Matthew Costello Interview – Writer of ‘Child’s Play’ Sequel Novels Recalls Expanding Upon the Chucky Universe

You think Blumhouse’s M3GAN is a big deal? From 1988 to 1991, Chucky was even bigger. From 7-Eleven to Spencer’s Gifts, American stores were crammed to the brim with Child’s Play comics, toys, posters, bumper stickers, magazines, books and t-shirts.

For me, a tiny tot who lived in constant terror of the quote-unquote Good Guy, it was an absolute living hell. Back then my brother (four years my senior) would beg for every piece of Chucky media he could get his little hands on. He adorned his walls with posters, rented the movies constantly, and would even read passages from the novelizations of Child’s Play 2 and 3 to drive me out of his bedroom.

Let me tell you, that last one always worked. To see an image of Chucky was bad enough, but to hear a bedtime story filtered through his twisted perspective? Traumatizing doesn’t begin to describe it. Even as a kid I knew that the Child’s Play books weren’t just scary because of Chucky. They were scary because they opened up the world of Chucky.

In the context of novelist Matthew Costello’s Child’s Play 2 and 3, Chucky is merely a symptom of a much greater evil: the Mighty Damballa, written as an indescribable Lovecraftian God made of eyeballs and tentacles that caused even Charles Lee Ray to tremble.

Recently my therapist said that it’s important to try to get right to the heart of your childhood trauma, lest it destroy you. Obviously, I had to reach out to the man responsible for my long-standing fear of Chucky’s literary adventures– novelist Matthew Costello.

While the devil doll was only the beginning of Costello’s long and storied career, he was gracious enough to take a trip down memory lane with Bloody-Disgusting to talk about the novelizations, their impact on the greater Chucky multiverse and the potential to further explore Damballa’s dominion in books, TV and video games.

Bloody Disgusting: Did you ever imagine you’d be talking about Chucky 20 or 30 years down the line?

Matthew Costello: No, I didn’t think that at all. No one knew it would have any legs as an IP. With most movie novelizations, the book comes out, the movie comes out, and then they both kind of fade in history. But Chucky didn’t. It’s an unusual phenomenon– I did the comic book adaptation of Fright Night 2, and did other novelizations and TV tie-ins. They all come and go… but not Child’s Play.

Chucky came pretty early in my career. I was just getting out there as a horror writer, filled with energy, and I did my best to develop whatever talent I thought I could have. One attitude I had from the very beginning was: if it is worth writing, it’s worth writing well. No matter what the work was, it was my best.

BD: Do you think there’s a possibility that these will ever come back into print?

MC: An indie publisher contacted me, actually, and said they’ve tried to get the rights to do reprints, but Universal won’t do it. I don’t know why. It doesn’t make sense. There’s no big money in it for Universal, but it would be interesting… I know Chucky fans are willing to pay a lot for older copies on eBay. (Fortunately I’ve got 5 or 10 of them in storage).

BD: What were some of the challenges you faced adapting the screenplays into novels?

MC: Typically a script is 100 to 110 pages. A novel is about 340. A lot more has to be in the novel than in the script. That’s one big difference.

The other difference is, in film, the information you receive is what you can see and hear. With a book, there’s something else that’s important– getting inside a character’s mind. All of a sudden that opens up a whole new universe. Whether it’s the monster or a good person fighting the monster, you can be inside their perspective, and that’s pretty amazing.

That perspective is what makes a book come to life. It’s not just adapting the screenplay. I imagine there are people who lack the patience to hack and slash their novelizations, to expand them out. But that’s not how I roll and not what I did. I was very happy and proud of those Child’s Play books, and pretty much any other book that I’ve done. I give them all the same respect.

BD: You were the first writer to ever delve into Chucky’s previous life as Charles Lee Ray. What was that like?

MC: I’ve been watching the Chucky TV series. They’ve gone into the same territory, answering the question of, “How did this all happen?” I remember Don Mancini telling the publisher and editor that he liked [the backstory] in my books, even though it didn’t carry over into the series.

The type of writing I do, I have to know “How does it happen?” Some writers don’t like to know, some readers don’t like to know, but me? I need to know.

Things happen for a reason. Someone doesn’t just wake up in the morning and go, “I’m a serial killer! I’ve found my role in life!” It doesn’t work that way.

BD: In Child’s Play 2, your backstory for Charles Lee Ray involves an abusive mother who also happens to be a little person. It’s quite different from his childhood in the TV series, almost like something out of an old issue of Tales From the Crypt. Where did you get that idea?

MC: I was going for a sense of the ironic with Chucky’s origin, a sense of the twisted. What could be more twisted than the first person he kills being his own abusive mother… who also happens to be little? And then, wow, what a curse– he becomes a little doll in the end!

As best as I can remember, it just came to me. But in any book I think about why things are done. You can have someone with a twisted, demented, homicidal mind, but why [they have it] is the important question to me.

BD: Your books also go deep into Chucky’s voodoo religion, taking the concept of Damballa into downright Lovecraftian territory. What influenced your decision to flesh out this aspect of Chucky’s character?

MC: My early horror novels were firmly rooted in something I knew and liked, which was a generalized Cthulhu mythos. The idea that there’s another realm, another agenda [influenced by] multiple dimensions. There’s one that’s evil, and it’s right there, right beside us! If there’s going to be black magic or dark arts [in my book], it’s gonna connect to that. If you look at my old works, they all have one finger on that Lovecraft button. Because he was a master and that was a horror universe I loved.

In the world of Chucky, he is not the only problem [out there]. There is room for them to do the same mythos deep dive in the next season. In a film or TV show, you often don’t have the time for the mythos behind it. It can slow down the story. With a book you have the room, the pages, and you can integrate it into the story. You can get into the mindset of the characters.

BD: How’d you get into the headspace to write such vivid pre-adolescent and adolescent characters?

MC: I’ve been a full-time writer for 25 years, but before that, I was a teacher. I taught middle school. I was a good teacher, I really liked working with these kids who were completely bonkers. School kids are off the wall! So I knew young people, how they thought and didn’t think. I knew about their impulsivity. I knew about the way they would jump to conclusions, get emotional and act in all these different ways. Anyone who fell into that category, I felt comfortable with. By 1990 I’d been teaching a good 15 years. I’d soon quit teaching [to become a full-time writer] but I had 15 years of directing those kids in plays and dealing with their crises. It was very natural to bring that understanding to the writing.

BD: Would you ever consider a return to the Chucky fold? Maybe a spot in the Syfy series’ writer’s room?

MC: I’ve done television writing for the BBC and Disney but my broad experience isn’t TV writing. If you’re doing a show and want the best writers you can get, I’m guessing you’re going to want a hotshot TV writer (which would not be me).

On the other hand, it would be wonderful to be a part of the writer’s room where you’re sharing ideas and building characters. The response I had to the first season of Chucky was “I’d love to be a part of this!” But after I watched the season I figured, nah, they don’t need me. They’re doing great. It’s fun, far better than I thought it would be, burning on all cylinders emotionally and being very much a [contemporary] piece, and yet it’s still Chucky from 30 years ago.

BD: Would you consider doing another Child’s Play or Chucky-related novel?

MC: I’d love that! It would be interesting to come full circle. The TV show goes in depth, but you still don’t know what’s going on in these kids’ minds, or Jennifer Tilly’s characters’ minds. You’re not inside their head at the moment, you just get to see what they’re saying and doing. So, short answer– yes, it would be great fun.

BD: You were the scriptwriter on properties like Doom 3 and The 7th Guest, two of the most iconic video games ever made. Do you think Chucky would lend himself well to that format?

MC: Oh yeah! The problem with video games (and it was a bigger problem ten years ago) is that companies were still tentative around writers. That’s changed [a bit]. They all know they need writers, and they need good writers. I worked on a game last year that’s going to be one of the major releases, if not the major release, of next year. But I can’t talk about it.

BD: Your Wikipedia page is (as the kids say) nothing but bangers when it comes to popular horror and science fiction properties.

MC: Someone said something similar to me recently. I think if you’re on the planet long enough and you keep working, that’s what happens. And the other thing is– most of my friends who are writers, they do one thing. They write novels or video games or TV. But I always said I want to write everything. I want to do it all. I’ve been very lucky– I’m all over the map. Switching from doing a video game working with a team of 80 people to doing a novel with a team of one. It’s amazing to go back and forth like that. I feel blessed, but I’m not sure who is doing the blessing.

BD: Perhaps it’s the Mighty Damballa?

MC: That’s it! I made a sacrifice for the Mighty Damballa 35 years ago. That’s how I became successful!

[This interview has been edited for length and clarity.]

The post Matthew Costello Interview – Writer of ‘Child’s Play’ Sequel Novels Recalls Expanding Upon the Chucky Universe appeared first on Bloody Disgusting!.