Halloween Kills is just under a month away, which means the novelisation from Tim Waggoner is nearly here too.
We spoke to the author all about the project and re-creating Michael Myers rampage through Haddonfield on the page.
Tell us how you got involved with the novelisation of Halloween Kills?
I’d done a number of tie-in novels for Titan Books, which is the publisher for the novelisation, and they approached me about writing this one. They knew I’ve written quite a lot of horror, both original and tie-fiction, and they thought I’d be right for this project.
Once you got the gig did you revisit John Pasarrella’s novelisation of the 2018 movie or any other Halloween source material?
I sure did! I read John’s novel so I could do my best to make sure mine matched his, and I rewatched the original Halloween and the 2018 version, since those films precede Halloween Kills in the current continuity. I wanted to refresh myself on the actors’ portrayal of the characters, as well as the films’ style and pacing. I also read Dennis Etchison’s novelisation of Halloween II, which he wrote as Jack Martin. Etchison is one of my favorite authors, and I particularly wanted to see how he wrote Michael so I could put a little of Denni’s portrayal of him into the book.
I take it you are a fan of the original Halloween?
I’m fifty-seven, and I saw the original Halloween in the theater when it was first released, and I saw all the others – including Rob Zombie’s films – as they came out. I own all the films and rewatch them now and again, especially the first one. Michael is one of my all-time favorite monsters. I love how he inhabits a liminal space between the real and the supernatural, making him a truly nightmarish figure who ultimately is unknowable. I think that’s what the best horror is all about.
How different is it writing about Michael Myers from another person’s interpretation?
When I write a novelisation, I try to capture the screenwriters’ interpretation of the characters, but it’s also my book, which means that ultimately the version of Michael you’re going to get is mine. I tried to distill over forty years’ worth of my experiences of Michael into the novel, while at the same time getting at what, to me is the essence of his character: the inhuman alienness of him. Writing scenes from his perspective is especially challenging since, in a very real way, he doesn’t have a perspective. He’s kind of like a shark on two legs, a dark force of a nature. Hopefully, readers will think I did a good job writing Michael’s scenes.
How much creative licence were you given for the book?
This is the fourth novelisation I’ve done, and the amount of licence I’ve been given has varied quite a bit from project to project. For Halloween Kills, I wasn’t given any restrictions up front, but I was careful not to invent new material whole cloth but rather try to expand and fill in the blanks of what was already present in the script, especially when it came to characters’ perception of and reaction to events. The studio representatives didn’t have me change much, just a few minor things here and there – so they must’ve liked my additions!
Did you have to report back to Blumhouse/Trancas etc. once you had finished the first draft?
Yes. For a novelization, the author, the editor at the publisher, and a representative at the studio all work together on the book. Once the author gets the script, he or she writes the draft. The editor then reads the draft and suggests changes. The author makes the changes, and then the editor submits the draft to the studio rep who may suggest more changes. The process goes on like that until the studio rep and the editor approve the final manuscript.
How long were you given to turn the project around?
A month or so. Good thing I’m a fast writer! Plus, it helps to have a script to work from, since a good portion of story and dialogue already exist to build on.
Did the delayed-release help you in any way or was the release just shelved after the 2020 delay?
Just shelved. I finished the book in March of 2020, and the studio hadn’t released my name as the novelisation’s author when they decided to postpone the movie. So for over a year, I got to watch fans wildly theorize online about what was going to happen in Halloween Kills, but I knew. I was glad my name wasn’t released. That way, I didn’t have to deal with fans messaging me and asking questions about the script I couldn’t answer. But I had so much fun writing the book that it was a bummer not being able to talk about it for so long!
I know you can‘t say much about the script but how different in tone is Kills than H18?
Many interviews with the film’s creators as well as early reviews of the movie discuss how Halloween Kills is a story with a broader scope, and how it’s a story about violence and its effects on people in general and the citizenry of Haddonfield in particular. I’d say that’s the main difference between the two stories.
Are you looking forward to seeing the film and how it compares to your book?
Very much so! It’s always interesting for me to see what the filmmakers changed from the script I received. The biggest thing I’ve noticed watching the three other films I’ve novelised, is that even when they were balls-to-the-wall action films, the scripts had quite a bit of character development in them, and those were the scenes that were cut from the final film, most likely due to run time. So when people complain that genre films don’t have enough character development in them, at least based on the scripts I’ve seen so far, I say don’t blame the writers. They originally put that stuff in there!
It’s a weird experience seeing a film you’ve novelised. For one thing, you know most of what’s going to happen, so you can’t see the film without any foreknowledge. It’s almost like watching a repeat of a film you’ve seen a lot. It’s also weird because you spend so much time visualizing the characters, setting, and action to write your novel, and then everything looks different in the film itself. But by writing a novelization, you get to know the film in a way much deeper than most people outside the actual production ever well, and that’s very cool.
Have you had an approach about doing the Halloween Ends novelisation?
Not yet, but I’d love to write it! Everyone contact Titan Books and tell them to give me the gig!
Halloween Kills by Tim Waggoner is released on 19th October 2021 by Titan Books.