TIH 468: Paul Tremblay on Unreliable Narrators, Writing Without Outlining, and Anxiety in Fiction

TIH 468: Paul Tremblay on Unreliable Narrators, Writing Without Outlining, and Anxiety in Fiction

In this podcast, Paul Tremblay talks about unreliable narrators, writing without an outline, anxiety in fiction, 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.

Show notes

  • [3:27] Unreliable first-person narrators
  • [8:58] Self-discovery and revelation through writing
  • [13:11] Anxiety and depression within the novel
  • [14:56] Coping with mental health
  • [19:26] Writing a polarising book
  • [27:09] Social media rewiring the brain
  • [43:20] Next short story collection, ‘The Beast You Are’
  • [54:39] Book tours: Survivor Song and The Pallbearers Club
  • [1:00:07] Writing a new novel without an outline

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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 we're masters of horror, about writing, life lessons, creativity, and much more. Now, today's guest is Paul Tremblay, the author of the recently released the pallbearers club and other books including the cabin at the end of the world, and a head full of ghosts. And this is the second in a two part conversation with Paul, if you want to listen to the first and go back on episode 2467. But as we've already said, you can listen in any order. Now in this episode we dig into so much including unreliable first person narrators, anxiety and depression and the pallbearers club book tour. Now before we get into any of that, a little bit of an advert break. Hello, hello,

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Michael David Wilson 2:47

Okay with that said, here it is it is Paul Tremblay on dare says hora. You know, says that he will be painfully honest, which is of course, classic from the unreliable narrator. Sure, but it does make me think, How can any of us in any situation be truly honest when our point of view is subjective? And Herot heavily biased towards ourselves and added to which memory is unreliable?

Paul Tremblay 3:27

Right? No, absolutely. Me. That's why I think every any first person narrator is inherently unreliable. You're getting everything through their filter. So you know, and I take that to heart like very seriously when I choose a point of view like if that's that's a big part of the reason why cabin was never a first none of cabinets in first person. And same with survivors on now, there's ambiguity in Cambodia and the world but you know, sort of a different different approach to it. And survivor, sorry, I didn't want there to be so with obviously being found memoir had to be first person. But um, yeah, essentially, you mentioned like art saying that the beginning, I kind of feel like the first. Our first chapter is very short. And Mercy is right after it's very short. And I think I hoped I'd hope those first few pages sort of set up the rules for the whole book, you know, art says he'll, he's gonna be painfully honest, you know, if someone feels the need to tell you that they're gonna be painfully honest that, you know, that probably should put you on guard instantly, maybe, I don't know. And similarly, you know, Mercy follows that up with I'm not gonna say it exactly. But she she says something to the effect that, you know, I know there'll be differences in our memory of certain events. But just because like are, we remember things differently doesn't necessarily mean that one of us is lying. Which again, is sort of like an interesting thing to say out loud. or to put into text? It's like his mercy already gaslighting us, gaslighting us as well as art or, or? Or is that just like an honest sort of observation? Yeah, so I want to I wanted that out there sort of right away the intentions the intentions of the story. Yeah,

Bob Pastorella 5:20

basically sets up like the ambiguity naturally nets, you know, you don't really have to work hard at it at that point. Right? It's like, okay, I've already done this and then just tell the story.

Paul Tremblay 5:38

That's a great way of putting it. Yeah, cuz even something like, I guess a head full of ghosts. I guess if any, if this book has sort of stuff in common, I think it has more in common with a handful of ghosts. And as we discussed in the previous episode, the, you know, the most to recent novels, but the idea of like, you know, the first person narrator admitting that, hey, you know, I know, what I remember might not exactly be exactly how it happened. But this is what I'm stuck with. And this is what you're stuck with to

Bob Pastorella 6:09

you feel like going into that, that, you know, the different POV that you need that distance. And then when it's like the distance between being, you know, constantly in your head compared to being able to hop in your head, that distance kind of, you know, it's like a sliding scale or like a, like a sliding rule about how, how ambiguous how ambiguous can I get?

Paul Tremblay 6:34

Oh, for sure. I think here with first person narrator as you can sort of hide hide the most as a storyteller, because it is restricted to that one person's point of view. Third person that's really hard to do, because you don't want it to come off as like, Oh, it's a cheat because you're withholding information. It's kind of hard to do from third person, although you could do you know, there's close third person obviously, which is, you know, not quite the same as but similar to First Person. May I wish I could remember how exactly he put it, but I'd asked Stuart on and about is novel A Prayer for the dying. If you haven't read it, you should. But a prayer for the dying is second person. And I, you know, fascinated as to why he he went with that choice. And you know, and he talked about the distance that he needed for the for the main character, the preacher slash Undertaker of this Wisconsin town. And we said, third was too far away. First was too close. It's just a boil it down is like in second was sort of right in the middle, and also somehow bringing the reader in a little bit to in a different way. So I mean, yeah, I mean, I think about point of view a lot. I, I, it's pretty rare that I change in the middle of a book. It typically don't, you know, it's something I try, I think long and hard about point of view is certainly not a should never be a default mode of storytelling. It should be like everything else, it has to serve the story that you're going to tell in the best way possible. So you know, a little bit like you with this book with pallbearers since it was going to be found memoir, obviously, a new idea of arts first person point of view. What really excited me about the book was having mercy as well.

Michael David Wilson 8:28

Yeah. Yeah. Nicholas, in this book, I mean, Ark is trying to discover himself throughout. So I wonder, you know, with the writing, did you find yourself discovering yourself through writing this? And I mean, how much do you find self discovery and moments of Revelation through your writing?

Paul Tremblay 8:58

That's great question. I'm not sure. I mean, let me answer it this way, because someone much smarter than me talked about this in a book. George Saunders wrote a book called a swim in the pond in the rain. And when that came out about a year ago, it's basically almost like, Hey, this is one of his graduate writing classes. He takes seven Russian short stories and presents them in different ways. And he basically talks about like, what, how, why the story works and sort of like how he likes to teach his class with it and stuff like that. And you know, some of which, I mean, I thought a lot of it was very interesting. Having never taught like writing classes are certainly not that often. But at one point in the book, he talked about how the goal of a writer and I'm really boiling this down and probably butchering it, but like the idea that the book that you end up writing, if you do your job well enough, that book is a better person than You are, were a better representation than you are yourself. I mean, because you the writer is such a, you know, everybody thinks this flawed, you know, wonderful but flawed human being. And the idea that the book, in the books, its message and how it's told, is somehow, like better than you are. And I'm sort of butchering how he presented it to me, but I sort of really liked. And I liked that idea of like, my books is really smarter than I am in the moment, like, it's certainly stumble over my words, and you can't, I certainly don't feel comfortable talking extemporaneously about, but so many different things. But like with a book, you know, I can take my time, I can spend weeks rewriting like, the same, like five pages, or 10 pages, until it becomes this thing that's mine, but also outside of me. So in terms of the original question about self discovery, I went into the book, Michael, with, with what I thought was self discovery, like, I had somehow, I don't know, like, I'm sure you in barber asked this all the time. You know, raise your ass while you're right. But horror writers always Why do you write horror? Why do you write horror? Right? You know, it's like, sometimes I just want to be like, Well, why don't you write horror? Like, why isn't? Like, I don't understand, like, why you wouldn't? But so this isn't necessarily like the horror part of it. But like the idea of like, yeah, why do I write like, Why did I go from math major to writing stuff? And I certainly this is prior to writing the book, I felt like, oh, the self my self discovery, and I don't know if it's true or not. I think there's some truth to it. I don't think it's the whole truth. But I started thinking, Okay, I, I write because, like, you know, many people didn't have a great time, socially. You know, not within my family, but within, you know, school age, you know, high school, you know, pretty miserable time in high school. I think I write because I'm still trying to prove to that teenager inside of me that I have something worth saying. Which I hope that helped this morning, I write than that, like, in retrospect, now that I've sort of lived with that thought for a while. But that was sort of like one of the impetuses or starting points of pallbearers club is like, Oh, well, if I really dig into this, maybe, I don't know, maybe I could discover something more about why Right? Or maybe this could, you know, sort of write out some of that, you know, silly poison that, that, you know, I keep all up inside and some of the resentment and stuff like that. didn't quite work out that way, in either of those ways. But I'm certainly very proud of the book. And I'm glad I wrote it. It was certainly a different writing experience than, than anything else that I had written. Because it was so like, Close to close to my own vest to play to put on a phrase.

Michael David Wilson 13:02

Yeah, and with regard to that inner poison. There's so much anxiety and depression within the novel.

Paul Tremblay 13:11

Yeah. I mean, part of it was an exploration of it. And and I don't know, I'm sort of like hemming and hawing. So I'm not quite sure how I want to say it. And what I want to say, in some ways this book thematically represents like my relationship with writing and how its how it's sort of intertwined sometimes healthfully, sometimes not healthfully with my mental health. You know, and, in Mercy's voice very much represents my inner editor, not only in terms of in terms of writing, but just in me living my life, the voice in your head that tells you you're being an idiot. But, yeah, I mean, I guess the short answer is, you know, aren't is definitely, you know, someone who is suffering with that, particularly, you know, as he gets older, you can recognize it in himself. Although, you know, there's a bit hopefully this isn't a spoiler, but there's a bit where he's talking about what he can or can't do about the situation that he's in and in, in the context of the book, he's actually talking about what's he going to do now with this knowledge of vampirism? But you could certainly just read it as him talking about like, how does he How does he deal with sort of, you know, his mental state?

Michael David Wilson 14:35

Yeah. And with regards to, you know, mental health issues and with battling anxiety and doubt and things like that, I mean, how much does that still play a part of your life and how do you navigate it?

Paul Tremblay 14:56

I don't know. If You know, I've got sort of, you know, coping mechanisms. And, you know, as I mentioned earlier, maybe it was the previous episode that you know, things in with my teaching job and writing job or seem to be increasing in levels of amount of responsibilities, but also amounts of stress. Just being a human in, in the wonderful, delightful 2020s adds to those stresses as well. You know, but at the same time, you know, some of the I guess the more is the more more more overt and difficult aspects of anxiety and stuff like that really sort of kicked in when I was writing a handful of ghosts, oddly enough. Yeah, so I don't know, it's, it's hard to explain. It's something I don't normally like to talk about. And when there's certainly like, no shame part of it. But it's also just like, I'm not sure how to talk about it, like, talk about it intelligently. So the idea of writing a book that smarter than you ours was sort of again, part of the goal with the pallbearers club.

Michael David Wilson 16:08

Yeah, yeah. And did you want to talk about what some of the coping mechanisms are? Or would you rather move on?

Paul Tremblay 16:20

Oh, well, I mean, I can't even sure I can talk about it, like, even in terms of, let's, let's focus, let's narrow it to sort of the writing life. You know, I think we I know, we have talked in the past, about sort of, when my writing career I thought was in the tank forever, you know, after a little sleep and Wonderland, how I spent a few years just being really sort of bitter and jealous. So, you know, part of the coping, coping mechanisms that I try to apply, certainly in the writing life is if I'm feeling really down or bad, and just sort of like spiraling around, like a certain sort of emotion or feeling, you know, if I, if I can recognize that I'm doing that I, you know, I say, I tried to, you know, say, Okay, let's take a breath. And what, when did the spiral start, like, what made you think like this? Or, you know, why are you having a moment of jealousy? Or why are we having a moment of frustration in regards to writing? And for most of the times, I'm able to sort of identify what, what, what sent that off, and in more times than not, I'm able to be like, Okay, I felt that way because of this thing. And once I make that identification, that usually allows me sort of to break out of like a spiraling sort of cycle. So I guess that would be one way of coping.

Michael David Wilson 17:48

Hmm. So identifying the problem and is the Zoma staying a commonality to you know, once you can see the monster or once you can explain the ghost, you become less afraid of it?

Paul Tremblay 18:04

Sure, I know there's definitely, yeah, comfort and there's a comfort and knowledge right, you know, we talked earlier, even just tonight, like the idea of there being discomfort, or, you know, some of the scariest parts of horror is like when you don't know you're not sure. You know, I think that applies to all aspects of life. Right? It's always scariest when you don't know.

Michael David Wilson 18:25

Yeah, yeah. And I mean, because of the format of this book, and but perhaps, too, because you know, it, it's horror, but it's very much not horror in a traditional sense. It's got a format that's intriguing. It's difficult to be neatly pigeonholed into, frankly, anything. I mean, we've seen in terms of the critical reaction from readers and critics alike, this seems to be a very polarizing book, perhaps your most Oh, good. I love writing. So, I mean, when when you see people reacting so passionately, both negatively and positively, I mean, does this give you a frail that you've created something that, you know, it's dividing people, but it's making them talk about it?

Paul Tremblay 19:26

Yeah, so to be totally honest, as our Barbara would say, um, I mean, I'd say on the more rational part of me definitely is thrilled. Like I think, again, the rational part, I would much prefer strong reactions than like math or no reactions at all. The rational part of me will go on Goodreads and see that a genius like Megan Abbott, and Peter Straub, their, their books have averaged like 3.2 stars. Yeah. And I and I sort of I laugh on their behalf that sort of like, I don't know, the people who don't get it. And I marvel at, you know, how could you possibly not get, you know what Megan Abbott or Peter Straub are doing? You know, the irrational side of me and you know, which is the part that always takes things too, personally too seriously. And in this book, it's, that's actually been one of the bigger challenges for this book, compared to prior books, is because I put so much autobiography into art, it's hard not to take that a little personally with if you come across like, hard, it's so annoying. Like, oh, man. It's hard not to take that as a personal judgment. But, you know, which is a weird thing to say. Again, because rationally, you know, as a writer, that's sort of the first thing hopefully, you try to learn, or at least try to try to recognize that like, hey, Simon, talking about your book is not a personal judgement about you the person? Or if it is, it's not a very, very in depth, or, or, yeah, I'd say very, very, not in depth or accurate, sort of personal judgment. But, um, I don't know, there it is, like, for someone who, who thought or thinks that, you know, he writes, because he, you know, wanted to prove people wrong. And I mean, that sort of hinges on, on the attention that you get, right, the idea that, you know, you do want attention, or that I want attention, but maybe I don't want it, maybe I don't want too much of it, I only want a certain kind, you know, which is impossible to ask for when you're dealing with, you know, putting something out into the world and having, you know, it's not yours anymore kind of thing. Yeah, so whatever. What a non answer answer about dealing with, with the reaction to the book, you know, I, I tried to avoid it, frankly, like I I do a great job of not reading reviews, a good read, I feel like someone should hire me, someone should hire me, that's my job, not reading my reviews on Goodreads. I found I've become very bad at not reading things that come across like my Instagram, which is now the bigger sort of culprit, because those reviews of the book will just show up in the feed. And maybe that means that you know, I need to like shut off, like following hashtags and stuff like that. So there's always I don't know, there's always ways I need to curate better.

Michael David Wilson 22:32

Yeah, it's, it's difficult, particularly if it shows that up. I mean, there's not clicking a good you know, the good reads link, but if you're on Instagram, and then, you know, you see the thumbnail for your book. I mean, it's gonna take tremendous restraint not to click on it. And I suppose yeah, to until you click the bloody thing you don't know if it was a good or a bad one, at least with Goodreads as a star indicates? Just, you know, a picture of the book. It's kind of Russian roulette.

Paul Tremblay 23:08

Sure. No, I mean, obviously, it's my fault. But the thing with Instagram was like, that's like a really pretty staged picture of the book. Yeah. And you click on it, it's like, Ah, come on.

Michael David Wilson 23:19

Yeah. They should give some indicators. It's like, you know, make it a more kind of shitty stage if you hated the book. Because, yeah, you are right, because these photos are often so beautifully curated. It is almost funny in a juxtaposition to see it. so wonderfully done. And then to read the review. It's like, Oh, okay.

Paul Tremblay 23:48

So I mean, like, I'm not egoless about the whole thing, like yep, I think I write really good books. I mean, I'm very happy with pallbearers club but you know, I think it does what I wanted it to do. And I think it does it really well. And, you know, it feels weird to be like, I feels like yesterday, I was like, oh, like, you know, here's a new horror writer. You know, now it's gonna be sort of like to become out like you're an established or an older, older writer, which is even more loaded phrase. Yeah, that part of it's kind of weird to, or just even like I had said this to a friend who writes, you know, I've I won't say who it is, but fun relationship where I can sort of vent my maybe ungenerous thoughts about readers and whatnot, and I won't be judged it'll be a fun exchange. Yeah. But like it one of the things that, uh, sort of occurred to me he's like, man, you know, I've been you know, I've been writing since I'm closing in on 30 years, which is fucking insane. Like, you know, if I first started messing around with writing in 1995. But you know, for my first five years, I was very much what I would consider a hobbyist. Like, I wasn't super serious about it, like maybe I wrote like four short stories a year kind of thing. But it for me, it was a very slow bill. But like the idea that man, I've been doing this for a long time. And, you know, wonderful a lot of, sort of, I'll say, older writers think about this, like, the idea is, hey, I've been doing this and doing this, and I've learned, and I've made mistakes, and I've gotten better. And I've learned all these things. And I'm at a point where it's like, wow, I can do some, you know, I can do some interesting things that are maybe a little bit different. But like, but the readers as a collection. They're always the same, right? I mean, because every year there's there's younger readers, older readers sort of die and fall off, like the the group of readers as a, as Colossus group, you know, they stay the same. I mean, I think, you know, if you want to be really negative, you could say I readers getting worse in terms of, you know, what they'll accept or what they can read just because of all, you know, I include myself in that group, you know, because of all the distractions, how our brains are being changed my social media. So maybe it's not a good or healthy way to think of it certainly, in my case, to think about like, oh, like, I can feel like I'm getting better. You know, so how does that square with, like, the response that you might get sometimes, so? I don't know. Those are things I try not to think about too often. But like, if I sort of go to spinning down the hole, that's sort of what I end up thinking about sometimes, or having been recently, in response to some of the quote unquote, polarizing reviews. For pallbearers club.

Michael David Wilson 26:45

And it's interesting what you say about social media to so I mean, do you think that social media has affected your attention span? And do you think it has gone so far as to affect the books that you enjoy and the entertainment and art that you consume?

Paul Tremblay 27:09

Oh, 100% I think it's more I think it's affected more my viewing experience, as opposed to reading because luckily, I read so much that has, I don't feel like that's sort of crept in to that part yet. Because typically, when I'm teaching and writing, I don't have a lot of time to watch, like, you know, television shows, or the movies, you know, writers tend to be a little bit more like a treat for me, as opposed to, I don't care how busy I am, I make sure I'm reading. So I've noticed, like, it's really hard for me to not look at my phone, like 20 minutes into a movie, or, or however long, you know, I would never do in a theater. So maybe I just need to get out go to the theater more often. But yeah, you know, I find it creeping into the writing part too, just in terms of like, the, the open up the browser, or, you know, to check the phone kind of thing. Which, you know, it's something that I'm gonna have to act have to actively do. But like the weird sort of, Pandora's box of it is that you as most almost all writers, you know, unless you're fortunate enough to be I don't know, it's so much FEG or, or she's not on social media, like, unless you're like, You're a lucky large writer, that you don't need to be on social media, just about all of us have to be there. It's the only way books are gonna get sold. Or that you know, information about your books are gonna get out there. You know, a filmmaking friend I mentioned earlier, Alejandro says, The guy just turned off social media for a while. It's like brain Viagra. He described it. He talks about all the screenwriting he was getting, I was like, man, like, I wish I could, like I can't right now not like, you know, a few months after the new book has come out. I can't, I can't turn off social media. Maybe, maybe I can. Maybe I'm making too much of an excuse for myself. You know, social media is not all evil. Of course. I've met know so many people through it, but you know, there's no doubt it, it affects it rewires the brain.

Michael David Wilson 29:14

Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I mean, that's science, you know, looking into that, you know, studies coming to that conclusion. So I think there's no doubt that it does. rewire and, I mean, it is an addictive drug and it's absolutely been set out that way. So it's a tricky one, I think. I think for us to not be part of social media, we have to do that with intentionality. So I mean, coming up with rules like Okay, I will only check social media once or twice a day or I will only look at it this time or at that time, but then you know, It is easy to deviate from the own rules that you set like it genuinely takes more willpower to not look at social media than it does to look at it. Or you might just think of something or like, oh, I need to message this person. So it's it's a tricky one, but I think it is, it is a problem. And it not only has it affected, like the viewing experience for some people who have movies, but it's affected our ability to be still is affected our ability to just enjoy the silence, which now sounds like a terrible Depeche Mode reference. But you know, it's like, if, if we're at like, a restaurant or something, or someone now if I'm with someone, and I'm not going to get my phone out. But if they go to the bathroom, it's more tempting to check or to scroll on my phone than to just be at peace with being alone, I think. And I think that's a problem that we've become so addicted to this kind of Viagra for the brain, as it was that we can't just enjoy alone time,

Paul Tremblay 31:22

though, for sure. I'd say at the very least I did this in 2020. I shut off. Notify all notifications. Oh, yeah. Which was a beautiful first sort of step. Yes. Because, you know, at the time, it was absolute madness. I like my watch was vibrating. And yeah, your phone was vibrating with every sort of, like social media stuff, but like, you know, News, the news tickers, etc.

Michael David Wilson 31:48

Yeah. Yeah, I've not had notifications on for a very long time. I have Twitter, and I have Instagram on my phone. And that's it. But, you know, there was a time when I didn't even have Twitter around. So. And now No, maybe it shouldn't be on. It is a difficult one. Because if it wasn't on and I probably check into it last and then to be using it on my computer, I have to very specifically and intentionally be using it. But at the same time, you know, I mentioned we look at our phones if someone goes to the bathroom, but as someone who likes to be productive. I mean, that is effectively dead time. So maybe maybe I can promote something, go have a conversation on social media or use that time more effectively. So it's sure it's a tricky one. Now I'm wondering when you're viewing a movie, and you're kind of checking in on your phone. Is that when you're viewing a movie alone or is that actually when you're viewing it with someone else?

Paul Tremblay 33:06

It's a mostly Well, I've caught myself doing I guess alone but also like occasionally like if I'm watching it with my kid or something because they go on their phone it's almost like ah although we have like a free well my son because he's a college student has like a free Hulu account. But because it's quote unquote free there's ads become like the person going to the bathroom break. So you know, watch the movie then an ad 20 minutes sounds like okay, we can look at our phone for two minutes. Okay, the movies back on we can put the phone away.

Michael David Wilson 33:43

Yeah, yeah. I mean, yeah, if I if I'm watching a movie, particularly with someone else's, like no, no looking at phones and and if you look at your phone, not just us, specifically, Paul, but anyone, then I will find that rude. I'll be like, What are you doing?

Paul Tremblay 34:03

Like number of friends or something?

Michael David Wilson 34:05

Yeah, this is, this is me every time. But yeah, like, I guess. Yeah, I guess the advert break is different. But yeah, I can see how that can spill into. That can spill into like the movie coming back on. But, I mean, this this has almost certainly affected the way in which movies are made and TV has made anyway, like, I guess, like, it's harder to have a slow burn, because people don't have as much attention and it is a real problem.

Paul Tremblay 34:43

Right? And I've come to sort of loathe SoFlo that are low the even not that you use it incorrectly, but you know, the idea of slow burn. So I mean, that just means for most people that there aren't, you know, explosions or things happening other than and learning about like the characters, right. All right. Yeah, so I don't know.

Michael David Wilson 35:07

I mean, yes. Yeah, I guess so. But I mean, even more so. I mean, you can have some things and it's very Lintian, where you might have like a montage and there is no dialogue. So yeah,

Paul Tremblay 35:27

I just like reacting to I think typically when people say, Hey, this is a slow burn, they're telling you that oh, it's not very plot heavy at the beginning, or, or, you know, in the first act, or the first two acts.

Michael David Wilson 35:40

Yeah, I I guess it's different for different people. Because I mean, some people described, I can't remember if you hate this film, actually, because I think there's an areas to film you hate. Do you like hereditary? Oh, yeah, very much. Okay. Cool. So, I mean, some people would describe hereditary as a slow burn, because you know, as you say, yes, they would be wrong. Absolutely. You don't well, I maybe I don't need to continue this, because we're all coming to the same conclusion. Those people wouldn't be objectively wrong. But but because like, I mean, there's so much intrigue from the start with the characters and with the atmosphere. So I guess different people have different definitions, or or do you know, people are different? Well, back in Revelation on Mises, already, nearly 500 episodes, and that's the jam I'm coming out with.

Bob Pastorella 36:46

See, and I liked the term slow burn. I don't see it as a negative at all I may have at one point. But like, if I'm telling someone about a film, that's a slow burn, I think most of my friends know that. Oh, so it's film I need to pay attention to right. Yes, something intense is going to happen. And if I don't pay attention during this first part, then but I guess halfway point would be like, you know, but I am getting to a point now to where I love film. That's a good slow burn that just like, takes its time. Yeah. I feel like that the intensity at the end is going to be a lot more personal for you, if that makes any kind of sense.

Paul Tremblay 37:30

No, no, absolutely. I mean, I, I I don't mean to imply that it's, I guess what I'm sort of implying is I think more people, not all people, obviously. But I think more and more people sort of use slowburn now as like a code to say, hey, you know, this, this is, you know, it's almost a pejorative like that a lot happens. But you know, stick with it. You know, it gets better. Is that what I think slowburn has sort of become to me from I could be totally wrong. But as someone who has written a few slow burns, that's what it feels like.

Michael David Wilson 38:04

Yeah. Yeah, I think I think you're right. But I guess with present company, none of us use slow burn as, you know, an insulting term.

Paul Tremblay 38:16

Right? No, it's a slow burn. Yeah. It's really good.

Michael David Wilson 38:21

Yeah. And like Bob did put more emphasis on the burn. Maybe that's it. Maybe it's in the pronunciation is like, Eva, ISIS. It's a slow burn, or it's a slow burn. Oh, yeah. Beyond the ban,

Bob Pastorella 38:37

yeah. As I was trying to explain it, or describe that movie watcher. That's out with the young lady who was in it follows. And I was explaining it to a co worker, and I use the term slow burn. And I guess it was the way I put it. And he just smiled. He said, so yeah, he goes, That's yours. Okay, he goes, I'm gonna check it out. So I sold him on it by using the word slow burn, but I have other friends I'd be like, and so let you know, it's a little bit of a slow burn. And i No matter how I inflict it to be like, also, it's like it's just when you got to sit there and think about Mike man, no, you just got to watch it. Pay attention. It's nurse no thought, you know, it's gonna have you questioning things later. But it's not one you have to try to figure out No, it's just it's just a terminology. I think that it's slowly morphing into something that's not a negative but more positive in certain company we're doing right.

Michael David Wilson 39:40

You just reminded me both because you did mention what came before that I need to watch that films so much watch watch it same way because as well, yeah, that's exactly as Bob knows the kind of stuff that I'm into. Is it one of these annoying films that's on shudder? Oh, and I shoot Okay, I need to clarify that shutter is not in Japan. That's why if you're a film on shot there, you're an annoying film on shutter shutter is very good that's the thing that's annoying is a good fucking service that isn't here yet.

Bob Pastorella 40:21

Now it's it's it you can I think you can run it on I've rented it off a prime so and and it was after seeing the trailer and seeing the actress because I really really like I guess her name is is my Macomb Monroe. Yeah. And I really like I love it follows. Yeah. And so when I seen that she was making another movie then enters the first side it's like, oh, she she wants to be followed you know so she because she makes these you know kind of kind of thriller II type movies. And there's nothing supernatural about watch her is just it's just one of those movies that and it's really simple. There's no no twist, but it can it confirms a conviction that I have. Yeah, that and I'll just say this that always believe a woman when she tells you

Michael David Wilson 41:26

know, don't Don't say too much about this film. very averse to spoilers.

Bob Pastorella 41:33

It doesn't like the spoilers. I fucking hate

Michael David Wilson 41:36

them. Fucking hater. I'm scared of them. You said that you watched the trailer, but I just can't watch trailers anymore. And it is ridiculous the amount of trailers these days that literally give the entire film away. Now, I I'm not I'm not saying anything because of the quality of this film. But there's a film called mama. And after I saw that film, I went back and I watched the trailer. And it just gave every single plot point including the end away because because like it's almost like well, let's just put the let's just put the highlight reel of, of the film into the trailer. But now Now you've just put everything into it. So I know I watch trailers after I've watched the film. I don't know why I do that. And then and then it confirms my my kind of stance to not watch trailers because it's like yeah, they gave everything away.

Paul Tremblay 43:00

Yeah, I definitely tend to avoid trailers for for movies. I'm really excited about that are coming out. Yeah, just for because of that fear of the of the spoiler.

Michael David Wilson 43:12

Yeah. Yeah. Now in terms of your next book, am I right in thinking it's another short story collection?

Paul Tremblay 43:20

Yeah, it is. I wasn't expecting. You know, we talked about pitching the pallbearers called to get back on deal and they offered me three book deal again. The middle book being a short story collection, I was like, oh, okay, so yeah, next summer, the short story collection will be out and it's called the beast you are Oh, and with a loose sort of, I guess monster theme. Not every story is a monster story. But there's you know, I'd say maybe half the stories involve a monster maybe a little bit more than half of some kind. And the the, the collection features in original novella. It's about 30,000 words 120 120 or so pages. It's the title novella. It's called the BCR. And it's an anthropomorphic animal novella. With a giant monster and a cat. That's a slasher. And I wrote it in free verse, because, you know, I know what the market wants. Me Oh, my

Michael David Wilson 44:20

goodness. Is that gonna be the closer?

Paul Tremblay 44:25

Yeah, that'll be the closer and I have to admit that I was some of the most fun I've ever had writing. It's not to say it was easy to write at all It wasn't but I really enjoyed I typically don't enjoy writing and I would say that like, is a jokey flippin thing. I mean, writings work what the part I'm addicted to is having a completed thing like that's when I'm like, Oh, wow, this is amazing. I wrote this and I want to show it to people. But yeah, writing that crazy story was a lot of fun. You know, it's definitely an ode to things like Watership Down. You know the secrets Have Nym even something like Animal Farm here anything was talking animals is definitely everyone's gonna talking animal story in them somewhere, right? So right that goes bound by writerly law. It's,

Michael David Wilson 45:15

yeah, yeah. There's interest in that the committee commissioned a short story collection. Now, did you work when they were kind of deciding what to take on? Did you pitch this as a possibility? Or did they specifically say we want another short story collection? And you had an even meant you might be you had one or not?

Paul Tremblay 45:39

Yeah, it was the latter. I mentioned a short story collection. I wasn't even sure if I had enough for other one, frankly. Yeah, and I definitely didn't tell about the anthropomorphic animal thing until Yeah, yeah. I typically don't have story ideas like that hang around for a while, like, the kind of so I mean, is like, I go from book to book. And like, each time I have to start over and think of something, it's not like, I've got a bullpen of ideas. And like, Oh, I'm gonna write this now. And then I'll write that later. It's like, now I wish I had those stories hanging around. But in this case, I'd had the general idea for the beach tqr for a long time. But I thought it had to be a novel. And there's no way they're gonna go for an anthropomorphic animal novel. So when they said the short story collection, I was like, Oh, all right. This is a short novel or novella, and it ended up being the perfect length. So yeah, I'm, uh, I'm optimistic about that. You know, hopefully people enjoy it.

Michael David Wilson 46:39

Yeah. Do you know much in terms of logic as to why they wanted to commission two novels in a short story collection? Because I mean, I would think from a commercial point of view that typically, short story collections don't sell as well as novels. But I mean, I mean, practical. Yeah. So I, from a business stance, that seems like an odd curious for them to make, but I mean, maybe they're looking at this more from a kind of literary or artistic point of view, and just kind of, yeah, there's like a rhythm in terms of having two novels and then have a short story collection.

Paul Tremblay 47:25

Sure. I have to admit I'm, when they offered it, it was more like, okay, like, I won't ask why. I do think they were very happy with growing things and how it did certainly critically, I mean, that book, I think, more than any book got the most press. Oddly enough. It was a New York Times notable book. So no, no. They also that maybe she, you know, in past conversations, I've talked about like, I like having two years, or a year in between novels kind of thing. So maybe she had that sort of in her mind as well. She's gonna kill me if I tell you the story. But my editor, Jennifer's wonderful, good friend, she saved my career. She's the best she edits Joe Hill and Neil came in. And so like, you know, 2020, we had the deal. We signed it. So now it's, you know, this spring, April 2021. You know, which, in some ways felt like five years later, you know, I turned in my collection to the agent, and he sent it to Jen. She's like, I love it. You know, I'll get back to you with an offer. And he was like, what? He's like, Jen, this is in the contract. And she's like, Oh, my God, I can't believe I forgot. Yeah. So I don't know, strategy. She likes she likes short stories. Yeah. Yeah. She was part of choice.

Michael David Wilson 48:51

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, she should have kept quiet here. Right? He shouldn't be an honest, it's like, come on, but her since she's listening to this, you'll be glad that I'm not your agent. I mean, do you know, what kind of considerations go into wherever they do? Or don't give you a new contract in terms of renewing? Is that something you're kind of privy to? I mean, one presumes, of course, book sales. And, and reception is going to factor into that, but I mean, what other things might go into whatever you do, or don't get a new book contract?

Paul Tremblay 49:43

Right. So I'm not 100% privy. But I would say in general, though, I think, you know, these days, you know, with the Big Five like, the sales department. opinion of the book if that, you know, they think it's gonna they're gonna be able to sell it for Gonna do well definitely has weighed. You know, if your editor is new, or hasn't, you know, hasn't been around that long, I would say the sales department probably has more weight than your editor does. You know, I'm super fortunate that Jen has been at William Morrow for decades. And you know, and I mentioned her other clients she edits for, so she definitely carries a lot of weight. You know, so in my case, I'm super fortunate to have, you know, a track record with him now, obviously, you know, with a head full of ghosts, and, you know, disappearance didn't sell as well. But you know, Kevin did very well, you know, so they've been happy with sort of the trajectory and how the books have done so far. So we'll see if that continues, hopefully does.

Michael David Wilson 50:47

Yeah. And one would assume that as soon as campaign is on the big screen, that their sales are going to explode. And so I mean, frankly, not re contracting, an author who's about to have the biggest movie deal of their career would seem a bit of an error. But luckily, Jen did not make that error. So it's all good.

Paul Tremblay 51:12

Yeah, I hope so. I mean, hope the movie translates into book sales. I mean, in some sense, that requires cooperation from you know, the studio in the filmmaker to and so far as, you know, this is my first time with that this experience, and, you know, the idea of having a media tie in addition, right, like the book that's got art from the movie, and that's kind of, from what I've been learning is a lot more work and involved in that, you know, getting permission. You know, especially in a tight turnaround, like if the movie is going to come out in February. So, you know, hopefully it's gonna happen, but we'll see. I'm not sure 100% Sure if it is going to happen or not, though. Yeah. Yeah. But not from a lack of wants from my publisher, I can assure you

Michael David Wilson 52:01

Yeah, yeah. Well, how did the sales first survive a sun compared with previous books? Because I'm wondering how COVID might have impacted sales amongst other factors.

Paul Tremblay 52:15

Yeah, it aired out its advance which was great after a year but you know, it didn't sell as well as cabin within the world did so it's probably not counting pallbearers club because it just came out but I'd say it's in the number three spot for for sales. But I mean, just the idea that it earned out in advance is, is obviously good enough for me, but it is not your advance that's much more likely that your publisher is going to continue to work with you. You know, if they lose money, you know, that's where problems can arise. head full of ghosts is sold the most, you know, it was never never qualified as a best seller but it's just had this amazingly long tail like it's this book that's almost G seven years old now. And it you know, it still sells pretty well. Like you know, which in some aspects is the dream I have a whole novel like that, that just, you know, never gonna make a bestseller list but it's going to continually sell enough just to get like a decent royalty check every six months.

Michael David Wilson 53:18

Yeah, yeah. And I mean, I think as well, a head full of ghosts it marked a kind of change in the Paul Tremblay style from crime to horror writer. So I imagine a lot of people who are new to your work, going to want to pick it up just to see like, Okay, well, this is where the horror began.

Paul Tremblay 53:43

Absolutely. You know, with a big heaping Thank you help from Stephen King and tweeting about that book. Certainly. Yeah. Yeah. Give that book a second life, or first life. I don't know. I guess a second life is probably more accurate. But

Michael David Wilson 53:57

yeah, yeah. No one's gonna ever grumble a tweet from Stephen King or at least a positive tweet, maybe they'll grumble if they get a negative one it's gonna be the same impact but you know, bad luck for 1000 years so I think that's what happens if Stephen King CASAS you but I mean, for for the pallbearers club, of course. The book tour is gonna be vastly different. Survivor Song because you've been traveling and internationally. So you were in Spain a few months back. So what has the book tour looked like?

Paul Tremblay 54:39

Yeah, so I mean, I guess it's a little bit of a hybrid kind of thing. Where like, the first week that book came out, I did some live events. You know, somewhat locally to me, I did went to Boston, Pennsylvania in New York City. And then I went to Spain, after actually after that I did some virtual events with mysterious galaxy. bookstore in San Diego and piles in Portland. I did one more live book event in Beverly, which is where I grew up and where much of the pallbearers club is set. And that was a lot of fun. family went to that event, which made it interesting. Yeah. And then it was off to Spain, which was a lot of fun. I mean, it was, I'd never been on the continents of Europe before. And lucky enough to go the UK fairly recently. But this is my first time setting foot in Europe. You know, the continent. Not that UK isn't in Europe is like St. Continental Europe.

Michael David Wilson 55:39

Yeah, yeah.

Paul Tremblay 55:41

Yeah. So no, it was wonderful. What a beautiful. We were in the very north of Spain, in a town called the villas, which is in the region of the Austria's region. I don't know if I'm saying it correctly. It was like the only place in Spain that wasn't on fire, either with actual fire or the temperatures. It was it was lovely. It was only like in the 70s. And this was during the heatwave, or one of the heat waves I should say. That was a lot of fun. Yeah, you know, very fortunate that I got to go over with friends. Grady Hendrickson, Stephen Graham Jones was there and I met Lauren Fucus, who was wonderful. And Ellen got to meet Mariana and rakez You know, who's my favorite songwriter right now? She's amazing. And it was an amazing experience worth getting COVID I suppose. When I arrived home with the for the first time I've managed to teach two years in a pandemic and I get it. Yeah. A trip to Spain got me.

Michael David Wilson 56:45

Which is no insult to Spain, I'm sure just coincidental. We don't want. Weekly Tremblay says live Spain is riddled with COVID.

Paul Tremblay 56:59

Yeah, no, in fact, I won't name the author. But I will say I'm fairly sure a British author gave me COVID.

Michael David Wilson 57:06

Jesus, you know, now in so in the Brits, everybody. I mean, I wonder, you know, what, why Spain? Do you have a particularly, you know, big readership in Spain, because there's a lot of great places. We have a lot of great readers all over continental Europe.

Paul Tremblay 57:31

Sure. Well, I mean, this was a literary festival, that speculative fiction literary festival called Celsius to 32. You know, in recent years, they've had Cassandra CA, in I think, was Chuck Wendig. There. Chuck might have been there, I forget. Yeah, and other, you know, science fiction, fantasy and horror writers. You know, so, you know, I think they've been in business for about 13 or 14 years. So, you know, they approached me, they said, We want you to come over as a guest. So I was like, yes, geez, thank you, you know, they, you know, they pay for everything which was amazing. So it wasn't necessarily that I picked Spain to go for tours like you know, Spain came to me. But I will say nocturna the publisher there has published three of my novels until goes disappearance at Devil's rock in the cabinet in the world and they're going to publish pallbearers club as well. So out of the European countries outside of, of the UK, that's the country with the second most of my books.

Michael David Wilson 58:36

All right. So for European countries have been put on notice they've upped their game. This is what you need to do we just like try and challenge other people and they bring their A game and it just ultimately elevates your sales on these little wars.

Paul Tremblay 58:58

I liked where you think maybe you should be again another instance where you should be my Agents.

Michael David Wilson 59:03

I don't want your agent to hear this. It's like fucking now the whole conversation Michael David Wilson is just trying to become a new agey, but yeah, I don't think he's in or she or they are in any danger of of that happening because you're they've got you in front of William Morrow and these fantastic film deals and being edited by your the editor who edits Joe Hill and Neil Gaiman. So frankly, I think you're onto a good thing. I think it would be a bad career move to pivot to me as your agent. But I understand that at the moment, you're writing a new novel.

Unknown Speaker 59:50

I am

Michael David Wilson 59:51

good at that directly, and I know that you didn't actually write an out outline for it. So is it scary not having that outline or is it liberating?

Paul Tremblay 1:00:07

Who are both? Yeah, I mean, definitely a little of both. But I haven't been scared enough to like I'm gonna write an outline. So I mean, I'm, I'm keeping notes in there sort of two, two timelines that like I'll keep sort of track up just in a notebook but not not writing. One of the timelines, I pretty much know the other one. I don't. So that's the more scary part. As a guy, what the hell am I gonna do in this timeline? Yeah, so we'll see. Again, this one's a little bit different, certainly a lot different than pallbearers club. Although I do think there's a little bit of a connection to the I don't want to I'm not ready to talk about necessarily. But she's maybe I'll see the title for the first time for your podcasts. So 12 slash 13. So it's, it's called horror movie a novel.

Michael David Wilson 1:01:02

Wow. Okay. Okay, shit. Like it?

Paul Tremblay 1:01:08


Bob Pastorella 1:01:09

Get my credit card out now.

Paul Tremblay 1:01:11

It's kind of catchy. Yeah, we'll see.

Michael David Wilson 1:01:14

I'm so intrigued. I'm so intrigued. And I think you know, you've you've put that out there as a pitch to realize even invite me back on for episodes 13 and 14 at a pool translate show, which, at that point, it might just be rebranded to

Paul Tremblay 1:01:35

you'll just have to get Stephen Graham Jones on a little bit more often. Yeah. John Lang. It's got to be up there too. Right.

Michael David Wilson 1:01:41

Yeah, yeah. John Langan has been on a number of times, but not Yeah. Not the level of you and Steve times. Yeah, he he's cameoed as well from you know, winning some This Is Horror awards. So that that's got his numbers up to. And I mean, our fair we spoke about that. You did try to try to cameo this episode, but your circumstances got in the way. So he's putting up a fight. So

Paul Tremblay 1:02:14

he's very good at cameos. He does a lot of cameos and other podcasts as well.

Michael David Wilson 1:02:17

Yeah. Particularly when you're there it seems.

Paul Tremblay 1:02:22

If there if there was like a Holly, if there was a Hollywood Squares of like horror podcasts, John would be the center.

Michael David Wilson 1:02:30

Yeah, yeah. I mean, I didn't get any time that you or lead Baron have a podcast, that's probably a 50% chance that like John Langan is going to appear. Even Even if he's not in your house, it might be like surprise you if you're podcasting and you hear like someone in your house and you weren't expecting it, don't worry. Let himself in.

Paul Tremblay 1:02:59

Yeah. Oh, it's almost like you two are the only ones like brave enough to talk to like me are layered on our own. It's like, oh, we have to talk to those guys. We'll get laying in to do it.

Michael David Wilson 1:03:07

Yeah, yeah. Well, you know, we need to do something to separate us from the other. All right, conversation podcast. So yeah. This is almost turning into like a Langan. FreeZone language is gonna get very upset. We're not We're not saying Yan Langan will just

Paul Tremblay 1:03:27

say no, we send your love and hugs.

Michael David Wilson 1:03:32

Well, Agnes, I should probably wrap up the conversation. I did 11 Hugs. That's yeah. Yeah, I did have some, some of the things I was going to jump into. But we've now now exceeded the two hour mark. So I mean, thank you, as always for spending. Yeah, okay.

Paul Tremblay 1:03:57

Oh, no, I mean, let me thank you for letting me come back on like so often. I mean, it's a pleasure. I love discussing the books with you too. And I know like your, you ask questions that like, make me stop in thanking him and Ha, which is good. Like, I'm never quite sure what you're going to ask. I mean, that like the best possible way you guys always come up with, with things either I haven't been asked or I really haven't considered.

Michael David Wilson 1:04:23

Well, that is wonderful to hear. And yeah, when we hear things like that, it just inspires us and encourages us to keep going and shows that we must be doing something great. So thank you very much.

Paul Tremblay 1:04:38

Keep going just for the next t shirt that you guys make. There's a picture of me on the back like you guys can be on the front. Like this is hard and I'll just be on the back like waving

Michael David Wilson 1:04:47

like a cartoon version. Then you give it a thumbs up and the caption Keep going.

Paul Tremblay 1:04:54

Keep going love and hugs.

Michael David Wilson 1:04:55

Yeah, yeah. And then in the corner, so small over It's like undetectable

Yeah, yeah. Now, for anyone who hasn't listened to the free vs 12 episode, so attend I have to say it's I can't even remember now we're with you on where can they connect with you?

Paul Tremblay 1:05:24

So as much as you know, after talking about social media, I'm on Twitter at Paul G. Tremblay, same for Instagram at Paul G. Tremblay on Facebook, as well. Just know G. In that case, I will say on my website, which is Paul tremblay.net is a sign up for our newsletter, that I promise I don't spam your inbox super often, you know, maybe like once a month.

Michael David Wilson 1:05:51

All right. Do you have any final thoughts to leave our listeners with?

Paul Tremblay 1:05:58

Now other than like, you know, since we talked about John, you know, besides pallbearers club, you should go out and read his corpse mouth, and other autobiographies. And actually, in some ways, it would have been interesting to have him here to talk about the ways is short fiction, or like that collection in particular is very much a lot of what's, you know, it says in the title and other biography is very much very personal to John. And it's a very, you know, like all John's work really creepy, but also quite moving the last story in particular, and also, a book that I've been shining the praises of to look forward to, I'm not quite sure what's been published in the UK, I'm going to assume it's the same time as the US. But Mariana Enriquez novel, our shade of Night is coming February 3, and as one of the best novels I've ever read.

Michael David Wilson 1:06:52

All right. Well, you don't get much higher praise than that. And it is interesting with you and John Langan that you've both released your most autobiographical book at relatively the same time, so

Paul Tremblay 1:07:11

maybe we're the same person. Now, two people have seen us together.

Michael David Wilson 1:07:18

Yeah. Which would make it even more impressive. If you are in fact the same person so you go Thank you so much for listening to the This Is Horror Podcast are Paul Tremblay. Join us again next time when we will be chatting with Wil Carver, who returns to talk about his forthcoming book, suicides Thursday. And if you want to listen to that ahead of the crowd, if you want to listen to every episode ahead of the crowd, then become a patron on patreon.com forward slash, This Is Horror. Not only do you get early bird access to each and every episode, but you can submit questions to interviewees. And coming up shortly, we'll be getting into the likes of Jonathan Jan's Cynthia Palacio, John Niven, and many more. So that's 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,

Bob Pastorella 1:08:26

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Michael David Wilson 1:09:29

As always, I would like to end with a quote. And I know that this has been a rough year a rough few years for a number of us. And so I would like to turn to Seneca on Seneca sand to elements must be routed out once and for all the fear of future suffering and a recollection of past suffering, since the latter no longer concerns me and the form My concerns me Not yet. I'll see you in the next episode we'll cover but until then, take care yourselves. Be good to one another, read horror. Keep on writing and have a great, great day.

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