Supernatural, Spiritual Book Headed to the Big Screen
Many people associate the word supernatural with ghosts and demons, but it applies to any forces beyond understanding. John J. Zelenski believes there’s a lot that falls within that definition. In fact, his motto is “not everything in this world can be explained,” and that sentiment is echoed by a character in his books and soon-to-be film adaptation.
Zelenski is the author of paranormal thriller Walker’s Vale, and prequel The Journal of Ezekiel Walker released March 17. The Scranton man is currently working on the third and final installment in the timeline.
While the series deals with the eerie, creepy side of paranormal events, it also tackles the powers of faith and fate.
“To me, supernatural can be a person driving down the street has that near-accident by inches, then they think back to maybe they got held up in line and if they had been there just a couple of minutes earlier it would be different. They have angels watching over them,” Zelenski said.
Walker’s Vale is Zelenski’s first published book. The novel follows a family that just moved into a home in a small town called Walker’s Vale, Pennsylvania. They start noticing strange occurrences, and come across a creepy creature who is a living symbol that all is not as it seems.
“I think the message is sometimes you can’t judge appearances, good guys don’t always wear white,” Zelenski said.
The horror fiction ultimately brings you on a journey to redemption, as you follow the main character, James Cooper, through his doubts and struggles to return to religion. Zelenski said he wanted to make the story relatable to anyone, regardless of belief or background.
“Whether you’re a Christian or faith-based Catholic, whatever you call yourself, you’re going to have doubts,” Zelenski said. “Did we really come from this supernatural being that’s watching out for us? Then why do all these bad things happen? I think it’s something you have to be honest and real and ask yourself.”
Walker’s Vale is now in the process of being made into a movie by Allegentsia Productions in Hollywood. The project all started when movie-maker Jon Robert Hall — also known for his acting appearances in the show Glee as a beatbox warbler, as well as other shows and movies — and his wife Sharelle met Zelenski online, and told him they were looking for ideas for their first major movie.
“They really, really like the story, they think it’ll make a good faith-based, supernatural, paranormal movie,” Zelenski said.The movie is in the pre-production phase, with shooting slated to start sometime this year and possibly in Pennsylvania. The release could be as soon as next year. Zelenski said it will be a relatable movie that’s unique because of its subtle religious meaning and horror background.
“What we’re trying to do is make a Christian film without all the clichés and the beating someone over the head with religious themes,” Zelenski said.
The plot of Walker’s Vale is inspired by true events in Zelenski’s own life. Just like in the book, Zelenski’s family moved to a house in Pennsylvania and experienced unusual events, like mysterious footsteps.
“There were some strange things happening, there would be like boxes falling over, a weird smell of coffee when nobody drank coffee in our house … We just felt like there was some kind of evil spirit in that house,” Zelenski said.
The family asked a minister to bless the house, and the strange happenings stopped. But the memories live on with Zelenski, and they left him with the impression that there’s more to life than what meets the eye.
“Even at that young age I knew there was something else besides the things that we see. I think there’s an unseen world that’s out there,” Zelenski said.
The history isn’t the only thing Zelenski has in common with his characters. He says he relates with the father protagonist, James Cooper.
“At heart he means well, but sometime he’s just a little too headstrong, and maybe that’s a little bit of me coming out,” Zelenski said. “But he’s a good man and whether he realizes or not, he’s trying to rediscover his faith that he had when he was a kid.”
Selenski says self-expression is one of his favorite aspects of writing.
“I think it’s great to able to express some of the deepest, darkest things, even if I put that into a character, it’s still a part of me coming out so it’s very personal for me.”
His love for writing dates back to high school. The art had always been a hobby, but in recent years Zelenski started to pursue writing professionally. Now, the father of two works at Penn Foster by day and writes by night, but hopes to someday be a full-time author.
Ultimately, he hopes to touch more lives and help more people discover, or rediscover, their faith — whether it’s in God, or some other supernatural entity.
“I’d like people to come up to me and say, ‘Hey, aren’t you the guy who wrote that book that became a movie? It really in some way touched me or made me feel what I was looking for.’ I think that would be the best thing anyone could say.”
Zelenski will be a part of a book signing on May 2, in the Library Express at The Mall at Steamtown starting at 2 p.m. He expects his third series installment to be released in 1 to 2 years, and is also working on a separate, supernatural lover story dealing in the unseen world.