Interview

Interview

Exclusive: Author Peter Bracke on the eBook Version of 'Crystal Lake Memories'

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Just because Friday The 13th has passed doesn't mean that us devoted horror fans can't continue to celebrate! And if you're like me, then one of the prides of your collection is the beautiful hardcover coffee table book Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday The 13th written by Peter Bracke. If you've never seen it in person, this sucker is well over 300 pages with over 200 interviews and 600 rarely seen images spanning the entire Friday The 13th series up to Freddy Vs Jason; and it's one of the few books I love seeing up on my book shelf. Now 6 years after it's release, a brand new expanded eBook version has been released via online retailers, making the book available for iPads, Kindles and whatever other digital means you have to read books these days.

Personally I'm still a little behind on the digital revolution, but I'm slowly starting to adapt, having recently purchased and downloaded episodes of FEARnet's own Holliston and SyFy's Monster Man via iTunes, and watching them on my iPhone with a pair of headphones. So why if you already own the hardcover book would you upgrade to this new expanded digital version of Crystal Lake Memories? I recently got the opportunity to sample the eBook and was completely blown away. On top of all the additional interviews added into the original text, you can also zoom into every single high-resolution image and scroll through storyboards and promotional posters; but more importantly, this is the first eBook to implement brand-new software that allows you to read a chapter, then click to open up a video clip showcasing a deleted scene from the Friday The 13th documentary His Name Was Jason. You can also click and hear snippets of Harry Manfredini's original score. In other words, this is the first time I've seen a digital book that was completely interactive. And it's a tremendously exciting thing, especially if this is the first book to do this. Imagine one day reading the latest Stephen King book on your iPad and then seeing King himself give video commentary after the chapter? We're headed in that direction.

I met up with author Peter Bracke to talk in detail about this new version of Crystal Lake Memories, as well as reflect on the 3-year-long process of making the original hard-cover edition. Our chat, along with plenty of additional photo samples of the eBook are below!

It's been years since we first spoke! And here we are again, this time to discuss the eBook version, which I'm sure you couldn't possibly have ever imagined. So why now? What was the reason to revisit Crystal Lake Memories in this new format?

Honestly, after completing the first book, I was so burnt out. I started it in 2002 and the book came out in 2005, so it took me 3 years to complete. And toward the end there, I didn't really give myself enough time. Because when you're writing a book for the first time, you really don't know what you're doing! (Laughs) I kept adding interviews and I was getting the transcripts back and we had something like 2 million words of transcripts, so just to go through the transcripts and mark off what I wanted took about 5 months. I was way behind, but we set a release date and the last 3 months leading up to the release, I just didn't sleep. So I was pretty burnt out for 2-3 years after the book came out. I don't think I watched a Friday The 13th movie in that entire time! I went off to do other things. But I picked up an iPad and I thought it might be a good idea to think about an eBook version. Now, 2 or 3 years ago, you couldn't really put pictures in eBooks, or at least they were black and white only. I thought about doing a text version, but then I started looking into it and I figured, "Well, if I'm going to revisit it, am I going to include the remake this time? There were some people I didn't get to interview; can I include them this time as well?" I went back to my old transcripts and I realized I had to cut a good fourth of the stuff I wanted to put in, so the wheels started turning and I decided "If I'm going to do this, might as well do it right." 5 days after we announced the release date of the eBook, Apple unveiled this cool new iBook software that does video and pictures. I decided "There's no way I'm going to triple dip this thing, the time to do it is now." We decided to push the release date back so we could incorporate this new software. I spent 4 weeks learning this program and redoing the whole book for this iBook 2. Dan Farrands mentioned that we had video from His Name Was Jason, and I called Harry Manfredini and got audio clips from him. So I worked really hard to reformat the original book and incorporate all this cool stuff so that it wasn't the exact same thing.

It's amazing to me. What I saw on the iPad was that not only can you read the text of the book, but you can click and see a video clip from His Name Was Jason, or click on another spot and get an audio sample from Harry's score. People have argued the differences between reading a physical book and then reading it on something like a Kindle or iPad, but this makes it a completely interactive thing, which I think is exciting.

It made it worth it. Initially I thought "Okay, some people may just want a cheap version of the book just to read on their iPad's". So I was okay with just a text version with a couple of pictures at first. But when this iBook thing was announced I knew it was what I wanted to do. It was frustrating that we had to delay it, but it was worth it. I was able to add more pictures. You can blow up and scroll through storyboards and galleries in high-def quality. I was able to go in on Photoshop, go back to the original high-res scans we had, color correct some stuff, and the pictures look even better. I still like print books! But this version's now a third longer. The original one is 200,000 words. This one's 320,000 words. The original had 600 pictures, now there are 992 pictures in this thing. The other great thing is I can update the book anytime that I want. There are still a couple of interviews I'd love to get, so if I get them in the future and add them, you can redownload the book and have the new updates. It works the same as an app. You only have to pay for it once and anytime I add anything, if you already bought it, you can download it the same way you update an app or a piece of software.

That's really amazing. What were some of the things you wanted to expand upon when you tackled this eBook version? Who are some of the new additions to this eBook?

I made a list. Originally, I wasn't able to get Scott Reeves, the lead of Part 8, but I got him now. Or Sharlene Martin. Just random people I wasn't able to get in touch with initially. There were still people who said "no", the big one being Melanie Kinnaman from Part 5. I did a few follow-ups, in particular with Danny Steinmann. Mainly because I felt there were a lot of negative comments about him and it was only fair to let him comment on that. Because there's no space limitations for this version, I let him respond to a lot of things said. In the original book I'd have to pick 2 or 3 quotes here or there, and if you removed parts of it, then later stories wouldn't make sense anymore, so editing and assembling the original book was like a giant jigsaw puzzle. This time I was able to include everything that I wanted. 80 percent of the people before have been expanded now. And I added 16 new interviews.

For someone who lived with Friday The 13th for years through making the book, and even now revisiting it, is there anything new that you could possibly uncover at this point? Was there anything that was new that you learned?

(Laughs) No, but there were stories I'd forgotten about and thought, "Why didn't I put that in the first time?" Then there were things I thought I focused too much on, where I look at it now and think, "Well, this part's kind of boring. I should trim that." If anything, revisiting it gave me a fresher perspective. In the new interviews, I asked a little bit more about the make-up FX. I went back and did more stuff with the FX artists. I didn't want to just go into how each effect was done in the original book, because Fangoria had covered that, and I thought it'd be really repetitive to go through every single make-up effect in every single movie. After a while, you'd get tired of hearing, "Oh yeah, it was really weird to have latex on my face", etc. It would've been a lot of the same stories. But I was able to go back and talk more about the thought process behind the different Jasons from film to film; the different designs that the artists brought to their Jason. It was nice to flesh that out a bit.

Since you did the book, a lot of the behind-the-scene material has been expanded upon. The documentary His Name Was Jason was released by Anchor Bay Entertainment. The same group of filmmakers also did all the new bonus material for the Friday The 13th special editions. And they found all this extra footage and deleted material. Did all this have any effect on how you approached the book this time?

A little bit. Again, I felt I didn't really need to focus on "cut" stuff, if you can just go and buy the DVD and watch it. I definitely wanted to go back and interview Dan Farrands again and talk a bit about finding that footage, so I integrated that. I did change some stuff regarding the ratings and cut material for people that will be reading this for the first time because it would seem dated if we reference lost material that has since been found and restored. Dan (Farrands) did show me documents that prove that some of the footage has been destroyed, in particular for Part 5. So unfortunately that stuff will never be available, but I was able to give updates on all of that.

Well, let's talk a little bit about the success of the book. Because I recall initially book publishers were hesitant to put it out, so you put out the first pressing yourself, and, once it proved to be a success, Titan came on board to publish future pressings.

I laugh about it now, but I was at a screening of Friday The 13th Part 3 in 3D back in 2002 when I first got the idea. I had just wrapped up another book, and my agent had asked me what I wanted to do next; and I knew I wanted it to be a horror book. Freddy Vs Jason had not started production yet and there weren't really making-of featurettes on the Friday DVD releases, so I figured no one was every going to do something for Friday The 13th. So I thought it'd be a perfect project because I love those movies, they'd never been talked about and there are so many fascinating aspects of the franchise worth exploring. Initially I thought I'd do maybe 20 or 30 interviews. (Laughs) I intended it to be a small paperback with an insert with a few pictures. So I started it, but I really felt I needed Sean Cunningham, so it took me 9 months to get Sean on board and I continued from there. Once I had him on board and had started, I went to a few publishers and the main response was "Well, it's Friday the 13th. Is there an audience for this?" There were 3 publishers that were somewhat interested in it, but they weren't sure. So, my task was not only to finish the book but now to prove that it would have an audience. I did a lot of research and one of the things I discovered was that Sideshow Collectibles were doing a lot of these Jason Voorhees models. Immediately they'd sell 10,000 copies of these limited edition figures for around $50-$60 bucks, so I thought if fans would be willing to pay that much for a Jason model, they'd certainly want a book. I created my own website with a mailing list to pre-order the book. We contracted someone to make the cover image, which we still own. We just wanted to see the reaction, so I posted the cover with the pre-order option and we had over 5000 pre-orders. I was able to go back to the publishers and say "I already have 5000 people a year in advance that want to buy this book." We went back and forth still! But then we thought, "Well if we did all this work, why should we give someone else the money from that?" So as crazy as it was, we did the first printing ourselves, which sold out immediately. After doing all the work, then we realized, "This is why you give people money!" To deal with proofs, shipments, setting things up, etc. It was a great learning experience, but I wasn't interested in being a publisher or runing a business like that, so Titan swooped right in and we licensed the book to them.

It's amazing to me because I already own the hardcover book and I love it, but at the same time I'm excited about also having this new version of it. I think for a Friday fan they're both totally relevant and worth owning. You guys are the first to incorporate this technology into an eBook; the idea of implementing video and audio into an eBook. Can you talk a bit about that?

The hardest thing for me was that there are so many different formats with eBooks – the Apple version is different from the Kindle version, etc. And there's nothing I can do about that, so the big challenge was making them all great. The iPad version to me is the best version, but I tried to make them all as similar as possible. And it's fairly cheap. It's $13.99, and any time there's an update, it's yours for free if you already purchased the eBook.

How'd it feel during that period after the book came out to promote it? Because here's a series of films you grew up loving, and now here you are at Fangoria conventions moderating panels with the actors that played Jason, or the directors from several of the movies. It must've been surreal. Whether you intended it or not, you've become part of Friday history!

The trippy thing was when Mark Swift (who wrote the remake) sent me the script for the new Friday The 13th and I saw my name as one of the characters. That was a thrill knowing I'm now a trivia note in Friday history. (Laughs) As far as panels, I always felt uncomfortable. (Laughs) Seeing the remake and seeing the Sheriff wearing my name on his tag was great. It's amazing to do something you love and get to make a living at it. To this day, I still get emails from new people discovering the book and I thought it would've gone away by now! But there's a whole new generation finding these movies now, so I guess it's always going to keep going.

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