TIH 451: Clay McLeod Chapman on Performative Reading, The Pumpkin Pie Show, and Early Life Lessons

TIH 451: Clay McLeod Chapman on Performative Reading, The Pumpkin Pie Show, and Early Life Lessons

In this podcast Clay McLeod Chapman talks about performative reading, The Pumpkin Pie Show, early life lessons, and much more. 

About Clay McLeod Chapman

Clay McLeod Chapman is the author of the novels Whisper Down the Lane, The Remaking, and miss corpus, short story collections nothing untoward, commencement and rest area, as well as The Tribe middlegrade series: Homeroom Headhunters, Camp Cannibal and Academic Assassins. Ghost Eaters, a new supernatural horror novel, hits shelves September 20, 2022 from Quirk Books, and it will scare the pants off you.

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Michael David Wilson 0:28

Welcome to This Is Horror, a podcast for readers, writers and creators. I'm Michael David Wilson, and every episode alongside my co host, Bob Pastorella. We chat we're masters of horror, about writing and life lessons, creativity, and much more. And today, we have a great guest for you. We have got Clay McLeod Chapman, who is the author of novels such as whisper down the lane, the remaking, and Miss corpus is also got the short story collections, nothing come toward commencement and rest area. And come in next month, September 28. He's got a new supernatural horror novel, go status. And it is fantastic. It's something we talk about in depth in this conversation. Although truth be told, you're going to have to listen to part two to get a lot of that. Because, you know, we go along with This Is Horror. But if you want to listen to the entire three hour am serious three hour conversation with clay McLeod Chapman, head over to patreon.com forward slash, This Is Horror. You could be listening to that right now. You don't even have to listen to my intros. You don't have to listen to the advert break on Patreon. You can just jump in to that glorious conversation. And I mean talking about the conversation in this part, as is customary on this as our we do talk about those early life lessons that clay learned growing up, we talk about performative reading, we talk about the pumpkin pie show, what is the pumpkin pie show? Listen on, because you're gonna find out but before any of that, a little bit of an advert break.

Bob Pastorella 2:40

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Michael David Wilson 3:43

Okay, well here it is. It is playing McCloud Chapman on This Is Horror. clay Welcome to This Is Horror.

Clay McLeod Chapman 3:58

Hello, thanks so much for having me.

Michael David Wilson 4:01

It is an absolute pleasure. We are excited to have you on the show. And I know to begin with, let's go all the way back let's talk about early life lessons that you learned growing up.

Clay McLeod Chapman 4:16

You know, it's funny like I you know, I I was raised by my mother and single mom family she was a potter and you know, basically kind of like worked up and down the east coast here in the States. And she would you know, travel with like a van full of her ceramics that she had made. She would like try to sell them at art fairs, craft fairs. And you know, I don't know if this answers the life lessons question but it's honestly the first thing that popped in my head but like just that nomadic existence of kind of putting your, your art on your back and kind of carrying it from town to town. Um, just that nomadic existence that all these other artists like woodworkers, and painters and photographers, they would all kind of like, show up at these, these art fairs these these weekend kind of shows, you know, you know, open air markets, you know, you name it. And I just, you know, I love the idea that you could bring your work to the people. And if she sold enough stuff to make gas back and pay for the hotel room, it was worth it. She raised me off of it. So I don't know, like, I think, you know, if I have to give a life lesson, it's that, you know, you kind of carry your work with you, and you take it wherever you can go. And you I think you have to be the foot soldier for your own work, whatever it is, whether it's, you know, something creative, or you know, music, or, I mean, you name it like it's, you are the vessel for your, your voice, your your art. Did I say that? Right? Did I answer that? Right? I feel like I went off on a tangent, like, right out of the gates, this is what you're doing. You guys,

Michael David Wilson 6:09

I think it's very interesting. And I thing really, I mean, we've, this is hard, there's no such thing as a bad tangent, because we will go wherever the conversation goes, you can try and test that theory, if you want, oh, no such thing as a bad tangent, or there's a challenge. So by all means, you know, over the course of the conversation, if you do want to, you know, take me up on that. But to go back to what you said, I mean, with that being your mother's profession, and with her being so immersed in art and creativity, and I suppose for want of a better word, also, the hustle of selling, did that mean that you had an interest in kind of art and creating your own things from an early age?

Clay McLeod Chapman 7:02

Yeah, I mean, I would say so. I mean, I was just, when you grow up in it, you're kind of immersed in it, and it feels second nature to an extent where, you know, I met these, I met these craftsmen, these crafts people, and they were so I don't know, there was something kind of there was there was a humbleness to it, like, none of these people were Duchamp or, you know, who's better who's a more modern example. It wasn't like, you know, Damien Hirst, or, like, they were, they were they were craftspeople. And I just loved, I don't know, like, there was no ego to it, there was no, like, everybody just made the stuff that they wanted to make. And they were selling it, like, you know, some some shows were good show, some shows were not good shows. And everybody just kind of was in it together. And, you know, I knew pretty early on that couldn't play a musical instrument, did not have much of a visual arts sensibility. Like couldn't, couldn't make stuff with my hands. But it was a bit of a ham. And I think that had a lot to do with the fact that I was an only child and kind of being raised, essentially by my mom on her back like that she kind of carted me around to all these different fairs. You know, and you had to kind of perform for the adults to get their approval and make them feel, you know, like, give them attention to this little kid. So I think I was just a performer from a, an early age and like my aperture into the arts at large, whether it be them literary or cinematic or performative was yeah, it was theater, like I, I, I just tried to, you know, show off and make the adults laugh. And that was, that was kind of the beginning of it.

Michael David Wilson 8:57

Yeah. Do you have any specific memorable moments in terms of things that you might have done to get a laugh or to entertain others?

Clay McLeod Chapman 9:07

I mean, I don't know if I have the best example. But the kind of first thing that popped in my mind was, you know, you would go out to dinner with all these, these older people, like, have you ever been that kid and you're at the dinner table, the adult table and everybody's kind of like, drinking their beers doing their stuff, and you're, you're the kid. There are no other children around. So you have to kind of find the way to engage. You're at like, some kind of like, crappy restaurant in the middle of nowhere. I just remember like, pretending to be the waiter, like grabbing a napkin and like, draping it over my arm and, you know, basically going, each being like, Would you like some more wine? Like this? You know, like, I mean, this is probably what like eight nine years old at best. So, I hadn't I hadn't achieved Marx Brothers status yet, but I, you know, I was eager to please and definitely had to find my way. And so I guess I was the gar song of the arts and crafts are good. Right?

Michael David Wilson 10:21

Right. Yeah. And, I mean, given that your mother's job meant there was a lot of traveling, did that make things difficult in terms of your schooling and your education? Or was it more a case that the traveling was happening at the weekend,

Clay McLeod Chapman 10:40

definitely happened on the weekends. And if it didn't, I kind of got carted to my grandparents who lived close enough by, you know, I don't want to paint like some sob story here. Like, it's, you know, I was a very solitary kid, I like definitely, I don't know, I kind of lived an internal life, that it's funny how like, you can be the kind of introvert and an extrovert at the same time, where, you know, very, kind of private and personal and like, kind of, like, internal like, I wasn't in it. But then there would just be these, I don't know, these fits of like performative. You know, monsoons, I don't even know what to call it, but like, you know, this, the switch would get flipped. And I would just start kind of hamming it up. And I don't know, like, it's weird, because, you know, I spend 99.9% of my life now just kind of like staring at a computer screen by myself, talking to myself. And, you know, a, I miss the days of being in front of a crowd, but it's that it's that weird kind of like dichotomy of, you know, on or off stage on off stage off stage on stage.

Michael David Wilson 12:04

Yeah. And with you having such interest and an education in the dramatic arts, does that mean when you have your live readings and your events, you add more of a performative aspect to it rather than a straight reading?

Clay McLeod Chapman 12:24

Yes, yes. Very much. So. I, it's so funny, like I, for years, like, like, this is going back to like, maybe high school, I always wanted to be in a band, like I loved. Like, I grew up in this kind of the punk rock scene down south. Got to see a lot of amazing bands, local bands, national bands, and I just loved the kind of showmanship and the camaraderie and the the conversation between the band and the audience. And I wanted that I wanted that so badly. I wanted to be in a band, but I could not, could not play an instrument to save my life. And, I mean, most punk rock bands don't either. Yeah. There's that vibe of like, I just couldn't like it just, I just couldn't do it. And so I started thinking in terms of like, what is what are the things that I love about punk rock, and music and live shows that I want to kind of integrate into the things that I can do. And you know, growing up doing theories, I, I loved kind of doing this hodgepodge of like, you know, punk rock Theater, which is, I don't know, it sounds so silly. I mean, I feels kind of sheepish about it now. But like, you know, it was, I had this thing that I did with my friends, when I could ever convince my talented friends to do things with me. We did this thing called the pumpkin pie show. And it was like a, it was like a storytelling session, rigorous storytelling session. And it was basically like, I would write these first person narratives because I loved Poe, I love first person narratives I love Call me Ishmael. I just love the idea of like duality of text that you could have something that like, someone could engage with on the page and read it to themselves and have that experience but then take that same text and put an actor behind it and poof, it becomes shaken big theater, but I wanted an aggressive theater I wanted like our toe theater I wanted like sweaty theater, and, you know, DIRECT address monologues, which are in effect first person narratives to begin with, like I just, I wanted to take Edgar Allan Poe and marry him with Gigi Allen like he wanted. Like I just wanted something that felt like raw Ah, and narrative based like storytelling, put to it in the audience's face. And, yeah, yeah. Talking about tangents, right. Like, I know, I did that for over 20 years, I still kind of do it whenever there's an opportunity to, but it's like, yeah, it's just goofball stories, screaming at an audience, you know, and just having having at it. So that was that was the kind of intersection of performance and art and

Michael David Wilson 15:32

like, well, I want to learn more about the pumpkin pie show, I want you to be really indulgent. And just like really talking us through perhaps a memorable show or a memorable moment, because this is fascinating.

Clay McLeod Chapman 15:49

Sure, sure. I mean, like, I, like I started, it's funny because like, you know, the, like the the pumpkin pie show moniker started sophomore year of high school, I made like a zine with some stories that I wrote. And like, you know, the photocopied and stapled kind of scenario, and just gave them to all my friends or anyone at school for free. And then that evolved into the theater of like, the, the events itself, where like, you know, we did like a Halloween show to begin with, and then like, and then we started, like, integrating live music. And then was like, for a good moment there. It was, like, there was like a backup band, like a stage band. And we would score the stories. So they have this like, orchestration behind them. So it'd be like, an actor on the mic, with like, a two piece, three piece, five piece band, you know, depending on the show, and we got anywhere from like, you know, at some points, we got cello quartets, and sometimes we got marching bands, oh, my God, it was so amazing. And we would just like, you know, every year, I think I did, like, some years, I would do two different shows a year. But like, when we were kind of in our prime, we would do one, one show and it'd be like a run every Halloween season. And it would just be five, maybe six, you know, like 1015 minute character ballot, like character monologues. And like I convinced like, These were, these are short stories, like they were like, my first book rest area was a collection of these short stories from the pumpkin pie show. And it was just like, I mean, they were anything from like, I mean, they were like, I always kind of pitched them as a modern day Poe. diatribes, like, Who's the guy you don't want to be talking to in a dark alley, like that character, that personality, and they're just letting loose for, like, straight at the audience. And kind of what were some of the memorable shows, like, you know, after doing this for me, like the story's always changed, like, we would always kind of rotate through a set list of pieces. And, you know, they were our songs like, that was our those were our, our, like, our music, and they were all just these stories that I wrote. And, you know, I would perform some of them some, you know, more like actual actory friends would perform them. And yeah, we would just, we would just have at it. But it definitely got to a point where we needed to kind of like, up the ante a little bit. And do do certain kind of like, like put a little bit more kind of bells and whistles on it production value, I guess you can see. And one year and this is just because you asked the question. I don't think this was our best show, but it was definitely a memorable one. Where like we had, we had this show called Big Top. And like all all the pieces had some kind of circus theme. Like they were all revolving around the circus. And I for some asinine reason I convinced this knife thrower to come on the show, because I had written a story about a the wife like there's the knife thrower, and forgive me for this these terms, but like, at that point, they were it was the knife girl, I don't even know this was like 2003 2003 So maybe it's changed since then. But uh, the knife thrower and the knife girl and the whole kind of monologue story takes place. From the point of view of the knife thrower girl who is married to the knife thrower, who is in the midst of this knife throwing act, their routine. She is berating him about the kind of the lack of love and their relationship and how he's, he's impotent, basically. And the only time that they can kind of reach us a certain kind of sexual thrill like reach there kind of peek anymore is in this kind of like Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf kind of braiding of one another, where she's basically like trash talking him. He's throwing actual knives at her. And we did this show. In a kid you not like it couldn't fit more than 50 people, there's like a black box theater and like downtown Manhattan. Like it's like, there, this knife thrower is standing directly in, like, like, like, imagine, imagine the audience watching this, this performance. Basically, like, like watching a tennis match. But one of the tennis players is throwing knives at the other.

And it's happening on stage. It's really happening. Like they have their routine. And they're doing their routine, all through this 10 minute monologue where this woman is just like, I mean, she's just like, berating him trash talking. I mean, it's a story. So there's like a, there's a arc to it. There's a it's sculpted like it it tells its own story. And he never talks he does knives the whole time. And it was terrifying. It was amazing to watch the audience because they would like the people in the front row would would just like shrivel in their seats because like there were nights and I am not lying. Like there were nights when those knives and we're talking knives, hatchets machete, like they would throw everything and like, I mean, there were nights where like you could see the hair because like I was sitting on stage too so I could watch this. And like I would see the hair on certain audience members heads. Like do the kind of like with like you when when like something like like when something gets thrown right in front of it and there goes with like the with would happen to their hair. And it would be a knife and like I mean it's amazing that something tragic did not happen. There was one night and I'll stop this tangent I swear there was no

Michael David Wilson 22:13

no please keep going.

Clay McLeod Chapman 22:17

One night a the like the knife thrower through through a knife and it hit like you know the the knife thrower girl the knife girl is oh target girl, that's what they call them target girls, oh my god. The target girl is basically like leaning against a wooden like a wooden like bought like a huge massive painted wooden board. And it has all these nicks in it but it also has knots like not like the the Wood had not. And this one particular night, as the knife is kind of aimed between between her legs. It goes through, but then it hits the knot in the wooden board and it ricochets off, but as it ricochets off, it slices through her fishnet stockings, like she's, she's in full costume full regalia. And she's wearing fishnet, fishnet stockings. And I kid you not the knife. Slight like, like swing like swings off of her. And it like you see the fishnets to start to like, gape like the open mouth, have her fishnet stockings. And like there was, there was like a little like, little nick wasn't like a cut. It wasn't a laceration. It was just like a like a nick. But you can see. And, you know, there were there were like safe words, there were there were like things to make this like feel like that someone was in control or in charge. But she never said the safe word. She kept on going. She performed the entire piece. Even though this, this knife had had, in essence, you know, snikt her, and I was terrified, and the audience that night was just like, that was amazing. How do you do that every single night? We were like, ooh, nope, nope, never happens again. Never gonna do it again. But uh, yeah, the the sad button to the story is the target girl was so furious at what happened that uh, that she and the knife thrower gotten a bit of a tiff afterwards, and they, in essence, broke up professionally speaking. And this show was the last test of their creative partnership. Which is a little sad, but I think I might feel similar if I had gotten a knife in the thigh.

Michael David Wilson 24:56

Yeah. Yeah, I mean, you can certainly understand it. So, I mean, the risk involved in that. I mean, it's very real. It could be failed. So you know, yeah, I can. They did. And they did it. They did it. Yeah.

Bob Pastorella 25:13

This all has like this kind of Eric but Gozi and sex, drugs and rock and roll feel to it.

Clay McLeod Chapman 25:20

Oh my god, you you that's my that's my sweet spot you oh my god I love Are you uh, are you an Eric Bogosian fan?

Bob Pastorella 25:30

It's been a while. And there's very few, very few clips of that actually online. But they have actors that have that have done some of his monologues. I guess it you know, in front of audiences? Yes. Yes. Like, and I can't think of the name but probably probably my favorite bit is the one where he's, he's the executive in office taking the calls. And so they've had they have a couple of actors that that have done, done it and of course, you know, they're not doing it justice, but they're doing a good job. Don't get me wrong. But that that whole show, you know, in the hole that mean to me, I feel like that's what got him you know, the gig on you know, for the Movie Talk Radio.

Clay McLeod Chapman 26:20

Yeah. Oh, my God. Yeah. Love, but Gaussian

Bob Pastorella 26:24

was the shit. And he's still there. So he's gonna be in Interview with

Clay McLeod Chapman 26:29

the Vampire. Yeah. So, um, you know, funny, sidebar, sex, drugs and rock'n'roll they made, they actually filmed a live, there's like a concert movie of it a feature film version of it, but it's directed. I'm totally going to eat my shoe if I'm wrong on this, but I am 99.9% sure that John McNaughton directed it, who directed Henry portrait of a serial killer? He was the guy who directed the film, like the film version of sex, drugs, and rock and roll, and I just thought that was always so cool. That the man who directed Henry portrait of a serial killer also did this Eric Golgi, and, you know, concert film for sex, drugs and rock'n'roll. But yeah, I mean, Eric Gaussian Spalding Gray, Danny Hmm. Like they're these amazing, like, downtown New York theater performers who have since kind of either gone on to, you know, like, they would always act in other people's things, but like, their, their monologue work their, their, their solo shows, were just like, that was that was that was my catnip. Like I like I love that stuff. And I wanted to be I always wanted to grow up to be the punk rock version of that. But yeah, yeah, it is. Yeah, it is what it is, right.

Bob Pastorella 28:08

I've seen I've seen that film. And a friend of mine had it. And it was funny because a bunch of us for watching it. And another friend said, this is the best standup that I've ever seen. I'm like, This is not a stand up. This is performance. There's a difference. He is doing he is doing a monologue. He is He is creating a conversation where you are a participant in it, you're filling in the blanks for what you don't hear. And he's so skilled at in the way that he is the words he says delivery, all that and that and you were doing like the punk rock version of that, that is so fucking cool. In New York, that's that's this fucking shit right there.

Clay McLeod Chapman 28:58

I mean, it was. It was so fun. I mean, honestly, like, I feel so old right now. But like it was so it was, you know, I feel very sentimental about it right now. Because, you know, I did it. It was it was like the it was this grandiose hobby. And, you know, it did lead to my publishing career, which I owe it that. So I owe it that, like, you know, 100% But like, you know, this all started with the question of like, are your reading events a little bit more formal? And like, yeah, the answer is totally because I you know, I don't know like, it's i i feel like there's a conversation that I am having internally to myself of whether that's good or not, because I feel like it content it tends to be a bit distracting from the text. But I do I do feel like there's something to be said about a performance and whether that's a live reading a poetry reading, a play a monologue, like, if, if I'm an audience member, like, I just like I want, I want to feel like I matter. Like, if I'm in an atom, and movie, like, let's say, I'm gonna go see the new Marvel movie, it doesn't care about me, it doesn't need me like, it's like that, like that movie will screen at nine o'clock tonight. And it it will, it'll play without me. But theater performance needs me It needs an audience. And I just love the kind of interdependency of performance, whether it's dance, or music, or you know, any of these things. Because like, it's like, you need an audience, you need someone there to listen to it to engage with it. And for me theater at its most vital and raw, and punk rock was when you took that fourth wall, that kind of invisible barrier that separates the audience from the performance. And you just took it and moved it, like pushed it back a little bit further, like, pushed it behind the audience so that they are now a part of the show. Like you are at a concert, where like the singers just like leaning in over the stage and like singing to you and like, you know, I just I just love that, like, I was just so enamored with the kind of level of engagement with, with concerts and, you know, live shows, that is wanting to do that with storytelling. And yeah, you know, it. It was it was a blast. And I wish I still did it more and more envy. I mean, very sentimental right now, like I miss it.

Michael David Wilson 31:50

Yeah, yeah. And you just put forth the question, is a performance that are reading a good thing? Or could it be a distraction from the text? And for me, personally, yes. So performance, or reading is not only a good thing, but I think it really elevates it. Because if I just want a straight reading, if I just want to read the book, I can do that. I can do that on my own. Or if I want someone else to read it to me, I can listen to the audio book. But if I'm going to see a live reading, I want to see a show I want to be something different. And at the very best live readings there is. And I mean, when I'm reading my own work, I mean, I'm certainly not an actor, I don't have that kind of background, but like I'll try to add something physical to it. So even when I was recording something for The Girl in the Video are reading for Sadie Hartman, Mother horror, and that that was just over oil, it was just on video, because this was like kind of at the height of COVID. But even through that, like there's bits where I'm like ripping my tie off and throwing it across the room, I fried a mobile phone somewhere at some point as well. It's like I want to make this like more of an experience. And I mean, when me and Bob read from They're Watching, I actually adapted some of the text so it wasn't strictly the text that you see in the book, but it was more dialogue heavy. So I was taking a character and Bob was taking a character and I just think, you know, that's what you want to do because the reading should be a separate performance again, when you see live music. I think it's most interesting those who add a theatrical element to it. So if you didn't give some of the metal and rock acts like Alice Cooper and Rob Zombie and that adding, like a stage show or you think of Ramstein when does pyromaniacs absolutely everywhere, and we are getting this in reading obviously this is something you're doing this is something that Josh Malerman does, if you go to a max booth reading he's not gonna just oh, I'm gonna read this quietly Max doesn't fucking do anything quietly. So you're gonna get that raw aspect. So for me, absolutely. literature should be more punk rock, particularly when you're a show. And we I've called it a show it's a reading but yeah, let's rebrand it. I want it to be a show. You know, I want us to turn up and we have our theme music but maybe that's just turned it more into pro wrestling but I fucking can't make it performative.

Unknown Speaker 34:51

I mean, pro wrestling is theater, like football theater, like it's all theater.

Clay McLeod Chapman 34:57

I you know, it's Honey, I'm gonna, I'm gonna about face here and just purely play devil's advocate, because this is this is the argument I'm having with myself. So I'm going to throw it out there and you shoot me down. I feel like the writing has to stand on its own. And that, like, if the writing is not good, like, it's, it's what is it lipstick on a pig? Like, it's just like, you know, the performance is almost like, is is concealing the the, the, the potential lack of quality in the writing itself because like, you know, if, if Laurence Olivier wanted to pick up a copy of, I don't know 50 Shades of Grey, I mean, I'm bet he could probably make it sound like Shakespeare. But you know, I just I just feel like, I'm always afraid, personally, that if the writing, if my writing isn't good enough, no performance will ever elevate it enough to hide the fact that it's bad writing. So, you know, the challenge is always like, yes, it's great to do a performance. And yes, it's great to do like to add this added layer this element of performance to an event. But it's like the foundation always has to be the writing. Or otherwise, it's like a total House of Cards, and it just collapses in on itself or or just, it's not memorable, it just fades in the audience's mind. And nobody wants to pay it away.

Michael David Wilson 36:35

Yeah, I don't think what you're saying is an argument against performance reading. I think it all works together. The writing does have to stand on its own. And if it doesn't, then it shouldn't really have been published in the first place. But yeah, there's that doesn't contradict everything that's been said about performance. Because if you're going to the reading, for me, I want more than the straight reading of why's, why have I left the house? Why aren't I just reading it on my own at home. So of course, it does have to stand on its own. However, if I'm taking the time to go to the live reading, give me another dimension to it. I mean, honestly, if you look at the plays of Shakespeare, and you look at the plays of Samuel Beckett, they are great works of literature. And they do stand on their own. But I imagine if back on in the day, I had gone to see William Shakespeare and he did your stood up, read his script, that I'd have been a little bit disappointed. So I, I hear what you're saying. And I think it's absolutely right, that the writing does have to stand on its own. But when I'm going to the reading, I'd like you to give me a little bit more than that.

Bob Pastorella 38:06

I think that you have to be careful to be able to, you know, create a dynamic, not be careful too. But that's what you should strive to do, is you want to create a dynamic. And we taught you you mentioned Max booth. I've seen Max read many, many times. This past weekend, I was at killer con. And he read from a novella that's going to be published with this collection. And I've seen Max read and usually it's like it's a sweaty type thing. It's energetic. And this this particular story had the section that he read had a lot of momentum to it. But the tone was wasn't sweaty and mannequin frantic. And there was maybe some parts were you'd laugh a little but it was a little bit more serious. Yeah, and a little bit more surreal. And he he knocked it out of the park. I mean, so if he was doing like a like a show of doing his readings, I think that he would realize that you have some ebbs and flows. You know, some some highs and lows that you that you definitely want to want to hit on. The stories have to have to mean something. I mean, and I'm seeing like some other great readers, you know, Gabino Iglesias, he's a great reader. He's not very performative. Because the words he says are the performance, but its delivery, his syntax, his you know, his, the pauses the inflection in his voice. And you have other readers like you know, like, like Robert Ford, Bob Ford, who kind of takes on a character. He doesn't really change his voice. It's all in the cadence of how he attacks the words. Yeah, so you you know to me, I think yes, you're right, the story. The story is king, no matter what story is King But you have to temper your your performance to it's like, especially, especially first person narratives, you kind of you're kind of playing the character a little bit.

Clay McLeod Chapman 40:10

Yeah. Totally. Yeah. Now, I love it. I love it. Because I don't know, like, we're and we're also living in this world of like, audiobooks and podcasts and like, you know, the level of engagement kind of just goes beyond like, there are just so many different kinds of platforms and in ways in which to engage in in writing these days that are, it's a, it seems like a golden time, but at the same time, like it's always, yeah, I feel like it just has to, it has to go back to the story. I've written plenty of crappy stories in my day. And they, you know, they don't they don't hold up. But the ones that do, you know, I don't know, like, I love the idea that like, someone who can read a story to themselves will hear their own voice, whatever, they're the voice that they manifest in their mind. But then you can have a performance and it's like, same text, same, same kind of same words. But, uh, the, the, I guess the engagement is different because you're, you know, you get an actor behind it, and it becomes something else. But it's the same text, like, I just love the duality of text. Hmm,

Bob Pastorella 41:32

yeah. And that's it, would you mention audiobooks, too? And it's like, when your actors read audiobooks, like I'll listen to Stephen Lang read anything. He can read, you know, the Red Badge of Courage. And I, you know, because because he'd had because he puts a character into it, you know, you know, he maybe like the morning sun shone brightly, you know, and then he could read some southern, you know, Gothic nor, you know, what, just just down home southern kind of sound. And I think that if you bring something like that, maybe not as dramatic, but something subtle. I mean, man, you could, you could elevate your readings to like, new heights.

Clay McLeod Chapman 42:17

Yeah. That was a great Stephen Lang impersonation, by the way.

Bob Pastorella 42:21

They were they were terrible.

Unknown Speaker 42:24

I heard I heard a man.

Michael David Wilson 42:27

Reading quote, Bob saying as well certainly highlights that when we're talking about performance, it can be subtle. You know, we're not saying that Margaret Atwood and Joyce Carol areas have to start fire breathing and throwing knives at each other for a live reading. Although, yeah, that would be quite an interesting take.

Clay McLeod Chapman 42:49

You fine. Yeah. I mean, it's, I mean, that's the thing. And I think maybe that's my Devil's advocacy. It's like, these poor writers, these authors, they like, they like have been slaving away in their offices, their, their little closet space, you know, hospitals, you know, cranking out these pages, and they, you know, then they have to go out into the world. And now you're telling me they have to do like a live show. Like, it's awful. That's a terrible thing to ask of a writer who's like whole existence is like meant to be within that, that that closet space, attic space, hollow space. You know, I think I always feel like, you know, any writer who doesn't like doing readings, I feel I always feel like they shouldn't be forced to do readings. Because it seems like it can be such a traumatic experience, like getting in front of an audience and, you know, reading the thing you labored and toiled away at for years on end. I love doing it. I have a blast doing it. But I know it's not for, for every writer, every author.

Michael David Wilson 44:01

Yeah. And fortunately, I mean, you know, with there being so many different mediums like podcasts, like YouTube shows, different kinds of videos and electronic media, there are different avenues and ways that people can promote their books. And I mean, if you're terrified of giving a reading, then you can perhaps have a kind of sit down interview in front of an audience. If the audience has a problem, then you can go to book shops and conventions and just do the signing part. So I mean, there are definitely ways around it. I don't think, yeah, having a rule that you can't do readings is going to break your career. I mean, there's many writers that are no unknown for being very secretive and secluded and they do just fine.

Clay McLeod Chapman 44:57

Yeah. Yeah, gosh, I mean, I wonder what that life is like, where the the work the writing sells itself. You know, I feel like one of the offshoots of these reading events or performative events is that you, you tend to be the kind of the best foot soldier for your work and, you know, you know how you want it to sound so you are the kind of the distillation of that story kind of on its, you know, the embodiment of it, I guess. So, you know, you know, I guess it's going back to that, that kind of craft mentality, the Art Fair mentality, but like, you know, you, you know, I'm about to go on book tour, and it's just like, I, you know, I'll probably perform to like one or two people, these bookstores, but it's like, it's like that, you know, I'm, like, I want to go out there and like, you just gotta, like, you gotta meet the people halfway. You got to give them give them a show.

Michael David Wilson 46:01

Yeah, yeah. Is there anything you can divulge about what the show might include for the new book? Or is that something you want to keep under wraps?

Clay McLeod Chapman 46:12

Well, you know, it's so funny, like, it's like, this is it's still feels early days, I mean, like, I have this book coming out called Ghost Eaters. And it comes out September 20. And, you know, I'm still in that place now, where I don't even know, I'm learning how to talk about it and learning how to, how to read from it, like how, like, how to, like, how to get it out there into the world. I mean, this is honestly, like, one of the first real genuine interviews that I've, I've done like to, like, talk about it, but like, if you sit, I mean, as you can tell, like, I'm still kind of like mealy mouthed and tongue tied about it. But, uh, you know, in terms of divulging, you know, like, live shows secrets. I've, I've read from it twice now. And the firt it's so funny, I don't want to I don't know if this is spoiler territory, but like, the book is about a haunted drug. And it's all about these, this group of young adults who, you know, are trying to navigate their way after the loss of a friend. And then there's like the prologue, the prologue is the only part of the book that has any sense of humor or, or levity to it. So like, I read thus far, just from the prologue, because it's just a, it's a silly Lark of an opening. And it's fun, it's fun to read from, I'm still getting my sea legs, but I think that will be the go to like the default until I get kind of tired of it. And then I might try to read deeper in but uh, I figure there's something kind of seductively duping about reading from the, the prologue because they'll be like, Oh, this is a, this is a total lack of a story. I want to read more. And then it's like, just all downhill from there.

Michael David Wilson 48:16

I mean, so much if you work is imbued with humor. So was it quite difficult to write a story where you're having to take the humor out of it? You know, there aren't so many laughs

Clay McLeod Chapman 48:31

It wasn't, I don't think it was a conscious decision of like, I'm going to be, I'm gonna be serious with this one. I mean, it was, you know, I mean, I think it was just the subject matter that I mean, like, you know, the book deals with the addiction that the the book deals with grief and the, like, the loss of a loved one, and obsession and, you know, toxic relationships and like, how, how that can affect a person. And, you know, I'm trying to cram all of those themes into one Narrator One point of view this, this, our protagonist is named Aaron and she's, she's just lost, you know, this person who meant the world to her, even when she was trying to get, you know, to kind of cleave herself free from from him. And even after his passing, you know, she can't let go of them. And you know, it. It's funny, like I I feel like there are pithy moments because there I was writing about characters in their 20s and something about that feels so pithy to me. But, uh, yeah, it's a, it's a it's a kind of downward spiral, right? It's a total Nine Inch Nails thing. It's like the downward spiral you gotta go down. Like this. Like you started up high and then just goes crashing spiraling into the seventh circle of hell.

Michael David Wilson 50:08

Yeah. Yeah.

Bob Pastorella 50:11

leashing and LM and out of the way at the front, you know, it's like if it was a movie, like this happy, like Dino themed music at the beginning, and then he would start and you'd have if you wouldn't even have a voiceover, but the voice in here would be like, two years later.

Clay McLeod Chapman 50:26

You're like, yeah, the subtitle. The timestamp pops up and like, Yeah, I mean, like, I don't know, like, everybody was, you know, I, the I just wanted the opening to feel like it was like a lark. Like, it just needed to be a lark. What and, you know, I need to actually go on record as saying that it was my editor who, who saved you, the reader from, you know, having to deal with my kind of grim mindset because like, I hadn't written the prologue for a long time. And my editor, I have two editors. And they were like, Dude, this is this is so depressing. Like you have to really selling the book I can tell. They're like, this is so this is so like, turgid? Like, can you can you have like a glimmer of happiness? Can there be some sense of like, levity at the at least the beginning of the book before the poop, the proverbial poop hits the fan. And I was like, Okay, I was like, Really, I don't know, if I was grumpy about it. But I was like, you know, somebody's reticent and resistant, you know, but then I was, like, I found this way in, that I liked. And it was this, like, total total. I mean, I keep saying lard, but that's all it is. Like it just like, I just wanted a jaunt where, you know, you have stupid kids doing stupid things and making stupid decisions. And there are real life consequences to it in real life. Real life, you know, what's a better word for consequences? Real Life results are causing effect that like leads to the rest of their lives. And, yeah, you got to, you know, my editor's point was you got to show show them happy.

Bob Pastorella 52:28

But you did it, right. Because I mean, the way the way I feel about it, it's, it's almost like the ultimate, you know, fuck around and find out, they were messing around with things probably not bent and best left alone. And usually, when you're, when you're that age, and you want to do something like that, you know, it's like, it's gonna be a blast, you know? And then, you know, and then time later, it's like, it's not a blast. It's, it's pretty bad.

Clay McLeod Chapman 53:01

You know? And, you,

Bob Pastorella 53:04

you did that, and to me, I fucking love it. I mean, I'll be honest with you, you know, it's like, hey, you know, start me off high and take me down. Somebody people will look to, they want they want they want to feel the pain in the horror. I mean, this is this is as close as some of some people are gonna want to ever get to, I guess, torturous grief pain, you know, with it with a safety net. So they got to, you know, basically, like, bring it you know, this is the closest they want to get to it. So I think I think it's, it's, it was to me, you know, I didn't I don't think it was a lark at all, I think it just kind of actually flows. You know.

Clay McLeod Chapman 53:41

It's so funny. It's a, quote, unquote, true story. Where, like, my friends, and I didn't break into this one particular cemetery, but we broke into another cemetery. It was three of us. And we were just dumb asses. We were just complete idiots. But we wait, you know, I don't know why. I don't know who whose idea it was. But like, we were like, oh, let's like at that point, in our post collegiate, like, post grad like, maybe like 20 to 23 year old mine. We lived, like, two blocks away. No, live two blocks away from a big cemetery here in Brooklyn. And we were like, dude, let's let's hop the fence and go into Greenwood Cemetery. And we, you know, we weren't doing anything else on a Friday night. So we're like, what the hell you know, and Greenwood Cemetery is this amazing, like beautiful, stunning cemetery here in the heart of Brooklyn. And I mean, it like rivals Central Park in terms of size, except with just a lot more dead bodies buried in it. And we hopped fence, we were kind of putting puttering around the cemetery. Like we didn't have any plans like once we got in, but we got in. And it was those those like, taut, like, treacherous friggin like iron spike fences that like couldn't pale you. And you know we leaped over many ways. And of course as soon as we're in security catches us and the three of us it was all three dudes, dumbass dudes. And we, we we divided we broke up and like bolted for an all of us headed in opposite directions. And um, you know, I don't know about the two other guys but I basically like, like crawled, like basically did that that kind of military like elbow like crawl through like rows of cemetery have like graves in the head, like just like crawling behind headstones for hours. I mean, no lie like I, we, we were trapped in a cemetery like we like if and like, if I like stood up at any point, like, that's when the flashlight would like just, like, land on me. Like they like they somehow knew where we were just not exactly where we were. So like, we had to hide behind tombstones. And like, it was it was basically like every man for themselves. And like, I hid for hours behind the tombstone waiting for like, until the coast was clear. And I think like the sun started to come up and I was just like, oh my god, I'm so dead. And then finally, I just like mustered up the courage to like, vote for it and, and like that, like they they're in there, like the security are in their little like squad car. And like they're, they're chasing after me. And I like Hop the Fence didn't like, like, scraped my arm. But then like fell on the sidewalk on the other side. And like just faceplant. It was awful. And I like rent, like, basically couldn't run home because I was afraid they were like, somehow still trailing me through Brooklyn. So I like did some weird kind of circuitous, like, like, you know, backtracking and like going like circling around blocks. And like, until like, finally, I was like, shaking my tail. And like, no one would have been able to follow me. And then I finally make it back to our apartment. And like, the other two dudes are like watching TV. And they're like, what took you so long? How long have you guys been out? And yeah, I wasn't I was the kingdom. So that I

Bob Pastorella 57:41

mean, the way you described that cemetery today reminded me of the cemetery that Gregory Gregory pick, got into in the omen. You talk about those soul spikes? You know? Why don't you say and then my buddy got his legs caught in spike.

Clay McLeod Chapman 57:58

And then my friend was advocated by Plato, but

Bob Pastorella 58:02

yeah, yeah.

Clay McLeod Chapman 58:06

Crazy, you know, in terms of the prologue to ghost eaters, you know, I wanted to keep it on theme. And I wanted to keep it, you know, kind of relatively centered around death. And I figured, like, oh, let's have nothing says early 20s, like breaking into a cemetery and dosing on LSD.

Michael David Wilson 58:32

Thank you so much for listening to the conversation with clay McLeod Chatlin. We'll be back again next time in a few days. For part two, where we're going to go even deeper into ghosty. Is, or even going to answer the question, what is a ghost? I mean, maybe not conclusively answer it. I don't know if you know, in the newspapers, people be like, alright, well, Dave, fucking solve that or no, but we're going to try to answer that. We're also going to talk about why horror, why is that something that we're interested in that we're attracted to. So if that sounds good to you, and you want to get that ahead of the crowd, consider becoming a patron@patreon.com. Forward slash, This Is Horror. Not only are you going to get early bird access to each and every episode, but you can submit questions to each and every interviewee. And the next week or so we're going to be talking to Ronald Kelley, and gamma are more so to great writers to great guests coming up. I'd love you to be involved in that conversation. So do consider becoming a patron is also going to be helping me out. Personally, I could really do with the support. But you know, we try to offer more value than it costs. So you are going to be getting a load of things. You're going to be a part of the writers forum on Discord. You're going to get Exclusive to Patreon episodes like the q&a sessions, video cast on camera off record. And of course story on Bob's the horror podcast on the craft of writing. Head over to patreon.com forward slash This Is Horror, see if it's a good fit for you. Now before I wrap up, a little bit of an advert break.

Bob Pastorella 1:00:21

The demonic brilliance Film Festival is a competitive horror film festival celebrating excellence in horror organised by horror filmmakers for horror filmmakers. It is now open for submissions. There are awards in all major categories and its submission fee is just $6.66. One or 2% of submission fees and ticket sales with donated charities. There's your film habit it takes to be awarded best film at the demotic brilliance Film Festival. Check it out the details at filmfreeway.com/demonic brilliance Film Festival. The deadline to submit is August 31. Tinnitus press presents lure a novella of otherworldly folklore by Tim McGregor in efficient village on an alien shore hanging the bones of ancient for second gods. The arrival of a new God brings to send in madness and threatens to tear disturbing community apart against the backdrop of Brian and blood. Lord blurs the line between natural disaster and self destruction. Eric La Rocca calls lawyer a monstrously invented fable, immersive and utterly compelling preorder and tinnitus press.com Now lures out July 18.

Michael David Wilson 1:01:24

As always, I'd like to end with a quote, and he has something to Muse upon from Sarah Pinborough. The unreliable narrator is an odd concept. The way I see it. We're all unreliable narrators of our lives, who usually have absolute trust in our self told stories. Any truth is, after all, just a matter of perspective. I'll see you in the next episode for the second part with Clay McLeod Chapman. But until then, take care yourselves. Be good to one another. Read horror. Keep on writing and have a great, great day.

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