Between the time Thomas Dunne published horror author Weston Ochse's first book in the Seal Team 666 series around Thanksgiving of 2012 and the 2nd book, Age of Blood, around Halloween of 2013 an amazing thing happened, Hollywood came knocking. Weston took a few minutes out of his busy signing schedule to talk to us about it.
Where did Seal Team 666 come from?
Myself, Peter Straub, Jack Ketchum and a whole bunch of other folks were at a Dead Dog party at World Horror Convention is Austin. We were getting pretty hammered when one of the guys came running in and said "Turn on the TV!" We turned on the TV and President Obama was on announcing the take down and killing of Osama Bin Laden. It was ridiculous how cheerful and happy we felt about the death of this guy. Because he was the cause of so many deaths of Americans and so much anger. So many emotions. So that was really bubbling in me.
The next day I get a call from Brendan Deneen whom I've known for a while and he's editor at Thomas Dunne books and the head of Macmillan's film division. They actually came up with the title. They said, "We'd like you to write it. Pitch us something." So I did and the next thing you know they say "This is great!"
Did you pitch it as a series?
I did. It was naturally a series. If you are going to write about a unit, an organization like Seal Team 666 it has to be a sort of ongoing thing. I knew in the back of my head that it was going to be a series but, of course, I had to write the first novel. It's a stand-alone piece so that everybody who finishes it is absolutely satisfied.
Did you have in your head the outline of the second one by the time you'd finished the first one?
Before I finished I had two or three ideas. Really the Seal Team remains the same, except for the ones who have died, so it's based upon location and the mythology. So the first book used a Chinese-Asian mythology which I was very comfortable with because I speak Chinese. I've traveled to those countries. The next one I wanted to set closer to home because I kind of thought that the Southeast Asian mythology might have been too far removed from what people know and understand. So I set the second one in Mexico and used the Aztec mythology which a lot of people are very familiar with.
Did you have a set way that you wanted to work the supernatural into the military stories?
I wanted to use real mythology. I wanted use something recognizable. I wanted to insure whatever creatures I was using were endemic to that culture. So, for instance, homunculi. I assigned those to the Chinese culture and made those a tool being used by the Chinese mafia. They appear in both books. So when they appear in the second book it's because of a Chinese mafia connection. I want to establish that if you, as the reader, see some of these monsters reoccurring then you naturally are going to think "Oh, the Chinese are involved" or these people or those people are involved. I didn't want have random supernatural creatures just dropping in. I wanted to use real, actual things. For instance there's the Anita Blake Obsidian Butterfly. The obsidian butterfly is actually an Aztec creature that goes back 2500 years and looks more like a butterfly but is actually a vampire. I absolutely used that in Age of Blood, the second book.
Recently the Hollywood Reporter noted that you got an option for a film deal on the books. Is that because of Brendan Deneen at Thomas Dunne has that film connection?
I think so. I don't know exactly how it happened. Brendan has a lot of connections and that's what he is good at. He's good at film.
Did they buy the series or the first book?
MGM optioned the first book. They have such an impressive backlist of movies, all the favorite ones that we grew up on. I'm just thrilled that they are even optioning it.
Did they indicate to you any type of a time phase to get this project going?
No, they didn't. They just optioned it. My guess is that like a lot of companies if they see a product that they think can make them money they'll go ahead and snap it up on an option because it is a lot cheaper than buying it. Until that option runs out there is hope that during that time period something is going to happen. This option is 18 months.
What about you having a chance to write that screenplay?
It's in my contract that I'm supposed to be involved in it some way, shape, or form. I would just love to be involved in it. I've written screenplays. I've won international film festivals with original screenplays. It's a totally different and exciting form that I like to write in.
I understand that the Rock has now announced some involvement in your project.
Duane Johnson wants to play Jack Walker, the lead, which is pretty exciting. He is also, according to all the information I have heard, wanting to exec produce. I think that may even be more of an impetus to get the film made. We just need a great director to come in.
The first book is set in China?
It's a back-and-forth. It's set in the United States and it is set in Macao and Burma.
Now you've got the third book happening. Were they looking at a three book series?
I don't know what they're looking at. I'm looking at a fifty book series. I think that as long as sales continue to get stronger and stronger... people all over the world are liking this. Not only is it sold by Thomas Dunne books but Titan books in England is doing great business with it. The guys in the UK really like it. In fact the next book is going to be set in England.
With English mythology?
I'm very excited to use it. I knew over a year ago I wanted to set the book in England. I have some very specific things I want to do that I'm not willing to talk to you about yet. I'm going to use some well-known folkloric icons and kind of turn them on their heads.
Has the first book now come out in paperback?
No, they are keeping it in hardback. Because hardback sales are great. Titan books has it out in a trade paperback. I should maybe be more involved in the business part of it but I'm so involved in the writing part of it.
You can get more involved in the business part of it by signing the back of the royalty checks.
I'm supposed to get paid for doing this? I need to talk to my agent about this.
You should get a check from The Rock.
I just love him as an actor. I can't think of a single thing he's done that I don't like. This story has both elements of comedy and action and he covers them both well. This book is the actual actions of military guys and it always comes out funny, without being tongue-in-cheek. Having spent 29 years in the military myself, still in the military, I can say that we are masters of gallows humor. We have to, to be able to compensate for doing some of the things that we have to do or see. That really comes off very well. Being able to deliver a lot of these lines straight-faced is critical and he can do it great.
Del Howison is a journalist, writer and Bram Stoker Award-winning editor. He is also the co-founder and owner of Dark Delicacies “The Home of Horror” in Burbank, CA. He can be reached at Del@darkdel.com.