Author WD Jackson is a huge fan of horror films, particularly slasher films, so he’s taken the popular horror genre and woven it into his novel Slasher, about the making of a Hollywood slasher film that turns real when scream queens begin getting killed one by one! WD took some time to chat with me about his novel and his love of horror.
BB&S: Hi, WD. So let’s start with the obvious. You love slasher films. So you created a mystery thriller about the making of a slasher film that essentially plays out like a slasher. What were the challenges in converting the genre’s formula into a work of fiction?
WD: It’s true, I’m a huge fan of slasher movies, so what I wanted to do with Slasher was to create a story that plays on what everyone knows and loves about the genre, but mess with the clichés, rather than fall prey to them. It was a real challenge to make sure the characters were not simply cardboard cutouts, and to make the reader care when they start getting killed. What was also difficult was giving so much weight to the detective side of things. Most slasher films only give a few minutes to the cops hunting down the killer, whereas I wanted to shift this up and split the story between the cops and the characters on the killer’s list. Kiralee lets the reader get inside Hollywood and also the mind of a victim, witnessing the horror happening around her, whereas Joshua lets the reader play the “whodunit” game, allowing them to try and piece together the clues.
BB&S: Reading Slasher, any hardcore slasher fan will recognize some of the films that influenced your story, plus you make plenty of references that slasher lovers can appreciate. Which slasher film or films would you say most influenced Slasher or are most similar in concept to your book?
WD: The easy answer to that would be the Scream series. I was in my early teens when that franchise hit the big time, and it had such an effect on me. I was and still am a huge fan of the 90’s slasher resurgence but the thing I love about Scream is how self-referential it is. It’s such a simple but clever approach to put a known genre in a “real world” setting, and obviously Slasher has that too. Naturally the classics, Halloween in particular, play their part, but for me Scream is probably the biggest influence. And of course I had to throw some good old pop-culture references in there. I wanted the world of this story to seem real, so it made sense (and was extremely fun) to be able to frame it in a setting where the characters know about the famous franchises and icons.
BB&S: While Kiralee Martinson is the “main girl” in Slasher—she’s the leading lady in the film being made—the book is actually a Joshua Matthews Thriller. Joshua is the detective on the case. What made you decide to build your slasher novel around a detective?
WD: Well bluntly, first off, I wanted to start a detective series. I love crime fiction and crime shows, particularly the more horror stylized ones like The Following and Stalker (of which I’m a massive fan), and I wanted to start a series, but something with a difference. Initially I had aimed to simply write a slasher novel with more meat to it, but I quickly decided that it could be the start to a series and that Joshua was the key component to carry over a series. Joshua can legitimately face off against killers on a regular basis and allow me to vary it up each time. On nearing the end of Slasher, I realized that I had a detective set up in a world where horror genres can be played with and that idea really excited me. This setup and combination of genre mashing is not one I’ve come across in fiction really, and being as I love both, it’s a great fit for me, and hopefully the readers will love that mix up too.
BB&S: You plan to write Joshua Matthews novels as a series in which he solves cases based on horror subgenres. Do you have future novel ideas already in place in your head or are you going to just take it one novel at a time? What subgenres would you most want to explore?
WD: I’m already working on the sequel, which I can reveal plays with the subject of demonology. To give just a few small details, it follows a family that are convinced that they are being tormented by something demonic and so bring in an expert to help them, but when someone turns up dead, the LAPD are brought in, and it’s up to Joshua to determine the truth behind the death. It’s another horror genre I adore, and it has that supernatural element that is fun to play with. I want to tease the reader, and make them doubt what is real and what isn’t, just as Joshua will, and hopefully surprise them when the story reaches its climax. The third novel will of course take on another familiar genre, but the story isn’t there yet, it’s currently just a concept. And I would love to play with the creature feature sub-genre, though I have no idea how right now!
BB&S: Do you want the focus of each novel in the series to be about the horror genre that is part of the case, or will there be an arching storyline that develops Joshua’s character?
WD: The chosen genre for each novel will very much be a focus, almost a character in itself, and as with Slasher, the characters will have a modern world awareness thanks to famous stories, movies and so on, but Joshua will of course have to develop as the series progresses. At some point he’ll face off against someone who will prove far tougher and more resilient, and may pursue him over a couple of books. And the stakes will certainly get higher for him and those around him as the series goes on.
BB&S: What are some of your favorite slashers? And who are your favorite main girls and favorite scream queens?
WD: Well by now you know I am a big Scream fan. I really do rate them all, even though the quality of the series is not always consistent. I love the original Halloween and Friday the 13th, and don’t get the pitchforks out, but I genuinely think a lot of the reboots are good too. The Friday the 13th 2009 reboot and the Texas Chainsaw remake from 2003 are favorites of mine, and Curse of Chucky was great. Honestly though, I enjoy most of the well-known slashers. Neve Campbell, as Sidney Prescott really is the ultimate final girl, because she is the culmination of what previous final girls have learnt and she puts it into practice. Naturally I love Jamie Lee Curtis, she’s a total legend. And I’m giving honorary nods to Sigourney Weaver (a space scream queen of sorts, certainly a kick ass final girl and one of my all time favorite actresses) and Sharni Vinson in You’re Next, because she’s such a badass.
BB&S: Any thoughts of writing any full-fledged horror novels not tied into a Joshua Matthews Thriller?
WD: Oh yes, definitely. I actually started one, set in London, which will be pretty brutal, and hopefully a bit epic. I’m not going to give you any real hints, but it’s a story that starts in a very chilling way and things escalate greatly and very quickly. London won’t know what hit it! When I’ve finished Joshua Matthews number 2, or certainly 3, I will go back to that one. It will see the light of day at some point because I’m really passionate about the concept. I also wrote a nasty horror short story called What’s Yours Is Mine, and would love to do something on a bigger scale with that, either a collection of interlinked shorts, or a more fully fleshed out version. One day!
BB&S: And finally, although Slasher is a Joshua Matthews Thriller, most slashers get a sequel! Do you think Joshua might have to save any of the survivors of Slasher in a future novel?
WD: Well I don’t want to name names, as I don’t want to give away who survives Slasher, other than Joshua of course, but you are right, most slashers do get sequels, and they normally follow the (un)lucky few that made it through the first massacre. The next novel of course features some of the characters from Slasher besides Joshua, so let’s see. I do like a good copycat killer!
BB&S: Thanks for taking talking horror and your fiction with me, WD!
You can learn more about WD’s books and love for horror on his website.