Angie Azur is a YA Sci-fi Writer.
Writer for PALEO Magazine.
Former Intern at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.
SCBWI & COWG Member.


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Interview with Gary Val Tenuta: Author of Ash: Return of the Beast


I met Gary on Facebook. I posted that I was looking for interviews, and he answered my call. Thank you Gary! And, thanks for being interested in UFO's!!! They are one of my favorite subjects. I could stare at the night sky for hours searching. But, now I might be hooked on some websites he's offered on them. Thanks again, Gary!

Below are the questions I asked him:



1.    How and why did you get interested in UFO's?

That interest probably began when I was about 11 years old. My folks bought me a YA sci-fi novel, Son of the Stars. When I was 12 I wrote my first sci-fi story. It was called The Beam From Saucer X. It was really good. I know that because my Mom said so. 


Then Life magazine came out with an issue about the subject. That was maybe around 1962. I've followed the phenomenon closely ever since. In the 90s I published an online newsletter called UFO News-1. Best-selling author, Whitley Strieber ("Communion", "Wolfen", "Unholy Fire", etc.) endorsed it as the best, most comprehensive newsletter of its kind.

In 1993 I had the good fortune to witness an extraordinary UFO at close range. My affidavit attesting to the details of the event was one of several others (including that of famed veteran late-night radio host, Art Bell) that were entered into a federal court case against the U.S. Department of Defense by attorney Peter A. Gersten in an effort to obtain government files pertaining to this specific type of UFO. The whole story can be read here:http://www.examiner.com/article/close-encounter-with-black-triangle-ufo

2. Why did you write Ash: Return of the Beast?

Because I was afraid if I didn't, someone else might. Here's what happened. I was 
browsing the shelves at a second-hand bookstore when I spied a biography of the infamous early 20th century occultist, Aleister Crowley. 


Having had a life long interest in the paranormal and esoteric lore, I was somewhat familiar with Crowley. I knew he proclaimed himself as "The Beast" (a reference to 666) and that the British Press had branded him as "The wickedest man in the world" but I didn't really know much more than that. 

So I picked up the book and began thumbing through it. Near the end of the book, the author mentioned that Crowley was cremated in England in 1947 and the urn containing his ashes was sent to a man named Germer in New Jersey. Germer put the urn into a box and buried it under a large oak tree in his yard. 

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. Whatever became of it has remained a mystery to this day. Well, when I read that, I did a double take. I thought, "Man, if that's not a perfect set-up for a supernatural mystery-crime-thriller, I don't know what is."

I let the idea rattle around in my head for a few months as I sketched out story ideas. I finally hit on something that would work and spent the next 3 years writing it.


3.    How did you become an Amazon best selling author? Do you have any suggestions for newly published authors on promoting?

That question requires quite a detailed answer. My 57-week run as an amazon.com best-selling author was my reward for having had the foresight, back in the early 90s, to start writing a novel about something I knew was going to become a huge social and cultural phenomenon. I'm talking about the December-2012-end-of-the-Mayan-calendar phenomenon.

The book was my debut novel, The Ezekiel Code. It took me nearly 9 years to write it and I self-published the 700-page paperback in 2007. I promoted the heck out of it across the Internet but sales were very slow for the first year. They began to pick up the following year and eventually I decided to put out a Kindle edition. That was a really good decision because the paperback was quite expensive but the Kindle edition was only $4.99.

TV specials about 2012 started popping up all over the airwaves and even Montel Williams devoted a show to the subject. I was running a banner ad on a website that was all about 2012 and it just so happened that Montel Williams contacted the owner of that site to be a guest on the show. That sparked a huge spike in visits to that website where thousands of people saw my ad. Kindle sales began to soar and I started getting requests to do interviews on radio programs and on BlogTalk programs.

Then came the 2009 blockbuster movie, "2012". If anyone hadn't heard about the whole Mayan calendar 2012 thing by then, they knew about it when that movie came out. Suddenly people were going to amazon.com looking for anything and everything about 2012. My amazon page had over 200 tag hits for the subject "2012" which put it at the top of the list when people looked for books related to that subject by using tag words. In other words, if they simply typed "2012" into the search, The Ezekiel Code came up at the top of the list. By the end of that 57-week stretch, I'd sold several thousand Kindle editions and several hundred paperbacks.

To be quite honest, from a technical and structural point of view, the writing in The Ezekiel Code was good but it wasn't great. It had it's share of "newbie" flaws. I was under the mistaken impression that I knew how to write a novel because I had experience as a paid contributing writer for Fate Magazine in the U.S. and Beyond Magazine in the U.K. and a few other periodicals dealing with the paranormal and other esoteric subjects. 


The book was gathering a lot of excellent reviews but it was also getting some negative reviews. I soon realized the good reviews were coming from people who were very much into the myriad esoteric subjects that I'd woven into the storyline. For those readers, any flaws in the writing were of little or no concern. The negative reviews were coming from readers who were expecting a book that was more polished in terms of editing and story structure.

At first, having spent 9 years writing the darned thing, I was bothered by the negative reviews. But eventually I began to see what they were getting at and I used them as a learning tool. I started getting serious about the art of novel writing, the "what to do" and the "what not to do". My current novel, Ash: Return Of The Beast, shines as a reflection of what I've learned since writing that first novel. Some reviewers have compared it favorably to the works of such writers as Dan Brown, Dennis Lehane and Stephen King. I must have done something right but I know there's always room for improvement.

4.    What online source for promotion has been the best for your books?

That's hard to say because when someone buys one of my books, there's no way to know for sure how they heard about it. If I had to make a guess I'd say probably Facebook, Twitter, GoodReads.com and The Independent Author Network (www.independentauthornetwork.com). 

 
5.    What time do you get up and what do you eat for breakfast?

Ha! I'm a night owl. I'm usually up until around 5 a.m. and sleep until about noon. Breakfast? What's that?


6.    Who are you reading right now?

I just finished reading Space Orville, a debut YA sci-fi novel, heavy on the humor in a bizzaro universe, by indie author Jeff Whelan. The book was getting rave reviews on Facebook and I had to find out what all the fuss was about. Turned out the fuss was well deserved. It got a glowing 5 stars from me.

7.    Did you use an editor before you published? If yes, what was that experience like?

I couldn't afford to hire an editor but, after my experience with my first novel, I understood the importance of the editing process. So I handcuffed myself to an invaluable little book called Self-Editing For Fiction Writers by Browne & King and spent countless hours, days, nights and weeks editing the manuscript.


8. Do you ever want to give up as a writer? Why do you keep going?

Giving up never crosses my mind. I keep going because once I get a story idea in my head I can't rest until I see it finished in book form. Writing has become an addiction.

9. Who helped you on your path to becoming a writer?

I was encouraged by several teachers throughout my school years and by a few professors during my college years. I should, however, single out one person in particular. It's another indie writer, John C. Stipa, who authored No Greater Sacrifice, one of my all-time favorite novels. I was so impressed with his writing expertise that I asked him if he would read and give me some honest feedback on the early parts of the manuscript for Ash: Return Of The Beast. He graciously agreed and he gave me a few valuable tips and suggestions that stuck with me throughout the rest of the writing process. Thanks John!

10. What's the one aspect of writing that you struggle with and how do you learn to better your craft?

I think maybe story structure and sentence structure are the most challenging for me. Much of what I've learned about the craft has come from really paying attention to how seasoned writers construct their stories. I also subscribe to Writer's Digest which often has tremendously helpful articles and information by best-selling authors. 


11. Where does your cat hang out while you write?

Ah, yes. My big black long-haired cat, Bear. He wants to hang out on my lap when I'm writing. But that doesn't work so well because I'm usually trying to use my laptop. I give him about 5 minutes of that awkward lap time before shooing him away. But that doesn't work so well, either, because then he just sits on the edge of the couch and stares at me until I feel guilty and then I let him back on my lap. Of course then he pretends he's starving to death and must have something to eat... again. It's a wonder I get any writing done at all.

12. Are you a coffee, tea, or water guy?

Constant Comment tea.


13.  Do you have an agent? If so, why? If no, why?

I don't need an agent because I'm not interested in having my work published by a traditional publisher.

14. What do you think about authors publishing their own work? And what do you think about publishing in general?

I'm all for the indie revolution. I don't like the idea of getting locked into a contract and losing control of my work. I also don't like the idea of the publisher taking the lion's share of the royalties while handing me mere pennies on the dollar. 


With amazon.com's CreateSpace, for example, I get 60% for my paperback sales and from Kindle sales I get 70%. That sure beats the standard publishing rates that can range from about 5% to around 15% or maybe 20% if you're really lucky. 

And what about marketing and promotion? That's what the big publishers are supposed to do for their share of the royalites, right? Not necessarily. 

Read this article: "If This Is What Big Publishers Call Promotion, No Wonder They're In Trouble" (http://www.techdirt.com/blog/casestudies/articles/20120717/22485119738/if-this-is-what-big-publishers-call-promotion-no-wonder-theyre-trouble.shtml)
15. How can my blog readers help you to become an even bigger success?

A few things, actually.

(1) They can go to my amazon page and click the "Like" button and, even better, they can scroll down nearly to the bottom of the page until they come to the bold orange text that says "Tags Customers Associate With This Product". Click once on each of the tags. The higher the tag count, the higher up on the list the book will appear when customers are searching for books by using those specific tags. But just click each tag one time. A second click will cancel out the first click.

(2) If they buy the book, they can return to the amazon page and post a review. 


You can purchase it here:
http://www.ashreturnofthebeast.webs.com


(3) If they enjoy the book, please give it a mention on Facebook, Twitter, GoodReads.com, blogs or anywhere on the web where it's appropriate.

Any of the above will be GREATLY appreciated.


16. Where do you research for your books? Any online sights that are great for paranormal/UFO interests?

For good, solid, credible UFO information and research I'd suggest UFO Casebook (http://www.ufocasebook.com) and The Black Vault (http://www.ufocasebook.com).

For information and research regarding paranormal phenomena, ritual magic, and related topics I'd suggest going to the Internet Sacred Text Archive (http://www.sacred-texts.com).

If anyone's interested in my work with English gematria, they can visit The Secret Of Nine (http://www.secretofnine.com).

17.  What one word best describes you?

That's easy: Curious.

2 comments:

  1. What a fabulous, thought-provoking interview, Gary! Love your take on indie publishing. And thanks for the link to the editing resource. Sounds like a must-have. Thanks to you too, Angie, for your excellent questions. I remember hearing, Gary, about your inspiration for ASH but loved reading it again. Gives me chills. I'm about 70% done reading ASH right now and have a hard time putting it away when I get started.

    And what a fascinating story about your close encounter. I never knew. Seems like we're brothers in that regard. I had an experience with an octagonal, star-like UFO as a boy of 10. Time has caused me to question the authenticity of my encounter, but I was adamant for years about what I saw. Still I wonder.

    Anyway, outstanding interview! Oh, and thanks for mentioning me & Space Orville! Cheers!

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    Replies
    1. Hi Jeff - Thanks for the kind words. Glad you're enjoying Ash: Return Of The Beast.

      And thanks for sharing about your UFO sighting. I'd like to know the details. Message me on Facebook if you care to share more about it. And, hey, watch out for the Men In Black. ;-)

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