What first attracted you to horror writing?
A funny thing happened on the way to being a horror writer. I got labelled. You see, I never started out trying to be a horror writer. I started out trying to be a writer…period. As it turned out, I liked writing about emotion and fear. I began inventing creatures and placed my protagonists in dire situations. Frankly, I didn’t know what I was doing. I just wrote what I thought was writing. As it turned out, I became a horror writer. And I don’t mind that at all.
Of course horror is in the eye of the beholder. Don D’Auria, former editor of Leisure Books (Dorchester) and I had a telephone conversation seven or eight years ago. We were talking about my first novel Scarecrow Gods. It had just won the Bram Stoker Award for First Novel and we were seeing if we could work something out. As it turns out, I’m a cross-genre writer. Again, I don’t know what I’m doing half the time, so I didn’t know that this was such a big deal. As Don explained, it makes marketing the book difficult. “Plus,” he said, “This is not a horror novel. This is dark fantasy.”
“What’s the difference?” I asked.
“It’s complicated,” he responded.
As it turned out, I am a dark fantasy writer. I’ve also written and published literary fiction and science fiction. So I’m a literary fiction writer. I’m also a science fiction writer. That said, at the end of the day, I’m a horror writer because all of my work is flavoured with a certain amount of fear and expectation.
My latest is work is always my most notable. I know it sounds cheesy, but when you pour your heart and soul into a text, it resonates for awhile. So my most notable is Blood Ocean. It’s a post-apocalyptic science fiction novel set in Abaddon’s Afterblight Universe. It will be available in mass-market paperback in the U.K., Canada, U.S. and Europe sometime around the middle of February.
Of course it’s not simply a science fiction novel. The folks over at Publishers Weekly, who have always given me great reviews, sent a well-meaning science fiction fan to read Blood Ocean and he was stunned by the fear, violence and gore. I guess that’s the horror writer in me coming out. Sorry. I just can’t help it.
I also have a short story collection recently published titled Multiplex Fandango. With a brilliant cover by Vincent Chong and an intro by Joe Lansdale, I think it’s a stunning collection of all my very best work, including six stories I’ve held back over the years for just this opportunity.
What are you working on now?
After Blood Ocean, I finished SEAL Team 666. It is a supernatural thriller coming out from St. Martin’s Press first in hardback, then in paperback. It was a hefty novel. I turned it in on 1 January, then took a few weeks break. As it turned out, I wrote a quarter of a million contracted words in the last half of 2011. I was beat.
Now I’m working on several comic books, short stories, and novellas that I promised to folks.
Gosh. There are a lot of people I admire in the horror world.
Brian Keene. He and I have been friends since we started writing. I admire his work ethic and his professionalism. I also admire his confidence and his ability to stand firm in the face of dissent.
Joe Lansdale, Jack Ketchum and Peter Straub. Not only is their work an exemplar of different sorts of horror, and not only are they masters in their fields, but they each have demonstrated their appreciation for the next generation of writers and have taken writers, such as me, under their wings. They demonstrate the ideal that for a genre and a discipline to continue, the practitioners must both pay it back and pay it forward.
I also admire those new writers surging forth from the mire of ideas. There are so many of them, but they include Chuck Wendig, Gary McMahon, John Horner Jacobs, Chesya Burke, and Michael Louis Cavillo. Big hearts. Big ideas. Must reads.
I also admire many of the small press publishers out there who still publish horror. Jeff Burke from Deadite Press. Christopher Teague from Pendragon Press. Carlton Mellick and Rose O’Keefe from Erasurehead Press. Roy Robbins from Bad Moon Books. Shane Staley from DarkFuse and Delirium. Joe Morey from Dark Regions. James Roy Daley from Books of the Dead. And of course Peter Crowther from PS Publishing. There are many more, but these folks are the grass roots campaign that keep horror alive. Without them we are nothing.
I prefer psychological. Horror is a feeling to me. It’s the expectation of something behind you. It’s the worry about what’s around the corner. It’s the grave concern that what you might be doing could cause a multitude of deaths but you are unable to stop. I like gore, mind you. Some of my work is splattered with it. But the best horror is the horror that works under your skin without you knowing.
Why should people read your work?
I suppose this is where I’m supposed to sell myself. Gosh. I hate being a salesman. The best way to find out is to read one of my books, I suppose, but everyone’s read that before too. Let me offer what other folks have said about my writing. They’ve compared it to Ray Bradbury and Lin Carter. For instance I have a story in Solaris’s House of Fear anthology called Driving the Milky Way. Several reviewers have compared it to Ray Bradbury’s writing and I’ve been thinking about it. And that’s not the first time that has happened. I distil the hope we have as children and adults and turn it into a sort of melancholy fear. I don’t do it intentionally; it’s just the way I write. I suppose I insinuate the reader into the role of the protagonist and force the reader to share that melancholy. In the end the reader not only fears for the character, but also fears for what they might have realised within themselves.
Recommend a book.
I’ll recommend three.
11/22/63. From the master Stephen King, this is a huge book that blends the ordinary with the supernatural. This is really fabulous.
The Talented Mr. Ripley. I know. This was written by Patricia Highsmith in the 1950s, but I just read it this year. This is a terrifying novel about a likable psychopath.
Southern Gods. From a new writer, John Horner Jacobs, this is a novel about the darkness inherent in a place and a society. It’s so rich and vibrant.
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