Weston Ochse is the author of nine novels and was the winner of the 2005 Bram Stoker Award for Best First Novel (Scarecrow Gods)! Weston has a brand new book out in November called SEAL Team 666 and was kind enough to answer a few of my questions. There’s also an excerpt of Seal Team 666 at the bottom of the post, so make sure you check that out!
Please welcome Weston to the blog!
Weston, you won the Bram Stoker Award for your first novel, Scarecrow Gods in 2005. How did you celebrate your win?
The adulation was instantaneous. I wasn’t present for the ceremony, so Mike Arnzen accepted for me. He said that when they announced my book the winner, the entire first row stood up and flashed their breasts, including Tom Monteleone, F. Paul Wilson, and J.K Rowling. Since then, it happens to me at least once a day. I also have a golden ticket to Disneyland (not –world) that gets me in free whenever I want; then there’s the free book subscription to the American Soap Opera Diaries; and never forget the lifetime supply of pimento cheese. Truly, the Stoker is the award that keeps on giving.
Okay, so maybe none of that is actually true. The Bram Stoker Award doesn’t convey any special benefit. Not really. But it is nice to know that for one fine literary moment my peers felt that my work stood above the rest. We all work so hard. It’s nice to be singled out once in a while.
When you were young, did you imagine that you would become a writer?
I did. I’ve always wanted to be a writer. For a long time, I dreamed of writing works that other people would read. I never knew it would be as simple as just doing it.
On your website, you mention that your literary influences are constantly changing, since you read quite a bit. What are some of your recent favorites?
Michael Chabon, Cormac McCarthy, Adam Neville, Sarah Pinborough, and P.F. Kluge.
If you could read one book again for the first time, which one would it be?
What are you reading now?
Michael Chabon’s Telegraph Avenue.
You’re considered a master of the scary. What do you find truly frightening?
In movies, what scares me is what I don’t see. In the original black and white 1963 version of The Haunting, based on Shirley Jackson’s novel, The Haunting of Hill House, Julie Harris lies in bed staring at a wall, while all hell seems to break loose in the hallway outside. We never see what it is making the noise, but squarely in Julie’s POV, we begin to imagine terrible things. Never underestimate the ability of the human mind to create something scarier than any SFX creator can invent. I use this lesson when I write scary stories.
In horror fiction, what, if anything, do you consider off limits?
Nothing. The story dictates the limit.
What makes you want to set a book aside in frustration?
I don’t usually set them aside. I usually hurl them across the room. Lack of editing first; especially if it’s a small press or self-published. Writer’s need editors and editors need to have the curriculum vitae or experience. Don’t hire an editor who hasn’t worked on the professional level, and by professional, I mean mass market.
I’m very excited about your upcoming book, Seal Team 666! Will you give us a bit of a teaser?
Me too! (See excerpt at the bottom of the post!)
You speak at schools and libraries quite often and also ran the Guerrilla Fiction Writing Workshop. What’s one piece of advice you’d offer to struggling writers?
Don’t look at the length of a novel or the length of a book and be intimidated. You don’t eat a whole pizza in one bite, do you? You eat it piece by piece. It’s the same with writing. For a short story write one page a day, then at the end of two weeks. You’ll have a finished story. For a novel, write five pages a day, then at the end of three months you’ll have a novel. Basically, keep your eyes off the horizon and watch the road in front of you.
Is there anything else you’d like to share about upcoming projects or events (or anything at all!)?
I have a short story I’m rather proud of in the John Skipp anthology PSYCHOES. The story is called Righteous and takes PTSD to the next level. It’s a pretty daring story. I also have a story coming out in Cemetery Dance #68. This one will leave people stunned.
Keep up with Weston: Website | Twitter
EXCERPT for SEAL Team 666
Subic Bay. 1985. He waited in the pile of trash. The liquid from banana skins, coffee grounds, and rain-soaked rags seeped through his clothes, making him shiver. His teeth chattered. Beneath the soft skin of his bare chest he felt what could have been gravel or hardened chunks of dog poop. A piece of rubber he’d seen thrown away by the hookers on Llo-Llo Street in Barretto Bario rested like a deflated sausage two inches from his nose. A wasp crawled inside, causing the skin of it to wriggle and jump. He felt rats scurrying along the backs of his legs. When they sniffed at his skin, he fought the urge to jerk as their whispers tickled the soft underskin of his knees.
Like a pig.
Or like a dog.
He was wild and eager to gnaw on something that screamed.
Twice old men shuffled by, coming home from a day spent at the dump.
Each time he screamed like a dying cat. “Hoy! Hoy! Tanda! Halika. Sayaw tayo.” Hey! Hey! Old man. Come and dance with me.
Whenever the men would look over, he could barely contain himself with glee. Although they looked right at him, he knew they didn’t see him. He was invisible. He was like the air.
But then came the old cripple, pulling himself along with one withered arm, a hand gnarled like the fingers of a twisted branch, his skin the color of old chocolate. He had a few hairs on his face and even fewer on his head. His eyes were the color of olive pits and were sunk into craters of wrinkles.
Jackie could barely contain his laughter as he leaped free of the trash and high into the air. Pieces of banana and coffee grounds sprayed the cripple. Jackie screamed like a beast. He picked up an old hubcap and swung it as hard as he could. He caught the cripple in the side of the head. The slick metal front slid off without doing much damage, so he brought it around again, this time coming straight down with the hubcap on the crown of the cripple’s head. Blood exploded outward, the sight of it fuel for another swing of the arm. This time it came around in a flat arch, catching the old man beneath the eye.
“Hoy! Hoy!” he cried. “Dance with me you fool!”
The cripple fell to his side, his mouth twisted into a curl of fear and loathing.
Jackie growled and peed on the man’s withered arm. Then he turned and ran, giggling all the way to wherever he was going, his bare feet slapping at the ground, all the way down La Union Street.
About SEAL Team 666:
Halfway through SEAL training, Cadet Jack Walker, still green but showing incredible promise, is whisked away to join four SEALs—and their dog—for a special ops mission. Walker soon finds himself in a whirlwind of otherworldly creatures and events as he finds out the true nature of this “special ops” team: SEAL Team 666. Battling demons, possessed humans, mass-murdering cults, and evil in its most dark and primeval form, SEAL Team 666 has their work cut out for them. And it’s not long before they realize that the threat isn’t just directed against the U.S.—an ancient and deadly cult has bigger plans, and Walker is at the center of a supernatural conflict with the entire world at stake.