Which is actually a day late, but a dollar to the good.
I apologize for my delinquency in posting this. It was supposed to go up last night (Monday), but as some Mondays can be, mine was hectic yesterday. So today’s installment of New Fiction features Gary Val Tenuta, author of (most recently), “Atonement.”
The first story I read by Gary Val Tenuta was “Ash: Return of the Beast,” another recommendation from a friend. Now, I’d seen Gary around a writer’s group I belong to, and since I love reading people I’ve seen “out and about,” I gave “Ash” a try, and found I couldn’t put it down. Holy Crap! This was another one of those stories that kept the pages turning and setting it aside simply wasn’t an option.
Shortly after finishing “Ash” I picked up a short story he wrote titled, “Bite Out of Time,” which was ridiculously good, and then I picked up, “Atonement,” another short story. I am becoming terribly addicted to short stories, and Gary’s are must-reads, in my opinion, especially if you like good twists in your fiction.
I have his first book, “The Ezekiel Code,” on my reading list, and can’t wait to sink my teeth into it.
In the meantime, I had the pleasure of interviewing him, and hope you enjoy what follows:
Q: How long have you been writing fiction?
A: My first attempt at writing fiction was when I was in the 6th grade. I wrote a sci-fi story called The Beam From Saucer-X. As I like to tell everyone, it was really good. I know because my mom told me so.
Q: Do you prefer writing short stories, like the ones in the Second Chance Limo series or longer novels, like Ash: Return of the Beast?
A: I can’t say I really prefer one over the other. The gratification of finishing a short story, of course, comes a lot sooner than from writing a full length novel. Each has it’s own set of challenges. In some ways, writing a short story is more difficult than writing a novel because a lot of the elements that go into the making of a good novel are also essential for the making of a good short story. The difference is, you have to compact those elements into a much smaller space. With a novel you have a lot more room in which to spread those elements out and to play with the story construction.
Q: Where do you find your inspiration?
A: I think my answer to that is pretty much the same for most authors. It can come from something overheard in a conversation, or from a story in the news, or from a particularly vivid dream. I never know when or where an inspiration might hit. For example, the day I walked into a second-hand bookstore and stumbled upon a biography of the occultist, Aleister Crowley. I was just passing time browsing used books. Writing another novel was the last thing on my mind at that particular moment. But, as I was standing there, thumbing through the pages of the biography, my speed-reading eyes nearly passed right over a remarkable couple of sentences toward the end of the book. The biographer said Crowley was cremated after his death in 1947 but the urn containing his ashes mysteriously disappeared. I did a double take. Did I just read what I thought I read? I read it again and thought, man, if that isn’t a set up for a good paranormal/supernatural story, I don’t know what is! That idea brewed in my mind for days and just wouldn’t let go. Eventually, I was able to work out a rough idea of how the story might go and, three years later, it was done. So, yeah, like I said, I never know when or where an inspiration is going to hit.
Q: How long does it take you to write a longer piece?
A: It depends. I’ve only written two full-length novels so far. The first one (The Ezekiel Code) took nearly 9 years between working a full time job and all the other things that take up time on a daily basis.
The second book (Ash: Return of the Beast) took three years. I had more free time to devote to the writing.
Q: Do you have a “day job” or is writing a full-time endeavor?
A: I work from home now as a book cover designer. (www.BookCoversAndVideos.webs.com). So I guess you could call that my “day job” although I’m really a night owl and usually tend to work and/or write at night.
Q: I haven’t yet read The Ezekiel Code, but I did devour Ash. Did you do a lot of research on Aleister Crowley before/during the writing of the piece? The information seemed pretty spot on to a layperson.
A: Well, having had a life long interest in all things related to the paranormal and having once been a contributing writer for the venerable old Fate Magazine, I was familiar with Crowley. I knew a little about him and I had a copy of his strange little book called Liber al vel Legis, The Book Of The Law, that was allegedly dictated to him by a non-human entity named Aiwass in 1904. But I’d never read a biography about him. That’s why that biography in the second-hand bookstore caught my attention. So a lot of my knowledge about him came from that source along with whatever else I could find on the internet.
Q: Do you storyboard or outline your stories, or do they just come to you and you just write until the story ends?
A: When an idea for a story hits me I pretty much just start writing right off the cuff. I have a pretty good idea how I want it to begin and a pretty good idea about how it might end. Eventually, though, I have to stop and start making notes when the story starts going in directions that I hadn’t planned on. I can’t say I make an outline so much as it’s just a continual process of making notes to keep track of the flow of events, an ever-changing timeline, you might call it. And notes about how one event might work to trigger another event later in the story. So, if it can be called an outline at all, it’s a VERY loose one.
Q: What advice would you give aspiring writers that want to either be published, or self-publish their work?
A: Learn everything you can about the craft of writing. There’s so much to know. As I mentioned earlier, I used to be a contributing writer for Fate Magazine. I wrote feature articles and I was good at it. I had to be good at it or they wouldn’t have been paying me. Because of that, I thought I knew how to write a novel. After all, a novel is just more words, right? Well, yes, but no. Writing a novel is a whole different thing than writing articles for a magazine. I learned a lot of lessons from writing my first novel. It’s not badly written. It received a lot of favorable reviews. In fact, because of its controversial storyline and its plot revolving around the 2012-end-of-the-Mayan-calendar phenomenon, it became a bestseller on amazon in three categories for over 57 weeks. But the actual writing does contain some of the earmarks of a first-time novelist. And, believe me, even though it received some great reviews, there were other reviewers who didn’t hold back on their criticisms. Some, of course were unfounded, but some (I later had to admit) were spot on.
If you’re writing your first novel be ready to get some negative reviews. But don’t let that get you down. Suck it up and learn from them. Then take what you’ve learned and apply those things to your next novel. It’s a learning process and sometimes it seems like that process is a never ending one. Maybe it is. I poured everything I’ve learned about the craft of novel writing into my latest novel, Ash: Return Of The Beast (http://amzn.com/B006J6HRGE) and it’s getting rave reviews. I think it was Stephen King who said even at this point in his long and successful career, he’s still learning how to be a better writer.
I’d also highly recommend investing $9.22 in a book called “Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Second Edition: How to Edit Yourself Into Print” by Renni Browne and Dave King. There’s a reason it currently has 172 5-star reviews on amazon. Read it. Read it again. And then keep it by your side as a valuable reference tool while you’re working on your manuscript. I wish I’d had it when I wrote my first novel. Nothing else I could say here would likely be as valuable as the tips, tricks and more that the authors have put into that book. Another good investment, in my opinion, is a subscription to Writer’s Digest. Every issue contains helpful writing tips from some of the most experienced authors in the country.
You can find Gary on Amazon here, and I absolutely encourage you to do just that!
Thank you, Gary, for answering all of my questions.
Thank YOU, readers, for your likes, follows, and support!
Until Next Time…