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NOS4A2 season 2: Author Joe Hill reveals how the story was adapted from book to screen
Stephen King’s son Joe Hill, who wrote the original NOS4A2 book, reveals how the story was adapted into season 2 of the AMC supernatural horror series.
NOS4A2 is back for season 2 and it's 'better, faster and scarier' according to showrunner, Jami O'Brien.
Zachary Quinto and Ashleigh Cummings return as Charlie Manx and Vic McQueen, with the series kicking off eight years after the dramatic season 1 finale.
Once again NOS4A2 returns to its source material as the main inspiration for the script, namely the 2014 book of the same name by author Joe Hill (the son of Stephen King).
In a BT.com exclusive interview, Hill - also an executive producer on the show - reveals how the story was adapted from book to screen for season 2, including how he works with the writers’ room, going beyond the book, and the inspiration behind Christmasland...
Telling the rest of the NOS4A2 story
“NOS4A2 was my third novel, and at the time was the longest thing I’d ever written. It takes place over a number of years and there’s a lot of story there. It describes a fairly large world… and it took a lot of time, over hundreds of pages, to explore.
“In the first season of NOS4A2, we really only covered a third of the book, which is Vic [Ashleigh Cummings] coming to terms with her supernatural powers, and meeting other people like her who have these gifts. As the series progresses, Vic and Charlie Manx [Zachary Quinto] find themselves locked in a battle.
“So season 2 picks up eight years later, and it’s the other two thirds of the book. I kind of compare it to the first and the second Terminator film. Everything in the second season is bigger, faster, scarier, and more intense. We know who these characters are and we know what the stakes are, and so it’s a no-holds-barred battle almost from the beginning.”
Working with the writers’ room
“I’m always curious what another person, another artist, or storyteller, will do with that source material. With something like NOS4A2, I worked on the book for three years and I was really happy with how it turned out. I enjoyed the time I spent with those characters.
“Showrunner Jami O’Brien found some stuff in the story that spoke to her personally, and she wanted to tell her version of that narrative.
"I’m always excited to see that happen - see what another creator will do, and what direction they’ll take that story in, what they’ll choose to emphasise, what’s not interesting to them.
"I think she’s done a terrific job, she’s enriched the characters and deepened the world in ways that I find fascinating.
“I think the writers’ room has been really open when I did have something to suggest, but I’ve also tried to be careful and not get underfoot as Jami and her team of great writers, you want to give them the freedom to create, to not be overbearing and try to work things. It’s almost like I brought the toys, but it’s their time to play with them.”
Moving beyond the story in the book
“[The TV series] does start to do things that aren’t in the story, and I’ve encouraged that and even contributed to it to a degree. I think it’s important to stay true to the spirit of the characters and the book, and to remain focused on the central conflict which is the struggle between Vic and Charlie.
“And also Vic’s struggle with herself. She came from a troubled family and as a young mother, finds herself repeating many of her parents’ failings. That’s something that she’s struggling with that fills her with a real sense of self-hate and despair, so she’s got a very literal demon in Charlie Manx to battle, but she’s got a lot of her own internal demons.
“So it’s important for all that to be there in the show because it was part of the book, and it’s what people responded to. At the same time, you don’t want readers of the book to get too comfortable, to think that they always think they know what’s going to happen.
“I also think that the demands of a TV show, they’re less internal and more about visual suspense, about backing the heroes into a corner and watching them desperately try to fight their way out.
“To that end, we’ve introduced a bit more supernatural menace than what was in the book, so there’s a new character who I suggested, a guy called The Hourglass who becomes a confederate of Charlie and contributes to the menace that Vic McQueen finds herself facing.
"Those kinds of little touches help to expand the world and expand the possibility that this story could continue.”
The inspiration behind Christmasland
“Part of the inspiration for Christmasland was Pleasure Island in Pinocchio, which is this island where all the bad boys go, where they drink and gamble and smoke cigars and are gradually, magically transformed into donkeys, into jackasses.
"It haunted me as a child, clearly as I’ve never been able to escape the gentle grip of that sequence, because in a lot of ways Christmasland is my version of Pleasure Island, except in my version instead of turning into jackasses, the children turn into vampires.
“I was also interested when I wrote the book in the way that in America, we venerate Christmas and innocence. There’s a thing about the wonder of the innocent child that is sort of celebrated in every corner of our culture.
"It’s probably actually dangerous to overrate innocence. An innocent child will pull the wings off a butterfly, because they’re too innocent to know that they’re causing pain.
“The children of Christmasland are always happy, they're always singing, they’re always having fun. Whether they’re riding the rollercoaster or playing a game of Scissors for the Drifter, where they’re stabbing someone to death. It’s experience - it’s your regrets, it’s your mistakes, it’s your grief and your sorrow - that makes you a complete person.
“It’s hard to be good if you’re so innocent that you don’t even know what pain is. So in some ways, NOS4A2 is also poking at that thoughtless American veneration of innocence which is after all, not a state to be admired.
"That’s why we don’t want our children to remain in that state, because there’s actually something monstrous about it.”
Upping the ante for season 2
“I’m really happy with season 1, and it was a great starting point and a great introduction to the characters and the nature of the situation. But I also think that it’s a tough game out there, there’s a lot of competition for people's entertainment time. We’re out there trying to get our signals through the tidal wave of distraction.
“So I definitely think we moved in the right direction by making the second season more suspenseful, scarier, and more intense. The pacing is cranked up - the first episode starts at 70mph and we swifty move up to 120mph and stay there for the whole season. I think that’s a good place to be. I place great faith in the engine of suspense.”
NOS4A2 season 2 starts Tuesday, July 7 at 9pm, exclusively on AMC (BT TV channel 332/381 HD).