Josh Hancock is a teacher and author. His first novel, The Girls of October, is inspired by his love of all things horror–especially John Carpenter’s Halloween, Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, and William Friedkin’s The Exorcist.
The Girls of October tells the story of a young woman who develops a strange fascination with John Carpenter’s Halloween, believing that somewhere within the 1978 horror classic lays the truth behind an arcane force that has terrorized her since her childhood. As an escape from a world that has not always been kind, film student Beverly Dreger takes comfort in spooky urban legends, horror movies, and monster magazines. But when a string of bizarre murders draws her closer to the folkloric entity known as “the bogeyman,” Beverly must unravel the mystery of her past and confront an ancient evil.
An epistolary novel, The Girls of October collects fictional primary sources —newspaper articles, film criticism, screenplays, short stories, interviews, police reports, and more — to tell a chilling story of psychosis, family secrets, and murder.
BREAKAWAY DAILY: What was the inspiration behind writing The
Girls of October?
JOSH: It began with my love of film scholarship.
I really enjoy reading essays, articles, and research papers about
film—especially horror films. I started thinking of ways that one could combine
a fictional story with non-fiction writings about one of the most revered
horror movies of all time — Halloween.
Additional inspiration came from the marketing of The Blair Witch Project, which convinced people that the story and
the actors in the film were real. So it is this merging of “fact” and fiction
that really appeals to me. From there,
the format of The Girls of October began
to take shape.
BREAKAWAY DAILY: As a big fan of all things horror, what is it about the horror
genre that interests you and that made you want to put pen to paper?
JOSH: Well, I just enjoy being scared! The way
your heart beats faster, your skin crawls, you feel those delightful
butterflies in your stomach when you know something frightening or horrific is about
to happen…it’s a great joy for me to sit in the darkened movie theater or
turn the pages of book and experience these feelings. And it’s this same experience that Beverly,
the protagonist of The Girls of October,
has in the novel…only with far more gruesome results!
Are you a fan of many horror books?
JOSH: Too many to count! But some of my favorite
horror authors are Richard Laymon, Jack Ketchum, Gary Lee Vincent and David
Fairhead. In The Girls of October,
there are hints of Mark Danielewski’s House
of Leaves and Stephen Graham Jones’ Demon
Theory, and I’m also a big fan of anything by Bret Easton Ellis, especially
his Lunar Park and Glamorama. I also read a lot of horror
scripts, and some of my favorites include the scripts for David Fincher’s Seven and Zodiac, and for Bryan Bertino’s The
This is your first novel, what was your biggest obstacle in writing your first
JOSH: Probably just trusting my ability to write
a novel in this style, because there are limitations with the epistolary style
and it can be difficult to generate suspense and big “payoff” scenes with this
format. The other obstacle, once I finished the novel, was finding a publisher
who believed in the book and understood not only its style, but also its format
and how the text should appear on the page. But I was fortunate enough to find
the good folks at Burning Bulb Publishing, who handled the presentation of the
book with great patience and support.
The book features a lot of sources
including newspaper articles, police reports, film and book sources, etc – how
long did it take you to research and write The
Girls of October?
JOSH: In the novel, the protagonist writes her
college thesis on Halloween, which
serves as the catalyst for the climax of the story. So I started with that. I
imagined that I was a student assigned with the task of writing a 20-25 page
paper on the movie, and just went from there. Once I had the essay written, I
began shaping the story around it, deciding which style would be best to
communicate certain aspects of the plot. From beginning to end, the entire book
took about a year and a half to write. Then, putting the video trailers
together for the book and the road to publication took another three or four
Why did you want to write it in this epistolary style?
JOSH: I love books and films that play around with
style and narrative forms. Some of them I’ve already mentioned — House of Leaves and Demon Theory, namely, but I also took some inspiration from Dracula, which is told primarily through
letters. Oddly enough, I also enjoy reading police reports, newspaper articles
about true crime, and other types of non-fiction documents that deal with dark
subject matter. But mainly I just wrote the kind of novel that I would like to
read. I can remember the first time I heard about Marisha Pessl’s Night Film — a novel that utilizes
multimedia, including faked photographs and invented websites, to tell its story and
I immediately rushed out to buy it. If I stumbled across a plot summary of The Girls of October somewhere, or watched the book trailers online, I’d do
the same thing…and hopefully others will feel the same!
To unlock all of the mysteries within The Girls of October, please visit thegirlsofoctober.tumblr.com.