Book examines scare craft

Published 10:20 pm Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A former writer at the Suffolk News-Herald introduces readers to the craft of horror actors with his first book, “Welcome to our Nightmares.”

Subtitled “Behind the Scene with Today’s Horror Actors,” Jason Norman’s 216-page book, with 61 photos, is the fruit of interviews with more than 50 performers in the genre.

They’re from films such as “Saw,” “Friday the 13th,” “Nightmare on Elm Street” and “Halloween.”

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“I started out wanting to write a piece on acting in general,” Norman said. “What people do to get into character on their own … I don’t think you can really snap your fingers and turn into the characters, whether horror, drama, musical, science fiction or any other genre.”

Norman said he decided to spin the concept into several books as he continued gathering information.

“I certainly am a long-time horror fan,” he said.

Norman said he has at least two more books in the series “just about ready to go.” One will focus on “several types of acting,” he said, and the other on action acting.

For “Nightmares,” Norman said he focused on actors from films in which he has a personal interest. “I feel like if you write about something, you have to have a passion that translates over to your audience,” he said.

Norman said he tracked the actors down with “a ton of Internet research,” including social media, and attending horror conventions.

“It was all kinds of things,” he said.

His profiles don’t pry into the actors’ personal lives or latter-career successes or failures. His scope was how actors prepare to scare their audiences.

“Some of them based their performing on looking back at realistic types of horror — some of them looked back to things that happened in the past. True crime, serial killers,” Norman said.

“Others would write back stories, where you put together your own autobiography for the character.

“The majority of them had more than one technique.”

Norman said it was often surreal to have conversations with individuals he’d otherwise only encountered on the screen playing mobsters and killers.

“My book was written for horror fans,” Norman said. “It has a very distinct following.”

While “libraries” have been written about horror films, Norman believes his specific approach, “in my opinion, hasn’t been done to this degree too many times.”

Norman, who lives in Chesapeake, was the News-Herald’s sports editor between 2001 and 2006.

He has a master’s degree in professional writing and now works as an English professor, full time at ECPI University and as an adjunct at “a few local community colleges.”

His book is available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble and some other retailers.