As it's lucky lucky Friday The 13th, and the remake of Friday The 13th hits cinemas today, it's surely a fine excuse for me to gaze wistfully back at my own small contribution to Friday The 13th history. In October 2005, Black Flame published my first novel, Friday The 13th: Hate-Kill-Repeat, which was a moment of considerable joy. I've always loved the Friday The 13th movies in all their gory glory, so to write a novel officially licensed and sanctioned by New Line was quite literally a dream come true. In fact, I probably still haven't absorbed it today.
The previous year, at an SFX convention, I met the lovely Rebecca 'Bex' Levene for the first time. A fair few Doctor Who fans may recognise her name, as she edited the Virgin Who books for a while. Anyway, Bex tipped me off that Black Flame had acquired the license for various horror franchises, including A Nightmare On Elm Street, Final Destination and... Friday The 13th. I immediately grabbed the poor girl's shoulders and forcefully shook her until she gave me the information I demanded.
Then I made contact with Jay Slater, then senior commissioning editor at Black Flame, who would become a very good friend. He was also a fellow film journalist, so we hit it off nicely. He suggested that I come up with six ideas for a Friday The 13th novel, only amounting to a paragraph each at this stage. So I did that, and came back to him. He picked one, and gave me the go-ahead to write a page outline. After that, I wrote a chapter-by-chapter breakdown (which would later change a fair deal) and a sample chapter. These were then sent to New Line for approval. I sweated for a couple of months before the green light finally flickered on. Hooray. It felt like an achievement for a guy whose only previous published fiction had been the short story Home in Cherry TCK's collection Deadly Strangers, and some other shorts for magazines like Forum, which tended to... uh... focus on people having sex. I was particularly proud, back then, of In Space, No-One Can Hear You Cream.
Ahem. Anyway, the green light. That's when the real work began. The novel had to be 95,000 words. Which sounds a lot. And by God, it is. As much as I absolutely loved writing Hate-Kill-Repeat, I think that three-month process cemented my resolve to focus on scripts. What a slog. Not that scripting's a walk in the park, but at least you can feasibly write the rough first draft of a movie script in a week...
H-K-R's protagonist (or Final Girl, to use slasher movie parlance) was Halo Harlan, a pregnant trailer-trash girl with a no-good boyfriend, who naturally ends up running for her life from Jason Voorhees and going through seven shades of hell. Thrown into the mix were two FBI agents and a pair of serial killers. The latter duo, Norwood and Penelope Thawn, were especially good fun to write, being outwardly charming and cultured, but secretly hardline, hypocritical moral crusaders on a misguided mission to join forces with Jason Voorhees and cleanse the world of sin.
I consciously placed HKR on the existing F13th movie timeline, to please fans, myself included. It took place after my favourite sequel Friday The 13th VII: The New Blood, and rather ignored the fun-but-not-so-great follow-up Friday The 13th VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan. The title Hate-Kill-Repeat came from seeing a DVD sleeve for some low-budget monster movie which carried a tagline something like 'Mate. Feed. Destroy'. It was no doubt also influenced by Slipknot's early album Mate Feed Kill Repeat - guess I just started thinking about what Jason's equivalent routine would be. The 'Hate' part was important to me, as I was keen to keep Jason emotional (specifically, shot through with negative emotion), rather than some lumbering zombie. Kane Hodder's portrayal of Jason (from The New Blood to Jason Goes To Hell: The Final Friday) was for me by far the best, imbuing him with a real sense of livid rage. I haven't seen the new movie yet, but I hope new-guy Derek Mears delivers some of that.
I'm still very proud of HKR. I'm loathe to actually read it now, sadly, because I'm sure I'd notice plenty of clunky prose or scene choices which I'd write differently, even given its pulpy tone. Still, it certainly delivers on rapid-fire pacing, gore and body count (didn't take me long to lose count of the dead), and includes a big twist which I still love, along with a fan-pleasing, continuity-tying climax. Perhaps the biggest reward is that the majority of fans online seemed to really like it. It received generally good reviews on Amazon, and appeared to be thought of as one of the Friday series' better novels. Sadly, and somewhat inexplicably I have to say, the Friday novel line ended after five entries.
When I wrote the novel, I was already obsessed with screenwriting. While it was a great experience, it also cemented my resolve to make it in Scriptsville. Thankfully, the urge to write a novel hasn't returned, especially as my watchword for 2009 is "focus". Much less confusing when you know which medium you want to work in.
Here's hoping that the new Friday The 13th film will jump-start the franchise all over again. Jason Voorhees must not die. And you can't keep a good maniac down.
2005 interview with me about Friday The 13th: Hate-Kill-Repeat
PDF of Friday The 13th: Hate-Kill-Repeat's first chapter
Friday The 13th: Hate-Kill-Repeat on Amazon UK
Friday The 13th: Hate-Kill-Repeat on Amazon US
Official site of the Friday The 13th remake
Danny Stack on Friday The 13th superstition
My guide to 10 Great Slasher Movies
My interview with Adam Marcus, director of Jason Goes To Hell: The Final Friday
My interview with Sean Cunningham, director of the original Friday The 13th
My interview with Harry Manfredini, who scored most of the Friday films