Bullies, Witches, and the Supernatural: an Interview with Stuart West

It’s always exciting to meet a new friend. I had the good fortune of getting to know Stuart West this past week or so. Sure, our books are with the same publisher, so I had come across him on message boards and other people’s blogs, but this is the first time I’ve interacted with him directly. And let me tell you, our similarities don’t end with writing for the same publisher. We live in the same geographical region. We don’t care for cats. We love horror movies. We even both prefer the Spanish version of Dracula… I didn’t know anyone else had seen it.

So today we’re doing a blog swap. We’ve read each other’s books. Now, I grill Stuart about his book here, and he puts me over the coals about Unveiling the Wizards’ Shroud on his site. And to increase the incentive to read these posts, and because we are generous, he has a copy of Unveiling the Wizards’ Shroud to give away, and I’m offering up Tex, the Witch Boy. You have to leave a comment to enter, but we made it a bit more interesting than that. Read on to learn the details.

_MG_0556 - Version 2Hi, Stuart. Tell us a little about yourself. Where you grew up, where you live, how many countries you’ve visited, why there are so many cats in your book.

Dang it, Eric, first of all, I don’t like cats. Like my protagonist, Tex, I’m allergic to cats. Plus they’re just too danged independent, thus making not for making good pets. And they can scratch you without notice. Okay. Had to get that out of the way. But you can’t have a book about a witch without cats.

I live in Kansas. It sucks.

I’ve only been to the Kansas City/Overland Park area, but I didn’t have such a bad time. I had some good Bar-B-Que at B. B.’s (on the Missouri side) and some ice cream at the best Cold Stone Creamery I’ve been to. I know some people go to that area to shop. I’m not much for shopping, but I can hold my own when it comes to eating.

Other than the cats (I’m not a fan, either. We have two indoor, two outdoor, and that’s at least four more than we need), what else can you tell us about your books?

Eric, the Tex, The Witch Boy series are all murder mystery, paranormal, suspense thriller, romantic comedies. Whew. And they all deal with current topical issues teens deal with. In a non-preachy manner. The first book tackles bullying (a large part of which is based on my high school life, as awful as it was).

I’ve only read Tex, The Witch Boy, but Tex and the Gangs of Suburbia is available (I’ll be getting it soon) and Tex and the God Squad comes out Friday the 13th of December (working for Muse is going to break my piggy bank).

Yes, indeed. Tex and the God Squad is actually based on an incident that happened at my high school two years ago. It’s about the sudden and shocking violence that happens in high schools. It’s awful, very frightening. But, it’s not all doom and gloom. This book introduces my stand-out character, Elspeth. She’s a fan favorite, even gets her own book next year. Can’t tell you too much about her now as she’s shrouded in mystery.

Tex and the God Squad is out in a couple weeks, actually. This one I’m a little concerned about. My bad guys are obviously based on the heinous Westboro Baptist Church. Bring it! It’s about teen suicide, gay and lesbian issues, and, the daddy of ‘em all, religion. Hope I do the topics justice. It’s the biggest and baddest-a** book of the trilogy, I think.

The best way I’ve learned to offend someone is to start talking about religion. I think it even outweighs politics–though in recent years, the two terms have almost become synonymous. Good luck with that.

In Tex, The Witch Boy we learn Tex is somewhat dissatisfied at being a witch, as opposed to a warlock or wizard. Without giving anything away, do we ever learn a reason why he’s a witch, or is that just how it is?

Eric, I actually did some research (I know, right?). Witches, regardless of gender, are all called “witches.” Warlocks are apparently the thing of fiction. One witch liked what I did; the other? Not so much.

You learn something new everyday. I even worked with a Wiccan  once. We had some interesting conversations.

Speaking of a Friday the 13th release date, and you writing books about witchcraft, do you believe in the supernatural? As Dr. John Markway said in The Haunting, “Look, I know the supernatural is something that isn’t supposed to happen, but it does happen.”

Well, thanks for name-dropping one of my favorite horror films. But, alas, no, I’m not a believer. I’d love to be, though. So, if any ghosts are out there, waiting for a house to haunt, come on and get me. Please?

I’ve never seen anything to make me believe in ghosts (human spirits walking, or floating, around), but I did have an extremely strange experience once. When I recount it, most people think I’m making things up (writers get that a lot), so I won’t go into all the details here. The short version goes something like this:

Either my senior year of high school, or sometime when I came home from college, I got off work from the evening shift and went home. My parents and sister were all asleep when I got there so I quietly headed to my bedroom in the basement. I got about halfway down the stairs when I felt something… evil. It was like the air grew too thick to walk through. I couldn’t take another step down, so I went up and slept on the couch. I didn’t feel anything bad upstairs, and I didn’t feel like I was in any kind of danger. I just knew I couldn’t go downstairs.

A few hours later I awoke. I felt the strangeness pass through the house and leave. There was no question in my mind it was gone. I went to my room and slept the rest of the night there. The next morning, in the family room adjacent to my bedroom, I found a Ouija Board my sister and her friends had been using the night before. I’ve never experienced anything like that again, and I’m not saying the Ouija Board caused it, but I’ve stayed clear of them since… just in case.

Sorry, I feel like I tried to steal the show there for a minute. Let’s get back to you, Stuart.

I’ve always been a huge fan of horror (books and movies), and the scene where Tex conjures the spirit of a murder victim is straight out of classic horror. Are you a fan of the horror genre?

Oh, believe it, brother. My favorite genre. Can’t get my wife to watch horror films but I definitely subverted my daughter at an early age. Father and daughter bonding time is sitting on the sofa, freaking out. Not much into gore and the new-fangled torture films, but the classics? Yeah.

I’m with you 100%. I don’t do ‘gorror’ but I love the classics.

Did you ever consider making the Tex, The Witch Boy series a horror series?

As much as I love horror, I couldn’t do it. I think it would’ve detracted from the story and characters. And, really, that’s what the books are about—the characters.

Yes, I think characters are the most important part of a story. In my mind, the plot doesn’t matter a bit if it’s not happening to people you care about.

I’ve been pondering a historical fiction book about the Salem Witch Hunt, and this book did nothing but stoke that fire. To write it like I want would require extensive research, some of witch (get it) I started years ago. How much research into witchcraft did you have to do for this series?

Talked to a couple of witches. The internet is a writer’s best friend.

Tex, The Witch Boy is about bullies. You’ve mentioned before that all of the examples of bullying are taken from real life experiences. Does that include the examples of adults as bullies?

Yeah. Sadly, bullying doesn’t stop at the high school level. Maybe the physically violent level of it does. But having spent most of my life in corporate America, they’re still an unwelcome presence.

Red is an interesting character because we’ve all known those adults we felt attached to as kids. I even remember a few school janitors I respected and learned a thing or two about life from. Did you base Red on anyone from real life?

Yep, Red was a janitor who did, indeed, bust me for egging my school, just like Tex does. Now, he was a junior high janitor, but still…

Finally, just for a silly question and for a nice number like ten… Do you like the Wicked Witch of the West? (Hey, I had to. You played a question on my last name.)

No, I think she’s a total beeyotch. Always’ve been more partial to the bubbly witch. Oh, crap, who am I kidding! Yes, I like the green witch! Especially when she melts.

Thanks for visiting us today Stuart. I invite everyone to leave a comment telling Stuart what you think. And for extra fun, tell us a little about your favorite witch. Who is she, or he, and why? Someone who does will be taking home a copy of Tex, the Witch Boy. And if you don’t win, for a limited time Muse it Up is offering Tex, the Witch Boy for FREE if you buy Tex and the Gangs of Suburbia. And it’s even on sale for $4.50! Seriously, you can’t go wrong with this.

Tex The Witch Boy 200x300

Tex and the Gangs of Suburbia 200x300