Back in 2018, Thommy Hutson (Never Sleep Again, The Id) published Jinxed, a young adult horror novel that read like a classic slasher and made superstitions a means for murder. The book garnered positive reviews from critics and left readers on the edge of their seats.
Set against the backdrop of a sprawling, yet isolated, post high school for the performing arts, a small group of students in Jinxed find themselves trapped over a holiday on the school’s grounds with a masked killer out for vengeance. The novel is alternately brutal and beautiful and really draws upon the nostalgic feel of old school horror films and novels.
Last year, Hutson teamed up with iconic horror actress Amanda Wyss (A Nightmare on Elm Street) to create an audiobook version of the novel, and it’s available now for horror fans who want to experience Jinxed in a whole new way.
I had the opportunity to sit down with Hutson and Wyss to discuss the process of recording this book and what it meant to have a new version of Jinxed in the world.
“I had talked to Amanda about how much I wanted her to do it,” Hutson said. “I thought it would be fun to work together again, but also she’s such a wonderful actress. I think that–particularly for a book like this that’s a young adult, thriller, horror, slasher–you want somebody that can bring the characters to life, but you also want someone to bring the gravitas and the drama and the excitement of the pieces in between.”
“Thommy basically put together a kind of look-book in a way of how he had kind of envisioned the characters and his ideas about them,” Wyss added. “The interesting thing is that when I read it—I read the book a couple of times before we recorded it—we were so on the same page with how I heard them. I guess it was just so clear in the writing and so it was fun.”
With the two creatives in sync for the project, it was time to get down to work.
Wyss noted that she approached reading the book like scenes in a film. She would sit down before recording and make notes for herself about the work they would do for the day and the characterizations she would use. She would also mark the more emotional beats of the “script” so that she would hit those in a way that she thought would resonate with listeners.
“When I was doing the narration part of it,” she explained. “I would picture it like I was telling my nieces and nephews this great story. So that’s kind of the vision I had in my head while I was narrating. I tried to bring each character to life as if I had an audience and I was telling them the story and acting them out.”
The process worked well, and Hutson noted that he was really knocked out by what Wyss was able to do within each “scene” in the book.
“I didn’t want to listen to every day’s recording,” he said. “I wanted to hear the thing in its entirety, but there was one time the publisher sent me, we’ll call them the dailies. What I found so interesting was just the way that she was so good at doing the reading but then she would stop and reread a passage in a slightly different way and I was like, ‘Oh I get it now.’ It was fascinating to hear that process and then I stopped because I was just like, I just want to hear it from start to finish.”
Finding all those characters was a challenge, but one that Wyss was ready to tackle, and she brought her life experiences with her. Having attended drama school in her teen years, she was fully aware what the environment Hutson’s students were experiencing was like. She also had the benefit of working with Wes Craven early on in her career which was a master class in itself.
“I got to learn from the best with Wes Craven,” she said. “He showed us all the subtle things you can do as an actor to help the writer and director bring their tension to life.”
“Horror is, in so many ways, drama,” Hutson continued. “At a performing arts school which I also went to, there is that heightened sense of drama. Even though students are friends, they’re still shooting for the top billing, for the lead. I think Amanda was able to just bring all those nuances together and weave that kind of tapestry. It’s not just a slasher. It’s not just horror. It’s not just drama. And that’s what is so great.”
Jinxed was written as the first volume of a trilogy, and Hutson says he’s zeroing in on completing the second book even as we speak. That, of course, begged the question of whether Wyss would return to record the second and third books as they happen.
“I want Amanda to do the whole trilogy!” Hutson exclaimed, laughing. “I think it’s important to have that carry through especially when you have a trilogy planned.”
“As long as Thommy wants me, I’m already there,” Wyss agreed. “I’m so proud of this book and of Thommy and his writing and I’m thrilled and honored to be a part of it. I think people will really love it and enjoy it.”
It just so happens we agree. Jinxed is available on Audible. Get yours today by CLICKING HERE!