Your new novel The Unhallowed Horseman - in a few word, what
is it about?
In a town enamored with its Unhallowed Horseman legend, a distraught
teenage boy must come to terms with his personal demons, and perhaps the
Hereís a brief synopsis:
Set on All Hallowsí Eve,
psychological thriller The Unhallowed Horseman takes place against the
backdrop of a seemingly peaceful, picturesque American small town with an
iconic past. The story follows Vincent, a distraught and troubled high
schooler, and his descent into the demons that plague his mind.
things about the town and its inhabitants arenít quite as they seem.
Generations of families have been living there with a deep and dark
secret, one on the verge of reincarnating itself once again.
With the help
of his newfound love for classmate Lorraine, Vincent navigates the
treacherous obstacles in his life. Whether it be the overbearing
no-holds-barred sheriff, his tempestuous mother, or the holier-than-thou
townsfolk, Vincent seems to be under constant bombardment from prying
eyes. What's more, Lorraine's overprotective father, Deputy Constance,
suspects Vincent of having committed some heinous crimes. Only after
uncovering the town's history does Vincent begin to unravel its complex
mystery and that of the people living there, including his own ancestors.
Can he solve the mystery in time to save the people he truly loves, or
will he, like others before him, fall prey to an age-old curse passed down
through the centuries. The town prepares for the return of a killer
legend, while one young man prepares to take on his innermost demons.
Your book is somehow based around The
Legend of Sleepy Hollow - care to elaborate, and why exactly this
inspiration in the first place?
is a contemporary re-imagining of Washington Irvingís (the Father of
American literature) classic ghost story The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,
originally published in 1820. Ever since being a child I was fascinated
with that story and specifically that character. He was the first
anti-hero in my developing mindís eye and I often found myself routing
for the Headless Horseman rather than Ichabod Crane.
My story takes place
in modern day, in the real life Sleepy Hollow, New York, known formerly as
Tarrytown, but renamed posthumously in honor of Irvingís classic tale.
The small sleepy New England hamlet with a legendary past is the perfect
setting for a modern day ghost tale. I took that setting, the history of
the area ó primarily with the American Revolutionary War ó and all
things Irving. I then wrapped that up with modern problems that face young
adults and everyoneís mundane struggles. In the end itís a morality
play set in awesome folklore, with a killer legend, but like all good
horror fiction, essentially gives the wrongdoers a taste of their own
Other sources of
inspiration when writing The Unhallowed Horseman?
Halloween in general is a huge inspiration. Its the most wonderful time of
year, despite what Andy Williams says about Christmas. Itís a time when
ďkidsĒ of every age can let their hair down and tap into all they love
about their darker sides. I also love being scared in safe environments. I
think thatís the reason modern day adults love haunted attractions and
morgue and cemetery tours. With the Disney versions of the different
variations of Sleepy Hollow, they were scary as a child, but you always
knew it would come out ok in the end. Unfortunately for a lot of my
characters thatís not the case here.
Tim Burton is probably my number
one cinematic inspiration and someone I can relate to on many levels. His Sleepy Hollow was a perfect macabre version of the story. My story
is similar to Timís in that regard, but is more modern. It takes place
on the Triduum of the Hallows, the three days a year when the dead can
interact with the living. The town essentially is owed some karmic revenge
due to the sins of their fathers. Essentially, the Horseman is pissed,
rightfully so, and itís time to pay the piper. In regard to writing
influences after Washington Irving, Edgar Allan Poe would have to be
number one, followed by Roald Dahl. They both are masters of the twist
ending. A lot of people think of Roald as all peaches, and foxes and
chocolate factories, but his adult short story collections get very dark.
And like Poe, he has mastered the twist ending long before M. Night
Shyamalan ever hit the scene. I cannot give enough credit to Stephen King.
I admire his horror the most because he says what he means. His characters
are not always PC or pleasant, but thatís the way the real world is. We
cannot have good people without the bad, and I feel there is a real need
to have true disdainful characters that represent that small section of
society. Without villains there are no heroes. Another reason you might be
routing for the Horseman. And finally Charles Dickens and a small touch of
HP Lovecraft probably snuck their way into my inspiration.
had a long career in the film industry, but The Unhallowed
Horseman is your first (published) novel - so what can you tell us
about this switch in creative outlet, and how did your experience as a
filmmaker inform your writing prose?
Well, I have always been a creative at heart, and have
written prose since as long as I can remember, but the query and
publishing world was completely new to me. I was shocked at the
similarities though. Thereís development, execution, editing and
marketing just like in film. My years as a producer, now producerís council PGA, paid off big time in meeting my own personal goals and
deadlines. As in film, there are only so many personalities in the world,
so if you can manage them along with your own expectations and budget,
both time and fiscal, then youíll do ok. Throw in some worldwide time
zones, language barriers, tons of research and fantastic mentors, and the
process runs parallel.
As far as creative, I would say everything I have
ever done, both in front and behind the camera, has led up to this moment.
Just like writing and directing my first produced feature The
Incantation was in 2018, I feel like all my life and professional
experiences up to this moment have led to everything I put into it.
Writing like acting or directing, or any creative effort, is a craft, and
the more you do it the better you become. It is imperative to remain
always the student and never the master. You wouldnít critique your
college writing with that as an adult. Same goes with film, fiction or
anything even remotely creative.
What can you tell
us about your novel's approach to horror?
I believe that all horrors, in fact all stories, are
ultimately morality tales. The good guys donít always have to win, but
there certainly has to be a lesson learned. In The Unhallowed Horseman
we learn of a universal quelling that happens ever so often on bloodred
harvest moons. Itís at this time when the universe sort of cleanses
itself and shakes the fleas off its proverbial back. Unfortunately for
some, theyíre going to end up as collateral damage. But like the
Buddhist mentality (Iíve lived in Thailand for over 20 years), and a lot
of religions, the point is the purer and cleaner you try to keep your
thoughts and actions, the better you will be when itís time to pay for
your transgressions. That can be seen as literal in the form of a Headless
Horsemanís bloodied battle axe, or metaphorically when itís time to
pass on and leave your legacy to the next generation. Now all that said
and done, it still has to be cool! So throw in an awesome setting, an
iconic supervillain, characters that are multi-dimensional humans that
are upstanding one moment and diabolical the next, and make it take place
in a town steeped in tradition during Halloween. BOOM! You got yourself an
Do talk about
your writing style for a bit
to. I tend to pepper my prose with a lot of pop culture references and
historical facts, if relevant. I canít help myself from putting in a
reference, sometimes even an obscure one, if I think its a masterstroke.
Luckily for the readers I hired a professional editor to inform me of
going off on tangents. I will say that world-building is awesome. In the
case of Sleepy Hollow there is so much already established. Once you start
to delve into the history and the many iterations, as well as Irvingís
personal inspiration, there becomes a treasure trove to draw from. But
Iím a firm believer that every sentence up to paragraph up to chapter
has to have some sort of arc, otherwise people lose interest. If people
check their watch during your film or novel, you have taken them out of
the escapist fantasy, if even for a moment. That of course, is a
writerís hardest job, but something to ultimately strive for. I try to
have a wide range of characters and dialogue for everyone. Some characters
are downright coarse and ignorant, where other prose or dialogue uses
$10-SAT words. I think itís important to have a little of everything,
but I never assume my audience is stupid. I would much rather have someone
be taught something newólike a word or historical factóthan have a
reader feel that their intelligence has been insulted. And believe me,
thatís myself included. Thank God for the internet to teach a writer new
Could you take us to the
writing process, and do you have any writing rituals you follow?
Absolutely. In fact, this is something I often
am curious to ask other writers myself. Depending on my mood, I need a
drink of some sort. Coffee in the mornings, or an ice cold beer once
Iíve finished a chapter or particular daunting sequence or chapter.
Often a writing session is bookended by both. Some people are morning or
evening writers. Iím probably dead afternoon. Wake up late, after being
well-rested, churn through some stuff, and finish around evening. Then
unwind with some meaningless show so your mind can decompress. I donít
push writing, and for me thatís important. If the brain's getting
distracted or shutting down, itíll have to wait for the next day. I try
to consistently write, but sometimes you just need a break. Writing is as
intellectual as it is creative, so it uses both sides of your brain.
Getting a rest or turning off is a fine technique.
I probably averaged 5
days out of 7 during my novel writing. The next session usually starts
with editing the chapter or section from the previous day, or session, and
starting the process all over again. I love to listen to inspiring music
when I write, although sometimes itís on very low volume so as not to
interrupt my thoughts. Danny Elfman and Hans Zimmer soundtracks, and
Mozart or Vivaldiís Four Seasons are some of my go-tos. Usually
just instrumental stuff as singing along could become detrimental.
first started the process it was slow and felt like chipping away at a
very daunting iceberg. Eventually I landed on a comfortable average of
around 1200 words a day, sometimes more if it was a particularly inspired
sequence. Everyoneís different, so if you are starting out go at your
own pace. As I went I often experienced ďthe flowĒ. IĎve described
this as the mind pumping out thoughts, words, sentences etc. faster than
the keyboard can record them. Almost as if I was a vessel receiving divine
inspiration. I personally fantasize that was Washington Irivng giving his
seal of approval and chipping in from time to time. Itís a great
feeling. I once killed off a character I had no intention of doing, and
hadnít in the script version. It was so liberating at that exact
moment I knew the story had a life of its own, and who was I as a mere
writer to stand in its way. When the Horseman appears, you best run or at
least get out of the way!
Some people use outlines when writing and charts
like a CSI episode. Iím not that guy. I did previously write the script
version of this story, so that was essentially an outline, but even when I
wrote that I just did it as it came to me. Itís hard for me to tell if
thatís a natural talent or if my mind automatically structures stuff
that way. I think the most realistic answer is that I have spent 5 decades
of my life watching and reading master storytellers and pop culture. That,
in addition to studying the mediums, have taught me about act structure,
story arcs and character development.
I do feel the need to say that
everyone should just write if they feel so compelled. Donít be
intimidating by all the armchair novelists and screenwriters on social
media. Everyoneís different and has their own pace and method. If you
are reading this right now, you are smart enough to give it a go. Donít
let fear of the unknown paralyze your creative outlet! Everyone has a
story to tell. If I told you to fly a 747 right now youíd look at me
like I was crazy. But like all crafts you start at the beginning and build
it up over time. Donít be afraid of flight simulators, Cessnas and
gliders (metaphorically). Itís all part of the process and I promise you
it will be ever so rewarding.
the moment, you're running a fundraiser for The Unhallowed
Horseman - so do talk about your campaign, and what will you use the
The campaign is at about 70% and remains live -
still get a smattering of donations every month. It covered a lot of the
costs of the cover design, the professional editing, copyright, ISBNs,
digital, paperback and hardcover formatting, artwork, uploads, marketing
ads and all the things that go into self-publishing a 100K word novel.
Prices may vary, but expect to pay between $2-$5K when all is said and
done, or learn how to do all these things yourself, if you are thinking of
self-publishing. But now that the book's out there, if you want to
contribute, simply buy a copy. If you canít do that then give me a
review or share it on your social media. Every little bit helps. You can
use the hashtag #TheUnhallowedHorseman if you so desire.
When and where will The Unhallowed
Horseman be released onto the general public?
releases worldwide on October 29th just in time for Halloween, which is on
point for the theme of the novel. It is available as an eBook, paperback
and soon to be Hardcover. Itís up to distributors who puts it on their
site, so just search the title in their search bars. I know for a fact
that Amazon carries the ebook (Kindle) and paperback version -
on your experiences writing The Unhallowed Horseman, will
you ever write another novel? And/or other future projects you'd like to
100%! I canít wait to get started on the next one. I have entertained
even starting a sequel to The Unhallowed Horseman, depending on how itís
received, or an entirely new world all together. I have lots of stories to
tell. On the film side of things Iím currently producing and co-directing a docu-series called
Sons of Fallujah in conjunction
with my business partner at Blue Falcon
Productions, Dan Campbell. Itís
the real life account of Dan and his fellow Marines and their role in the
pivotal Tribal Awakening there. Let me just say itís heart-wrenching and
heart-warming all in one.
Your/your book's website, social media, whatever
The Unhallowed Horseman:
Goodreads - https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/59316303-the-unhallowed-horseman
Twitter - https://twitter.com/HorsemanRides
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/TheUnhallowedHorseman
Website - http://www.theunhallowedhorseman.com/
Jude S. Walko:
Amazon author page - https://www.amazon.com/Jude-S-Walko/e/ B09K6ZLSGF
IMDb - https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0908351/
Twitter - https://twitter.com/judeswalko
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/JudeStephenWalko/
YouTube - https://www.youtube.com/c/HollywoodhoBRO
LinkedIn - https://www.linkedin.com/in/judeswalko/
Anything else you're dying to mention and I have
merely forgotten to ask?
Yes! I want to take this
opportunity to thank you Michael for all you do. Itís because of you
indie artists like myself can get the word out about their projects. I
only hope I can do the same for you. To your audience, feel free to drop me
a line on my social media. I would be forever indebted if you could
rate or share my novel, especially on Amazon and/or Goodreads. If you want
to check out my film The
Incantation, a movie I shot in France with
former Superman Dean Cain, itís available on iTunes and
all over the place. The silly BTS footage is on my YouTube channel listed
Feeling lucky ?
Want to search for books by
Jude S. Walko
The links below
will take you
just there !!!
Thanks for the interview!
Thank you! And to all the readers and
fans out there for taking time out of their day. For that I am most
appreciative. One last thing, if youíre alone on a dark rural road and
think you might hear the heavy breathing of a diabolical Hellstead, or the
slight creak of a leather glove around the handle of an enchanted battle
axeÖ MIND YOUR HEADS, THE UNHALLOWED HORSEMAN RIDES!!!!