Silent Hill: Betrayal is an upcoming novel by South-African author, Shaun Jooste, creator of the Celenic Earth fantasy book series. Officially approved by Konami, Betrayal will be the first English-language novel of its kind for the franchise and if Jooste has his way, the first of at least five.
Releasing this November, Silent Hill: Betrayal tells the story of Trevor, who is wanted by the police in connection with his wife’s suicide. Fleeing with his lover and best friend, the police chase takes a familiar turn when someone (or some THING) crosses the misty road, causing them to crash. The thing is described as a “strange man with a metallic object on his head.” Hmmmm.
Shaun Jooste prepares us for this all-new tale of fog, Otherworld, monsters and even puzzles in this exclusive interview:
What is your background with the Silent Hill series and what drew you to this project?
I’ve played Silent Hill since the very first one entered my Playstation 1. My sister Nicole, who was probably too young to be watching me play the game, was with me through it every step of the way, sometimes begging me to play it again. It became our game and Silent Hill became our town.
I guess I could say that is when my love for the horror genre was really born. I would seek games that gave me the same kind of thrill, but everything was kind of bland in comparison. I don’t think it was so much the lack of a fear factor in them… it was just not Silent Hill.
Like many other die-hard fans, I’ve played every SH game and attained every ending, so you can understand my strong desire to write a SH novel. I had already published my fantasy novels, The Celenic Earth Chronicles, so when I finished playing Downpour I decided it was time to write my own Silent Hill stories. And when Silent Hills was cancelled, I realised just how important it was to keep the town alive through my written words.
Which game is your favorite and why?
Ok, don’t crucify me for this. Unbelievably it is SH 4: The Room. This is due more for the effect it had on me than any noteworthy points of the game or storyline.
The first psychological effect it had was on my natural surroundings. If I got up late in the morning to go to the bathroom, I swear I swore something moving in the shadows. Not something to usually freak me out, but it did while playing the game. One day at work, my hair stood on end when I heard the sound that the game makes when a creature is nearby. Despite how tense I was, I investigated it and discovered it was the fax machine.
The second effect it had was in-game and the realisation of what frightened me the most. There’s a scene in the Water Prison stage where the Twin Victim monster (the big furry one with two baby heads) lifted one of its arms and pointed at me. It then ran towards me. I dropped the control and ran from my room. Needless to say that, when I had the guts to return, I was dead. This fear of baby-like monsters was confirmed later in life when I played Minecraft – that sound the Ghast makes in the Nether World is damn terrifying!!
When I played Downpour, I stumbled onto an apartment floor and entered a room through the window. When I stood there and it dawned on me that it was the apartment from SH4, my arm froze like it was paralysed. Despite this effect on me (maybe because of it), SH4 remains my favourite for all time.
Silent Hill: Betrayal tells the story of Trevor, among others, surrounding the death of his wife, Carolyn. What was the inspiration for this original story line?
I know how hard betrayal can be. It is one of the key emotional crimes that really is the hardest to get over. I also know that the story of a dead wife and the search for her has been done in SH2, but not in the way I tell it. I’ve written it in such a way that there are more than one roleplayer involved in the injustice that occurred. Also, there is more than one person in Silent Hill seeking justice for what has happened to her and to them. All in all, I would say there are actually 3 sub-plots that make up the entire story…. And Trevor is in the centre of it all. And behind the scenes, there is a secret story-line unveiling, if you pay close attention, that will only fully be revealed by the 5th SH novel.
According to the synopsis, Pyramid Head will play a vital role in the book. Why did you choose him, in particular, as opposed to a new monster that the town manifests?
Oh, there are many new monsters. Each location has its own set of creatures. And each monster and level boss is related to each of the side characters introduced in the story, namely Kathy, Philip and Jay. However, Caroline has always had a “guardian” in her life, and I wanted to bring something back that SH fans have always loved. To me it’s a case of: what is Silent Hill without Pyramid Head? There’s also a connection between the person in that helmet and the Order of Valtiel, so it seem appropriate.
However, having said that, future SH novels in the series will have new ‘guardian’ types, so PH might play less of a role in time to come.
When writing Betrayal, what is the most important element of Silent Hill that you hope to capture?
The suspense, the fear and the importance of ensuring that everything that happens, every clue that is solved, is relevant to the storyline and objectives. When it comes to a game, the visual aspects are important. However, as a novel, I need to capture the elements that scare and capture the intellect. So, it will be more of a psychological thriller than a gory horror… although I have plenty of those going around too. I’ve even consulted Stephen King’s advice online to see how to improve the suspense rating of my various scenes. So I hope to really get that right. If you aren’t sitting on the edge of your seat during the best scenes, then I’m getting it wrong.
Was there anything you created just for Silent Hill that we haven’t seen in previous games, movies or comics?
Yes, plenty. I haven’t read any of the comics I’m afraid. With the exception of Pyramid Head, all the monsters are new as I wanted them uniquely tied in with each side character. There is one new location I’ve added, which fans of my Celenic Earth Chronicles may recognise if they are vigilant. And I have also created my own running mascot that will feature in each novel, much like the pink bunny from the Resort.
I’ve also changed some of the ancient Hungarian letters in the Halo of the Sun; the reason for this will become apparent once you have read through the first Act of the book.
What are the fight scenes like, and will any of the characters have survival experience?
There is a sharp contrast in the novel between the fogworld and Otherworld. In the fogworld, Trevor finds many items at his disposal, melee weapons and firearms that makes his life easier. Since he has never had to use these, it is at first a learning experience until he basically becomes adept at using them: almost like leveling up.
In the Otherworld, it is very much survival of the fittest. He is stripped of his entire inventory and has to use anything he can find to survive and get back to fogworld. As an example, finding a toothbrush and breaking the end of to use it as a weapon. I really want it to feel like he has to do anything to survive; that there is no way out but to fight.
Do you listen to music when you write, and if so, what’s on your Silent Hill: Betrayal playlist?
I’m so glad you asked this. I love music. I cannot write without music. As I am writing this, I am listening to Evanescence, which was the soundtrack to writing the Celenic Earth Chronicles.
For SH:B, my current playlist contains PVRIS, Fall Out Boy, Breaking Benjamin, Evanescence, Godsmack and Disturbed. When I really want to get into it, I listen to Daniel Licht’s SH: Downpour Soundtrack. That album really sets the tone.
The Silent Hill series has been full of easter eggs and homages, from the street names to Ryall State Prison (named after the editor in chief of IDW Publishing). If you had a place named after you in the town, what would it be?
The new location I created in the novel is named after me. In the book, I only mention the letters that can be seen on the massive gates to an enclosed mausoleum, “S.D”, which signifies my gaming handle, nickname and the main protagonist from my fantasy novel: Shadowolf Degron. There are also many other easter eggs hinting to various games in the series, so be sure to keep a look out for those too. I will also be including Jodelle Ferland for a movie crossover easter egg, as a saint of the Order, but you will have to read the novel to find out how.
Finally, there is an article which is used as a clue in Midwich Elementary, which is a real article found online and written by the actual professor that I name at the end of the article as a professor from Brahms University. I got permission from the professor to do this, as I felt using a real live document and person would just add to the eeriness of the story. He becomes the new Joseph Schreiber (the Ashfield Journalist) in my series.
The one thing you should not do in my upcoming novel is to take things for granted. You’d be surprised how many nice easter eggs I have hidden within. I want the novel to go beyond just reading and storytelling. It must set the premise for a future Silent Hill game.
When fans read your book, what do you hope they learn or take away from the experience?
I’m hoping that fans will accept this series of novels into the dogmatic tales of Silent Hill. I know there are various “sects” of Silent Hill fans, and so many with their own opinions of what Silent Hill is or isn’t, especially with regards to Pyramid Head. I don’t want them going in with great expectations, as that will only make them come out disappointed in the end. There will be a Foreword or Forewarning at the start of the book that will explain that this is MY Silent Hill. So I am hoping that they will respect that and enjoy my story for what it is, and not flame it afterwards for not being true to the Silent Hill they believe in.
There’s a saying: you cannot fill a cup that is already full. You will not enjoy this novel as it is meant to be enjoyed if you start the first page full of expectations.
Where can we find more updates on the novel’s progress?
I have a blog that I keep updated with news and progress: www.celenicearth.wordpress.com. Also, I update followers on twitter (@Shadowolfd) with quick notes and ideas. There is a Facebook fanpage called ‘Celenic Earth Chronicles’ where I do SneakPeek Sundays where sketches of the weapons and creatures in my novel can be found.
I am also on Youtube where I make video trailers available for upcoming projects. Here is a teaser video for SH:B –
My blogs and updates are linked to my other profiles, so that you can follow my updates no matter which platform you are on:
- Silent Hill Forum
- Silent Hill Wikia
- Amazon Author
- Global Council of Extraordinary Writers