"We're from Haddonfield, couldn't be prouder, can't hear us now, we'll yell a little louder!"
Well, Mr. John Passarella, author of the novelization of Halloween, will take you back to Haddonfield to experience the reunion between Michael Myers and Laurie Strode. You should unquestionably read--and watch--this event, forty years in the making. Before you do, I hope you check out this interview I did with Mr. John Passarella in order to know him as an author and his experience writing Halloween.
1. What is the scariest book you’ve ever read?
Probably The Exorcist, because of my age when I read it and the sense that I probably shouldn't be reading it, which came a while after I almost saw it in a drive-in at a definitely inappropriate age. The most disturbing books I've read are The Wasp Factory and The Girl Next Door.
2. How long did it take you to write the first draft of Halloween?
I wrote the entire first draft in less than two months, but more than 50,000 words of it in less than a month. I'm accustomed to short deadlines on my original tie-in novels. This was my first movie novelization and, if anything, the timeline was more contracted.
3. What is your writing process like for Halloween?
First thing I had to work with was the script, so I immediately read it to get my first impression of the story. Then I let my subconscious work on how I would approach that story in novel form. Since the timeline was tight, I had to begin writing before I had access to any visual assets, so I would send questions to my editor to relay to the studio. Later, I had access to tens of thousands of set photos to help with scene descriptions, character appearances, etc. While writing, I received revised pages. At various times I had to circle back and revise scenes to match set details and revisions.
4. How many hours a day do you write?
That varies quite a bit. But I'm more of a pages-per-day rather than an hours-per-day author. If I'm working on a tie-in type of deadline, I have a target word count divided by number of writing days left until that deadline. That becomes my daily word count. If I miss a day, I know I need to go over on other days to 'catch up' so to speak. For my own novels, when I'm not on a deadline, I tend to write four to five pages until later in the manuscript. In the last 100 pages of a manuscript, I have written 20 to 35 pages in a single day.
5. What were the challenges (literary, research, etc.) in writing Halloween?
I knew right away that the new Halloween was a direct sequel to the 1978 original, ignoring all the other sequels and reboots, so that simplified what I needed to know of the Halloween "lore." Halloween is my wife's favorite movie and she watches it annually around the holiday, so I've seen it several times. I watched it again before diving into the novelization of the sequel. This was my first movie novelization, so I asked other writers I know who have done novelizations for tips and traps, etc. and received some good advice.
The script was approximately 110 pages and I needed to transform that into a 350 page manuscript. Having more 'room' to work with, I could get into characters' heads more, explore motivations, extend scenes and conversations, add some characters, etc. Screenplays are lean by design. I had an editor who once described a screenplay as the skeleton of the story. When you hear of a book becoming a movie, you know they will drop subplots, combine characters, trim and cut here and there. Readers tend to miss or bemoan what was lost. Writing the novelization, I tried to imagine the reverse, and fill in stuff that might have been in the story if the novel(ization) predated the screenplay. My goal was to enrich the experience for the novel reader.
As far as research, beyond studying the original film, I took cues from the screenplay. For example, a casual mention of cleaning a rifle in a screenplay is mainly a script direction. That becomes a bit more detailed in a novel to give it a feel of authenticity. On screen, you see the actor/character performing the action. In a novel, the writer needs to describe the process in order to paint the mental picture.
6. What was your favorite book when you were a kid? Do you have a favorite book now?
I'm bad at picking favorites in any category. I read a bunch of Hardy Boys mysteries when I was young. In high school, I probably read two to three books a week, everything from westerns to science fiction, along mysteries, thrillers and fantasy novels. I remember weekly bookstore visits and the anticipation of waiting for the next Travis McGee book by John D. MacDonald, which are some of my all-time favorite books.
7. What was your experience working with another author on your first novel Wither? Would you co-author in the future?
My co-author was my friend before he became my co-author and we shared our stories of struggling to get published before we finally decided to work together and combine our various strengths and, we hoped, to learn how to become better writers. We met on several occasions to map out the story of WITHER. We each had our own characters and would write those character POV scenes, then read each other's work and blend our styles. Eventually, Columbia Pictures purchased the movie rights to WITHER and it went on to win the Horror Writer Association's Bram Stoker Award for First Novel, so the experiment was a success. Afterward, my co-author wanted to focus on screenplays, while I wanted to keep writing novels. But yes, I would work with another author in the future on a collaboration. I'm actually a bit surprised it hasn't happened already, but I've been off the convention circuit for several years and most novel authors tend to write in a state of solitary self-confinement.
8. Which one is more challenging for you: writing your own novel or tie-in novel?
The challenges differ. With an original tie-in novel (such as my Supernatural tie-ins), I need to come up with an outline a new story while remaining true to the characters and the show. With the movie novelization, I didn't need to come up with an original story, but I had to remain faithful to what fans will see on screen while simultaneously giving readers a satisfying book experience. And both of those come with short deadlines and layered review/approval systems. For my own novels, I need to create the characters and the story from scratch but without the pressure of a looming deadline. One problem with not having the deadline is that I'm more likely to procrastinate, run errands, perform household chores, instead of sitting at my desk and increasing my page count. With tie-ins, I don't have final say over the story or the characters, since the licensor must approve the work to move forward. With my own novels, I have ultimate control over those aspects. Of course, my editor may request or suggest changes, but I can hold the line on something if I feels strongly about it. But those suggested edits are often good advice.
9. Were you ever on set for the making of Halloween movie? If so, could you tell me what scene you were present at that is very memorable to you?
No, I was never on set. I'm not sure, but filming may have been over before I even started working on the novel, or nearly so. I know some reshoots happened while I was writing, but I was never there.
10. How did you get the opportunity to write media tie-ins novels such as Supernatural, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Angel?
I emailed the BUFFY editor after an early review of WITHER compared it favorably to the Buffy TV show. I told her I was a big fan of the show and inquired about writing a tie-in. After that I got invited to write the two Angel novels. Years later, a Titan Books editor saw my website, that I had done supernatural suspense and tie-ins, and asked if I was a fan of the TV show Supernatural and if I would be interested in writing a tie-in for that show. That led to my other Supernatural tie-ins as well as the Grimm tie-in. Titan Books is the publisher for the Halloween novelization and I had a track record with Titan. So, in short, my initial query has led to all my tie-in opportunities.
11. Villains are hard to write especially one like Michael Myers. How did you get in touch with your inner villain to write this book?
"Villains" sounds too judgmental, so let's say antagonist. Someone or something working against the protagonist. You need to find the motivation of the antagonist and write him/her/it from that perspective, whether it's revenge, entitlement, territoriality, even bloodlust. So the goal is to make that motivation real for the antagonist. Michael Myers is kind of a special case, more of a mystery than most antagonists. What I felt most about him was an immediacy -- an immediacy of purpose, intent and action. So, naturally, his POV is unlike any other in the novel.
12. What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write in Halloween and why?
I really enjoyed the whole experience. I'm always "in" whatever moment I'm writing about. But this is also a case of not giving away anything from the movie before its theatrical release.
13. Do you ever get writer's block when writing Halloween? What do you do to get back on track?
Never writer's block. The story was right there in front of me. Overcoming general procrastination is the biggest issue for me, but when I have a tight deadline, there's no room for procrastination. There were times, especially before I had access to set photos, where I had a question about a detail I needed for the book that wasn't clear from the script. In those instances, I tried to wing it or write around it until I had an answer.
14. Silly-Game Question: From Halloween novel could you please leaf through the pages and point at a random place. What is the full sentence? And what is the page number of this random sentence?
Don't think I can do that before the movie's general release date due to the NDA I signed.
15. Do you have beta-readers to read the draft of your novels?
Not a regular group. We had readers for WITHER because it was an experiment, blending styles, etc. Nor for the tie-ins, since the licensor has final say. And it's been a while since I've finished an original novel of my own, though I'm working on one now.
16. In your experience, what would you say it takes to be a successful author?
Finishing your novel, if your goal is to write novels. I've met so many authors who have been working on their first novel for years and haven't finished yet. You have to learn how to power through the whole story and finish it. Especially important if you want to become a professional author, since you will have deadlines. Almost every author I've met is a voracious reader. I think you need to love books to create them. One of the best feelings for me, as an author, is holding the finished book in my hand for the first time. Books take months, even years of your life to produce, so you need that dedication, the knowledge that the final product validates all that work and time that went into it. What also helps is an ongoing sense of curiosity, because I'm always learning new things for my characters or scenes and generally absorbing information from multiple sources. Love of learning is a real asset for an author. And when you aren't writing or learning, listen and observe.
17. How did you break into publishing?
Through WITHER. After my co-author sold his first screenplay, his agent asked him if he had anything else he'd worked on, and he had WITHER on a closet shelf at home. WITHER's movie rights soon sold to Columbia Pictures which generated a high level of interest in NY. WITHER sold as a three-book contract, negotiated down to two since my co-author intended to stay in screenwriting. I wrote WITHER'S RAIN, the first sequel to WITHER, on my own, and continued to write novels from then on.
18. Last question, if you could choose a movie title for the story of your life, would it be?
I'm bad at titles, which is why I try to keep them simple. Probably something like, The Storyteller's Story.
Many thanks to Mr. John Passarella for doing this interview with me. If you want to know more about him and his other work just visit his website: www.passarella.com/. The novelization of Halloween will be available on October 23, 2018, but you can pre-order it at Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, or Indie Bound by simply clicking those links. As always I appreciate you guys using your time to read my posts. I hope each and everyone of you are having a great, great day today. Take care:)