Monday, August 28, 2006

Mystery Writer Bob Avey Talks of Ghost Towns, Van Gogh, and The Nature of Perception

You wrote the most beautiful thing on DorothyL recently. You said, “Fiction is art, and to be effective it cannot reflect life as it is, but rather life as the writer wishes it to appear to be.” I thought this was fascinating. What made you draw this conclusion?
The idea came to me years ago when I was flipping through a magazine and saw a picture of Van Gogh’s Starry Night, a painting that is so full of emotion that you can’t help but be moved by it, and yet it looks nothing like what you or I would have seen had we been there, on location with Van Gogh. It later occurred to me that if one were to take a photograph of the same scene and place it next to the painting, the photo would, at first, appear to reflect something closer to reality. Why then does the painting seem more real to us? The answer is: We do not just see with our eyes. We take in the sensory data then embellish it with our own emotions before storing it in our memory. It’s the same with fiction. Writers of fiction do not simply recreate or record certain events of life. They create events that could have happened and embellish them with their own interpretation of life.

That is a terrific example.

You are an accountant in the Petroleum Industry. Can you give me some good tax advice?
Not really. I hate taxes.

Darn. You live in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, and your book, Twisted Perception, is set in Oklahoma. What makes Oklahoma a good setting for a mystery? Aside from the fact that the waving wheat can sure smell sweet?
Have you ever been to a play with an inadequate stage and unimaginative props? Even if the story line is well written, and the actors experienced, one cannot help but be distracted by this. When I first wrote Twisted Perception, I used a generic setting, a city, which I simply called The City that was loosely patterned after New York City. Why I did this, I’m not sure. I’ve never been to New York City. I guess I thought that no one would be interested in Oklahoma. I put a lot of work into it, drawing maps and naming streets, and sections of the city. It wasn’t bad, but it didn’t resonate, it didn’t ring true. When I came to my senses and rewrote the story using Tulsa, Oklahoma as the setting, both the characters and the story line, or plot came alive. The elements of story -- characterization, plot, and setting -- work in concert, each drawing from the other, and if one of these elements is lacking, they all suffer because of it. Just about any place can be a good setting for a mystery, as long as it rings true for the reader.

Your website says you like to spend time roaming through ghost towns. Are there a lot of these?
There are a lot of ghost towns in Oklahoma, but you have to know what you’re looking for to see them. The popular ghost-town image of empty, wooden buildings and tumbleweeds blowing through deserted streets is practically a myth. Towns like that do exist, but they are few and far between. For the most part, there are no buildings anymore, just empty fields, but if you look closely and in the right places you will begin to see remnants of sidewalks, parts of foundations where houses once stood, the rusted iron of old farm equipment, and the busted pottery of dinner plates and coffee cups. And if you are quiet and receptive to such things, the spirits of those who once lived there will speak to you.

Wow! You are deep, Bob.

Your blog today says that you are looking for people who can give you some info about pagan religion. Cool! Why is that?
I need correct information related to pagan religion, particularly of the Celtic variety, for my next novel, Beneath a Buried House, which will be the second in the Kenny Elliot series. The book will not be about pagan religion, but paganism will be part of the story. I just want to make sure I get the facts straight so I can portray an accurate picture.

Tell us about your book, Twisted Perception, and your protagonist Kenny Elliott.
My stories come to me in different ways. Sometimes an object, like a picture, or an old building catches my attention, or an idea stirs my imagination, but many times the story starts with character. So it was with Twisted Perception. I was sitting home one night when a thought came to me, manifesting itself as the thoughts of a character, and it went something like this: You can’t fill out a homicide report indicating the suspect to be a ghost. The more I rolled that snippet of character monologue around in my head, the more I liked it, and it wasn’t long until the complete character emerged as Kenny Elliot. So I guess you could say Twisted Perception is a character driven novel, though it possesses the sharp edge of mystery.

On the surface, the story is about Kenny Elliot, a Tulsa police detective who grew up in the small town of Porter, Oklahoma. During his senior year in high school, two of Elliot’s friends were found dead in a car. Most of the town suspected Elliot of the murders. He had been fighting with Jonathan Alexander, the boy who was found in the car, over the girl. But the Sheriff didn’t share the town’s convictions, and he convinced Elliot to leave town. Elliot finished school and became a police detective in Tulsa, Oklahoma, thinking the part of his life he’d left behind was over. But when a murder investigation catapults him into his past, he’s forced to face the fabric of his nightmares. On a deeper level, Twisted Perception explores the lasting and devastating effects of child abuse.

Your website is very attractive and well-organized. Did you do it yourself?While I had a lot of input, the website was actually designed and created by

You are also a public speaker, and you have an upcoming gig at Rose State College. What sorts of things do you talk about? I’m taking notes now.
I’m fairly new to public speaking; I’m about as shy and reclusive as a person can get. However, in an effort to promote Twisted Perception, I’ve come out of my shell, somewhat. I’ve spoken to both the general public and to groups of writers. When the general public is involved, I usually talk about the book and how it came to be. I always ask and that seems to be what they want to hear. With writers, I usually pick a writing related topic, such as character development, or creating plot. However, book promotion is becoming a hot topic, and I’ve talked on that subject as well.

What are you writing now? Is Twisted Perception part of a series?I’m presently working on Beneath a Buried House, the second in the Kenny Elliot series. I don’t how many books I’ll write in this series. The stories are intense, and I’m not sure a person, even one as dynamic as Kenny Elliot, could take much of what I dish out and maintain their sanity.

You’re an accountant; how long have you been a writer?
I’ve actually been a writer longer than I’ve been an accountant, and that’s a long time. To put it into perspective, however, I didn’t get serious about the writing until recently, about ten years ago. Before that it was more of a hobby, something I did to occupy my time.

Is there a mystery writer whose work has particularly inspired you?
My favorite mystery writers are James Lee Burke, John Sandford, and Tony Hillerman. However, I also read Dean Koontz, Stephen King, and John Saul.

I saw a picture posted on someone’s website of your car, which bears advertising of your book. What gave you this idea? What sort of responses have you received?
I’m not an ostentatious person by nature. But I was at my computer one day, depressed over my Amazon stats, and it occurred to me that the reason for this was that not many people knew about me, or my book. I suspected I was relatively unknown even in my hometown of Tulsa. It was then that I got the brilliant idea of having some magnetic signs made, which I could stick to the sides of my car upon occasion. I wasn’t thinking of anything huge, or showy, just a conservative sign that might quietly get the word out. As it turned out, every sign company I visited informed me that, due to the design and shape of my car, magnetic signs wouldn’t work. The wind would get behind them and blow them off. Had I stopped there, I would have been fine. But I had to visit one last place, a company that did make magnetic signs but actually specialized in vinyl wraps. Previous to this enlightening experience, I thought wrapping – not the musical variety – was something you did to lose weight. To my surprise these wraps had nothing to do with weight loss, but were instead surprisingly affordable enhancements for your vehicle. What can I say? The man talked me into it. When I first saw my car enwrap, I was shocked, mortified at the sheer size of the enhancements. “I can’t drive around in that,” I said. But I eventually got used to it. Now I often forget the signs are there and find myself annoyed, wondering why everyone is staring at me.

Is your family supportive of your writing career?
At first my family, like everyone else, snickered when I told them I intended to become an author. My time spent doing so was tolerated, sometimes begrudgingly so. Their attitudes have started to change, but not so much upon publication as they did when I began to receive positive reviews for the book, and when the fan letters started to roll in.

How can readers find out more about Bob Avey and Twisted Perception?
To find out about me, and my book, Twisted Perception, please visit my website at ( At the site, you can read chapter one and see some of the reviews the book has received. The book can be purchased at a local bookstore near you, or it can be ordered online at:, where you can get free shipping;; or

Thanks, Bob, for your poetic responses.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Bob,
Re:Your blog today says that you are looking for people who can give you some info about pagan religion. Cool! Why is that?
I need correct information related to pagan religion, particularly of the Celtic variety, for my next novel, Beneath a Buried House, which will be the second in the Kenny Elliot series. The book will not be about pagan religion, but paganism will be part of the story. I just want to make sure I get the facts straight so I can portray an accurate picture.
I wanted to let you you know to find out more about the pagans here in Oklahoma esp Celtic Traditions pls check The Silver Serpent Coven in Midwest City, Oklahoma