In this podcast, Tyler Jones talks about beautiful writing, Patrick deWitt, literary agents, and much more.
About Tyler Jones
Tyler Jones is the author of Criterium, The Dark Side of the Room, Almost Ruth, and Burn the Plans.
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Horror on Main
A brand new horror convention coming soon. Guests include Tim Lebbon, Sarah Pinborough, Jeff Strand, and Jessica McHugh.
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Michael David Wilson 0:07
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 with masters of horror, about writing, life lessons, creativity, and much more. Now, today's guest is Tyler Jones for the second part of our conversation. He is the author of criterium the dark side of the room, almost roof and burn up plans. And in this episode, we talk about the first story that Tyler fell in love with you a little bit about Oasis, Patrick DeWitt, literary agents, and a lot more. But before we get into any of that, a little bit of an advert break,
Bob Pastorella 1:29
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Hey, this is for artists Lynne Hanson and I'm really excited to be guest of honor and horror on Main. You're gonna come to write, we can see you there
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Michael David Wilson 2:42
Okay with that said, here it is it is Tyler Jones on this says Hora because you've mentioned so many great offers and great stories, but one thing I'm wondering is, when was the first time that you fell in love with a story? So what was the first story that you read? that you just absolutely fell in love with?
Tyler Jones 3:12
The first one was Huckleberry Finn. Yeah, that book, I became obsessed with Mark Twain after reading that book. And I read it so many times, because I actually read that in Honduras, I think I was 10 or 11. And we didn't have many books down there at the time. So I read that one over and over again, multiple times. It was like, it was like watching your favorite movie. You know how kids can watch the same thing over and over. It was like that, but with this book and that and then Tom Sawyer I read that one multiple times, but Huck Finn always stood out to me. And that was the first book that really just floored me and and a lot of it was the voice a lot of it was the story. And it's heavy, man. Like there's heavy, heavy stuff in there even beyond the the obvious. This storyline of of Huck and Jim, you go back to the very beginning with Huck's dad being an alcoholic. Like there's just a lot of heavy stuff that that kid learns along the journey. And and I think the next big one that really just was like a missile right to my brain was it by Stephen King, which I read in junior high not long after coming back to the country. And I came across that book accidentally. I mean, long story. Long story short, I actually went on this this church trip, and we were driving in we're going to drive in this van from Southern Oregon, all the way up to the San Juan Islands in Washington, which are Like the Seattle area. And we were going to spend a couple of days on this island like kayaking and stuff. And there was this girl on this trip, who were sitting in the backseat of his van. And she had her backpack open. And I didn't know where I'd never met her before. And I see this book cover in her backpack, and it's like a sewer grate with a claw coming out of it. I'm like, what is that? And so I asked her, if I could take a look at it in this drive, mind you is like an eight hour drive. And I pick up the book, and I open it up, and I read the first couple pages. And the next thing I know, we're eight hours later, like we're pulling into Seattle, and I didn't participate in that trip at all. I just sat in a chair and read that book from cover to cover. And that's yeah, that completely, like rearranged. Me internally, in terms of story, subject matter complexity, I mean, you name it, that what an education in what a story can do and accomplish. And it's unique. It's one of those books that I think I mean, it's such a cultural icon now, but if you were to describe it to somebody who'd never heard of it, it could sound silly. But not when you're reading it, when you're reading and it doesn't seem silly at all, even the silliest parts of it. Don't seem silly when you are reading it. You know, like if you talk about it, turning into a spider, like spiders don't scare me. I spent time in in the jungle, like spiders don't even scare me at all. Not even a little. But when I'm reading that book, man, like, it's, it's intense. So yeah, I pinpoint those two is like really, really important works for me.
Michael David Wilson 7:07
Since might not be the question that people anticipate. I would ask next about what happened to the girl with a backpack? Did you become friends? Did you analyze it together? Was she kind of annoyed that you took her book for the whole damn Korea?
Tyler Jones 7:24
That's a great question. So. So the way that it worked was, I think she was the friend of someone else. So the whole I was hooked on the book. But I also had there was this tension the whole time I was reading it because I, as you know, it's not a small book. And I'm a generally pretty quick reader. But still, it's a big book, and it's dense. And I knew I have to finish this before we go back because I need to give it back to her. So like everything else that I don't think I went kayaking or crabbing or any of the other things that everyone else was doing. I just read knowing almost like it was due at the library kind of thing. Yeah. She She hadn't read it. So it was just this thing that I stole from her for the weekend and finished it. And there was nobody I could talk to about it. No, yeah, you had read it. Again, but then yeah, when I got when I got to high school and the high school library had all of Stephen King's books. I just checked them out one by one and read every single one of them.
Bob Pastorella 8:33
And that was like your first Stephen King book at the time, was it? It was? Yeah. And when what what year? Would you say that was?
Tyler Jones 8:43
Bob Pastorella 8:44
I mean, I had to ask a math question, huh?
Tyler Jones 8:46
Yeah, you sure did.
Bob Pastorella 8:50
I mean, it wasn't it wasn't frenemies. It now for a while.
Tyler Jones 8:54
Yeah, like early 90s.
Bob Pastorella 8:57
Okay. Yeah. Because, you know, I mean, when that book came out, there was like, unless you were in the industry, you really didn't know what books were coming out. You know, occasionally, there'd be something in newspaper that so and so you really had to kind of to kind of dig a little deeper, you know, back then, because it didn't have the internet. Well, it did, but nobody had it. And I remember when that when that book came out, and it was, you know, they had at the library, there was a waiting list. And they they will call you this little these little ladies who come, Robert. This is on so from the product or public library. You requested the new Stephen King. It's here for you on me. I'd be like, Mom, you got to take me to the library.
Tyler Jones 9:45
That's awesome. Yeah,
Bob Pastorella 9:49
and I remember it was like, man, he caught the book it called it the Yeah, weird. It's weird. But uh, man, that's it. It all makes sense. Oh, Yeah, it does. And, you know, I have a love hate relationship with the book. But I mean, to be honest with you, it's a great book. And I love how we come to realize that it's, it's, it's, it's in a way it's kind of first person, but it's not, you know. And that was that was my first I guess, little brush with the with kind of POV trickery. And I thought it was really cool.
Tyler Jones 10:33
Yeah, that's that's a good way to put it. I know exactly what you're talking about. That yeah, that awareness of it can be more than just paragraph after paragraph dialogue dialogue paragraph. Yeah, what he does with the POV trickery, as you put it is really, yeah. We know in both in both the books I mentioned Huck Finn and, and it, like those two sort of combined really illustrate my entire interest in in writing in general, which is Huck Finn has voice. And then Stephen King, I think Clara clarity is one of the clearest storytellers of all time. The fact that it is as big as it is, and has been read by as many people, as it has, is a testament to the fact that it is like, such a magnificent example of storytelling and clarity, because people don't, when would not read a book that size. That was confusing, right? So everything is just perfectly clear. The way it's told the characters, the events, and there's a lot of them. And there's a lot of characters, a lot of moving pieces, and yet it's never unclear. And I value that and storytelling enormously.
Michael David Wilson 11:58
Well, I've been reading a lot of your work recently in preparation for this podcast. And I mean, what's really great about it is how, you know so many sentences are imbued with this poetry, yet at the same time, you do have absolute clarity. So then I wonder, and really, this is the million dollar question. How do you write sentences imbued with search, artistic beauty and poetry? Without compromising clarity?
Tyler Jones 12:36
Well, first of all, man, thank you for that. That's wonderful to hear. Boy, that's a big question. I think clarity is is number one. I, I do I do appreciate poetry and writing. I do appreciate. Not eloquence, so much as elegance. I think there's a difference. I think eloquence tends to be a bit verbose. And elegance is finding the simplest way to say something beautifully. And a good example of that, I think is is Joe Lansdale. Like there are moments in his books where he has these sentences that are so simple, and so beautiful. There's no other way to put it. Yeah, just I tried to. I think rhythm an answer to your question is a huge one, it has to have rhythm. And if I, if a sentence is too minimalist, and there's too many of them strung in a row, where it's just very, very basic. It gets monotonous. And so there's something instinctual in me that wants to break it up and make sure that there's some, some rhythm and some beauty in it. And if I'm, you know, totally honest, I think that lyrics have something to do with that, too. Like I listen to a lot of music. I'm a big fan of music. And there are lyrical ways of saying things. Certain words that are used in songs that are phrases even, that you don't often see in writing. And once they appear within a story they take on this, like incandescent quality. Does that make sense? What I'm saying about the music thing?
Michael David Wilson 14:26
Yeah, it does. And it is making me wonder, you know, who do you think are some of the examples of the best lyricist out there?
Tyler Jones 14:38
She's, you know, the first example that comes to mind is Bob Dylan. So love him or hate him, which he is one of those. Those artists that people either love or hate, mostly because of the voice, I think. But I have a book of all His lyrics. And if you read through his lyrics, there's a reason that he won the Pulitzer Prize. His his, the turns of phrase that he uses are just absolutely remarkable, even from his earliest work. Yes, he's a storyteller, but he's also a poet, but he's also something else. And I don't know what that word is. But I'm actually I recently had the opportunity to see him live in Portland just a couple months ago. And it was, it was a great show, he played at this theater called the Arlene Schnitzer theater. And it's not a very big place, I think it holds like maybe 2500 People tops, actually might even be less than that. But fairly small. And it was the first concert that I've been to in years. And at the door, there was some company there that I suppose the Bob had employed. And they put, they slip your phone in inside a bag, and they lock it up. So you can't use your phone to take pictures or video or anything. So you walk into this theater, and everybody has their phone in bags. And the only way they can get to it is to run back outside and have one of these employees unlock it for him. So what you end up with is a theater full of people 100% engaged in what's happening. They're experiencing the concert, through their own eyes, through their own ears, not through a screen, and how good does the video look? Or how's the picture look. And it was a really cool experience. And which I would have done anyway, I'm not one for taking pictures at concerts, but just sitting there listening to him, he played almost his his newest album almost entirely. I think almost every song from it except one. And I was listening to the words of the songs in a way that I haven't. I've listened to the album a couple of times, but hearing him sing it live just it hit differently. And I realized just how powerful his lyrics are. In fact, there's some there's some line in the song, I'm gonna have to I'll have to look it up a little bit later. I can't even remember it. And I don't want to botch it. But the way maybe, okay, I'll just botch it anyway, it says something about, I opened my heart up to the world and the world got in. And just the simple poetry of that almost the heartbroken pneus of it, it implies this, like I was willing to think the best of the world, but then the world got into me. And now I'm not who I want to be like all of that is implied from one sentence. So he's, he's one of the first that come come to mind as far as lyricists and answer to your question.
Michael David Wilson 17:59
Yeah. And do you find yourself with music, studying lyricist, and almost trying to unlock them in the way that you would you know, with the film that you were talking about, and the expressions? Do you find yourself being analytical with music as well, to really distill the essence and what it is that's making them tick?
Tyler Jones 18:24
No, actually, I don't at all. In fact, I, it's the exact opposite. I just allow my brain to like subconsciously absorb the phrases, and the rhythm of it. A lot of it is just rhythm and how certain whether it's a verse or a chorus, how the lyrics flow. Like, it's all it's all very, very subconscious. And, and I don't hear lyrics very well. Oddly enough, like, I think part of it is maybe the fact that I am a musician, and I play primarily guitar, but also drums and bass, some. So I'm, when I'm listening, I'm focused a lot on the music and the voice in the melody. But the words are like the last thing that I'm focused on. So I really catch only bits and pieces of them as I'm listening, even if it's something I've heard a million times by my favorite band. I couldn't quote you all the lyrics of all the songs that I've heard a million times, but I can, there's bits and pieces of a meta integrated into my thinking. And I do think it comes out in certain sentences, certain rhythmic details and certain words where, like, I'll choose a different word than maybe what would be expected in the sentence. Like I try to anticipate the expectation of certain sentences and maybe use a different word or a different phrase. Like here's an example. My favorite band of all time is oasis. and Oasis is not known for being lyrically deep. And in fact, no Gallagher, who wrote all of Oasis songs. He makes fun of his own lyrics all the time. But like take a song like Champagne Supernova, where you've got a line that says slowly walking down the hall, faster than a cannonball. It's like, wait, what? Huh? He paints this picture of slowly walking down a hall and then completely subvert it by using the word faster than a cannonball, and it like it stops and makes you think and paints this weird visual, that makes more sense emotionally than it does logically. And I, it makes me think of like what Kubrick said that the truth of a thing is in the feel of it, not the Think of it. And I think finding those words that elicit a certain feeling are as important as painting something very specific, is because it gives an audience room to come into it with their own emotions, like what does that mean? It's clear, but But what am I bringing to it? In fact, there's this old famous story of Noah Gallagher, I think I've probably told this before, but it's worth repeating. Is there was some journalists, they were playing, I think it might have been Knebworth, like some massive concert, you know, 50,000 people. Yeah. And this journalist was asking, like, they come off stage, and the crowd was chanting for an encore. And the journalist just asked him a question. And he said, like, what are you going to play for your encore novel said, we're going to play Champagne Supernova. And the journalist goes in. Okay, interesting, because that's a hit. But what does that mean? No, I mean, that song, because it's just nonsense, isn't it? And Nora says, Listen, when we go out there and play the song, and 50,000 people start singing it back. Tell me it's nonsense, then. Like, it hits some emotional truth in some way, you know? Like, there are there are little phrases within that song that are very clear, like Where were you while we were getting high? Is that an accusation? Is that a? Is there sadness to that? Like, where were you? We needed you there things went wrong. Because the whole tone of that song is pretty sad. Someday you'll find me, you know, underneath landslide. So there's this there's this melancholy to it, but then it's when you when you pick it apart, you realize that maybe most of the melancholy is what you're bringing to it yourself. And maybe that's what an audience of 50,000 people relates to is they've brought their own melancholy to a song that is maybe at its core melodically joyful. So it's also in tension with itself it's melancholy sad lyrics with a mostly joyful uplifting melody. Yeah. Which I guess is a whole other subject because I love that I love that tension Yeah, well
Michael David Wilson 23:08
yeah it's funny to the power of music that you just verbatim saying those lyrics you know, answer no waste is found I can hear the song in my head and I can't separate it. Here is playing now. playing in my head.
Tyler Jones 23:30
You're gonna have to listen to it when we're done.
Michael David Wilson 23:33
I'm potentially gonna listen to it when we take a little break. Yeah.
Tyler Jones 23:38
Close your eyes. Take a listen to the song. Like don't think about anything else and just think what a tune.
Michael David Wilson 23:44
Yeah, like what why is Michael taken so long to come back? It's like, listening to the whole album. Now. He's got the last season. kinda understand. Yeah, in some ways, just trends.
Tyler Jones 24:02
I was just gonna say speaking of a waste of sit is the he was yesterday was the 25th anniversary of their album, their third album be here now, which is kind of a forgotten gem. How's that their follow up to what's the story Morning Glory. And I love that album too.
Michael David Wilson 24:18
Yeah, I think yeah, because of it. And it was yesterday, they did put out a number of kind of new formats of that album, so I haven't checked it out yet. But yeah, you You are right, that that one definitely gets overshadowed by what's the story Morning Glory. I think they're both fantastic albums.
Tyler Jones 24:44
Yeah, I agree. That Be here now is like definitely a cocaine album. It's just over the top. The songs are too long. There's like way too many overdubs. But there's something charming about that excess. Yeah, it's like here's a band on top of the world. making the biggest album that they possibly could.
Michael David Wilson 25:02
Yeah, yeah. And you know, I mean that kind of metaphor or analogy kind of extends with with fiction. We can have like a more kind of concise. What's the story morning glory but there's also absolutely room for an overindulgent cocaine novel literally put. Yeah, sure.
Tyler Jones 25:25
Yeah, for sure. Something just bloated. And I think Stephen King refers to the Tommyknockers as his novel like that. Yeah. And it's not its charm, you know,
Bob Pastorella 25:40
I think that was the that was the last one that Bill Thompson edited.
Tyler Jones 25:44
A thing was it was that it?
Bob Pastorella 25:46
I think it was because I met Bill. And he's he was a trip man soon. And he was at a conference and no one knew who he was. As soon as they said that he was steaming kings editors, like, this guy was like holding the beacon, you know, and every writer to conference was like, oh, that's the guy. You know. So I actually got a chance to kind of talk with him because we were meeting two young ladies were actually running the conference. And he was talking about, you know, we were talking about his most famous client. And he says, yeah, man, you got you got a damn near work gloves with stuff now. I'm like, What do you mean? He goes, Oh, we get blood coffee stains. cigarette ash is on there. And like blood. Yeah, he's, we had to have an intervention. Which he talks about and on Friday? Yeah. It's almost like wow. He said, Yeah, man. He goes, there's pages of The Shining that you can't read from the original main script. Wow. Sounds like But he'd seen as Yeah, he's the number one selling writer in the world.
Tyler Jones 26:57
I was like, Wow, no pressure, huh? Yeah. So imagine what that would feel like geez, create under that kind of weight.
Bob Pastorella 27:08
They recently posted a picture on social media of him king and Peter Straub. And I want to say that the comment that Straub said something to the effect of there was a they were in or like many beers, or something like that. They just they look like it's like, you know, it's from that dark forces era, you know? Yes. Yeah.
Tyler Jones 27:34
And it's like that, like 1980
Bob Pastorella 27:36
Yeah, it's like, these guys are in their prime. You know, look at them. They're so they're so you know, it's like, wow, this like, there's so much vibrant energy, you know, and it's like, man, these, these are some devious motherfuckers right here. inspired millions. So
Michael David Wilson 27:54
that's awesome. Well, it's fairly known that Chuck Palahniuk has been one of your mentors, but perhaps less people know that you also have received mentorship from Patrick DeWitt. Yeah. So I wondered, how did you first get in touch with one another?
Tyler Jones 28:20
So Pat, lives here in Portland. And it's actually similar to story to Josh Malerman, in the sense that I was at Pauwels. When I found Birdbox. Like, I just go to pals wander around, try to keep keep aware of what's coming out and who's putting it out and who the writers are, and all that stuff. And Pat had just come out with his first novel called ablutions. And the cover is just weird. It's a weird abstract book in cover. And so I picked it out into this little little book. It's like 150 pages long. And as I turned to look at the author, photo and bio, and it said that he lived here in Portland. I was like, Oh, that's cool. Like, I always try to keep up on Portland authors as well. Like, there's another local author named Willie vallotton, who's great. I've been reading his stuff for years. And he and I have hung out a number of times. We used to go to this old horse track called Portland meadows, and hang out and he's a great guy, really. He's kind of like a modern day Raymond Carver, but better, I think. And he actually this is so cool. So Joe Hill is one of my favorite writers. And he just recently tweeted about Willie's last book called The Night always comes and just said it was like one of the best American novels that he's read in like the last 20 years, which was so cool, because like, I've been reading Willie for years, and it was it was neat to see Joe. Yeah, experienced that book and way. So I picked up I bought ablutions and read it. And the writing is just so like diamond sharp, really unique, especially for, you know, a debut novelist to see that level of confidence in the writing. And there's an edginess to it as well. And so anyway, I reached out to him and said, Man, I'd love to just pick your brain, about writing. And so we got together, we had dinner and chatted and just stayed in touch. After that, we'd meet up a couple times a year and hang out and exchanging emails, talk on the phone. And, and then he came out with this novel that to this day remains one of my all time favorite books called the Sisters Brothers, in that blue book is absolutely amazing. And if any, anybody listening hasn't read it, seek it out immediately. It is incredible. It's so incredible, in fact, that they made a movie of it. And I never watched the movie, because like the book exists in such a sacred place in my mind. And just over the course of our friendship, he offered to read some of my stuff and give me some feedback, which was really gracious of him. And he actually ended up reading this book, this early novel that I wrote, and some of the feedback that he gave, it was all very, like, he didn't go like page by page, but just gave me this general feel, conversation that we had. And at the time, I was reading a lot of, I guess, what you'd call like, postmodern literature, like a lot of Don DeLillo and Thomas Pynchon. And I was just really enamored with the way that, like Thomas Pynchon has this book called Willie as gravity's rainbow, you know, is really well known. But that book and his other novel, he wrote, This doorstop called against the day, like there is something just unhinged about his writing. It's insane. And I, I loved it. It's like jazz, it's like, jazz with words. And I was trying to find my voice and the way that I write and was really influenced by both of those writers, and trying, as we all do early on trying to emulate them. But you know, if you're not, you just can't do it, or I couldn't anyway. And so what would happen is, my prose was just all over the place. But then I'd have moments of clarity. And what Pat really highlighted for me was, stick to the clarity, and then have these moments of being unhinged, but don't spend so much time being unhinged. And that stuck with me ever since maybe because it came from him or maybe because it was how he said, it. Just really, really stuck with me. And I just, I think he's just an absolutely brilliant writer, brilliant thinker, too. He's, he's a blast to talk to, and
very takes his writing. as seriously as I've ever seen anyone take his writing, like in an obsessive kind of way. And I think you can see it in his sentences. They're just so precise, and so and not precise, to where all the life is strangled out of them, but precise, and freewheeling at the same time. It's just he's a really remarkable writer and funny too. Like, he's he, if you like, watch an interview with him. He's a fairly serious person. But serious in the sense like a French philosopher is serious, that he's also playful in his writing, and it comes out in his art. So that's my, yeah, fanboy over Patrick do it but incredible writer and was really, really grateful to get the feedback that I received from him over the years.
Michael David Wilson 34:19
Yeah, yeah. Are you still in regular contact?
Tyler Jones 34:24
Not as much anymore. It's been a while he he actually doesn't have this isn't like some secret. I think he's probably talked about it in an interview, if I'm not mistaken, but he doesn't have internet at his house. So he's created this, like, Fortress of Solitude. So he really just kind of cuts himself off from the world for a lot of a lot of the year while he's writing and working and, and I do my best to respect that and so it's it's been a little while since we've done We've connected and grabbed a bite to eat. But hopefully soon, I actually, Patrick led me to discover this other writer named Joshua Moore, who wrote a number of novels and then a couple memoirs, which are absolutely fascinating. And his most recent memoir is called model citizen, and it came out I think, I think it was Harper. Anyway, he's one of those guys who put out a number of books through indie presses, and then just recently made the leap to the big five. But I saw him in Josh Moore and Patrick DeWitt, our friends. And I saw Joshua Moore at Pauwels give a reading. And I have never felt so inspired about writing. And it sounds like such a stupid thing to say like, Oh, I saw this writer speak, and now I'm inspired. But it was how he spoke about writing. And there's just something so positive. There's a lot of similarities between him and Josh Malerman. In any way, Josh, Josh, he does some independent editing he and I reached out to him I wrote this novel called Midas that was like this really big, dark, heavy novel. And I finished the first draft and I just didn't feel right about it. But I knew that there was something there was almost like a, like an ember in a fire, like there was something glowing at the center of this book of the story. And I wasn't quite sure how to, to bring it to life like to this thing to catch fire. And so I reached out to him, and I've never done this before or since. And asked if he'd be willing to work on the project with me and edit it. Like I really felt that there was something special about this book, and I needed an outside perspective, more than just like a friend to beta read it. I needed an objective, someone who could just tear it apart with me. And the experience that I had going through that book with him, remains to this day one of the best collaborative writing experiences and by collaborative, I mean, like, editorial, you know, and he just has this energy, this positivity and this uncanny eye for breaking apart a story. And like, there's, there's one moment in the book, the scene that I had saved is a reveal, like that occurs, like three quarters of the way through the book. And he was like, that thing right there that you did is the most Tyler Jones thing. In this book, like there's something about this image, this scene, how it's revealed. Like, why are you saving that? That should be the book. And it was like, it blew just deconstructed, everything blew it apart. And I ended up rewriting the entire book from scratch. With this event, as the very center of the story, and I mean, this, there's the book as it exists now. It wouldn't be what it is without, without his eye on it. I am enormously grateful. And that was the book that I ended up sending to Elizabeth cops, who is now my agent, and I ended up sending it, we ended up sending it to Paul Miller at earthling who is now publishing it. So just reinforcing that. Okay, the I think there is something about this book that it deserves to have a life and all of that not insignificant part is due to Josh's influence.
Michael David Wilson 39:06
And so when you got Elizabeth as your agent, Elizabeth cops, did you query a lot of different literary agents and in fact, irrespective as to whether you did, what was it about Elizabeth, that meant that you went with her?
Tyler Jones 39:25
Yeah, the query and process Oh, man. I might it was not the first book that I'd queried I'd queried two others. Prior to that, both of which I'm grateful. I mean, not that they weren't good enough to to a get an agent or be be published. But I'm grateful now that they, they weren't. Because I learned a lot like I wrote a number of novels. The exact number is escaping me at the moment, but it's somewhere in the neighborhood of two Since somewhere between eight and 10, before I wrote Midas, so I'd queried a couple of times before. And when I queried I would, I would send out to 150 agents, which meant between the two books that I'd queried before minus, you know, somewhere in the neighborhood of 300. rejections. Yeah. So, but you know, rejections have never bothered me at all.
Michael David Wilson 40:31
I mean, you know, as a writer.
Tyler Jones 40:35
Yeah, exactly. And I think it comes to from the background of music, you know, I used to play in bands, and we'd back in the back in the day pre internet, where you'd have to send demo tapes or demo CDs to record labels, and they'd send people out to shows, you know, like, I was just used to it, you know, some not everybody's gonna like what you're doing and that's fine. You're looking for the people who, who get it who connect with. So with MIDAS, same thing, I queried probably 150 agents, and I had some who were interested in answer to your question with Elizabeth. She represents both Philip fricassee and Andy Davidson. Yeah, two writers that I admire greatly. And they both just had glowing things to say about her and her work ethic, her approach to things, her enthusiasm, all of that, and I just, it seemed like a really, really good fit. And she read Midas and her enthusiasm for the book. And the story just completely sold me. I thought, yeah, you're the you're the right person for this. And that's what I'd been looking for. Was that kind of reaction? Yeah.
Michael David Wilson 41:49
Yeah. I'm actually early into the querying agents process at the moment. And oh, wow. I mean, you said one of the things that appealed was having for Cassidy and Davidson. And I mean, that that's kind of similar to my approach that I'll look at, okay, who are the offers that I think, you know, if people liked what they were doing, they might like what Michael David Wilson is doing? And then kind of find out, okay, well, who who's their agent? And then, you know, like, you reach out to the author, if you're in contact with them, and ask them, how's your age? And depending on the response will depend on whether you decide to query that one, but yeah,
Tyler Jones 42:40
yeah, I Yeah, it's so important. And, you know, Phil fricassee, has has been something of a recent mentor to me in the last couple years, like he's been so generous with his time and just so gracious to answer questions. And I'm really grateful to call him a friend now. And I admire his work enormously. And he's such a good guy. And he's helped me and just answered more questions than he had any right to, to answer me, or I had any right to ask, but he's been so gracious. But you know, with that with the agent thing. I think one of the most important things like anybody out there who's queering, as well, I would highly. If I was asked for one piece of advice, it would be this. Be really, really honest with yourself and, and your work. And by that I mean, I queried two novels, that when they were rejected by every agent that I possibly thought would be interested in it's not a joke. I kept an XML file like it was, yeah, 100 and more. I admitted something to myself that this isn't the book. So take a good honest look, if it's been rejected by 150 people, are they all wrong? Or are you wrong? And the answer was me. The book wasn't good enough. I can. And once I looked at it objectively, and with humility, I realized that it's it. It's not all these agents who aren't seeing my brilliance, it's me query in a book that doesn't have a chance of success. So then I immediately felt like, Okay, on to the next, write something better. And I think that I've seen firsthand a number of writers who, they've spent so much time on a novel that they become really, really connected to it, and I get it, but it makes them unable to see its flaws, and so they are continuing continually. queering a flawed book But most likely won't get accepted. And that can be a really hard pill to swallow to say, like I spent, you know, eight months writing this novel, and maybe it's not good enough. Or maybe it really needs a lot more work. You know, either one, but in my case I, the two novels that I queried I thought were irredeemably flawed. And I was over. I'm like it, my emotional connection to the book was done. But that's just me. Like, that's how I operate. I can't hang on to something for years and years. And this is it. This is the one I'm done with it. I want to move on and try and write something better. So I just let go of those. And that's when I moved on and wrote Midas and just poured absolutely everything that I had at the time into it. And yeah, and then and then, and I after writing that one, I knew, like I said, I felt in my gut, that there was something about that book. And even if it never, even if even if it never gotten an agent, I think I'd still either release it myself or see if a small press was was interested in it. But I just believed in it so strongly. And that's why I reached out to Joshua Morton to help me see what I couldn't see. Because I believed in that core idea and the core story of it so much. And I didn't feel that way about the other books that I ditched. Yeah, I guess. It's just, you know, be honest with yourself about like, take a good hard look at the book and not you personally, but just anybody, if you're struggling, if like 150 rejections have come in, you know, have that, talk with yourself be like, Okay, is it me? Or is it everyone else?
Michael David Wilson 46:53
Yeah, and this is a tricky one. And there's so much to unpack. But as you've repeated, I think the headline or the overriding piece of advice, is be honest with yourself. Because I mean, 150 agents rejecting a book, that certainly does not mean, you know, by itself, that the book is flawed, or that the book doesn't have any artistic merit or any value. But I think you've already covered that by saying, you know, if you look at Midas, that is a book that you believe in. So you could get 1500 rejections. I mean, if you can even find that amount of agents, and you would still, you would still put it out. But, I mean, yeah, if you get that many rejections, you probably need to have that conversation with yourself. And you need to be as honest as possible. But the answer might be that you do believe in this novel, and that you don't want to pull it out. So I just thought, you know, it's worth stating that point, because, you know, I know of people who have queried this kind of amount of people, and, and their story is pretty damn good. It just might be that it's not quite what an agent is looking for at this specific time. Because the publishing industry can be fickle. It can be that there are trends that go around that. It can just be the Unfortunately, your novel, which is great, is also too similar to another novel from another offer. So there are so many things that could be going on. So I just don't want someone to have 150 rejections and then think, Okay, well, this novel I believed in, it can't be any good because of this. But that's where the being honest with yourself comes in.
Tyler Jones 49:01
Yeah, exactly. And that's such a good point. I'm glad. I'm glad that you brought that up. Because in being honest with myself, what I realized is that I didn't believe in those books. Yeah, like I believe in Midas, so it was me, but it was also the book. And it was also my belief in the book. So you're absolutely right. Whereas with MIDAS, if this, if I sent it out, and it never, I never got an agent. You're absolutely right. I'd still put it out because I believe in it, where I didn't feel that way with the others. So the honesty, yes, it goes both ways. It like extends externally and internally.
Michael David Wilson 49:41
Yeah, and it's interesting, too, that you mention Philip for Cassie, because I think there are a number of commonalities between you and for Cassie, not even just in the writing, but in terms of the career trajectory. I mean, both of you have started off independently putting things out and cusing yourselves. And now obviously, you've both moved into a more traditional publishing route, you know, for the next releases. I mean, the great thing with the industry is we can almost do things on a book by book basis. If you get a traditional deal, it doesn't mean oh, now I only put things out traditionally. And we're seeing more and more, what might be termed hybrid offers. I mean, you look at Adam Neville, you look at David moody in the UK, potentially you look at Gemma or more, I only say potentially, because she's just got to deal with angry robots. So I don't know what she's going to do in the future. I suppose I can ask her because we're going to be talking to her in a few
Tyler Jones 50:52
weeks. Yeah, we'll tell her I said hello.
Michael David Wilson 50:56
Tyler Jones 51:01
And she, she did the really beautiful cover art for almost Ruth.
Michael David Wilson 51:06
Yes. Oh, yes, she did. And actually, as we're talking about Gemma more, I know that Cameron was dear Laura, and specifically being nominated for a Bram Stoker award was a very inspiring moment for you, and one in which it showed you, you know, what can be achieved with independent publishing? So I wondered if you could talk us a little bit about that took us through that.
Tyler Jones 51:37
Yeah, yeah, of course. Yeah. That was that was really significant for me, because as we all know, when you're outside publishing, and I still am, to a certain extent, like I, I have a glimpse, but I'm not. You know, I'm not like, say, for cos where he's at exactly. You know, it is funny that you mentioned the career trajectories, because I will admit, without shame, in fact, he made this joke. We were talking on the phone a couple months ago, and I was asking him some questions. And he was like, man, you're, you're following the fricassee model of success? I was like, yes, that's exactly right. I'm watching what you're doing. And yeah, I'm like, if it works for you, maybe I'll give it a shot. Why not? Like, I'm not gonna go forge an entirely new path. But anyway, so yeah, in regards to, to Gemma there, Laura? Yes. Seen that just, it was like the indie musician in me just cheered wildly. Because it was so cool to see these really esteemed Awards. In this, this self published book, illustrated it, she made the cover art herself to get on that list like that. And so prior to that, I had been thinking, okay, all I knew about publishing was like, we'd mentioned Patrick DeWitt and Willie Lawton. And even even Joshua Moore, who he and Pat actually shared an agent at the time, I don't know if they still do, but they did. So all I knew was that you agents want novels. So you write a novel, you query an agent, and that's the only way you're gonna get published. And I didn't even know that. I mean, at the time, this was, you know, four or five years ago. even longer than that, actually, that, like indie publishing, I just assumed that they were accepting manuscripts through agents as well. So I just thought the agent is the key that unlocks all the doors. And they, they only want novels. So good luck. Like, you just write a novel that doesn't work, try and write another one, write another one. And then seeing what was happening with with self publishing in the writers was really inspiring to see people saying, we're going to build our own audiences. We're going to write stories that we believe in, that are strong, we're going to put them out and we're going to let the audiences decide. And that just seems so wise to me. And because I was antsy to get work out, not not like as an ego thing, but just like that's the point of telling stories as you want to share them. And seeing the novella too, as a form in that it seemed to be really ideal for for self publishing. Because it wasn't as long and especially if it's like your first published work. It just seemed like the perfect form. In so seen that book really gave me the confidence, I guess to say, I'm going to I'm going to put out something on my own. So I want to hold back Midas, I'm gonna I'm gonna hang on to Midas. And I'm not going to let it go until I've been rejected by every agent and every publisher. And then I will either put it out myself or go the indie route, but I'm going to swing big with this book, or at least as best as I can. But in the meantime, I'm seeing the examples of all these incredible writers putting out work on their own. So I'll just do that in the meantime. And that's what started everything and 2020 with criterium is I had Midas and I started querying agents and 2020, actually, in February of 2020. And then, as you know, the pandemic hit in March, which was a terrible time to be waiting to hear back from agents. So I just said, alright, we'll just we'll, we'll see what happens. And in the meantime, I'll just write stories I want to write and put them out myself. And that's what I've been doing ever since. And I yeah, there's so many so many incredible indie writers that I was looking at at the time who were doing that. You know, Gemma, Gemma was one. Adam Caesar Caesar was another.
Yeah, gosh, I I'm kind of drawing a blank. But I mean, you know that kealan Patrick Burke that Yeah. All our all our friends and colleagues that have been doing this. They paved the path, I saw what they were doing, I saw how well they were doing it. It just made sense.
Michael David Wilson 56:53
Thank you so much for listening to This Is Horror with Tyler Jones. Join us again next time for the third and final part of the conversation. But if you would like to get that ahead of the crowd, if you would like to get every episode ahead of the crowd, and join us on email@example.com. Forward slash, This Is Horror. Not only do you get early bird access to each and every episode, but you get to submit questions to each guest. And we've got a number of exciting guests coming up, including Jonathan Jan's Sina, Palacio, will cover, and Brian Aslan. And we're also in the middle of booking some pretty unusual and creative guests that you probably wouldn't expect to see on This Is Horror. But I am personally very excited for what we have coming up for you. So fingers crossed that that will all come together. And supporting us on Patreon is a way to give back. This is of course, something that we put hours of our time in each week, researching, reading, conducting these interviews, editing it all together, paying for the web hosting, putting the graphics together, et cetera, et cetera. And if you like it, if you want it to continue, then please do become a patron. You also get access to the writers forum on Discord. So you can talk to other like minded writers about what you're doing. You can get beta readers, you can exchange ideas, you can motivate each other you can take part in the writing challenges. So plenty of reasons to become a patron. I like to have the philosophy to undercharge and over deliver and that is something I really do feel we're doing with Patreon. Go to patreon.com forward slash This Is Horror. Check it out and see if it's a good fit for you. Okay, before I wrap up, a little bit of an advert break our
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Michael David Wilson 1:00:07
As always, I would like to end with a quote. And this is something from John Steinbeck to ponder. All the goodness and the heroism will rise up again. Then be cut down again and rise up. It isn't that the whole thing wins. It never will. But that it doesn't die. I'll see you in the next episode for the third and final part of Tyler Jones. But until then, take care yourselves be good to one another. Read horror. Keep on writing and have a great, great day.