As someone who loves teen-centric slashers, Thommy Hutson’s (writer/producer for Never Sleep Again, Scream: The Inside Story, and Crystal Lake Memories) latest book, Jinxed, was an incredibly fun read and I really enjoyed how he managed to tip his hat to so many great films and characters, but still delivered up an engaging and original story that kept me guessing throughout. And just in time for Halloween, the Kindle version of Jinxed is currently on sale (for less than $1!) on Amazon, which made it the perfect time to catch up with Hutson to hear more about his experiences writing his first fiction book, how his love of slashers inspired Jinxed, what he’s working on next, and so much more.
You’re no stranger to the world of books, but what was different for you, in terms of the creative process, when writing Jinxed versus doing a project like the book for Never Sleep Again?
Thommy Hutson: Interestingly—and what surprised me—not much. The reason was that although Never Sleep Again is a non-fiction book, with its backbone based on dozens of interviews, I tackled it like a story. I made the decision early on to not craft it like a more traditional book. I was on the cusp of doing that, and it made complete sense, but the subject matter, and the people involved, were important to me. They played such a part of my own story because so much of my love for the genre stems from seeing Wes Craven’s incredible, original A Nightmare on Elm Street. For those reasons, I decided to write it more like a novel; it’s just that it’s all true! I think that aspect really helped me when I set out to write Jinxed. That is, of course, complete fiction, but having prosed out over 100,000 words with Never Sleep Again, the notion of writing Jinxed (my first novel) felt less daunting, less scary, for me. As for the reader, I’m hoping for scared!
Can you talk a bit about what inspired the story ideas for Jinxed (beyond your wonderfully obvious love of slasher stories, which is something I relate to as well)?
Thommy Hutson: Like so many, I love the horror and slasher movies of the ’80s and ’90s. However, I am equally a fan of teen movies and TV shows from those decades as well. It was being a fan of both of those things, coupled with the fact that I went to a school for performing arts, which was the driving force behind wanting to write a story like Jinxed. It all felt so right when I started thinking about how to combine all of that: I always thought a performing arts school would be a fun place to set a horror story. And the school I created is very exclusive and very secluded. I also thought to have a cast of characters all wanting to be stars, or famous, or at least incredibly successful in their field of choice, would be interesting. This group of friends, as well as the adults, all have reasons for wanting to be number one. That attitude and desire has an effect on the way they act, react, and talk to one another, in addition to the things that are being done by them and to them. It leads to a lot of heightened feelings, worries, and fingers being pointed.
Another reason is that there hadn’t been a lot of teen slashers that didn’t have some sort of supernatural or otherworldly bent to them. Especially with a throwback feel to the ’80s and ’90s. I wanted to create something happening in the real world, with a real killer, throw in a cool mask, let loose, have fun… and spill a little blood in the process. In the end, it’s a secluded school, a group of highly motived, generally snarky, definitely fame-seeking teenagers, a mystery, and a killer. What could go wrong? (Answer: for these characters, a lot!)
I noticed there were some details in Jinxed that paid homage to so many great horror films and characters—was this book your way to continue your endless love of the genre, all while pushing yourself creatively in a different direction?
Thommy Hutson: Definitely! And I am so happy that readers are picking up on those little touches. Whether it is a character name, a location, hints at scenes or moments horror fans have loved, as I did, I wanted to throw those in. I wanted the characters in the book to know that they are living in the real world. There is no reason they wouldn’t have seen movies, including horror movies. It’s not done in so forward (and ingeniously) a manner as Scream, but there’s enough of a taste in Jinxed that a reader will get the nods, appreciate them, and understand them. These characters don’t live in “movie world,” which often completely shuns our reality. They’re in a world I created, yes, but it happens to, I suppose, co-exist with ours. We’re all here, we all watch movies, and we all read books. Why can’t that exist and, furthermore, be used to show who these people are? Plus, as a fan, how could I not bring some of those aspects in? My life was affected by them, so the characters are affected, too.
I don’t want to say too much, so I don’t ruin it for readers, but while there is a resolution to your story, because this is horror, there are always clever ways to turn an initial idea into a series of stories. Have you thought about whether or not there are more stories to tell in this world of Trask Academy?
Thommy Hutson: Oh, yes! The specter of Trask Academy and its secrets will live to haunt another day. Jinxed is the first book in a trilogy. I am already writing the second book, entitled Cursed, and am having a blast. The ending of book one is something that definitely comes into play in book two, and we get to see what happens next in the arc of the story. Things that seemed inconsequential in book one, or a simple throwaway, might be more important than originally thought. I have been so thrilled with the way people have been talking about the end of book one, and how they can’t wait to see what happens next. I can’t wait for them to see, either. All I have to say is, wait for the end of book two!
You’ve worked both in film and in print—is there one medium that pushes you harder, creatively speaking, or one that you tend to enjoy more?
Thommy Hutson: I feel that they push me in different, but equally difficult and rewarding ways. Writing a movie tends to give you a little more immediate gratification when it is finished. You write it, it gets made, you watch it, and you (along with an audience) get a sense of what it is right then and there. The images are what they are. The lines of dialogue are said how they’re said, the action is played out in a specific manner, and so forth. With a book, you write it, release it… and wait! Wait for people to tell you what they thought, whether they liked it or not. But, you also get to hear so many different interpretations of things: who they pictured as the characters, how they heard them speak, what they “saw” when they read it, which might match up exactly with what you were going for… or be totally different. That being said, it’s hard for me to say which I enjoy more. It’s easier for me to say I enjoy them both for different reasons. I’ll always love writing screenplays and am so, so lucky I get to do that as part of my career. It’s a gift when something you write gets producers and actors and technicians excited enough to make it come to life on the screen. As for books, they let me pour a little more of myself into them, if only because there are more pages to fill and more thoughts to create. I like that a little more of my voice gets to shine through.
What was the biggest thing you took away from the process of writing Jinxed, and did it change you as an artist?
Thommy Hutson: That I could actually do it! Also, that I was able to push myself creatively. Coming from more of a screenwriting background where it’s all about being as economical as you are creative, to going to putting down 70,000+ words out of thin air, was daunting. But as I started, I realized I could have fun, let loose, showcase more of what is happening with the characters, get inside their heads, and, again, let the “me” in me come through. Having that time and space allowed me to really hone, embrace, and enjoy my writing style. All I had to do was murder a few people. But, hey, nobody’s perfect.
Break a mirror. Walk under a ladder. Step on a crack. Innocent childhood superstitions… But someone at the Trask Academy of Performing Arts is taking things one deadly step further when the campus is rocked with the deaths of some of its star students.
Layna Curtis, a talented, popular senior, soon realizes that the seemingly random, accidental deaths of her friends aren't random—or accidents—at all. Someone has taken the childhood games too far, using the idea of superstitions to dispose of their classmates. As Layna tries to convince people of her theory, she uncovers the terrifying notion that each escalating, gruesome murder leads closer to its final victim: her. Will Layna's opening night also be her final bow?
You can find Jinxed on Amazon by clicking HERE.