, I don’t know what is.”

SFP: What was your biggest challenge in writing it?

GVT: As I began to sketch out the story I quickly realized it was developing into something much darker than anything I'd done before. Could I dredge up something that disturbing from the depths of my own storehouse of life experiences? Not exactly. Clearly, I needed to do some research and learn how real people have endured such experiences, how it affected them emotionally and psychologically and what effect it had on their lives after the experience. It was pretty disturbing stuff. Like I told my best friend, I felt like I had to go wash my hands or take a complete shower after writing the first incident of one specific heinous activity carried out by one of the characters.

Once I got far enough into the development of the story, the characters ceased to be mere concepts in my head. They began to take shape, physically, emotionally and psychologically. They became real people involved in real situations. That freed me from the discomfort I was feeling from writing some of the content. It wasn’t me who was doing those horrendous things to the characters. The characters were doing those things to each other. At that point, as a writer, I was in the Zone.
Being in the Zone is great. There are no boundaries, no limitations in the Zone. It’s the place where the writer experiences the freedom to let the story evolve as it will and any intimidating sensibilities that might otherwise get in the way... well, they’re just out of luck. The story must go on. And so it did.

SFP: What are you working on now?

GVT: I'm in the early stages of developing another story that, again, will come under the broad definition of speculative fiction. The working title is "Channel". Once again, blending "reality" with the "fantastic", the story involves the phenomenon known as channeling or trance-channeling. You might remember J. Z. Knight, the woman who claimed to be channeling the spirit of a 35,000 year old ascended Spiritual Master. The source of the channelings in my story, however, are extraterrestrials allegedly belonging to an organization known as The Galactic Federation of Light, a phenomenon that has, in fact, been going on in the New Age community for several decades. When a couple of New Agers are murdered, the question becomes (to misquote an old TV commercial for a VHS tape system) "Is it real? Or is it Memorex?" The answer becomes the obsessive quest of a blogger who finds himself caught up in a situation much stranger than he ever expected.

SFP: Thank you, Gary, for this opportunity for a peek inside your mind. Readers, be sure to check out our Book Feature on Friday to read more about Ash: Return Of The Beast. You can also visit Gary's website and connect with him on Facebook and Twitter.


  1. Thanks, Michael, for the interview. I'd also like to mention that your readers can watch an audio/visual presentation of the first parts of Ash: Return Of The Beast here:

    These productions are basically a narration track (me reading from the book) accompanied by images depicting parts of the story enhanced with sound tracks and effects.

    So turn the lights down, the volume up, sit back, relax and get your creepy on! :-)

  2. Thanks for the illuminating interview! The set up for this book sounds fantastic and has me itching to get my hands on it. Loved reading about the inspiration, too! And I can completely relate to that Zone. It really seems to hit once the characters become entities unto themselves.

    Thank you, again, Gary and Michael! A brilliant interview!

    1. Thank you, Jeff! Now, if I can just get into the Zone for my current work-in-progress maybe my characters will stop nagging me for direction and figure out their next moves on their own. Sheesh! Do I have to do all their thinking for them?