Hi, there I’m Tantra Bensko.
I’ve been a writing instructor much of my life, such as with UCLA Extension Writing Program and Writers.com, and I edit manuscripts as well. But I didn’t want to just learn about academia but about life, so I spent many years doing other things instead, including living wild in nature, independent from the society I was critiquing.
I was a visual artist, so had lots of international solo shows, magazine features, was a contest judge, had an art gallery, was artist on staff of magazines, one of which was MKZINE, about government trauma-based mind control programs, which leads us into The Agents of the Nevermind series.
The books in this Suspense/Thriller series dramatize how vulnerable people are, whether they’re particularly gullible or not, to being influenced to believe and do what someone wants them to. This happens if we’re overwhelmed by someone sexy and charismatic offering occult knowledge, by authority figures on news shows, by enticing movements like the New Age that offer explanations for ambiguities, by CIA disinformationists putting out alien mythology, and so forth. When those kinds of things happen in my books, the protagonists generally find their ways through the maze and bring others with them out the other side.
Have you always wanted to be a writer?
Tell us about your book, and the story behind writing it
Remember to Recycle: Psychological Suspense could also be labeled a Conspiracy Thriller/Political Thriller/Suspense Thriller. It’s the second book in the long series, and shares categories with the first book, Glossolalia, while the third one continues the story of the Nevermind intelligence agency but goes full-on Gothic.
I like to play in fiction with things in my daily life, so some things I find funny were completely transformed to become major elements in the novel. An ice-cream truck that goes around my neighborhood after dark with a recording of an arrogant, annoyed woman saying “helLO” as if we’re stupid for not being at the truck buying ice-cream. But I’ve never once noticed anyone actually buying ice-cream. Across the street, houses are falling down, owned by the church next to them. A housemate and I used to joke about how we actually saw people go into one from time to time but never come out. And guys keep me awake at all hours going through people’s recycling bins, so I imagined what they might know about us, and what they might think about that. When I made one of homeless guys into a character with a brilliant plan to use that information to become a psychic “woman” setting up shop at a neighborhood café, the book was born.
I also kept abreast of every new revelation coming out daily about the corruption involved in proxy wars from investigative journalists such as Vanessa Beeley (The White Helmets hoax) and George Webb (organ harvesting ratlines) and incorporated that into the book. Good times.
What’s the biggest challenge about being a writer?
Being able to afford it. The time, editing, formatting, cover, marketing.
Do you have a specific writing space?
Because of a back issue, the only place I can write is curled over on my bed.
What’s your number one piece of writing advice?
Avoid clichés in the language of your prose to keep it fresh and alive.
What books do you currently have on your bedside table?
Research books for the Gothic novel I’m finishing up, so — Anatomizing Divinity (about alchemy), Written in Blood (about forensics), and The Stargate Conspiracy (about a political cult related to ancient Egyptian gods.)
Who have been your biggest writing influences and why?
Uh oh, now you’re in for it. William Faulkner originally, because of his experiments with multiple POV and how the Southern Gothic reminded me of my Alabama family. French New Novelists Robbe-Grillet and Claude Simon for their strange mood. Tom Robbins, with his playfulness. David Lynch for creating nonlinear, complex cult classics about corruption and metaphysics, the director Sergei Paradjanov for his beautiful imagery and bravery in going against the party line. My Literary fiction has been inspired by many authors, musicians, directors, dancers, artists and multi-media producers but those aren’t as cogent to what I write now, so you’re in luck – I won’t list a million people.
I was encouraged as I went along in this series by more mainstream novelists such Philip K. Dick for his mind bending conspiracies, Mary Higgins Clark (All Around the Town) and other authors who dramatized the psyche split by trauma, Linda Balesta for Operation Mockingbird, for writing about the CIA’s control of the news, Brad Meltzer’s brilliant way of bringing history into his Mystery Thrillers, John Fowles for The Magus about the theatrical control over someone’s mind, which is a motif of course in Psychological Suspense. Bently Little (The House) because it’s Horror I actually like.
Some non-fiction authors whose relevant books I still have around the house are Clive Prince and Lynn Picknett (The Stargate Conspiracy), Mark Pilkington (Mirage Men), Dr. Colin Ross (The CIA Doctors), Peter Dale Scott (Drugs, Oil, and War), Richard Spence (Secret Agent 666), Andrew Goliszek (In the Name of Science), Alex Constantine (Psychic Dictatorship in the USA), George Pendle (Strange Angel), John Perkins (Confessions of an Economic Hitman).
James Corbett, Vanessa Beeley, Eva Bartlett, Sibel Edmonds, Gary Webb, George Webb, and so many more analysts have informed my work as far as understanding how society works so I can construct realistic Political Thrillers about the use of occult mythology, blackmail, mind control, and propaganda to throw people off-balance.
Also, TV series coming out of Spain like El Internado, Grand Hotel, Cable Girls, and from the U.S., Bates Motel, The Family, The Prisoner, Cult, Mr. Robot, True Detective that are so dark and twisted, looking at secrets and labyrinths. Movies that combine strong Thriller action with heavy focus on the bewildered mental state of the protagonist as well as societal corruption like The Big Short, Kill the Messenger, The Machinist, Fight Club, Inland Empire, Momento, Shutter Island, Stonehearst Asylum, The Firm, Mullholland Drive, OK. Must. Stop.
How do you market your writing?
I had a couple hundred short stories in magazines and anthologies, so that got my name out there before the series. I send out review copies and get professional reviews such as from the U.S. Review of Books. I have a Facebook author page where for a while I took out ads, and did Amazon ads for a while. I send out PressCable press releases, go on radio shows related to the conspiracy topics, alert readers’ lists about discount periods, put out a newsletter, do local readings, blog about social engineering, do guest blog posts and interviews.
Lastly, something fun. What’s something our readers might not know about you?
I once took a Craigslist job to provide feedback for very aspiring elderly male strippers on their technique.
by Tantra Bensko
What if the homeless men going through your recycling know more about your life than you do? Like who is going to die.
One of the recyclers, Dave, wearing disguises he keeps under a bridge, memorizes the information in people’s bins. He, like many others, idolizes the Rescuers, a supposedly neutral, unarmed humanitarian aid group in a Balkanized country, as the possibility of WWIII looms.
The Nevermind Agents lie on the evening news to garner support for proxy wars. They say the Rescuers are unarmed, neutral, and giving humanitarian aid to a Balkanized country. Their movie about them is a blockbuster. Rescuer costumes are the bit hit for Halloween.
But it’s time to unmask them. And that requires a plan so ingenious, even the planner can’t know how it’s done.
Living not far away from Dave’s bridge, Becky donates generously to the Rescuers, making her finances even more insecure. She doesn’t know what to think when she finds things in her apartment moved slightly. The toothbrush is wet. There’s a stain on the ironing board. The cat food is nearly gone. Is it her imagination? Is someone messing with her mind?
Could it be Stan, breaking in because he loves her? He certainly loves putting her body into mysterious BDSM contortions for their videos. But what’s that muffled moan she hears in the background when she calls him on the phone?
Becky hires her friend to spy on Stan. The woman has gone underground since escaping from the Nevermind; she wears a wig, and a mask meant for burn victims. She has traveled across the country to befriend Becky, taking a chance on an anonymous message recommending she do so, though she doesn’t yet know the reason.
Thrills for thinkers.
By Tantra Bensko
What if your subconscious determined the fate of nations?
No one but her uncle Geoff would hire Nancy, considering her habit of snapping out of amnesiac fugues, wondering where she got her bruises and the scent of men’s cologne. When she sees a crime of poison in progress at his company, D-CIDE, she chases the truck carrying away the chemical legally deemed too toxic to use or to dump. Her pursuit leads to a convoluted world of political intrigue, esoteric rituals, an arcane Elizabethan spy code, and assassinations she never imagined – though her imagination is what holds that world together.
This conspiracy novel introduces a young woman with an ambiguous past involving herself in a killer organization with one layer after another of her psyche.
Through a fictionalized intelligence agency, the books in this series dramatize the shady side of covert experiments, creating destabilizing coups for profit, media theater, psychological warfare, and illicit methods of funding dark ops. The Agents of the Nevermind series dares to explore the edgiest controversies and the convoluted lives intelligence agents must endure as they create bizarre delusions for the world in order to hide the truth about their nation’s financial foundation.