Being a horror writer means being set apart from others. Thee was a time when horror was considered frivolous, non-serious literature and was often sidelined, until the likes of Stephen King, Shirley Jackson, and Peter Straub came along. Of course, everyone who came before the greats of our time also had to endure a similar process writing in the genre.
We recently had the chance to sit down with modern master of the genre Grady Hendrix and discuss just that; his writing process in relation to his recent bestsellers, the film and television adaptations of his work which are in production, and of course get a sneak peek into his works in progress.
Table Of Content
- What are your favorite things in the horror genre?
- How much does your nostalgia play into your writing?
- What is it about the female perspective in horror that you prefer or enjoy writing?
- What was it that made you lean towards a different horror sub-genre with The Final Girl Support Group?
- Grady Hendrix talks about writing of The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires.
- What is it like writing screenplays versus novels?
- How does it feel having one of your properties being adapted for film/television without your input?
- Discussing his upcoming book: Is there a time period which you have not set a story in that you would like to?
- Have you ever thought about writing a sequel to any of your books?
- Grady Hendrix’s’ new book: These Fists Break Bricks
- Full Video Interview
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Grady Hendrix Interview
Below you will find some highlights from our interview with the incomparable Grady Hendrix, whom we had the outmost pleasure talking to. You can watch the full interview at the bottom of the resume.
Additionally, you need to pick up his new book These Fists Break Bricks which releases on September 15th 2021. Grady Hendrix talks about it in more detail towards the end of the interview.
What are your favorite things in the horror genre? (1:45min mark)
Meaghan asked Grady Hendrix, in the early parts of the interview, about what attracts him to writing in the horror genre specifically. Grady mentions that he enjoys horror because it really sits with death, and death is something which we all have in common as a species.
Grady Hendrix goes into detail of different horror sub-genres and how horror sort of like
… for a lot of genres, death is sort of either the end or it’s off stage, and for horror it’s just sort of the beginning…
How much does your nostalgia play into your writing? (3:45min mark)
Grady goes on to say that nostalgia is much more of a practical instrument for him. For example, in his book set in 1988, My Best Friend’s Exorcism, he wrote using his own high school experience as a backdrop. He tried to get all of the details right, going as far as having the correct weather for the time!
He chose to write about a time period which was familiar to him. His next upcoming novel, which is set modern day will most likely, also feature a practical element of his past with which he’s familiar.
What is it about the female perspective in horror that you prefer or enjoy writing? (15:40min mark)
Grady jokes by saying that he is a “big girl” (haha) but goes on to say that he likes to create a certain distance from his characters. His characters need to be not a reflection of him, but individuals, and therefore it is much easier to write female characters.
He also mentions that in his family where he grew up with three older sisters, he tended to stick with the women of his family. This lead him to be very comfortable with writing female characters and imagining them as real women.
I feel like horror is largely women’s genre anyways
Grady finishes by saying that he likes to view his characters from a distance, and that female characters seem to be such a natural fit for the horror genre.
What was it that made you lean towards a different horror sub-genre with The Final Girl Support Group? (19:50min mark)
Grady had a blast blurring the lines and making it more mythic and somewhat supernatural. He took inspiration from several classic horror movies such as A Nightmare On Elm Street, which was supernatural at its core, as well as Halloween and Friday the 13th, which wound up with their own supernatural elements early on in the franchise.
These icons of horror were very fun to explore and it’s something that Grady Hendrix wanted to play with and visit in his writing.
Grady Hendrix talks about writing of The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires. (26:15min mark)
Interestingly enough, in the The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires, the main characters, in their book club, begin by reading “regular” pieces of literature as opposed to true crime. He also mentions that at the time that the book is set (early 1990s), the true-crime genre was considered to be disreputable.
After a few drafts, he thought it would be much more fun if the characters were to read true crime books instead, and have other characters judge them for it.
There was this real carnivalesque feeding frenzy around true crime.
As a matter of fact, certain true crime novels of the time would be written in two to three weeks tops, which in turn lead the genre to have a terrible reputation. The horror genre had this issue as well, following the early 90’s boom after the post Silence Of The Lambs was released.
There were way too many poorly written books being published, many of which involved a lot of gore and unnecessary violent scenes towards women. After the boom caused by the over publishing in the late 90’s, the horror genre died down for a time. During this period, it actually found its legitimacy on television, with shows like The X-Files, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Angel, Charmed and others dominating primetime and bringing horror to a wider audience through their television screens.
This in turn helped introduce a whole slew of new audiences to the horror genre as well as bringing female leads in horror to the forefront of entertainment once again (post slasher slump of the 1980s). This t.v. turn of events helped show the population at large that horror did not have to be violent. It could be funny, romantic relatable to anyone.
It didn’t have to be about being scared, and I think that did a lot for horror.
What is it like writing screenplays versus novels? (33:50min mark)
Writing a screenplay is a different beast compared to books in Grady’s opinion. The biggest difference being that books are narrated from someone’s point of view. Therefore, books are very much internal as opposed to movies which are very much external, needing action on the page as opposed to introspection.
For instance, in his book Horrorstör, the protagonists’ most important decision in the story is to turn around and go back into the store. This is something that is very boring to show in a movie; making a decision internally. It is much easier to do so in a book, where all of this can be translated onto the page from the character’s mind, which makes for a more interesting story to follow.
Interestingly enough, according to Grady Hendrix, writing books does not make him a better screenplay writer, however writing screenplays makes him a better author. This is mostly because screenplays need to be very efficient as opposed to books, which have so much more room-and pages-to work within. Not being lazy with the character’s time is something valuable that he has learned from writing screenplays.
How does it feel having one of your properties being adapted for film/television without your input? (37:08min mark)
As of the date of the interview, on August 26th 2021, My Best Friend’s Exorcism has entered post-production as mentioned by Grady Hendrix during the interview. Elsie Fisher (Eighth Grade)is the star of the film playing the lead role of Abby.
Grady’s mentioned that he has not seen the movie nor has he seen the script in a very long time. He is very excited to see the end result despite the fact that he’s seen it go very wrong with a few projects of his (up until this point these projects have never seen the light of day).
I’ve seen some scripts [of mine] where I was just like “I don’t know what’s going on here…”
Regarding the projects based on his work, he’s stated that originally he did not want to be involved, but now enjoys giving notes. This is mostly because he has spent a lot of time with the stories he’s written, and at the heart of each there is a storytelling engine. These storytelling engines are always different. For instance in My Best Friend’s Exorcism the core of the story is two girls whose friendship is strong enough to beat the devil.
He’s found that to himself, these storytelling engines were apparent enough when adapting the works, but it seems that this isn’t always the case for the writers adapting the novel. Some of these projects can go off the rails simply because of folks being hung up on details. Now, Grady likes to read the scripts and give notes-whether they are taken or not-because he understands why readers were drawn to the book in the first place, and he’s able to help the writers understand these core elements that fans will be looking for.
Discussing his new book: Is there a time period which you have not set a story in that you would like to? (42:45min mark)
Grady revealed to us that he is currently working on a novel which sounds as though it could potentially be released somewhere in 2024. This new novel will be set in the 1870s and could be dealing with mediums or mysticism of some sort. We can’t wait and find out!
Grady mentions that he used to work in a parapsychological research laboratory-this must have been fascinating-which housed a massive historical archive. He became very interested in the archive and in spiritualism, which might have had an impact on his upcoming story.This is a book which he wanted to write for many years,
Have you ever thought about writing a sequel to any of your books? (56:30min mark)
Sequels are not his thing, he says.
There are like 5 books I really want to write… I just don’t have time to do a sequel.
The books he’s written up until this point have ended on a completed note-this is something that’s very important to Grady Hendrix. He feels like there is no reason to go back to them and he does not really have a desire to do so for the foreseeable future.
He’s indicated that the only book he would be interested in writing a sequel to is Paperbacks from Hell, his nonfiction work from 2017. Paperbacks from Hell is a deep dive into the golden age of the horror paperback: the 1970’s and 80’s. He offers his thoughts, summaries and witty insights into the trashy and blockbuster thrillers of these decades.
Concluding the interview with an off-topic question about Grady Hendrix’s predisposition towards musical theatre.
Surprisingly, this is a comment which has been made about him in the past! In his segment on the Fantasia Film Festival of 2021, Grady showcased his vocal and lyrical prowess. Turns out as a kid he did perform theatre productions and actually wanted to direct theatre. However, he quickly realized that a lot of this sort of job would involve simply making actors show up on time and memorize their lines.
This is something he has not done since basically his teens. Instead he opted for writing, which turned out to be an amazing choice!
Grady Hendrix’s’ new book! (59:36min mark)
Grady Hendrix mentions that his new book, These Fists Break Bricks, is out on September 15th 2021! It is a non-fiction book about kung fu movies coming to America. In this books he explores how kung fu movies arrived in America and raised hell for 15 years before succumbing to greed and fear-mongering.
We would like to thank Grady Hendrix for the time he dedicated to us for this insightful interview. If you have not read The Final Girl Support Group, be sure to pick up a copy today wherever books are sold, and don’t forget to pre-order These Fists Break Bricks to add to your kung fu knowledge database.