In this podcast, Paul Tremblay talks about The Pallbearers Club, Knock At The Cabin, the legend of Mercy Brown, and much more.
About Paul Tremblay
Paul Tremblay has won the Bram Stoker, British Fantasy, and Massachusetts Book awards and is the author of The Pallbearers Club, Survivor Song, The Cabin at the End of the World, Disappearance at Devil’s Rock, A Head Full of Ghosts, the crime novels The Little Sleep and No Sleep Till Wonderland, and the short story collection, Growing Things and Other Stories.
- [7:31] Impetus for taking a year off from teaching
- [13:41] Knock At The Cabin (The Cabin at the End of the World film adaptation)
- [24:52] The Pallbearers Club
- [34:43] The Legend of Mercy Brown/autobiographical writing
- [58:20] Making sure the format is not a gimmick
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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 can't we're masters of horror, about writing, life lessons, creativity, and much more. Now, today's guest is Paul Tremblay. And Paul is a longtime friend of the podcast, so it was great to get him back on the show. We especially spoke about his new release the pallbearers club and the forthcoming M Night Shyamalan adaptation of the cabin at the end of the world, knock at the cabin. Now Paul is definitely one of those must read offers within horror right up there with the likes of Stephen Graham Jones, and Josh Malerman, to name but two more. And it was his breakout novel a head full of ghosts that really got him on the horror scene. But of course, for longtime fans of Paul Tremblay, you will know that there are a number of crime novels that he wrote before that so, I mean, I do implore you to check out a load of his back catalogue, see what you can track down because soil is a tree reading Paul Tremblay. It's always a treat cat into him as well. So I really think you're gonna have a lot of fun with this one. But before any of it, a little bit of an advert break,
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Michael David Wilson 3:18
Okay without saying Here it is. It is Paul Tremblay on This Is Horror. Paul, welcome back to This Is Horror Podcast.
Paul Tremblay 3:31
Thank you. I missed it. Or sorry, I missed being on it's been a while. Yeah, we have Miss noxious to say sorry. Yeah. Like I've had the opportunity and luxury to be on multiple times. But it's the truth.
Michael David Wilson 3:44
Well, not only have you been on multiple times, but I was looking at the stats before recording this episode. And so prior to this, you had been on the podcast in 10 episodes. So with this one, you're going to have been on 12 times because it will be a two parter and COVID and Partners. Okay, yeah, that's what we've done. We've done two partners and three partners. So you've been on 10 episodes. So I think last time there was disagreement, was it you? Was it Stephen Graham Jones, they would be in on the race, but we can definitely say now that you are the most featured guest on this is our podcast. So take that even
Paul Tremblay 4:36
I appreciate that. But I I imagine I hope that you'll have Steven on again soon. Because I'm sure like by the time we finished recording this episode, he'll have probably written another two or three books. Within that time,
Michael David Wilson 4:48
it's very likely that that will have happened and you know, and unless you kind of hack in and kind of stuff and deflect the Steven emails because you don't Want to take over then? Yeah, we'll definitely be getting him back on. But I mean, your first appearance on This Is Horror was episode 47 in 2015. So we've been doing this dance for seven years now.
Paul Tremblay 5:17
Yeah. Amazing. Now amazing that you guys have been doing it this long as well. Congratulations. It just seems to be getting, you know, continuing to grow and the podcast itself stronger and stronger. So kudos to you guys.
Michael David Wilson 5:31
Yeah. Thank you. Well, as this is not just a pat each other on the back episode, unfortunately, less. Here's where
Paul Tremblay 5:41
we start fighting. Yeah, yeah.
Michael David Wilson 5:45
But, you know, I heard you say that you've taken a year off from teaching. So I just wanted to clarify, is that this fourth coming year? Or is that the previous year?
Paul Tremblay 5:59
Is this forthcoming year that? So? Yes, so in a few weeks, instead of going back to school, I am not going back to school, which is a weird, kind of nice, feeling. Less nice trying to deal with like, what we're gonna have for health insurance. You know, sort of a very boring story I won't go into but no, I'm very excited to see what comes from the year from from no teaching. I don't know, it's, I guess I'll see my age. You know, I'm currently I just turned 51 turns like a werewolf. And this is gonna be the first September since I was three years old that I will not be going back to a school.
Michael David Wilson 6:39
Right? Yeah. Yeah. Because
Paul Tremblay 6:43
I've never had any break and went right from, from high school to college. And then two years of grad school, and after grad school, I started teaching.
Michael David Wilson 6:52
Yeah. And so I mean, as you've just said, I mean, so for as long as you've been writing, and of course, prior to that you have been teaching you have been going to school, and you've been putting out these incredibly successful novels. So what was it? What was the impetus that made you say, you know, what, I'm gonna take a year where I'm actually not teaching, because you've shown that you can clearly produce amazing high quality work and T shirt. Yeah, now, now you're going kind of fully into the writing?
Paul Tremblay 7:31
Yeah, well, I mean, so it's, it's positioned, as you know, I have a one year sabbatical, so they're gonna hold my job free for one year, you know, that I have to let them know if I'm coming back or not. But I a part of it was frankly, just, you know, the opportunity arose with the film adaptation of the cabinet and the world. You know, they bought the film rights. So, you know, felt financially comfortable enough to be able to say, you know, what I'm gonna take, I can take a year off. I have a novel due to my publisher in in May. And I will say, as I'm getting older, I'm finding I don't quite have the same energy that I used to, and it feels like both jobs are taking up more time. They're both both the teaching and the writing. And maybe some of that is like most of us have spent way too much time on social media, which I probably need to prune back as well. But I have noticed, like the last few years, like Man, this has been, it's getting harder and harder to balance both. Yeah, so I mean, I really liked teaching a lot. You know, obviously, I really like writing. And I figured, well, you know, I didn't want to just like also just plunge into writing full time necessarily. blindly, like, let's see what looks like Yeah, who knows? Maybe like, come November. I've spent too much time in my own brain and I'll be as squirrely as the squirrels that are rampaging my the exterior of my house. So we'll see how it goes.
Michael David Wilson 8:56
That does sound pretty squirrelly to me
Paul Tremblay 9:01
and couldn't come up with a better comparing squirrels to squirrel. Yeah,
Michael David Wilson 9:06
yeah. No, we should say for anyone who hasn't read pose whack. This is not reflective of Israel. Please be discouraged.
Paul Tremblay 9:18
While I was squirrel, so that's novel. Squirrels.
Michael David Wilson 9:21
Yeah. But, I mean, what are you most excited about with this year away from teaching?
Paul Tremblay 9:32
Ah, I mean, I'm actually I'm most excited about the fall like, I've always loved the fall weather wise. But like, you know, as much as I love teaching, you know, this is gonna sound like a lame complaint, but it's kind of hard to go back after having months off. And I know no one's shedding any tears for me that only have like, particularly if you're in the United States feel I have like two three weeks of vacation a year. Yeah, so like, for me, the fun Balls always been like, back to school, you know, and after, like a week or two, I'm back in the swing of things. But those first two weeks, I'm kinda like, professionally depressed, and like, I can't believe this summer's over already. So I'm actually really excited to have a fall where I don't have sort of that feeling. I'm excited nervous to see when I get accomplished, like part of what I was hoping to do it. I don't know if the opportunity is going to be there. But I was kind of hoping to maybe try working on some screenwriting stuff. You know, at the same time, and you know, I know that. You know, as you mentioned, I've been able to teach and write novels and short stories. But I don't know if I continue to write screenplays and write novels and short stories. At the same time. That seems like a bit much. Like if I do dabble in screenplay, writing, I don't want it to take away from novels. Those come first in my mind, like, you know, I'm a novelist first or write or fiction writer, first and foremost. You know, and I also wouldn't presume to think that I'd be very good at screenwriting. It's a totally different skill set. You know, I'm not going to be great at it right off the bat and it or ever, like, who knows? So I mean, that's part partly partly what I was thinking about, you know, in sort of planning for this year off.
Michael David Wilson 11:15
Yeah, and knowing that you now have meant the full day for your writing and creative endeavors, and whatever it is, you choose to do with that time? Will you be putting a lot of structure and planning into the day? So you've got, I mean, almost like a timetable could simulate school in a way, but you probably don't need the bell to go period one is overfall. Now it's doing a short story period. Three, via screen flavor. Yeah, you're putting a lot of structure in
Paul Tremblay 11:52
I'm actually I'm, it's funny, I just said to my wife the other day that like, I was gonna try to, to mimic my school schedule as much as I could, but just have it be for like, the writing parts of it. Yeah. Yeah. Ultimately, at school, I would have like, three hours worth of classes, you know, with breaks in between, you know, obviously, there's prep time. At my school, they typically make us coach a couple of sports to, for me, that's always been like, the biggest time. hurdle is the extra coaching time, too. So yeah, I guess the short answer is I am. Because the summer I have not been as successful as, as doling out my writing time, like, I've been kind of treating the summer, like a normal summer, but, like, come to September, if this is my job, I'm gonna make sure. I sort of schedule it in that way as well. Yeah, we'll see if that works. I don't know. Maybe, maybe I'll have to go back to letting it be free and loose a little bit in terms of like, not necessarily having a rigid structure. And just have like, you know, few hours here and there when I when I can. So I mean, that's part of it is that, you know, let's just see if we can figure out like, what it would look like, you know, writing for a job.
Michael David Wilson 13:01
Yeah, yeah. Well, you mentioned to the screenwriting and of course, the Adapt tation of cabins. So it's gonna be titled now knock at the cabin. Yes, M Night Shyamalan, which is incredible. One of the finest filmmakers, I would say, in the world right now. And, of course, you've effectively been sitting on this and unable to talk about it since I think it was around 2017. So how does it feel to finally be able to say some things about it?
Paul Tremblay 13:41
Yeah, no, I mean, it's, it's nice. I mean, it was it the the book was first option 2017. But I didn't really come onto the scene until like, like, I mean, he was like a maybe in 2020. But it was really like, in the late summer, early fall, 21 was a go, this might actually happen with him. So yeah, so it's been maybe a year well, I've been like sitting on some really exciting news. Training, he was kind of stressful in the spring. Just because, you know, we were going back and forth about you know, when when we talk what you know, if people ask and stuff like that. And people are starting to put like two and two together based on based on information that night was you know, leaking out there as what he usually does is, you know, teasing his projects. And so for big Chuck spring, like I get tagged in a Facebook post or tweet, and I message the person like, hey, you know, appreciate the enthusiasm, or can you take that down? We can't talk about it yet. Yeah, yeah. So I mean, it was kind of like a weird thing to be, you know, sort of policing. Exciting news. But, but, but ya know, it's good to be able to answer questions that when I'm asked about it,
Michael David Wilson 14:54
yeah, yeah. And in terms of your involvement in the project, I mean, how How closely involved were you in terms of the film?
Paul Tremblay 15:07
Pretty much not at all. You know, certainly not in any official capacity. I guess my involvement was night started with a phone call, I think it was like November of last year, or maybe it was October. You know, I talked to him and you know, just like an introductory thing. And, you know, I was very, he was very pleasant, very, very easy to talk to. He was very complimentary about the novel, which was nice, you know, and I was appreciative of how funny he was about what changes he was going to make. But yeah, other than that, like, he would ask me, like, I would get like, random messages from time to time that were kind of fun. Like, hey, I'm not sexually texting my phone, like, hey, he was like, hey, you know, where'd you get the design of the weapons from? Like, you know, what is what inspired you? You know, for that? And then he would ask me, sometimes I'll get questions about some character motivation and stuff like that. And even little things like you want to, you know, for some scenes, characters might have needed like a last name kind of stuff. So that was kind of fun, just to be like, Okay, let's name this person. Yeah. I never gave any of the other characters like a last name. But yeah, so but in terms of like, screenplay, or anything like that, no, I had no no role.
Michael David Wilson 16:25
Yeah, I was going to ask you if he ever asked you some questions, and you were like, Oh, well, that's not something I've kind of conceived of yet. But it seems like you've already answered that. That like, literally, it's like, Whoa, did they have a last name? Well, I guess they will in a few minutes for fun night. Yeah. But I think, I mean, it's got a fantastic cast. But by the way, have you seen the film yet? I don't know. Like, I don't know.
Paul Tremblay 16:57
Yeah. And I don't know. Like, if I would get to see an early version, I did get to visit the set for two days in May, which was amazing. They finished filming in early June. So I did get to meet the cast. And they were very, very nice, very gracious with their time. You know, they had all read the book and we're, you know, again, highly complimentary, which is really, really cool them. Yeah, David Batista is a large human being Yeah. Which is an understatement. I've been joking that he's my height. That part's not the joke, but like, you know, he's got like, 60 pounds more muscle. Yeah, me plus 60 pounds more muscle. But to be more accurate would be it's he's 260 pounds of muscle compared to the 200 of whatever, whatever my body is not. It's not the muscle that Batista has.
Michael David Wilson 17:47
I mean, is it true that the only reason you haven't done that kind of radical transformation because if that happened, it would then be difficult to logistically compare you and Batista. It's like, well, who's who here? So you're actually doing Dave Batista a favor by not bulking up?
Paul Tremblay 18:06
Yeah, I don't think so worry about both that happening.
Michael David Wilson 18:11
But, I mean, in all seriousness about Batista, I mean, I'm a big professional wrestling fan. And for me, it's been, it's been really exciting to see him absolutely dominate pro wrestling. Then casually just when an MMA fight, he's won one MMA fight and it's like, right, well, I guess let's conquer that. And then he's gone on to become a legitimate movie star. And I mean, for me, if you look at the quality of his acting, particularly in Blade Runner, I'd say there's a strong argument that he's the greatest pro wrestler turned actor and I put him above the lights of the rock and John Cena.
Paul Tremblay 18:56
Yeah, no. You know, I might playfully argue about for Roddy Roddy Piper, but I
Michael David Wilson 19:01
knew I knew I knew you would bring paper.
Paul Tremblay 19:06
That's more just me being a fan. Yeah, yeah. No, he, I mean, he has to carry a lot in this movie. And from what I've seen, you know, he's he's not going knocking it out of the park. You know, I got to watch two days worth of obscene shooting and I got to see some dailies from what they had shot previously. I think it's just going to be super intense, beautifully shot and you know, beautifully acted movie. Yeah, I can. I feel like I can make those guarantees.
Michael David Wilson 19:37
Yeah, and I'm excited to see Rupert Grint in it as well because because so many people will just mention Harry Potter and things but so much more than that. And I think it was seven again with Shane Milan that he put in a fantastic kind of dark puff formants in that he was very good in this kind of dark comedy called sick now as well. So he is a great one to have on board for the project.
Paul Tremblay 20:11
Oh, for sure. Yeah. No, I think if you've always seen him in the Harry Potter movies like his, his role or character will be much different in this movie. Yeah.
Michael David Wilson 20:23
Yeah. But I mean, was, was this happening with the cabin? Was that the impetus for you looking into the screenwriting stuff and you wanting to explore that avenue, obviously getting more immersed and visiting the center? Is this an aspiration? Was lung proceeding that,
Paul Tremblay 20:49
yeah, maybe a little bit of both. I don't know about how much longer proceeding but also just, you know, with my brief experience with adaptations of cheese, maybe it's not that brief anymore, but still very much anecdotal, or, you know, a handful of ghosts has been under option since 2015. And that movie has come close to being filmed a number of times, and then things falling apart for one reason or the other. But you know, they're still working at it, you know, and then the, you know, cabin process, I feel like at the end, it sort of felt like it happened quick. You know, when Knight came on, officially, like in 2021. But, you know, but again, they had optioned it in 2017. And there were other directors attached initially. So, like, each of those two experiences has been a process. And I can't say by WHO, but survivor song has been optioned as well, which is exciting. So part of it is like, you know, like, you know, if I were fortunate enough to get another work of mine, whether it's a short story or novel, you know, I would like to try being in on adaptation in some level, you know, whether it's writing or CO writing a screenplay or for some was, you know, and I'm talking in total ifs here, there was nothing, like, I am not, like, you know, in a writers room for like, a TV show or anything like that. But I figured, you know, something I kind of wanted to try to do is figure out if I ever were to leave teaching, I would want, you know, a second writing job, for lack of a phrase to sort of take that spot, like, just so I felt comfortable about the whims of the publishing marketing plays, you know. So if I could, you know, get some screenwriting stuff going, then maybe I could, you know, leave teaching. So I figured, so with that sort of just rolling around my head for the last few years, you know, with the cabin movie coming, I figured out within this next year, I bet, you know, maybe there'll be another opportunity because the movies being made, you know, maybe other works might get looked at, or I might have an opportunity. You know, one of the things I haven't actively doing is I've been working with a couple young filmmakers, on trying to take my short story, the getaway, and make it into a feature length film, you know, and we've written like a 20 minute pitch slash treatment that we've been sort of meeting different producers in Hollywood with, which has been a wonderful learning experience. I've learned a lot from the two filmmakers, very appreciative that she had other let me tag along, in working on this thing.
Michael David Wilson 23:27
Yeah, and in terms of the screenwriting that you'll be doing, I guess, from September, is that an adept? Keishon? And some of you want like the getaway that you've spoken about, or is this original? What what are you looking at doing?
Paul Tremblay 23:45
So I mean, my, my plan originally, like this was back in the spring was my plan. I was kind of hoping like, you know, the getaway might get my head somewhere. It's still might we're just not sure. It does seem that like a lot of places given. Given financially, what's happening in Hollywood a lot. You know, obviously, I'm sure you've heard about HBO Max cut, you know, a lot of the streamers are now cutting sort of budgets. And I also can understand, like, studios are having a hard time like financing movies, or, you know, getting the money kind of thing. You know, especially if it's something that's not hasn't had a screenplay written yet. Yeah, so I have when September starts, I'm not going to be writing a screenplay. I'm gonna be working on my novel. You know, maybe hopefully later in the fall, we play something, whether it's the getaway or you know that my reps are actively pitching the pallbearers club, you know, as well. So, you know, fingers crossed, one of those things happens and if not, that's fine, too. You know, I'll have more time to write my novel.
Michael David Wilson 24:52
Yeah, yeah. And in terms of pupilage and in terms of really honing the craft as a screenwriter, who are you kind of looking to? Or are you getting advice from people? Or is it perhaps these young filmmakers we were talking about? Or can you send night a text? That's more a joke.
Paul Tremblay 25:20
So like, so before this year, it actually was right before the pandemic hit I, for practice, as much as anything like, you know, I was I took it seriously like, oh, you know, if this comes out? Well, I wouldn't mind trying to push it. I took my short story 19 snapshots of Dennis port and wrote a feature screenplay. It's probably less than a feature length. You know, it's probably like 70 minutes or something. You might not I love that short story. And there has been some interest in it's, maybe it wasn't the best short story for me to start with, because it's, its format, or its narrative structure is so unique. Like, I kind of find myself doing the same thing with a screenplay. And I know, most studios one through 3x and what their beats have a certain place, which I'm sort of, frankly, less interested in as a storyteller. But now, so with that screenplay, you know, I've sent it to friends who have experienced with screenwriting. So actually, the one I've probably talked to the most is Sarah Leggett. She'll say she's sent me like some screenplays she's worked on in the past. And I've sent her, you know, mine for critiques and vice versa. I've also gotten advice in in sort of mentorship from Alejandro Rodriguez, Cuban writer and filmmaker. Maybe his first movie that made a really big splash was called one of the dead, which if you haven't seen, I highly recommend. But he he's also done some work. Recently, I guess most recently was nightmare cinema. He had a segments movie that Nick Garrison put together. Nearly 100 just announced that he's working on an adaptation of Gabino Iglesias his new novel, just really excited, I think. Yeah, so Alejandro is a good friend. And so and then another screenwriter named Matthew Leslie, you know, I sent him the screenplay I wrote and got some feedback from him. So now everyone's been super like whenever I ask, people have been unfailingly nice and offering they're offering their criticism and help, etc.
Michael David Wilson 27:31
That's perfect. And then I didn't know about the adaptations of grabiner as well. Yeah. It's gonna be super exciting to me. Absolutely. I'll tell you something, when I was looking into, okay, what's going on when knock at the cabin, and was one thing that really excited me, I should rephrase that. There were many things that really excited me. But one thing in particular, said she, the night has shot the film with a 1990s lens to give it an old school thriller look. And ship that sounds amazing. So I'm, yeah, I'm really, really intrigued and excited about how that is gonna come out.
Paul Tremblay 28:23
Yeah, his director of photography, It's so awful, I'm gonna forget his name. But his director of photography works was the director of photography for Robert Eggers, three movies, the Witch the lighthouse in the Northland. So it's, it's going to be like a beautifully, like, as I mentioned, egg, it's just gonna be a stunningly, visually, it's going to be a beautiful movie. could see him working on the set, and they were spending a lot of more time than usual. The night was used to, you know, setting up in between shots, you know, just so so every shot is actually sort of lit, perfectly curated. And, and it looks like, you know, how we saw how we storyboard, et cetera. So yeah, that was, you know, even though I wasn't there very long, it was really cool to sort of see all that stuff at play.
Michael David Wilson 29:15
Yeah. And, I mean, it's interesting to how these things sometimes play out, because I imagine, you know, it was pretty frustrating the length of time that it took for you you to have this took in 2017. And then go Yeah, it's gonna be a movie, but then it's obviously taken five years to transpire. But yeah, to have night doing it. It's like, well, yeah, you're gonna wait five years to have one of the best filmmakers. And you know, that I guess the marketing that will go behind that. I mean, it's clearly going to be up there what one would imagine with The best horror films of 2023. I mean, obviously, we haven't seen that yet. But we've read the source material. We've seen what night has done before. We've seen the casting. And as you say, Adkins, Director of Photography is involved. God, hopefully I'm not gonna eat my words. Take something to fuck this one up. So really, it must be just so gratifying and like, oh, okay, this is why I had to wait so long, but all worth it.
Paul Tremblay 30:37
Mm. Yeah, for sure. I mean, it's like, you know, there are these like, moments of excitement. You know, and then they pass like, everything does pass. And it's like, you know, the Sherlock you remind yourself like, oh, man, yeah, this is happening. So I mean, I'm back to it feeling like, no real even though, you know, when I was there for two days, that was like, the most realistic and not in a political way in the use of surrealism, surrealism, I'd say I'd say eriell You know, just being there. So on the on the on the set, initially, it was just like, oh, my gosh, this is nuts. Like, you know, seeing, you know, Jonathan Groff and you know, and everybody that was there. And then so yeah, you fly back, go back to school finish out the school year. As a way that really happened. I think it did. Yeah. Yeah. So I'm, you know, I'm sure there'll be a lot of those moments to come. You know, and when the trailer first hits, even allowed myself to say like, after seeing nope, in the theater, and my daughter was like, Ah, man, what are they gonna start showing? What are they gonna start showing the trailers of cabin before movies? Like I'm gonna have to go see probably some movie I have no interest in seeing just the trailer.
Michael David Wilson 31:47
Yeah. Just stand up in the middle of the cinema, like a madman. I wrote over a fucking row. Sit down and you're blocking the screen. What was that Bob?
Bob Pastorella 32:09
You stand up. I wrote that shit out there. And then you leave.
Paul Tremblay 32:16
Like it's a man's on demand free demand free popcorn or something to on the way?
Michael David Wilson 32:21
Yeah, yeah. Well, of course, the latest release from you is the pallbearers clamp. And there's so much to say about this one. I'm not sure exactly where to start. But why not? Start at the beginning? With that opening sentence? I am not. Barbara, which is a great and interesting way to begin. What is surely your most autobiographical? today?
Paul Tremblay 32:52
Yeah. Yeah, thank you. No, yeah, I started that. I knew that had that. Well, at a certain point, I knew that had to be the opening line.
Yeah, good old art Barbara. How am I gonna describe this? Well, I would say in general, and I'll let you ask questions. But
yeah, it's definitely by far. I mean, a lot of my stuff is autobiographical or me, it's probably more accurate to say that a lot of stuff from your own life, I mean, you to I'm sure experienced the same thing as writers, a lot of your own experience gets filtered into works some ways big and small. But you know, for this book, I definitely rolled around in it quite a bit purposely. So it felt like it fits. It fit what I wanted the story to be.
Michael David Wilson 33:43
Yeah, and I think I mean, in terms of what the story is, and this is the crazy thing that this is even a difficult book to give an elevator pitch to to give a synopsis or a one liner, it's like, whatever really isn't a one line, however, I mean, it's, it's found memoir, there's vampire me fast. LinkedIn. It's also autobiographical. It's kind of about, well, not even kind of it is about mortality is about growing old. I think me and I know so I mean, that's even before we've got the rough, experimental format in which it is told. I think big because of the kind of vampire element for those unfamiliar. Why don't you tell us a little bit about the legend of Mercy Brown?
Paul Tremblay 34:43
Sure. Yeah. Yeah. And this is you know, for anyone who hasn't read the book, it's not a huge spoiler it gets talked about on page like 60 or something like that. And so obviously, Brown is a part of this like weird pocket of New England folklore. or that I'm finding a lot of people know about, but I didn't. And that was like when I discovered it, like, when I didn't discover it until I had the title for the book and I was looking for some sort of supernatural way into or, you know, aspect of the story that I hadn't discovered yet. That's a man I've lived here my whole life had I know, How did I not know about mercy brown. So anyway, Mercy Brown is the last known New England vampire. She died from tuberculosis in 1892. Her mother had died 10 years prior, her sister died, I forget how many years prior? You know, her older brother was sick. And when mercy died before her brother, the town's people, they live in Exeter, Rhode Island, you know, which, I mean, when I was at a very large state, but it was very, it's still rural now, as you know, super rural than that anyway. You know, people in the late even in late 1890s, or late 1800s, didn't know what Tuberculosis was they call the consumption. You know, no one knew how it started what it was, and, you know, especially in the rural communities, people assumed it was, it was almost like a supernatural element to the passing of, of consumption to from family member to family member because, you know, tuberculosis would just run right through a family anyway. The locals managed to convince her Mercy's father that, you know, we need to test her to see if she's coming back at night and continuing to feed or, or make, you know, her brother's sick. So the test and they never use the word vampire. Vampire wasn't sort of attributed to Mercy brown until later. But the test to see if Mercy was coming, you know, returning from them that night to feed on her brother. They exhumed her body, you open the chest, and look at the heart. If the heart is full of blood, that's a sign that you know, she's a vampire. We'll use I'll use vampire, even though they didn't you know, of course, he was somewhat firstly, dead. So that's what decomposition does is fills your, your, your heart fills with, with that settled blood in the cure was so if the hearts full of blood, you take it out, burn it. Excuse me, you take the ashes, put it into water. You know, the brother drank the heart ash water, and that was supposed to cure him, which it did not, but her father never got tuberculosis. Yeah, and the, the, I mean, the other sort of interesting aspect of it when I said that mercy Brown was like the last of these New England vampires, these kinds of those types of excavations I just described, where, you know, tuberculosis was running through families and people would would exhume the deceased to check their heart and happened. I hope I have the number right. I think it's 40 times by last count. There's a wonderful book on this folklore called food for the dead by his last name is Bill, I don't have the book in front of me. So, yeah, Mercy brown. It was wild to me that I could look up articles on this excavation in the Providence Journal, you know, still the biggest newspaper in Providence, Rhode Island. And obviously, you know, as they described, what had happened, you know, they described you know, the rural, rural the towns folk and you know, super negative terms as they probably should have entered as be superstitious and, you know, this is ridiculous, this is barbarism, etc. But it doesn't seem so long ago at 92. So anyway, arts best friend who joins the pallbearers club, or he doesn't become his friend until she joins the pallbearers club art in his memoir. You know, after he said after in the beginning, he says I'm at Barbara, if he tells the reader very early on in that first chapter that he's changed all the names within the memoir. But within his memoir, he names his friend mercy Brown. Yeah. Either purposely or not purposely I guess you have to read to find out.
Michael David Wilson 39:19
Yeah, yeah. And not really a question. But Alan Bester wrote on Patreon, Mercy lives in my head now, Paul, but I never meet her. How dare you?
Paul Tremblay 39:34
Poor Alan. I'm sorry. Yeah. Well, a lot of mercy is the voice in my head. Yeah. So I feel I'm sorry. I'll sorry. Have spread that worm.
Michael David Wilson 39:47
Yeah. Yeah. And in terms of that book, food for the dead, so it's by Michael Edward Bell.
Paul Tremblay 39:56
Thank you. Yes.
Michael David Wilson 39:58
I mean, the clue would have been a few to I looked at oh, what's the name of this person? I'm talking to you? Oh, my same name.
Paul Tremblay 40:06
Yeah. I remember Dell I couldn't remember the first name. Yeah, it was fine when I when I did research like, you know, of course your stuff online, but almost everything I found online, including links in the Smithsonian online archives, all sorts of reference Michael bells works was better. Who's probably just read his book?
Michael David Wilson 40:26
Yeah. Yeah. Well,
Bob Pastorella 40:29
you know, it's very reminiscent of the 17th 16th 17th century, you know, Romanian European. Just like you, if you read those dos, you know, fan Park cases over and over and over, they exhumed the body, and it was not in state of decomposition, right? And in this has happened when, like, 1900s, right, or like late 1800s, led to hundreds. And it's like, it's like the superstitions. The men they don't die. That's that's what the vampire is, is the superstition. It's crazy.
Paul Tremblay 41:01
Yeah, right. And I can't remember because I know Michael Bell, and his book talks about some of the European superstitions because they don't quite match one to one, but some of them like, whether European was oh, their hair was growing longer, which obviously we know happens. Right, but some of them are like, you know, finding like, mines inside the inside the coffin growing things if I'm allowed to say. Yeah, so, I mean, it seemed like there's some for sure, like some overlap. But the fun part also, Michael Bell argues that there isn't, or he can't find like a sort of a direct line or lineage to either European folklore or indigenous folklore. If you sort of are uses this wee little New England thing. You know, that happens. It happened over and over again in the 18th in the 1700s, and 1800s.
Bob Pastorella 41:55
Okay, so that, that kind of ruins that theory, but that's good to know. I'm definitely definitely and I've never heard of this book until now. So I'm definitely check it out. Because I'm working on something with grandparents. And this sounds like some things to pull from there you go nice.
Michael David Wilson 42:10
Well, of course, in your work, you always take a very wide definition of different tropes, and you really extend those things beyond what might have been previously perceived limits. I mean, zombies and survivor Sung and possession in a head full of ghosts being two of the most obvious examples. Now you're back at it again, with the vampire. But I wonder, I mean, what is a vampire to you? Or how would you go about defining a vampire?
Paul Tremblay 42:51
Yeah, that's a great question. I'm not sure I mean, because the fun part is there are like so many sort of types of vampires and, you know, the vampire as a sort of general concept of sort of like, without defining it, I suppose as a zombie like where it's like, a living dead feeding off the living like it's not a zombie going after brains. It's some sort of creature feeding on blood or feeding on energy or, you know, all the different different sort of iterations within so many different cultures, the world it's interesting that that, that, you know, almost every culture has some form of vampire. So in some ways, for me, like the vampire has always been a little bit overwhelming to think about writing a story using a vampire. In our friend and my friend and yours, John Langan for years has been like, what are you gonna write a vampire novel? Like, leave me alone, John. And then he would show off by reading vampire stories, Greek vampire stories. Yeah, he has one in his new collection corpse mouth. And I'm forgetting the title of it. I'm sorry, John. I'm so bad with titles but it opens with essentially what's his yard? And there's like this big you know, if you go in John's real life house like if you go far enough through the backyard it goes on to sort of like wooded state area. And then there's like this little creek, you know, in his his this vampire stories opens with Hey, there's like a big tower thing or it looks like a tower down at the creek. It's like Ah, maybe it's the kid building like you know, one of the neighborhood kids building something down there they you know, ends up being this insane and the best I mean that in the best of all, you know, this descriptor best descriptive terms and saying vampire story and the bastard even in nicely that lovingly John and Ella and Ellen Datlow is final cuts anthology. You his novella, altered, altered me altered you Altered Beast altered you again, I butchered titles. It's again, a wonderful vampire novella. In which I'm the vampire. Me. Yeah, she was she renamed a name of the Gaitonde Cornish on because he's very funny. Quarter shot and being a little pickle, right, obviously. So obviously. So anyway, John's like, you know, obviously the wide carnivorous sky from an earlier collection. And John's always done like amazing vampire stories and I don't know, for me they've always been like I don't know, weird kind of block because you know, the other books that especially in the novel form because I tend to try to take a trope and, you know, one of the questions I usually ask myself is how could this really happen? You know, not to say that there is an invention and and supposition and you know, in the supernatural but like, I want to try to root it in reality as much as I can. You know, I don't do that every time and typically that's what I've done with my novels, you know, less so in the short stories. Yeah, so anyway, like when the story for you know, when I finally sort of had enough to start writing the pallbearers club and had mercy brandstory I thought I could have because of how I was going to approach the story, I thought it could have the best of both worlds where, you know, I am playing it ambiguous as to whether or not something is vampiric or supernatural is happening. But also at the same time because of the nature of the story I can get like really weird with it. And that was that was a lot of fun to do, as opposed to something like Survivor saw him or his dad zombie adjacent, but really tried to make the science of it work. You know, and head full of ghosts. Like if things were happening that supernatural like I, I didn't go over the top weird. So so much so that the only explanation for the weirdness was that it had to be supernatural. That I didn't think that would have worked that had to ghost. Yeah, anyway, sorry. big, long, rambling answer.
Michael David Wilson 46:58
No, no, not at all. And I mean, I've said many times before that, particularly in your novels, I mean, one of their strengths is the ambiguity, the fact that it can be read, as both supernatural or grounded solely in reality, you know, I like that. Because, I mean, I just think having the unexplainable makes it more interesting and makes it scarier. I mean, we've said countless times before that, when you can explain or when you see the monster, it removes some of that fear. So the fact that you don't know why is this is this real is it supernaturally only adds to it?
Paul Tremblay 47:44
Yeah, thank you. I mean, I, I share a similar similar point of view on that, you know, that's not to say you can't have you know, in the, in the, I mean, I certainly enjoy explicitly, supernatural events within within works, too. It's just all I know, it all comes down to me, it's like what's gonna serve the story the best. And, you know, so far more times than not with my novels I've, I've hit upon involving ambiguity in some way. You know, maybe part of it is, especially in a horror story or her novel, like, even if you're trying to think, well, even if there aren't deaths within the story, like the threat of death is usually there in some way, right. And then I feel like anytime I invoke sort of an ambiguous elements, I feel like anytime you're invoking ambiguity, either consciously or subconsciously, the reader is going to correlate that in some way to sort of the ultimate ambiguous question that awaits us at the end of our life, right? Like, we don't know what's going to happen when we die. I think almost all horror stories sort of play with that fear in one form or another. You know, at its core, I mean, obviously, not every story, but so many do. So I don't know, like, it's, to me, I mean, it's interesting, the idea that we just don't know, and like I like exploring that and exploring the ways that we either cope with it or explore the ways that we convince ourselves one way or the other, you know, what's the truth? What's really happening?
Michael David Wilson 49:24
Yeah, yeah. I know that a student in your school actually set up a call bearers Club, which was the focus for this particular strand of the book. And I was wondering, did you talk to that student before writing the book or have you spoken to the master like via the way
Paul Tremblay 49:51
I've talked to his younger brother,
Michael David Wilson 49:54
that is agent
Paul Tremblay 49:58
he graduated like The spring of 2020 and but that meant there was like online for like three months of it. So it also like, you know, so he didn't this particular student didn't invent the pallbearers club out of whole cloth himself. Like, I feel like I vaguely remember looking online that there were other there are other such clubs, you know, elsewhere in the country or, you know, other similar, you're volunteering to serve at a funeral home in the manner that's described in the book, you know, serving elderly, indoor homeless who don't have a lot of living relatives. Which is a long way of me saying that. No, I did not directly. Is that true? I didn't certainly never like a long conversation with him. I think I mentioned to him in passing once and like, Hey, I'm gonna call my book the pallbearers club. He, you know, he had said that I think they'd only done like, once or twice or something, or he didn't get that many kids to join up. Yeah, but right now, I did have his younger brother. I had to help coach the junior varsity baseball team in the spring. But I say that with all the English I can in my voice. And I had his younger brother on the team. And I told him this book I have come out this summer is something that your brother did. Do you remember that? And he's like, No.
Michael David Wilson 51:26
Yeah. Now, I mean, I know for that student is a pretty interesting bit of trivia, but perhaps they do not share my sentiments.
Paul Tremblay 51:39
I will give, I'll give him a read. I did have when he was a freshman in my geometry class. I'll see if I can give him a retroactive a
Michael David Wilson 51:45
Yeah. I mean, I think that there were many moments where I knew okay, this is fairly autobiographical. But perhaps the two biggest pointers were when you mentioned scoliosis, and then you just kept mentioning Huska do to the point where every chapter is titled after a house good to your son. So really, Paul has this obsession with her SkiDoo gone too far?
Paul Tremblay 52:20
Probably. Yeah, but like, I mean, part of the big part of the reason why I sort of lean into the autobiography of it was, you know, so we've discussed the idea of, you know, just even the title the pallbearers club from and thinking about that student who made the who made the announcement, you know, tried to start the club, I thought to myself, like, oh, man, like, when I was a senior in high school, there's no way I could have done something like that. Right. So right off the bat that sort of interested me. I was like, Oh, alright, so maybe this, you know, I'm gonna set this, you know, the start, at least in the late 80s, where basically an alternate reality me is trying to start this club. Because I thought that would be interesting. And also, the idea that this story might become a little bit more interior also a lot more expansive in terms of the timeline, compared to my previous two novels, survivor song and cabin. That appealed a lot to me. Though, those two books sort of almost written, like, one after another in some ways. I don't know, I felt like tired after those books. Insofar as like, they were kind of stressful to write, given that they took place over such a compressed time period. And they so sort of actively engaged with like the political now's, I don't know, I was looking for something that was going to be different. Like, I didn't want to write the same book again. You know, and part of that actually was fine. You know, us publisher, like, kept shading my stuff more towards like, oh, you know, calling this a thriller, which is fine, but like, also, like, I'm not writing a thriller every time like, I'm a horror writer. You know, there's, I want to write all sorts of different types of horror. So anyway, I figured putting me in a story would fit the bill and maybe, yeah, taking out the horror on a character that was me instead of other people that I usually they usually do was only fair.
Michael David Wilson 54:26
Right? And having written I mean, two books back to back that could be classified as thriller. And obviously, I guess your publisher being quite keen on that we're thrillers being typically easier to market and seen kind of classically more as more commercial. did. Did you get a lot of pushback and did they actually make this one quite a difficult sell given that it's not like it's not a Freightliner is in In a traditional sense, oh, and I mean, I haven't even got to the part about, you know, notes in the margins yet. But just purely in terms of what it was about. I mean, is your publisher trying to push you to be more of a thriller? Writer, even though that's what you want to do?
Paul Tremblay 55:21
No, I mean, not actively, but. So like in December of 2019, you know, as the cloud of the pandemic was approaching, you know, I just turned in survivor song. And my, my editor was very happy. And I was actually in New York City, to do a reading at Ellen Delos KGB reading series with Nathan balandra. Before the reading, you know, had dinner with my editor and agents and Nathan, and it was fun. But yeah, she sort of offhandedly talked about, you know, talked about the previous two books, and I don't know, just like, it's good, the feeling I knew, like the editing, or the marketing side of things. And I had told her about the Palmer's club, but But I tried to warn her, there's like, hey, you know, the next book is not going to be a thriller. You know, it will still be hopefully, like scary and fun stuff like that. But it still is not going to have the thriller structure. And so fast forward, like five months later, because I was off deal. Survivor song was the end of my previous book deal. So we had to pitch my pitch my editor again, which is fine. You know, she, we both love working with each other, and we want to continue to do so. So I turned in 30 pages in a summary. So you know, she knew early on what this was gonna look like. You know, it's certainly I don't think if you read the summary, none of it says, you know, shouted thriller. Yeah. And yeah, so no, there was no real pushback on that. Yeah, no, I mean, not at all. There was never like the phrase like, hey, this isn't a thriller. So we can't do this. You I did tighten up the book a little bit, but it had to be tightened up. Not not having anything to do with like the marketplace or or whether or not this was a thriller, or not a thriller. Just for the sake of the story there was for as much of for as much as there's still like the slowburn interior monologue diatribe speeches at times, you know, there was probably, you know, those 30 pages that are cut out of this book, what I turned in the draft.
Michael David Wilson 57:32
And in terms of that format, I mean, I said before, it's a found memoir, is being found by mercy, who is then essentially critiquing the story, the memoir, as we go along, and almost kind of fact checking, in a sense and being like, well, that's not exactly how that happened. But I'm wondering, I mean, how does one and share the form? Isn't a gimmick, or the form doesn't undermine the story? Or perhaps put in a better way? I mean, how do you ensure that the form is not just an extension of the story, but as part of its very essence?
Paul Tremblay 58:20
Yeah, that's the million dollar question. But that's a great way of putting it, you know, those are the things I had to ask myself to remind myself when I was writing the story. So I knew, you know, fairly early on. Like, for me, it was a little bit of like a logic experiment, like, Oh, hey, this is a fine memoir. Okay, who found it? And once I knew the character that found is like, well, you know, I knew she was going to comment at the end of each chapter, and she probably couldn't resist commenting within the margins itself. So I mean, Mercy has I mean, I think multiple roles when the story aside from, you know, her character being very important is there's you know, there's basically two unreliable narrators you know, in this novel, I think honestly, one of her more important roles was to be there sort of like to cut arts voice a little bit, you know, because ours, you know, very purposefully melancholic, maudlin. I think clearly, by the time he's an adult, you know, someone who's suffering from anxiety and depression as well. And that's a little bit hard to take. You know, some of the woe is me stuff that he indulges in. I think if it was just his voice, I do think I would have had to have written him differently. And Mercy was there, you know, not even tell it to lighten things up a little bit, but also like to be there to call Art and his bullshit to be hopefully like a little bit of a counterbalance. You know, within the narrative, you know, but also I hope that sort of relationship will become both more fraught and more poignant, you know, the deeper you get into the book. Yeah, so that aspect was super important to Me and again, I tried to warn my editor because I knew it was gonna be a pain in the ass to publish, particularly in the physical format. You know, so I mean, I mentioned it, obviously, when we first pitched the book. And when I first turned in the book, I was like, God, we have to have that margin conference. And I said, Yes, they have to be there. And she didn't push back too much. And in fact, I mean, they went above and beyond in the physical book, you know, I never asked for red ink. You know, I knew that was a cost, it'd be more way more expensive. So that was, I was really blown away that they said, Oh, no, like, you're we're gonna do the first print hardcover, you know, reading for Mercy's comments in, which was really cool.
Michael David Wilson 1:00:40
Yeah. And just visually really adds another layer adds more depth to the book.
Paul Tremblay 1:00:48
Yeah, yeah, definitely. I hope so. I mean, I thought I helped, in a way to get people that, you know, continue to turn those pages, because those read those read comments. And even if they're not read, like in the Titan version, I think the Titan version does an amazing job to have, you know, they, they went the extra effort to really make all the underlyings and everything else look like they were actually handwritten. It looks very natural. So I mean, that's really draws the eye and I understand it takes a little bit of acclamation as a reader to, you know, to get used to that, but hopefully, you know, most or most for most people that it works for them.
Michael David Wilson 1:01:29
See, now you've let slip that the formatting is different in the Titan version, maybe all those hardcore Tremblay fans, they're like, well, we've got to pick up that one as well. You know, see the visual difference? So? Yeah, do it read there? And yeah, do it. Great. Thank you so much for listening to This Is Horror Podcast with Paul Tremblay. We'll be back again next time for the second and final part of that conversation. But if you want to get that ahead of the crowd, if you want to get every episode ahead of the crowd, can become a firstname.lastname@example.org. 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 the interviewee. And coming up soon, we've got Jonathan Jan's and we've got John Niven, an offer that I absolutely love. So I'm really thrilled that we're gonna be getting John Niven on the podcast for the first time. He has written a number of books including kill your friends that Amec hears and straight white male. And if you haven't read John Niven before, I think you should seek him out. Okay, before I wrap up, a little bit of an advert break,
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