This past October we here at iHorror had the privilege of catching up with horror author Josh Hancock at The Sinister Creature Con convention in Sacramento, California. Josh is not only an author but a teacher as well and his first novel, The Girls of October is a true testament to his love of all things horror. Some of Josh’s favorites are The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Exorcist, and the original Halloween. Back in 2016, Josh released his second novel The Devil and My Daughter, and this past fall (2017) his third novel Death Rituals released. Death Rituals doesn’t waste any time plunging into the horror and action that unfolds quite quickly creating the perfect reading storm. The format of Death Rituals will provide a thrilling experience just as The Girls of October did. Death Rituals along with Josh’s two other books are available on Amazon.
Interview With Author Josh Hancock
iHorror: So when did the idea come to you “I am going to be an author” and the premise of your first book?
Josh Hancock: So, for The Girls of October, I always had this idea of the film student who writes a paper about John Carpenter’s Halloween. Within that paper, there would be clues to either a mystery or to her own psychosis. I just knew that I wanted there to be an essay or research paper in this book and within the paper, there would be clues to something. So it all started there, I wrote the paper first and treated it like an assignment, if I was the student in school and I was assigned to write a research paper on Halloween what would I do? After writing the paper the book just kind of formed around that paper, and I had that idea for maybe three or four years before I thought to myself, “Well I’m not getting any younger if I am going to do this let me actually try and put something down on paper.” And it took about 2 ½ years to write the book. Once it started flowing, everything came to me very quickly, I think because I had the story in my mind for so long.
iH: And that was your first book. Did you start writing your second book right after?
JH: Pretty much immediately after, it took me a couple of months…
iH: The Devil and My Daughter?
JH: Yes, The Devil and My Daughter. It took me a couple of months to outline, I always outline before I write. Of course, the finished product always deviates from the outline; I just went for it. I am a teacher, so I have summer’s off and vacations, so I have a lot of extra time to dive into the writing. The book is a little bit shorter than The Girls of October, which took me about a year to write. The third book, my new one I went right into that one, and it took me about a year and a half.
iH: You mentioned that you are a teacher, what grade do you teach?
JH: I teach English, and I teach high school students, they all go to a community college, so its called middle college. Middle college is now everywhere; it’s for junior and seniors in high school who just feel like they’ve done everything that there is to do at their high school. These students are receiving As’ and Bs’ in everything, but they are not connected to the clubs or the sports, they are just ready to graduate and start college early. The students will come to middle college and take English with me, and they balance out the rest of their schedule with college classes. The students will receive their diploma, which they would have anyway and they will also receive a certain amount of transferable college credits before they graduate.
iH: That is a fantastic head start!
JH: Yeah, they can get two years of college done before they even graduate from high school and it’s all free, so when parents hear about it, they get excited. I am fortunate because most of the students want to be there, this is something that they have applied to, and they have to be accepted.
iH: Sound like there is more at stake.
JH: That’s right. There is more at stake; I would say the hardest thing is to have to compete with the college classes because they like their college classes and I would like to think they like my class but mine is the required one, whereas the college classes they can take all sorts of things. I cannot complain, it is a great job, and it allows time for me to do other things that I like.
iH: Most definitely. Do the students read your books?
JH: [Chuckles] A few of them know about them, and sometimes I cannot help but mention it, I do not suggest it too much. I am a teacher who likes to write; I don’t want my students to think I am a writer who is just teaching until I get my “big break” and I am going to leave teaching behind. I love what I do; I love teaching I have been doing it almost twenty-five years, so I try not to push it too much, so it doesn’t seem as though I am there just killing time because it is hard to make a living as a writer. When I do mention it at times the students who are into horror will “get it.” I do have to be careful because I don’t think any of my books are that weird or too violent, but they are young, sixteen and seventeen, and there are some intense scenes, and because I am still a high school teacher, parents can get involved.
iH: Yeah, the whole perception.
JH: That’s right. Whereas if I was college full time, I wouldn’t have to deal with parents at all, so I try to be a little careful. But you’re right, the students that want to find out about it, they will.
iH: What’s next for you?
JH: Well, I have a new idea I am still working out the outline, but right now it is just promoting Death Rituals. It’s a book that I care a lot about because it is about extreme haunted houses which really haven’t caught on here in Sacramento or the Bay Area but in Los Angeles, they are becoming a thing. I have done a few, but I haven’t really done one “off the charts.” There is one in San Diego that is really infamous for being really brutal, it is like eight hours long and all this crazy stuff, so I am kind of conflicted on how I feel about them on the one hand. I do think that there are some that go too far and people are getting hurt and maybe being legally abused, and I have a problem with that. The book [Death Rituals] is really about that conflict I have. My wife read the book, and part of her reaction was, “Well these girls in the book they willingly went to the extreme haunted house, they signed the waiver, so they have no right to complain about what happened to them afterward. So I don’t know if I agree with the angle of your book.” I thought that was perfect, that is the conflict that I want to exist. That is part of the argument; you sign the waiver, you knew what you were getting into, therefore what do you have to complain about. The other side of it, waiver or not some things just cross the line of decency, and that is what the book is about. I am really proud of it for that reason, it is something that was personal to me, I decided to write about it, and I think that it turned out well.
iH: It is always those personal endeavors that make a story someone’s passion, and it just bleeds through the pages.
JH: Yeah, exactly.
iH: It is so modern. I have heard of relationships destroyed over haunts and similar experiences; someone may have been touched inappropriately, maybe something was said. I think that people are going to want to read this, especially in the horror community.
JH: Yeah, I think so. From the people that I follow on Facebook and Instagram, I follow a lot of haunts where you see people talking about these extreme haunts and the experiences that they have. I have seen a lot of posts online that reflect exactly what the characters go through in the book, and I love scrolling down and reading the arguments for and against and these are the same arguments that are put in the book. In this book I tried something different, it still is an epistolary novel, told entirely through letters, articles, interviews, photographs but I also included fictional online message boards to capture that dynamic. There is a lot of back and forth on these message boards, some people love it, other people hate it, and then there are people who fall right in the middle. Even though the online message boards in the book are made up when you read them you will feel like they are real. I hope that within the horror community the book strikes a cord. At this con, I have asked a few people if they are familiar with extreme haunts and most people don’t seem to be. But I know when I bring this book to southern California, people will recognize these haunts.
iH: Oh yeah, they have haunts that are going on year round.
JH: Again, I have done a few; I always prepare for someone to ask me “Well you wrote about it, which ones have you done?” I have done a few, and I am going to do a few more, there are a few that I do not know if I want to do. I still admire them, so I am torn. I admire the creativity and the passion and the desire to frighten people, so that is what is captured in the book, my own moral conflict over these types of events.
iH: Well, I am sure that people are going to love it. Haunts are the “in” thing right now.
JH: Yeah, they are popping up everywhere. I am from the Bay area I wish it would catch on out here. We have haunted houses of course but are a traditional walkthrough, and I love those. Those are well represented in the book too.
iH: The traditional walkthrough is my favorite as well. I haven’t touched the extremes yet. Well, thank you so much for speaking with me today, and I am looking forward to hearing your thoughts on the extreme haunts you plan on attending.
JH: It was my pleasure, thank you, Ryan.