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Author Interview: Gary Val Tenuta

Having had a life long interest in paranormal phenomena, esoteric lore, the supernatural, occult and ancient mysteries and basically anything that could be squeezed into those categories, it should come as no surprise to anyone who knows me that these same elements would become the fodder for my novels and short stories. I grew up devouring Poe, Lovecraft and Roald Dahl and those writers definitely had a huge influence on me. I wonder if they realize what they’ve done? Maybe I should dig out my old 1890s-era Ouija board and let them know. Nah. Probably not a good idea.

I’m a book cover designer ( as well as an author with a degree in Social Psychology. My professional writing career began as a contributing writer for Fate Magazine in the 1990s. One of my feature articles about the mystery of the alleged secret military group known as Majestic-12 resulted in requests to appear on radio programs across the U.S. and Canada. My most recent novel, a supernatural crime chiller entitled Ash: Return Of The Beast (Kindle & paperback) is receiving excellent reviews and has been compared to the likes of Straub, Koontz, Stephen King, Dan Brown and Dennis Lehane.

The first four novellas and novelettes in my series of “Twisted Tales From The Files Of The Second Chance Limousine Service” are available individually on Kindle (99¢) or in a single volume entitled “Wanna Take a Ride?” also on Kindle ($2.99). The titles of those stories are “A Bite Out Of Time”, “1st Avenue Annie”, “Atonement” and “The Good Librarian”. A fifth in the series (“The Prank”) was released in June, 2014 on Kindle (99¢) and a 6th is in the works.

I live with my big black cat, Bear, in a cozy condo in the Pacific Northwest where, when I’m not writing, or designing book covers for other authors, I may very well be watching America’s Got Talent or The Voice or reruns of Seinfeld or I might just be relaxing out on the patio, grooving to the mellow sax-jazz stylings of Stanley Turrentine. Then again, you never know. I could be listening to Dwight Yoakum singing about “Guitars and Cadillacs and Loud, Loud Music”. Either way, it’s all good.

  • : Seems like it's just something I've always done, one way or another.
  • : I think the first story I ever wrote was when I was about 12 years old. It was a sci-fi story called The Beam From Saucer-X. It was really good, too. I know that because my mom told me so. But it wasn’t until I was about 15 or 16 that I started to really become interested in creative writing. There were two authors that pretty much kick-started that interest. First was Edgar Allan Poe and then H. P. Lovecraft. I think the first Poe story I read was The Telltale Heart. I was immediately hooked. I read everything by Poe that I could get my hands on. I also must admit there was another writer whose work influenced me. That was, surprisingly enough, John Lennon. He wrote a couple of small books, John Lennon In His Own Write and A Spaniard In The Works. They were both filled with bizarre little humorous “nonsense stories”, some not more than half a page long. His word play was often so hysterically funny that I sometimes laughed until the tears flowed. Then again, maybe I just have a weird sense of humor. Anyway, his writing inspired me to write several short pieces of similar nonsense. Those little gems inevitably got passed around study hall and usually ended in me getting into trouble. But hey, what is high school for if it’s not to have fun and get in trouble?
  • : 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 resonated 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 (and I’ve since found the same information elsewhere), 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. When I read that 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 in the gory slasher manner that we’ve seen so much of over the past couple decades. 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 Believe me, as the author, no one was more surprised by the ending than I was. 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 musician, 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 holding something back 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.
  • : As of August 2015 I'm still working on my first children's fantasy, The Dreamstone.
  • : When I'm not writing I'm probably either designing book covers for other indie authors ( or playing my vintage 12-string guitar, writing new songs, tending to my garden, feeding my cat, or watching American Pickers on TV. Or Storage Wars. Or Counting Cars. Or Under The Dome.
  • : I'm a freelance book cover designer.
  • : Kindle
  • : I place great emphasis on making sure the cover not only grabs one's attention but also that it reflects the general essence of the book.
  • : I'll have the basic premise of the story in mind and I'll jot down some notes to that effect. Then I pretty much just start writing. As the story develops and becomes more complex, I find I have to begin laying out a loose outline. But I've noticed the characters personalities often begin to dictate the direction some of the turns will take.
  • : When the damn thing is finally done.
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  • : Be safe! Live! Laugh! Love! And don't sweat the small stuff.
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