THE WRITING OF ASH: RETURN OF THE BEAST – Or How I Learned To Not Be Afraid Of The Dark
By Gary Val Tenuta
One of the interesting things about writing a novel is that the process requires the writer to reach down inside to access the storehouse of thoughts, feelings and life experiences that he’s accumulated over the years so he can apply some of it to the story and make the words on the page reflect some semblance of “reality”. I guess that’s a long-winded way of repeating the old adage, ‘Write what you know’. But what if you have a story idea that requires you to write what you don’t know or, worse yet, to write what you’re uncomfortable with?
If you’re going to write what you don’t know, there’s always the option to do the research necessary to familiarize yourself with a formerly unfamiliar topic. Writing what you’re uncomfortable with is something else again. That’s what I had to wrestle with when it came to writing my second novel, Ash: Return Of The Beast.
I remember when the idea for the story first hit me. 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, no one knows. 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.”
At first I was super motivated and eager to start writing. But as I continued to sketch out a story, I began to realize this was not going to be the same sort of creative experience that I’d had with my debut novel, The Ezekiel Code. Sure, Code contained its share of bad guys sneaking around in the shadows, a couple of murders and some foul play, not to mention a lot of paranormal elements. But, at the end of the day, it was pretty much a story of hope for the future of mankind and there was always at least a glimmer of light hiding under the surface when things looked dark. Ash, I could see, was developing into something that was going to be darker. Much darker. Darker, maybe, than I was prepared to go. Could I dredge up something that disturbing from the depths of my own storehouse of life experiences? Um… 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.
So, I did the research to familiarize myself with those issues to the point where I felt comfortable enough to incorporate it into the story. But feeling comfortable enough with it and actually writing it were two different things. I found out I was afraid of the Dark, the Dark within. I told my best friend that 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.
However, I believed the story was too good to abandon. I knew if I let it go it would haunt me for the rest of my days. So I carried on even though my own sensibilities were rebelling against me. Much to my surprise, I actually got used to it. In fact, I got to the point where I enjoyed it. Yeah, I know. Scary, right? But hey, at least I was no longer afraid of the Dark. How did that happen?
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. It wasn’t me who was doing those horrendous things to the characters. The characters were doing those things to each other. Yup. 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.
Now, three years after the initial idea hit me, Ash: Return Of The Beast is finished and I’m happy to report that my sensibilities were not damaged in the process. At least I haven’t had any urges to go out and kill anyone… yet.
(Cue spooky music. Fade to black…)
So let's take a look at the book details:
Ash: Return of the Beast is an occult crime thriller, a work of fiction based on a little known factoid about the death of Aleister Crowley (1875-1947), the notorious occultist the British press once called "The Wickedest Man In The World". Crowley’s body was cremated but the whereabouts of his funerary ashes has remained a mystery… until now.
This diabolical tale carries the reader through a series of the most curious (and sometimes unsettling) events spanning the years from 1947(and the death of Aleister Crowley) to the 1990s and the coming-of-age (and eventual stardom) of a "death-metal" rocker named Rodney Duckworth.
The time-line 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 female FBI agent. Their task is to figure out why good, healthy, God-fearing preachers in their fair city are suddenly dropping dead.
What is the meaning of the strange symbols branded onto the bodies of these hapless victims? Are they all part of some bizarre cult? No eyewitnesses. No fingerprints. Is it really murder? Where’s the evidence? And what is the disturbing secret that Detective Kane is holding so close to his chest?
The investigation catapults Kane and Ravenwood headlong into life-threatening situations as they wind their way through the strange, dark labyrinth of the world of the occult and find themselves battling the powerful forces of ritual magick.
Problem is, the clues to help solve the case are in terribly 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.
This book was absolutely amazing!! I really have read nothing to compare it to!! And your in luck!! Gary is offering on of my commenters a copy of his book!! Just fill out the rafflecopter!!!!
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