We recently told you about new publisher Crossroad Press launching a shared-world series titled O.C.L.T., standing for Orphic Crisis Logistical Taskforce. It sounded intriguing, so we thought you might enjoy hearing from one of the two writers behind the series … David Niall Wilson.
HN: Before we get into all the details, can you give us a general overview of the O.C.L.T. series so readers have a point of reference?
DNW: This is the abbreviated explanation from our Bible:
The governments of the world have always been aware of other life forms – aliens, occult creatures, humans with powers beyond normal understanding, and monsters. It is considered important that such knowledge be kept from the general populace. Such creatures and situations are dangerous in more ways than one. They attract the curious – and through that curiosity they can grow stronger, build followings, and disrupt the natural order of things.
O.C.L.T. (affectionately known as OCCULT) is a central office for otherworldly operations. They interface with black-ops wings of the FBI, MI6, CIA, and other military and paramilitary organizations, as well as a number of “contractors” – hunters, slayers, wizards, and other individuals and groups with particular expertise in handling paranormal matters. Their credo is “Track, Balance, Protect” to keep track of otherworldly creatures, smooth over conflicts and other issues, and try to keep people from getting hurt. They strive to protect both sides of the event if possible, but they’ll protect the underdog first, even if that means shielding a band of monsters from a murderous pack of human hunters.
There is a central team – a leader, and several agents – whose job it is to interface with all these agencies and teams, and minimize threats. Each book in the series will start with either an incident that is reported to the OCCULT network and filtered through to the team, or the team leader receiving a direct request and acting on it. One or more of the main agents will be dispatched if necessary, or just a communication will go out. It isn’t necessary for an agent to be dispatched for every story, but they must be consulted or involved in some way. The novels will have the core of O.C.L.T. but will be original and stand-alone at the same time.
HN: Did you set out to develop a series or did the initial concept evolve into something that surprised you?
DNW: In the case of O. C. L. T. we definitely set out with the purpose in mind of creating a series. Previously, we did the same thing with The Tales of the Scattered Earth. In that series, myself, Aaron Rosenberg, and Steven Savile, all of whom have written tie-in work for Stargate and Star Trek and Dr. Who – most of the main space opera series – thought it would be interesting to see if we could mirror the success of such series novels with our own concept. Of course, we didn’t have a TV show and all its fans to back us, but to our surprise (and delight) The Birth of the Dread Remora, Aaron’s debut novel, has been the best-selling Crossroad Press title for several months, while my own more “steampunk” novel, The Second Veil, is … well … picking up steam.
Part of the concept was that we could re-jig ideas we had already come up with and liked, but that were rejected for one reason or another by existing licensed book lines. This led to the realization that we all also had X-files, Buffy, Fringe, and other more occult related projects that had also been shelved, and THAT led to the idea that we should start a second series. We designed it as loosely as possible so that each new author coming in could play with one or two of the core characters while writing a totally unique novel of their own, and creating what we call “second-tier” characters that will remain available to others who might need them. It’s a lot less restrictive to write for O.C.L.T. than it is for a licensed series, because the ‘rules’ – such as they are – are very lax.
HN: Was there any particular trigger for the concept?
DNW: For me, the kicker was my own series, The DeChance Chronicles. I think, in reality, that those books are what set it all off, because they are what got me talking to Steven and Aaron in the first place about The Scattered Earth. I wrote the two (so far) books of The DeChance Chronicles because, after years of writing novels in the World of Darkness for White Wolf and being told, no, that clan doesn’t do that, and please use these gaming powers, and no, they would NEVER do that, I wanted to see what it would be like to write a novel of the TYPE that I wrote for White Wolf, but without the restrictions.
It’s the same with the O.C.L.T. books, and we’re hoping it will have a wide appeal to both authors and readers, helping us widen the scope. Who knows, maybe we’ll take one of these series works in reverse and get approached for a web or TV series one day.
HN: How thoroughly have you and Aaron planned out the series?
DNW: We created the core characters. We created the “team.” Aaron’s upcoming novel, Incursion, will depict the creation of the central headquarters, based around the worldwide IT Network already put in place by my own character, Wendell Macklemore.
Beyond that? The rules are simple. Novels based on the core characters only will only be written by myself or Aaron, unless at some point we agree to let someone with a great idea break that rule. Most of the books, novellas and novels, will be based on some sort of crisis where our team is contacted, and one or two of our agents are sent out to work with the second-tier character structure of each author. There are no real rules. Aliens, monsters, ghosts, supernatural, we’re open to all of it. We have a very cool time-traveling Sci-Fi from the sixties book upcoming, as well as a few others, and I’m already plotting further books of my own, including the notion that I might blend in Donovan DeChance from my other series. He’s already been mentioned (for those who follow my work carefully) as a second-tier resource in both of the works that I’ve created.
HN: You’ve invited various authors to write for the series, before we get into who and what, why did you choose to take this approach instead of doing all the writing yourselves?
DNW: No one wants to be a one-trick pony. Both Aaron and I write for both of the two series we’ve created, and we also do our own writing, which is important. Part of the idea here is to remove the rules and pressure of most tie-in style writing, so we want it remain fun and interesting. Letting other authors play in the playground gives us more breathing room, and helps develop a breadth and vision that is beyond what just two authors could give it. It’s also important for a series to have constant output. Our only requirement so far has been that the authors we work with be established. As with my publishing company, we just don’t have time or staff to work with a “slush” style system … we have to choose authors we trust to deliver the good without much supervision.
HN: How did you go about selecting the other writers?
DNW: I’ve asked a few of the authors I work with through Crossroad Press, my publishing company, and a couple of others have approached us after seeing information on the series on our Facebook page and so far, we have turned no one down. We welcome new talent. The titles feed off of one another for sales, and each author has their own group of fans to be drawn into the madness.
HN: How much guidance do you provide the writers? Is there a series “bible” with all the background, characters, etc. detailed?
DNW: We do have a series bible. It covers the background of the unit, all of the core characters, and outlines the basic “formula” for an O.C.L.T. novel or novella. Beyond that, the process so far has been to have the author submit a synopsis or outline to let us know how they intend to tell their story, and to tell us which of our core characters they see either being directly involved, or “liaising” with their second-tier characters. Beyond that, our only concern is to keep the characters and the organization consistent. To that end, we have a “historian” of sorts, Kurt Criscione, who keeps track of the details as each work is written. He has an almost eerie sense of continuity in his reading, and it allows us to capture changes and timelines and not take a character or situation out of context.
HN: You’ve written the novel The Parting, and the novella The Temple of Camazotz, and Aaron has written the novella Brought to Light, with the novel, Incursion upcoming. How do these fit together? And are they meant to kick off the series?
DNW: All three of the currently published works are meant to set the scene. In Aaron’s Brought to Light, which was the first thing we published in the series, we meet “RC,” who will later on become the head of the team. In this first novella, he comes face to face with a very other-worldly creature – and survives. It marks him and helps to define him as the right man to head up the O.C.L.T. team when the power that be go searching.
Next up was my novella, The Temple of Camazotz, in which we introduce two more core characters, one of whom is computer genius and extreme sports enthusiast Wendell “Mack” Macklemore. Even before the group is formed, Mack has a computer network tracking odd happenings and sending out notes and messages to those he has met who might be able to help. His network is code-named O.C.L.T. – which is where they get their eventual name. In that novella, we also meet Geoffrey Bullfinch, who is an expert in legends, folklore, and a lot of other odd tidbits.
And then there is the novel, The Parting, which I also wrote. This one introduces Rebecca York, who is a spiritualist and practitioner of magic. She and, again, Mack, are drawn into an International web of intrigue involving another woman, an ancient Egyptian talisman, and a terrorist attack. In this novel, I tried to set the stage for the “formula,” where there are a number of other characters not involved in the O.C.L.T. that are central to the story. They will make great recurring resources. One such is David Karmi, a Mossad agent, and another is a detective named Danny Lavinder in NYC.
All of these works lead up to Aaron’s Incursion. In each of the early works it is made clear that – if there had just been a central place they could go for help, a place where people were standing by and listening, that danger could have been averted. Lives could have been saved. It becomes more and more apparent that just Mack’s computer network isn’t going to cut it. Enter the O.C.L.T.
HN: The series revolves around a core team of nine characters. Could you tell us about these?
DNW: Sure … these are the abbreviated bios. More info is available on the Facebook page:
Geoffrey Bullfinch – Folklorist, explorer, adept in some early primitive magic. Has an uncanny knowledge of mythology. It is up in the air whether he is a descendant of the Bullfinch who wrote “Bullfinch’s Mythology,” or possibly is that same man, still walking the earth and learning.
Isabella Ferrara – Isabella is a deeply religious and extremely deadly woman. Her specialty is hunting, tracking, and killing monsters. She often allows her religious belief to cloud her judgment, and is more likely to want to kill first and study later when it comes to otherworldly creatures. She is adept with most weapons known, and a few not so well known.
Reed Christopher Hayes (RC) – Leader of the O.C.L.T. – has a background with military intelligence and the FBI. Has had numerous encounters with unexplained crises and has proven level-headed and capable of finding ways to deal with them. He’s older now, and though he’d prefer to be in the field, is best utilized as the military and tactical mind behind operations (though give him a chance and he’ll be out kicking ass).
Gunter Krieg – He is a theoretical physicist and sort of a “mad” scientist who likes to move from theory to physical testing sooner than is wise. He is (at heart) good. He would never harm anyone purposely, and he believes that science and those who understand it owe their gifts to a higher purpose-he will fight tirelessly to stop science from being used for evil but he does not know how to interact with most people beyond seeing them as mathematical constructs and treating them as such. He is, of course, brilliant. Think Walter from “Fringe”.
Elizabeth Lapsey – Elizabeth is a short, overweight Cuban-American woman in her forties with high-functioning Asperger’s, who always provides more information than is necessary and also is incapable of not finishing a sentence she starts. She has a gift for languages in particular, but in general loves to find patterns. She enjoys talking to people, and tends to be almost magical in her ability to draw anyone into conversation. She is also the researcher of the group.
Wendell Macklemore – “Mack” is a computer and electronics wizard. Graduated from college at age 12. Went to MIT and dropped out because he was bored and had things he wanted to “work out”. Has worked for the defense department, and been released from several projects because of an inability to work within boundaries. Responsible for numerous breakthroughs in technology. His hacking is beyond brilliant, and his quarters are, basically, a mainframe with a bed and kitchenette. He is jacked into every electronics system in the world, largely because he is security consultant to some of the most powerful governments and industry giants in the world. He runs the OCLT computers and databanks, and is quartered in Arizona, not that far from Area 51 (which he is also jacked into).
Malana Tai – Malana is a pyshcic from the island of Tuvalu. Though not particularly pretty, Malana exudes a certain friendly, healthy appeal, and can win people over with a single bright smile. Malana is a telepath and an empath, most of it subconscious-she constantly picks up thoughts and emotions from those around her, and automatically adjusts her own behavior to suit, making her something of a social chameleon. She can look below the surface if she focuses, but too much contact can make her dizzy, nauseous, and even unclear on the boundary between herself and her target.
Hideyoshi Tidijin – small, slight, delicate Japanese man of indeterminate early to late middle-age (he’s actually fifty but could pass for thirty easily). Dresses impeccably, usually in hand-tailored brown or gray suits unless he’s in the field. Wears gloves most of the time, and often a face mask. Tidijin – who insists upon being addressed as “Professor,” “Professor Tidijin,” or “Tidijin-sama” – is an archaeologist specializing in early human history and pre-history (and in nonhuman history, though that isn’t on his public CV).
Rebecca York – Rebecca York: Indeterminate age, very attractive and dark, appears late thirties to early forties, but over time will be found to be much, much older – Rebecca, daughter of Ivan of York from Ivanhoe, was thought to be a Jewish Sorceress, and Rebecca may possibly be the source of the character in the first place. She has a working knowledge of most of the schools of magic, but is particularly adept at the Kabala and the type of ritual magic practiced by Crowley and the Golden Dawn crowd. She has served in Israel with the Mossad, but has been an advisor to leaders in many places.
HN: Since the Hellnotes audience is made up of horror fans, what is horror’s role in the series?
DNW: The majority of the stories in the O.C.L.T. world will involve supernatural creatures. There’s plenty of the dark in my novel The Parting, and while it’s not precisely a horror novel, the appeal to the audiences of dark urban fantasy will be strong. The Temple of Camazotz is a more overtly horror story involving ancient South American deities. I suspect that there will be a lot of monsters, supernatural creatures, and occult emergencies, as well as some Lovecraftian leanings. Oddly, we are stretching somewhat back to the pulpish horror and early days, and mixing it with a modern team. There will be no lack of horror in this series. Even our other series, The Scattered Earth, while it’s a space opera, is based on a Lovecraftian creature who destroyed the earth. Remember who we’re dealing with. Among the first O.C.L.T. authors are myself, Sidney Williams, and Steven Savile, all of whom have pretty solid horror backgrounds.
HN: You’re kicking off the series with trade paperback editions and you’re also doing audiobooks, I believe. Any plans for hardcover editions? Or signed, limited editions?
DNW: We’ll have to see how the popularity grows, and if there are requests. We have done one HC so far (waiting on the proofs to come back) of Steven Savile and his weird Western Hallowed Ground, but despite a lot of grumbling about books being eBook only, orders weren’t promising. Considering the extra work and time going into such editions, and the glut of publishers producing them, while we might do some reasonably priced trade hardcovers at some point, the immediate plan is to stick with digital, audio, and trade paperbacks. When we have four to six novellas, we’ll collect those and print them as well, hopefully appeasing the readers who still prefer to hold the book in their hands.
HN: It seems that this is the sort of series that could potentially run for years to come. Do you see an end to it, or is it currently open-ended?
DNW: Absolutely open-ended. The more it builds, the more it’s good for authors and readers alike, and even if one group of authors tired of it, once it’s in place and working smoothly, new talent can be brought in to keep things alive. I’m actually hoping a fandom is going to pop-up that has favorite characters, and starts chatting it up on Facebook or elsewhere, tossing out their own wish-lists and thoughts. So far, I can’t imagine putting a cap of any kind on it.
HN: Any television or movie interest in the series?
DNW: Not yet, but it’s very early on, and we haven’t actually run the series past anyone yet … we’re sort of hoping to build some hype with the books, build a fandom, and see if that’s not enough to catch the eye of someone in film or television. It’s a backwards approach, but sometimes the innovative route is best.
HN: Anything you’d like to add?
DNW: I think that covers it pretty well. I’d just like to point out that the books are available at the Crossroad Press online store, Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, and even (shortly) at the local library in eBook and audio editions. There will be some exciting new titles announced soon, and the list of authors is growing fast.
[Editor’s Note: Crossroads Press is extending two great opportunities to Hellnotes. The first is a 20% savings on any size purchase at the Crossroad Press store. All you have to do is enter the code HELLNOTES (all caps). This offer is good any time.
The second opportunity is a chance to win a set of free copies of the ebook edition (whatever format you prefer) of the three current O.C.L.T. titles. To enter, either comment on this interview or like the Crossroads Press page on Facebook and mention Hellnotes. The drawing will run until midnight this Friday, September 9th. We’ll announce the winners on Hellnotes.]