Some people say you should look for the magic in the world. But what if some people who did this were just looking to weaponize it? This where we find things in Weston Ochse’s new military fantasy novel A Hole In The World: Preacher’s Daughter Saves The World: Book One (paperback, Kindle, audiobook). In the following email interview, Ochse discusses what inspired and influenced this story, as well as how it’s not only the start of its own series, but also connected to other novels he’s written.
Photo Credit: John Urbancik
To begin, what is A Hole In The World about, and when and where is it set?
A Hole In The World is about the idea that magic still exists alongside our everyday lives, especially in countries where the continuing cultures are older, such as Europe and the UK. I thought, what if fairies were not only real, but they could also be weaponized? I then thought, what if there are dryads placed throughout the UK to protect it from foreign supernatural invasion? Then I wondered, what if a town disappeared and no one but a very few remembered it even existed?
And is there a reason why the towns that disappear are in South Dakota and England as opposed to Arizona and France or New Hampshire and Afghanistan?
Yes. First of all, my people are from South Dakota and Wyoming. I know the area and I wanted to have a Sioux Indian tie in. Also, Solaris is a UK publisher and it only made sense to write about the UK. What was fun was figuring out what to make disappear.
It sounds like A Hole In The World is a military fantasy novel. Is that how you’d describe it?
Why do you call it fantasy? Because they I have elves and all manner of fairies? What do you call a dark as fuck fantasy novel, which this is? I guess I don’t know what to call it. It’s military yes. Can it be military supernatural fantasy? I don’t know.
A Hole In The World is your 30th novel, if I’ve counted correctly…
A Hole In The World is my 34th book. About twenty of those are novels. The others are stand-alone novellas or collections.
Got it. Anyway, are there any writers or specific stories that had a big influence on it but not on anything else you’ve written?
No. No specific authors. I just do a lot of research on the ephemeral. For instance, you can google missing or vanished towns. I even include my research in the book. Like the town of Urquhammer, Iowa. From Mysterious Universe: “The small rural town was apparently in rather good shape and just as normal as any other mid-American town until around 1928, when some aerial photos emerged that appeared to show that there was perhaps simply no one living there, and that the fields looked overgrown and untended. Things took a turn for the decidedly weird when there was a report from a tourist passing through, who stopped at a gas station in the town to fill his tank, after which he learned that he had been ripped off and that there was no gasoline in there at all. He then angrily headed back to town, but reported that he could not reach it, as it seemed to forever remain in the distance no matter how fast he drove. Even when he ran out of gas and walked he could not reach the town, which was still sitting there maddeningly before him, forever out of his reach.”
How can that not make you interested?
When I read threads such as these, I feel I have to write about them. My novel Bone Chase was all about the idea that The Bible had been changed and that giants really exist. The only reason I wrote that was because of all the interesting ephemeral research I conducted.
What about non-literary influences; was A Hole In The World influenced by any movies, TV shows, or games?
You also served in the military for more than 35 years in US Army Special Operations. Did your military training have any influence on how the Black Dragoons and Special Unit 77 work in A Hole In The World?
I had already used the Black Dragoons in my novel Dead Sky to a very small extent. I also have three large novellas written about Special Unit 77 set in 1960s San Francisco. They are all part of my shared universe.
Right. I was just getting to that. A Hole In The World is set in the same fictional universe as your novels Burning Sky and Dead Sky. How is Hole connected to those books, narratively and chronologically?
A Hole In The World follows six months after the events of Dead Sky. We meet the enigmatic Lt. Poe in Dead Sky, and then once things happen and the novel is concluded, Preacher’s Daughter is asked to join SPU 77.
Along with being connected to Burning Sky and Dead Sky, A Hole In The World is also the start of its own series; the full title of this book being A Hole In The World: Preacher’s Daughter Saves The World: Book One. What are your plans for this series?
It all depends on the reception. If the book sells well, we could write thirty volumes. I hope to write at least two more. She’s an awesome character who is a little broken inside and I love putting her through the ringer and seeing how she reacts.
Along with A Hole In The World, you also recently released Aliens: Infiltrator, which is a prequel to the game Aliens: Fireteam. We did a somewhat deep dive into that book when it came out, but for people who hate clicking, what is it about?
Aliens: Infiltrator is a prequel to the brand-new game from Cold Iron Studios called Aliens: Fireteam Elite. It’s had a tremendous reception. Gamers and readers and Aliens junkies all seem to love it.
How, if at all, do you think writing novels like Aliens: Infiltrator — ones that are based on someone else’s fictional universe, and thus are overseen by someone else — impacted either what you wrote in A Hole In The World or how you wrote it?
Liberating. When you write for a franchise, depending on the franchisee, they have strict control over what you write, even down to the color of clothes your character can wear. You also have to heavily outline and get that outline approved by multiple levels of editors and executives. With my own work, I can do anything I want and my fan base seems to love it that way.
Speaking of movies, your novel Seal Team 666 is currently being made into a movie, with Dwayne Johnson both producing and starring in it. What is that book about, and aside from Johnson’s involvement, is there anything else you can tell us about the movie?
SEAL Team 666, Age Of Blood, and Reign Of Evil are the three books in this series. 7 Buck Productions and Dwayne Johnson have a shopping agreement and have been looking to make it for several years. It’s just that Mr. Johnson is so busy.
What’s it about? Here’s the pitch: What if there was an even more special SEAL team that protected America from attack. In my universe, the Black Dragoons perform the same function in the UK.
And has there been any interest in doing something with A Hole In The World?
There hasn’t of yet. But it’s made to be a ten-part streaming television show. And if we play the who could best play her in the movie game: someone athletic but also who can cast inherent sadness, like Jessica Chastain [Zero Dark Thirty], Kristanna Loken [Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines], or Rooney Mara [The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo].
Finally, if someone enjoys A Hole In The World, what military fantasy novel of someone else’s would you suggest they read next and why that one?
Anything by Jonathan Maberry, especially his Joe Ledger series. It’s not fantasy, but the books are terrific military horror with a very scientific bent.
Also, if someone is looking for military fantasy with strong kickass female protagonists, then Red Sister by Mark Lawrence. That’s a fantastic and original series.
But it’s hard to find something that is modern day and military and fantasy. That’s the niche I am trying to fill.