SLP: Gary, before getting into your actual work let’s give the readers an idea of who you are. Where were you born?
GVT: In the home of the Space Needle, Seattle.
SLP: Where did you spend your childhood?
GVT: In the shadow of the Space Needle.
SLP: Where were you educated?
GVT: I earned my B.A. from “that hippie college back in the woods”, otherwise known as The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington. Then two years grad school toward a M.Ed. at Seattle University.
SLP: And where is home these days?
GVT: Just north of Seattle.
SLP: Other than writing, what is your principal occupation?
GVT: Freelance graphics and book cover designer.
SLP: Regarding your writing, what genres appeal to you as both writer and reader?
GVT: I read a lot of non-fiction dealing with topics like ancient monuments, UFO research, sacred geometry, symbolism, the occult, religion, and just about anything dealing with esoteric subjects. My favorite fiction is anything that in some way connects with my nonfiction interests.
SLP: What writers have most influenced your work?
GVT: Five names come immediately to mind: Edgar Allan Poe, H. P. Lovecraft, John Updike, Dan Brown and Stephen King.
SLP: Do you write primarily at home?
GVT: Yes, usually in the living room with my laptop.
SLP: Do you ever write in public places such as coffee shops?
GVT: Can’t do it. Too many distractions.
SLP: When is your best time to write?
GVT: Mostly at night.
SLP: Do you set aside specific times to write? If so, when?
GVT: I don’t have a specific writing schedule.
SLP: Do you feel you have sufficient time to write?
GVT: I do, actually. Problem is, I don’t always take advantage of it like I should. [Hangs head in shame]
SLP: How many hours per day do you devote to writing?
GVT: It varies. It could be as little as an hour or as long as five hours at a stretch. The determining factor seems to be how well the work is or isn’t flowing.
SLP: If possible would you like to write full time, or do you have other overriding interests?
GVT: If possible? Sure, if I could make a living at it I think any other interests would become secondary. Well, except for designing book covers. I love that. Examples of my book cover designs can be seen at www.bookcoversandvideos.webs.com. [Shameless plug!]
SLP: Do you feel compelled to write, or do you consider it a hobby?
GVT: I’ve felt compelled to write since I was a kid in elementary school.
SLP: When and how did your interest in writing first manifest itself?
GVT: I think the bug really hit me sometime in my early teens when I discovered the work of Edgar Allan Poe. Although I did write my first sci-fi story when I was 12 years old.
SLP: Do you have any other creative outlets such as music, dance, or graphic arts?
GVT: I’ve been in the graphic arts most of my adult life. I’ve been drawing and painting since I was old enough to hold a pencil. I also play guitar and was involved in the local singer/songwriter scene back in the 80s.
SLP: Do you primarily write on a computer? If so, laptop or desktop?
GVT: Trusty ol’ Mac iBook.
SLP: Do you carry a notebook or gadget for note taking?
GVT: [Laughs] No, but I should because I usually end up scrounging around for any scrap of paper I can find when I’m struck with an idea and I’m away from home.
SLP: Do you have a daily goal as to how much you write?
GVT: Wish I could say yes. But no.
SLP: Do you have a specific technique for priming the pump for the next day’s writing?
GVT: Interesting question. What comes to mind is that I tend to go to sleep thinking about what’s going to come next in the story. Seems like the ideas that come to me at that time sort of gel in the back of my mind during sleep. Then I can draw on those ideas the next day.
SLP: How do you deal with writer’s block?
GVT: Not well. LOL! In fact, I’m struggling my way through one right now with my current project.
SLP: What are your reading habits, how much do you read?
GVT: A lot. But mostly nonfiction.
SLP: Who are a few of your favorite authors?
GVT: Until Dan Brown came along I didn’t really have a favorite author except, perhaps for Poe. But lately two indie authors with debut novels have become favorites. One is Rai Aren and the other is John C. Stipa.
SLP: What are you currently reading?
GVT: Just finished John C. Stipa’s terrific novel, No Greater Sacrifice.
SLP: What would you estimate to be the ratio of fiction to nonfiction?
GVT: Probably about one fiction to five nonfiction.
SLP: Do you abandon books that you find aren’t to your liking?
SLP: Do you prefer reading ebooks rather than paper books?
GVT: No, I much prefer a good ol’ dead tree book.
SLP: Is The Ezekiel Code to any extent based on your own life experiences or beliefs?
GVT: No doubt about that. The “code” element of the story is derived directly from my exploration of the possibility that the English alphabet might be “encoded” (for lack of a better term) in such a way as to correspond to the base-10 number system. This line of research led me to discover some interesting patterns within and related to the structure of the alphabet. It’s an odd idea, I’ll admit, but it has sure been an interesting ride. The work is detailed at http://www.secretofnine.com if anyone wants to see what I’m talking about.
SLP: Do you personally believe aliens have visited the earth?
GVT: I think there is compelling circumstantial evidence to suggest they have. The historical records of nearly every culture on earth tell of the “gods” that came from the skies to provide them with knowledge of the arts and sciences. I go into this question in more detail in my book.
SLP: Generally speaking—and based on my very limited exposure to the book—The Ezekiel Code seems to be an amalgam of Dan Brown’s recent book The Da Vinci Code and Erich von Daniken’s 1968 Chariots Of The Gods. Is this a fair assessment?
GVT: In some ways, yes. Although about the only similarity to The Da Vinci Code would be the idea that a “code” is involved and the fact that both stories include some alternative twists to traditionally accepted religious ideas. Other than that they are completely different stories especially considering that The Ezekiel Code has the approaching end of the Mayan calendar in 2012 as an underlying theme.
The connection with von Daniken’s Chariots Of The Gods would be the so-called “Ancient Astronaut” theory which proposes that the Earth was visited by ETs in the ancient past. The idea presented in The Ezekiel Code is that the strange object that came from the sky and which was described in great detail in the Bible by the prophet, Ezekiel, was actually a craft of extraterrestrial origin.
SLP: What do you think of the von Daniken books? Do you find them credible?
GVT: To some degree it was credible. To be fair, most of his ideas were pure speculation based on his research and some creative imagination. He has his critics even within the UFO research community. But one thing is certain. His work was incredibly influential and he paved the way for all the others who have come down that road to this very day.
SLP: Was there a significant amount of research involved?
GVT: A tremendous amount, yes. I’m sure I spent as much time doing research as I spent doing the actual writing.
SLP: Did the UFO community (the ardent believers in extra-terrestrial visitations) aid in the research or writing of the book?
GVT: Yes, both directly through personal contact and indirectly through their research materials. The “Acknowledgments” page in the front of my book includes the names of probably about 30 people.
SLP: Do you have any personal connection with the UFO community?
GVT: I do, yes. In fact, I recently designed the cover of an upcoming book by attorney, Peter Gersten. Peter is known as “The UFO lawyer” because he was responsible for the release of hundreds of UFO files from the CIA, the FBI, and the NSA back in the 70s and 80s. I’m not at liberty to spill the beans about the book he’s working on but I can pretty much guarantee it will be the talk of the UFO community when it comes out.
SLP: Are the events in the book wholly a product of your imagination?
GVT: Basically, yes, although a lot of historical events and factual information are woven into the plot. Readers who aren’t familiar with some of those events and information will find themselves scratching their heads wondering just what is fact and what is fiction. Like one reader said, she constantly found herself going to Google just to satisfy her curiosity about what was real and what wasn’t. That’s exactly how I hoped some folks would respond.
SLP: Do you have any specific qualifications, either educationally or experientially for writing the book?
GVT: I’ve been obsessively exploring and researching the paranormal and related esoteric subjects for over 30 years. I’ve written a number of feature articles for magazines such as Fate Magazine (U.S.) and Beyond Magazine (U.K.) and had a monthly “UFO News” column in a local newspaper. I’ve been a guest on radio programs such as Dreamland, hosted by best-selling author, Whitley Strieber and the X-Zone, hosted by veteran UFO researcher, Rob McConnell and my UFO-related artwork was featured on the TV program, Strange Universe.
In addition to that I had the good fortune to witness what has become known as the “Black Triangle” UFO at close range and my affidavit attesting to the details of that sighting was entered into a legal suit brought against the U.S. Department of Defense by Peter Gersten, the attorney I mentioned earlier.
Also, as I mentioned before, my research into the possibility of an encoded English alphabet is what provided the “code” aspect in the novel.
SLP: Did the characters ever seem to have minds of their own, taking the story in unforeseen directions?
GVT: [Laughs] Absolutely. There were times when I wondered who was writing this story. Me or them?
SLP: Were you blocked at any point while writing the novel?
GVT: Not really. There were a few times when I was a little stumped about how one thing or another might happen but I don’t recall any truly frustrating blocks.
SLP: Are any of the characters modeled on real people?
GVT: No, all the characters are fictional. There are some real people mentioned within some of the character dialog but no real people appear as characters in the story.
SLP: Did the story unfold easily or did you find it difficult to write?
GVT: For the most part I’d say it unfolded quite easily. Wish I could say the same for the novel I’m working on now. [laughs]
SLP: Is writing strictly a linear process for you, or do you often switch between chapters?
GVT: Good question. The Ezekiel Code unfolded in sequence, chapter by chapter. The novel I’m working on now is progressing quite differently. This time I am finding myself writing chapters out of sequence and then inserting them where they seem to fit best. I think it’s because this new novel switches back and forth between two different time frames.
SLP: Approximately how long did the book take?
GVT: [Laughs] Would you believe nine years? But I was working full time so that made it difficult to find time to write.
SLP: Do you work from a plot outline?
GVT: I didn’t begin with an outline for The Ezekiel Code. But by the time I was about half way into it the more I had to rely on at least a loose outline to help me keep track of all the characters, what they said or did, and all the little details and events that began to accumulate as the story grew more complex.
SLP: Were there surprises when writing this particular book? If so, what were they?
GVT: Oh, man, yes. [laughs again] What makes The Ezekiel Code unique from any other novel (at least as far as I know) is the “code”. The code is really the plot device that drives the story. Let me briefly explain this “code”.
Remember I said I was exploring the possibility that the alphabet might be encoded? Suffice to say what I was doing was seeing if the English alphabet might be used as a form of gematria. Gematria is what could be loosely described as a kind of “sacred numerology” that was used by the ancient Greek and Hebrew priests and mystics. The system assigns number values to the letters of the alphabet. Therefore any word or phrase generates a corresponding number. Words and phrases that have matching number values are then thought to have some underlying, meaningful connection. I was doing this research during the same time period that I was writing the book. So once in a while my research generated some words and phrases with significant number values that happened to coincide nicely with the story in my novel. So any time I added one of them into the story it took the story in directions I had not anticipated. Surprises? Oh yes. Several times when I was certain I was going to turn left I suddenly found myself veering sharply to the right. It was quite an adventure.
SLP: Did the book end as you originally planned?
GVT: Not at all. Again, it was that “code” factor. It provided an ending that was more dramatic, and ultimately more interesting, than I originally had in mind.
SLP: What writing software do you use?
GVT: Windows for Mac.
SLP: What’s your next writing project, and is it underway?
GVT: Yes, I’ve been working on it for a few months.
SLP: Does it have a similar theme to that of The Ezekiel Code?
GVT: No. This one is called Ash: Return of the Beast. It’s a gritty, occult, crime thriller based on a little known factoid I stumbled across concerning the death of the notorious occultist, Aleister Crowley. In fact, the British press once labeled him as “The Wickedest Man In The World”. His own mother referred to him as “The Beast”.
SLP: When do you anticipate finishing it?
GVT: If things go well, I hope to have it finished by the end of the year.
SLP: Can you offer a ‘high concept’ or brief plot summary?
GVT: The story begins with the facts concerning the death of Aleister Crowley in 1947. His body was cremated but the cinerary urn containing his ashes mysteriously disappeared.
The story jumps ahead to 1997 where an innocent little 11-year-old boy is sexually assaulted by a local pastor. The boy, now bent on revenge but too young to do anything about it, grows up to become a famous “Death Metal” rock star. His meteoric rise to fame seems to have been influenced by some rather odd circumstances.
Three years after his band hits the big time, local preachers begin turning up dead and their bodies are marked with strange symbols.
Police Lieutenant, Brian Kane, is on the case but he’s completely baffled by the fact that there is no physical evidence of anyone having actually murdered the preachers. To make his life even more difficult, an attractive, and rather unorthodox, female FBI agent is assigned to help him unravel the mystery and solve the murders.
But, wait. Murder? Where’s the evidence? Why are the preachers dying? What’s killing them? What are those strange symbols on their bodies? Are they all members of some bizarre cult? And what could any of this have to do with a despicable old man who’s been dead for fifty years?
It has been said that truth is often stranger than fiction which is why, as you wind your way through the twists and turns of this diabolical tale, you may find yourself wondering just where the truth ends and the fiction begins.
The twists of fate, I dare say, are the strangest twists of all.
SLP: What do you believe will be the short- and long-term impact of ebooks on the publishing industry?
GVT: I think ebooks are here to stay. Independently published authors, like me, are ahead of the curve when it comes to ebooks but the traditional publishers are catching on. I don’t think, however, that the paper book will completely disappear. At least I hope not. Love the feel of a good old fashioned dead tree book in my hands.
SLP: What do you think of the current publishers’ pricing structure for ebooks?
GVT: I’ve noticed a lot of the traditional publishers are pricing the Kindle editions of their books at about $9.99. That seems a little steep to me. Many of the indie authors are pricing their Kindle books much lower, some as low as 99 cents. I priced the Kindle edition of The Ezekiel Code about in the middle at just $4.95 and it’s selling very well at that price. In fact it’s been on the Kindle “BestSeller” list in the “Occult” category for over 12 weeks now. It’s beginning to outsell the paperback edition.
SLP: Do you currently own an ereader?
GVT: No, but if someone wants to give me one for my birthday (March 31) I won’t turn it down. [laughs]
[Note to our readers: All ereader devices may be sent to SLP for forwarding to Gary.]
SLP: That wraps up the interview portion, Gary. I think you’ve done an excellent job of whetting our appetites for your upcoming work, Ash: Return of the Beast. Now for a sample from Gary’s current book, The Ezekiel Code:
The young man laughed. “You guys talk like my father used to talk. He thought he was Indiana Jones or something. Always on the hunt for the next big mystery. Ancient artifacts, old books. You name it. Maybe you’ve heard of him. His name was Frank McClintock. My name’s Jason, by the way.”
“Nice to meet you, Jason,” Banyon said. “No, I’m afraid we’ve never heard of your father but he sounds like an interesting man. You said his name was Frank McClintock. Past tense. I gather he’s no longer alive?”
“We’re sorry to hear that,” Angela said. “So this book belonged to your father?”
“Yeah. He had a whole mess of books like that. Metaphysics, occult, ancient mysteries, stuff like that. I put a lot of his old books out on the shelf for sale after he died. That one you’ve got there was one of them.”
“And the note inside the book,” she asked. “Would you know anything about that?”
“Doesn’t ring a bell,” Jason said, shaking his head. “Do you have it with you?”
Angela reached into her purse and pulled out a piece of paper. “This isn’t the original,” she said, handing it to him. “It’s a photocopy.”
Jason examined it. “Yup, this is my dad’s handwriting, all right.”
“Are you sure?” Banyon asked. Several butterflies fluttered inside his stomach.
“Oh yeah, positive,” Jason said. He continued to read the note. “This is weird stuff here. What the heck does it mean?” he asked, handing it back to Angela.
“That’s what we’d like to know,” Banyon said.
Jason pushed his glasses up onto his forehead and smiled. “My dad would have liked you guys. There weren’t a lot of people he could talk to about these things.”
“I can imagine,” Banyon chuckled.
“Would you like to see the rest of his collection?” Jason asked, getting up from the stool behind the counter.
The butterflies fluttered once more inside Banyon’s stomach. “The rest of his collection?”
Jason motioned for them to come around the counter. Then he opened a door to a back room. “This way,” he said.
The back room, dimly lit by a couple of light bulbs hanging from the ceiling, was full of books everywhere, on shelves, on tables, in boxes. Evidently it was inventory waiting to go out to the front shelves for sale.
Jason pointed to an old leather-bound trunk in the shadows under a table. “This is it,” he said, sliding the heavy trunk out for them to see. “This is what I have left.” He opened the trunk, exposing the contents. “I sold most of his other books. Just haven’t gotten around to these yet.”
Banyon and Angela knelt down to take a look. There were some intriguing titles, mostly dealing with ancient mysteries and secret societies.
“Wow,” Banyon said, almost in a whisper. Then he turned to Jason. “Would you mind if we looked through some of these?”
Jason shrugged. “Go ahead. I haven’t priced any of them yet but if there’s something you want just let me know and we’ll work something out. I’ll be out front if you need me.”
“Great. Thanks,” Angela said.
Jason disappeared through the door and resumed his reading out behind the counter.
“Trusting soul, eh?” Banyon quipped.
“No kidding,” Angela said as she slowly rummaged through the various titles in the old trunk. “Can you believe our luck? I mean I can’t believe we just stumbled into this!”
“This old trunk’s been around awhile, that’s for sure,” Banyon observed, giving it a visual once-over. Then he noticed the tattered black fabric that lined the inside of the lid was sagging down. He tucked it back up but it refused to stay put.
“Will you forget that?” Angela said. “Help me look through this stuff. Who knows what we might find.”
“Wait a minute,” Banyon said. He now noticed the fabric was sagging because something behind it was weighting it down. “There’s something under this lining.” He carefully tugged at the edge of the lining to pull a little portion of it free from the lid. “There’s something back behind here,” he said, trying to reach it with the tips of his fingers.
“What is it?”
“I don’t know.”
Finally, without actually ripping the fabric he managed to grasp whatever it was with two fingers and slid it out. It was a large old brown paper envelope. He turned it over and back again, looking for some indication of what it might contain. But there was no writing on it. It was sealed only by a small copper clasp. He looked at Angela. “Should I?”
She shrugged but the look in her eyes said, yes. A large, unmarked envelope in an old chest full of esoteric books in the shadows of a back room of a used-book store was just too tempting to be ignored.
Banyon opened it and pulled out a wrinkled sheet of parchment, yellowed with age. He maneuvered it out of the shadows into a slightly better light. They both looked at it and then at each other, wide-eyed, as they realized what they had.
“Oh my god,” Angela gasped. “That’s it. The Ezekiel Code!”
“Find something interesting?” Jason asked, suddenly appearing behind them in the doorway.
SLP: A final thanks to Gary, and a reminder to our readers that Gary’s book is available now in both paper and ebook editions.