John Passarella talks Halloween novelisation

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Not since Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers has there been a novelisation of one of Michael Myers’ evil adventures.

This changed earlier this year when it was announced author John Passarella would write a novelisation of the new Halloween sequel. We caught up with the author to tell us all about it.

Tell us how you got involved in the novelisation of Halloween?

I received an email from Ella Chappell at Titan Books, asking if I was a fan of the original movie and if I’d be interested in being considered for the novelization. She thought, with my background, it would be a good fit for me. Note: I’ve done five original media tie-in novels for Titan, so they know me well there.

Are you a fan of the series?

I love John Carpenter’s original classic 1978 film. I’ve watched it several times (my wife screens it annually around the titular holiday) and I watched it again before writing the novelization.

In contrast, I’ve seen the various sequels and remakes only in passing. My editor mentioned up front that the new sequel would ignore past sequels, so only the original movie would be considered canon for this project. For that reason, and due to time constraints, I didn’t feel the need to revisit the sequels.

How different is it to write about Michael Myers and that universe than watch it on the screen?

I suppose there are two ways to answer that question. The first is the difference between being a fan and a creator/collaborator. I consider myself a fan of a lot of genre movies, TV shows, and books. The old adage to “write what you love” applies.

So, when I’m watching or reading as a fan, I’m a fan. When I’m hired to write for a license, either an original novel or, in this case, an adaptation, there’s another level of enjoyment that applies. I have to admit, when writing Halloween or one of my original tie-in novels, there are random times when I have a grin on my face, a slight feeling of disbelief that I’m getting to participate in these worlds I’ve previously only enjoyed as a fan.

The other way to answer your question, is to address the technical side, wearing the writer’s hat. It’s a matter of enjoying the Michael Myers and Laurie Strode story in different mediums, meaning that reading the screenplay is not the same as seeing the movie. Reading the script, I imagined how the story would look on screen.

I looked up actor photos to help me picture the new characters, knowing their appearance might have been altered for this particular film. Later, I had access to tens of thousand of set photos, so after reading the bones of the story, I was able to graft faces, costuming, sets and other visuals onto my preconceptions.

For example, the screenplay simply mentions the Smith’s Grove “Courtyard” with no description. I imagined something completely different than the film version. After I wrote the scene, I saw photos of the film courtyard, with its stark checkboard pattern and had to circle back to revise that scene in my manuscript.

With all the textual and visual information combined, I then take the Michael/Laurie story into the novel format. Turning a 110-page screenplay into a 350-page manuscript involves transforming film script “shorthand” into fleshed out, extended, and new scenes.

I want fans of the film to enjoy reading the novel version of the same story, experiencing the suspense of film on the page.

At the same time, my goal is for the novel to stand on its own as a suspenseful book, should anyone decide to read it without seeing the film or pluck it off a bookshelf years from now.

How much creative license were you given about expanding the story?

Once onboard, I wasn’t given any restrictions. At the same time, I knew that an 80,000 word novel adapted from a 110-page screenplay would require additional material. I extended many scenes and added some new ones, along with some new characters.

I did not, however, stray far from the story in the script. I even retained some scenes cut during the reshoot process. With my editor at Titan Books, I trimmed and cut some material for pacing, but that’s standard.

Basically, everything I added or expanded received approval for the final revision stage.

When did you first get chance to watch the finished film and what was your reaction?

I have tickets for opening night. That will be the first time I see the finished film!

Was the writing process enjoyable and is this something you’d do again?

As my first movie novelization, this was a unique experience. I flexed some writing muscles I haven’t had to use before. Even though I’ve written multiple tie-ins for several licenses, with equally short deadlines, all those novels were original stories based on existing universes and characters.

This was the first time I had to adapt an existing story into a novel format. Since the complete story is already there, I didn’t need spend a lot of time agonizing over character ars and turning points.

At the same time, I need to stay true to the visual experience of the movie so it’s recognizable as the same story, without seeing the movie itself. Definitely a diffferent challenge.

I had a blast working on it and hope it’s not my last movie novelization!

  • Note this interview was conducted before the release of Halloween (2018).

Buy ‘Halloween’ by John Passarella HERE

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