Weston Ochse and Yvonne Navarro are authors that are like chocolate and peanut butter, two great tastes that go great together. Weston won the Bram Stoker Award for his first novel, and his action/horror hybrid, SEAL Team 666, is set to be a feature film with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson said to be starring. Yvonne Navarro, Weston’s partner in life, has published over twenty books, including successfully tackling the young adult genre with many books in the 'Buffyverse' including her novel, The Willow Files, Vol. 2, which won the Bram Stoker Award in the category of Works for Young Readers. The two teamed up to do Ghost Heart, the first young adult book that Dark Regions Press has ever published, and they were kind enough to take some time to answer some questions about that and more.
Brian M. Sammons – Now the first thing I ask authors is who and what did they read when they were younger. What works inspired them to pick up the pen and start telling their own tales?
Weston Ochse: I read a lot of Bradbury, Heinlein, and fantasy growing up. I think ultimately it was Bradbury’s ability to capture a sense of wonder in a story that made me want to be able to do the same.
Yvonne Navarro: I grew up in the Nancy Drew days. My mother loved scary movies and we watched Creature Features every weekend. From there I went on to Creepy, Eerie, and Vampirella magazines. My first solid taste of horror reading, though, was Peter Saxon’s Scream and Scream Again.
BMS - Do you recall when you first thought about writing your own stuff? Was it a sudden epiphany, a gradual thing, or something else entirely?
WO: Well, I was widely published when I was seven years old. The entire school got to read my story, What Became of Charlie (Spoiler- he was eaten by a bear because he took the shortcut to school his mother warned him not to take), right before the PTA recalled the paper and banned me from writing anything else.
YN: I sort of “grew up” in legal offices, so that’s where I learned to hone my writing skills. It was my mother who put the fiction writing bug in my brain. I was describing in great detail a horror book I’d really enjoyed, and at the end of my speech, she said simply, “You could do that.”
BMS – When was your first sale and what market published it?
WO: My first sale was a pro sale to Mindmares Magazine.
YN: My first sale was to The Horror Show magazine, edited by Dave Silva, in 1984. He paid me $1.50. My first story sale at professional rates was to the Women of Darkness II anthology, edited by Kathryn Ptacek.
BMS - Do you have a preference in form, long or short, and do you find one more challenging than the other? More rewarding?
WO: They are so different. Each form has its own grace of craft. I think I like the short story the very best, but there’s nothing better than being able to create a large tableau and inhabiting it with interesting things.
YN: My instinct is to say I prefer a novel, but there’s so much to be said about a short, powerful story. I’m not sure I really have a preference, although I feel I’ve turned more toward novel length.
BMS – What is the best and worst thing about being a writer?
WO: Best is the special moments during creation when you do something entirely unexpected. Worst is that the pay rates haven’t really changed much in 50 years.
YN: I love it when you’ve been working on a huge novel project and suddenly all those minute pieces you put into the story without even thinking about it fit together at the end like a 1,000 piece puzzle. The worst is that pay rates are going down, not up, and some publishers are not treating authors very well anymore.
BMS - Any words of advice, or even warnings, you would like to give to beginning authors?
WO: If you want to self-publish, please have someone professionally edit your book.
YN: If you want to be a writer, then be a writer and SELL your work. If you give your work away (perhaps after a bit of a learning curve), you do a disservice to all writers. Why should a publisher pay one person when another will give him something for free? Give your work away when you can take the acceptance letter or email to the electric company and use it to pay your bill. Get it?
BMS - If I asked you both for three stories or books that would give a reader who is unfamiliar with your work the best representation of you as an author, what would those three be?
WO: Grunt Life, SEAL Team 666, and House of Small Spiders (Which is available for free at Nightmare Magazine. Perhaps you could link that, Brian?)
YN: AfterAge, Final Impact, and Highborn.
BMS – You have both done quite a lot of work in/with preexisting properties, be it comic books or media tie-in novels dealing with Species, Aliens, Hellboy, X-Files and others. How is it playing with someone else’s toys in another’s sandbox? What is the most rewarding or best thing about doing that? What’s the hardest thing about telling those tales?
WO: For me it was an incredible honor and a hell of a lot of fun. There was a moment when I was writing my X-Files story where I stopped and stared at the page, amazed that I was actually writing words that were making Mulder and Scully do things.
YN: It’s always exciting and humbling to be asked to novelize something, especially a movie, or an existing television series like Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Doing Buffy novels was one of the best times in my writing career. The downside is that in recent years the studios are trying to insert themselves more and more into the role of writer when, frankly, the don’t seem to get it that writing scripts and writing novels are not at all the same.
BMS – Moving on to your novel, Ghost Heart, was this your first collaboration together? How did it come up?
WO: Yes it was. My family is from the Black Hills and my nephew had invisible friends named Raisin and Jacket. The story evolved from there. Our intention was to write something like Dandelion Wine by Bradbury or The Thief of Always by Barker that could either be read by a young adult or child or by the parent to the child.
YN: Yes, it was a fun experience. I kind of hooked onto Wes’s project on this.
BMS - How did your collaboration process work? Did you divide the book in half, go back and forth round robin style, something else entirely?
WO: I sort of wrote the whole book and then she added a lot and made it better.
YN: I really feel like I just played the part of a really picky editor.
BMS – What can you tell us about Ghost Heart that won’t spoil anything for the readers?
WO: It’s a book about divorce and how it changes how the world looks in a child’s mind.
YN: The read is really going to be surprised at the two invisible friends.
BMS – Why tell this story in the young adult market? What about writing for that audience did you enjoy most, and what is the most difficult part?
WO: It’s something I’d always wanted to do. I read heavily when I was a kid. I wanted to have something out there for a kid to read who might be looking for answers.
YN: I followed Wes’s lead on this. I’d already written two YA Buffy novels, and my take on YA is that you don’t talk down to kids. They don’t appreciate condescending.
BMS – Can we expect more collaborations between you two? If so, is there any ideas already in mind?
WO: We have a bunch of ideas. What we don’t have is time.
YN: What he said.
BMS - What can we expect from you both, individually, in the future? Do you have anything upcoming that you can tell us about?
WO: My novel Burning Sky just came out from Solaris Books in mass market. It’s a military horror novel set in Afghanistan. I’m currently working on the sequel called Dead Sky.
YN: I have lots of ideas floating around in my head. Right now I’m taking a break from writing and finding a lot of joy in painting. But those stories in my head do still want to come out...
BMS - What is the best way for people to learn more about you and your work?
WO: Follow me on Twitter or Facebook. If you want even more connection, become a FOW (Friend of Weston) by going to www.westonochse.com.
YN: My website is www.yvonnenavarro.com, but it’s a blog that’s perpetually behind. You can really find me more on Facebook: www.facebook.com/yvonne.navarro.001
Weston Ochse is the author of more than twenty five books, most recently the SEAL Team 666 books, which the New York Post called 'required reading' and USA Today placed on their 'New and Notable Lists,' and his military sci fi novel Grunt Life. His first novel, Scarecrow Gods, won the Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in First Novel and his short fiction has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. His work as appeared in comic books, and magazines such as Cemetery Dance and Soldier of Fortune. His work has been lauded by Joe R. Lansdale, Peter Straub, Kevin J. Anderson, John Skipp, Brian Keene, Jonathan Maberry, David Gerrold, William C. Dietz, Tim Lebbon, and many more, including the New York Times, New York Post, The Atlantic, Washington Post, Denver Post, The Financial Times of London, and The Examiner (UK). His last name is pronounced "oaks." Together with his first name, it sounds like a stately trailer park. He lives in the Arizona desert within rock throwing distance of Mexico. For fun he races tarantula wasps and watches the black helicopters dance along the horizon. He is a military veteran with 30 years of military service and recently returned from a tour in Afghanistan. He's traveled the world, been more to 50 countries, and blogs at Living Dangerously. You can google him under 'Literary Stuntman,' 'Superhero for Rent,' or 'Yakuza of the Written Word."
Yvonne Navarro is the author of Concrete Savior, Highborn, AfterAge, deadrush, Final Impact, Mirror Me and a bunch of other books, plus Buffy the Vampire Slayer novels and tie-in novels for Hellboy, Elektra, and others."