TIH 511: Josh Malerman on Writing Routine, Writing A Novel Documentary, and A Ben Evans Film

TIH 511 Josh Malerman on Writing Routine, Writing A Novel Documentary, and A Ben Evans Film

In this podcast, Josh Malerman talks about writing routine, writing a novel documentary, A Ben Evans Film, and much more.

About Josh Malerman

Josh Malerman is the author of many books including Bird Box, Malorie, and A House at the Bottom of a Lake, and the singer/songwriter for the band The High Strung. His forthcoming book, Spin A Black Yarn will be released next month.

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Michael David Wilson (00:00:28): Welcome to This is Horror, a podcast for readers, writers, and creators. I'm Michael David Wilson, and every episode alongside my co-host, Bob Pastorella, we chat with the world's best writers about writing life lessons, creativity, and much more. Today we are chatting with Josh Malerman in the first, in a three-part series of conversations about the release of his brand new collection, spin A Black Yarn, and that will be out via the wonderful folks at Del Rey on August the 15th. Now, in this episode, we talk about Josh's current writing routine, the writing documentary he's filming, and we drop some news on a Ben Evans film starring the Wonderful Sky Elibar of the Greasy Strangler fame. But before any of that, a quick advert break.

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Michael David Wilson (00:02:40): Okay. With that said, here it is. It is Josh Malerman on This is Horror years because the last time you were on the podcast was actually for the release of their watching. So we did the live podcast with you on Laurel Hightower, but then, yeah, in terms of talking about your own work, it was, well, in fact, looking, that was about three years too. So they're both three years. There we go.

Josh Malerman (00:03:26): Did we talk about inspection? Is that what we talked about last inspection?

Michael David Wilson (00:03:30): Well, last time, I mean, we actually spoke quite a lot about Spinner, black Yarn as in the production company, and then we spent some time talking about Carpenter's Farm.

Josh Malerman (00:03:46): Okay. So since then, I'm going to get my bookshelf. Since then, Mallory has come up the wide release of Goblin, the wide release of Pearl, which I should never have changed that title. That's on me. Whatever. We can talk about that later. Go on the Cape Daphne and now Spinner, black Yarn. Wow. A lot has happened since then. Yeah,

Michael David Wilson (00:04:08): Yeah. Which, I mean, I think it is testament to you being so prolific or at least having the reputation of being prolific. We know that sometimes the release of stories and the order in which they were written doesn't necessarily kind of follow, but I mean it leads into, we've got this question from Alan Baxter. So yeah, we're just going to break format and have a patreon question at the start. Okay.

Josh Malerman (00:04:43): I love that guy, by the way, so this is great. Okay.

Michael David Wilson (00:04:46): Yeah. So he says Josh is such a good writer, but also a prolific writer. So I'm wondering how long does a first draught tend to take, and how many draughts usually go into a book? I know from my own writing that it can vary a lot, but is there an average for you?

Josh Malerman (00:05:08): Yes. I would say that mostly the books take four to six weeks, something like that for the rough draught. But then, I mean, oh man, I'm looking at them all right now. I mean, the rewrites are crazy extensive. Gosh, some of them 6, 7, 8 times Bird Box was 11 times. And we're talking rewriting, not just spell checking. Daphne, not as much. But yeah, Daphne was, I even have the editorial response to Daphne on my office wall because sort of like the dream scenario, every time a writer sends their rough draught or their first draught or their editor, they have this fantasy of this is the one where they're going to write back saying it's perfect. So everyone, you're totally, it never happens. The people write back, well, this is good, but it needs a lot of work still. And the response to Daphne was like, yeah, this is almost done. I was like, oh, I printed it up. It's like on the wall.

(00:06:19): So Daphne not as much, but the rest, yeah, about that. But then just to get a little deeper go in the cave, because I knew it was going to be a beast of a book. It's 300,000 words because I knew that I did less per day. That sounds counterintuitive, but hear me out, I did less per day because I realised I would have to be writing four times the amount of Bird Box, and if I were to write the regular pace or whatever, I'd probably be burnt out after halfway through that thing or something. So I intentionally scaled back on the daily writing for Goal in the Cave, and it took about a year to do it

Michael David Wilson (00:07:03): And

Josh Malerman (00:07:04): Took a couple months.

Michael David Wilson (00:07:05): Yeah. I wonder what that was psychologically for you as somebody who wants to be writing more and to actually rein yourself in.

Josh Malerman (00:07:18): I didn't love it. And I tried another book where I only wrote 500 a day just to see what that was like. And it was like maddening would be, the writing session would end really fast. I'm like, oh, no, what am I doing now? But then there's a million other things to do, short stories, rewrites, the band, whatever it is. So lined it up with other stuff, but at the same time, I'm very used to, once I start six weeks later, having a rough draught, and there is, you can get kind greedy for that, you know what I mean? Almost. I mean, I guess that's a good thing to be greedy for though, as a rough draught of a novel, but you can get kind of greedy for it. You're like, whenever I start a book, you're almost, I'm an impatient artist, but I have to be patient during the rewrites, as you both know. I mean, that's where it becomes great or not. But thank you for those kind words, Alan.

Michael David Wilson (00:08:15): Yeah. And in terms of each day in those four to six weeks, I mean, how long are you typically writing? When is the writing routine? And I know that probably about seven years ago when we first spoke, we talked a little about writing routine, but I'm going to go out on a limb and it might have changed in that time.

Josh Malerman (00:08:41): No, gosh, that's one of the weirdest things is that recently, and I don't really normally post about this kind of thing or talk about this kind of thing, not my focus where my head's at, but recently my agent told me that Bird Box has sold over a million copies worldwide. Okay. I didn't even understand what she was writing me. I had to respond, wait, hold on, what are we talking about? She's like, no, this is what happened. One of the first things that struck me aside from that's insane was that my routine has not changed at all in the, lemme just do this real fast, six, seven years leading up to getting a book published, and then now eight years or so since having a book published, it's been exactly the same, which is about an average of just over two novels a year. So by the time Bird Box came out, I had 14 written or something, and it's been exactly the same since.

(00:09:39): It's not like, oh, bird Box came out. Now let's start thinking strategically now. Let's start thinking trends. Now let's start thinking bestseller list. It's exactly the same. I just made a documentary on the writing of a novel. I just filmed it, filmed from Scratch. I cannot wait for you to see this. Okay, this is wild. This is a man losing his mind in his office. But it struck me while making this documentary that I have no idea if this is ever coming out. Is this going into the pile of twenty-five? I don't know what's going to happen to them. Is this going to be a book in a year? I have no idea. So when I got that note from Kristen, I guess I'm going to say there was kind of a moment of pride that hasn't changed at all. Now in an oven, each book has its own routine.

(00:10:31): Like Goon, the Cape I said was different than most. Bird Box, for whatever reason was written between 8:00 AM and noon every day. Incidents around the house was eight at night to midnight. And it seems to be that once a book starts, it's the same every day until it's done. And I'll bet you guys are similar. And anyone listening where the average writing session is three, four hours of actually sitting there writing, it doesn't seem like anyone does much. You might have a marathon day or a shorter day, but it seems like the average for every writer I've ever talked to is about three or four hours a day. Is that the same for you guys?

Michael David Wilson (00:11:16): Yeah, I mean, I've tried to do more, and when I was writing full time, I was really trying to make it a nine to five, but I just noticed very quickly there are diminishing returns. So rather than fighting, rather than making the last four hours hellish, why not say you've got three or four hours. Once it's done, you're free to do other things. You can do other work or you can occasionally, why don't you just unwind? Why don't you do something not related to the work? Because I mean, it can become an obsession, particularly when you have time to fill. You can almost feel guilty if you're not. But I feel it's kind of like if you go to the gym, if you're working out, if you're looking to build muscle, you're not like, no, I must do this all day. You're going to injure yourself, and I wonder if there's something similar creatively. I do feel that we only have so much in the tank every day.

Bob Pastorella (00:12:26): Yeah, I agree. Occasionally I get a staycation and I'll play, Hey, let's see if Bob can be a full-time writer and do it nine to five, and I'll have my little schedule, and I might get maybe a day of nine to five. But after that, it's like there's so many distractions that you can pass office writing. I'm going to watch a movie that's still writing. I'm going to read this book that's still writing because you're getting inspired and things like that. And then you find that you get off in the fuck off zone. And then your actual writing, what you're talking about Josh, is maybe you might actually be able to do three or four hours in a stretch. So that seems like that's like a sweet spot. I try to get through a scene that's my main goal and start the next scene. If it takes me 30 minutes and it takes me 30 minutes to ride a scene and I'm happy with it and I can start the next scene, I'm like, Hey, I'm done. I'm done. There's still a little gas in the tank, but I'm not going to push it because that's when the writing starts getting really shitty. And we give ourselves permission to write shitty, but you don't want to deliberately write shitty.

(00:13:59): I don't like the idea of pushing it to the limit.

Josh Malerman (00:14:03): That's interesting what you just said about writing a scene, because I know exactly what you mean. More for me, it's more like if I'm near enough to the end of the scene, it feels really wrong to step away. Like, oh, no, I did my allotted time today. No, no, no, no, no. Get over here, buddy. You have to finish this moment. You don't want to leave the moment. But it still seems like, I think I've even read famous authors, it's like three, four hours. I don't know what it is. It's like some creative cycle or something. You kind of run out of gas. And then you were saying the idea of there are other things to do. You can do interviews, you can do work on that documentary that I was talking about. Whatever it is, there are a million other things you can do, and you are still doing something for your writings.

(00:14:55): And I'm becoming less and less enchanted with social media, less and less by the day, man, I don't know about you two, but it's just becoming, this was the reason for making the documentary that I just do not speak Twitter. I don't speak that language. To me, a thought that crosses my mind often when I'm online is just because you don't air grievances doesn't mean you don't have any. And it seems to me that everyone feels like they must, to me, it's a very negative place. Twitter is, and maybe I'm sensitive in that way, fine, who cares? Whatever. But I don't speak in permanent opinions or permanent declarations. If a scenario arises that morning, I probably need more than an hour or five minutes to know which side of this I'm on or whatever the hell that. So I started, I would find myself posting a bit about writing, like, oh, today's writing session was this or that.

(00:16:01): And even that felt like, just like I was speaking a different language, that's when I started thinking, how can I express how I feel about writing a novel without doing it online and without it being a social media thing? Because none of those formats, they all feel, I don't know, it's just insincere to me or something. They all feel like strategy to me, even though sort of the kindest or the people that are maybe best at it in warmest, it still feels like strategy. And so I was like, okay, you need a bigger canvas. You need to film the process of writing a novel so that you can literally on the spot discuss these things and the camera can see the look in your eye, how you really feel, the tone of your voice, so it's not some misinterpreted tweet or something. And that's when I started thinking, okay, you need to make a movie of this.

(00:16:52): So about three books ago, I sat down to do it, and then I was like, like, no, no fucking way, dude. No, I'm writing a book is enough. I'm not filming this. No way. And so I forget, forgetting, I just wrote the book two books ago. I was like, dude, you should do it now, man. You should do it. And I was like, no, I know that is so much work. And then this time around, I just freaking did it. I was just like, Nope, look, if you don't do it now, you're never going to do this. And it was is a little freaky at first, the very first day of it, I didn't know exactly what the hell I was doing. And I went and told Allison because I'd been talking about it for year or two years now or something. And I said to Allison, I don't know what to say to the camera. And she was like, just be yourself. And I was like, who the fuck is that? But it got easier. It got looser, and then it got more than easy. It became exactly what I was hoping it would be, which is, yeah, this looser, nuanced, I hope, joyful, passionate, but also troubled and not self-doubting, but writing a novel is intense, as we all know. And that's all on tape. And so I feel like, yeah, I feel really good about it. I can't wait for you to see this.

Michael David Wilson (00:18:14): Yeah. Well, we may return to the social media comments so much to say about that, much of which I mean complete agreement with you on. But I want to talk more about the logistics of filming this documentary. I mean, who was involved with the filming? Was this purely you setting up the cameras or is Alison involved? Is there a crew involved? If there is, I mean, and you are writing a novel. There's this guy over there, isn't that a little bit distracting? Did you then have segments in every American TV show where you're like, so when I was writing this scene, this is what was going through my mind. I want to know as much as you are prepared to talk about, do you have scenes outside of the house as well? You're walking around,

Josh Malerman (00:19:13): This is a man in his office losing his mind.

(00:19:18): So we have been working with producers called Beckwoods. They did a quiet place. They did Haunt. They did this new movie. They did the Boogeyman, they wrote the Boogeyman, and we've been shopping with them, carpenter's Farm to tv, them as producers, spin, a black Yarn, his producers another fella, Andy writing it and so forth. He would be writing those scripts, screenplays, whatever. And in the course of working with them, this came up the idea that I was going to do this documentary, and they were like, Hey, we've never seen that before. We've never seen a documentary on, I'm writing a novel. Can we produce this for you? And I was like, what? My plan was film it on this thing, the computer, and edit it with Imovies and put it on YouTube. Done. I figured if we had a video of Stephen King having done that with Cujo, we'd all, we'd have watched it five times. It might not be a great movie, but we'd all love to see it, right?

Michael David Wilson (00:20:24): Yeah.

Josh Malerman (00:20:25): And so that was the thinking, but they were like, no, we can get you set you up with better audio gear. And they, did I have it right here? These awesome rode microphones here, look at

Michael David Wilson (00:20:35): These. Oh yeah.

Josh Malerman (00:20:37): And then hooked me up with a better camera. And now this is the most amazing part. So it was a camera phone and not, what's the right phrase here? There's no actual, it doesn't work as a phone, but it still does connect to the icloud or whatever. So I would film that day, and they could literally, right when I hit stop, it goes to the Icloud and they could view it. So they were literally able to watch the dailies, the dailies, and they were able to say, to weigh in on what was happening and what I was doing and stuff like that. But it was essentially just, I mean, it kept getting crazier and crazier in here, but having them weighing in or just even responding at all, or just knowing that they were like, it wasn't just me that helped propel it along. You know what I mean? I feel like there was just doing it myself. After three days, I might've been like, oh, I'm not doing this stupid camera again. But knowing that it was someone else involved, there was a little bit more of like, okay, okay, come on, let, let's do this. So no, there was no one else in the office with me. Well, Alison did a few scenes, but there was no one else in the office, but they helped with gear, that initial setup and all that kind of stuff, and they are currently editing it as we speak. Yeah.

Michael David Wilson (00:21:57): Yeah. I'm so glad too that this is a kind of independently produced documentary with good intentions, because again, I'm imagining if this was for American Prime Time tv, they'd be like, okay, well, you need to have a bit where you're really struggling. Maybe you and Alison have an argument about it that they'd throw that in.

Josh Malerman (00:22:23): I can't believe you're saying that because there is that feeling, not from anyone, but there is a feeling when, have you ever watched the documentary and it wasn't tragic. You know what I mean? This documentary is like, did you ever see American movie? You guys ever see American movie where that dude makes that horror movie on his own and his best friend and all that? You never saw these crazy lo-fi, dude,

Michael David Wilson (00:22:48): It sounding familiar. It does sound familiar.

Josh Malerman (00:22:50): Got to watch that movie. You got to watch the movie. Anyway, this is what that reminds me of is I started watching some of the footage. I'm like, this dude's insane. Meaning me. I was like, this guy is freaking nuts. There's times where I'm just playing the drums on my desk for a long time. I'm reading to a metronome. I'm playing basketball in my office. There's no women here. After a while, you watch this and you're going to be like, wow, this dude is really, this guy's far out. And that was fun for me, but the thought crossed my mind, where's the doubt here? Where's the troubled here? But it's just not, I don't operate that way. I don't have imposter syndrome. Never have, I don't doubt it. I'm like, yeah, if it sucks now, we'll make it better later. And if there was any problems, like a fight with Alison, I guess, I don't know. I don't know. I guess I could film that, but that would seem kind of an odd thing to include or something. But maybe that would be a good thing to include. I don't know. But you get what I'm saying is that I noticed the lack of that in the raw footage. And it's interesting that you say that because now I'm wondering, because you're saying that that's an American television show thing. I'm wondering if I'm the condition to think that a documentary is supposed to be tragic.

Bob Pastorella (00:24:16): I see that aspect of it, but immediately what comes to mind and this, I mean, to me, it's funny, and I'm sure that what you did is not funny, but it would almost be like, what's the guy who did the nature documentaries? David

Josh Malerman (00:24:32): Ambrow.

Bob Pastorella (00:24:33): Yes. And so I say, we see the writer in his habitat. They show you drumming on the desk and all this. And I'm like, okay, that could be a way to go. That could be a way to go.

Josh Malerman (00:24:50): How much snorting lines, yeah. Yeah.

Bob Pastorella (00:24:59): The studio's frightening his inspirations sometimes. Quite literally.

Josh Malerman (00:25:09): Yeah. Yeah. But then here's my take on that, dammit, is I'm as plagued with, not doubt, but dude, I worry about shit. I worry about money. I worry if the books are good. I worry about all this shit. And that's what I was saying before, just because you don't air your grievances doesn't mean you don't have any, I'm just not really the kind of guy to be like, this all sucks. It's like I'm more like, okay, I'm writing a book. It's hard. Yes, this is hard. Yes, I'm going to be like, oh God, that passage is so freaking embarrassing. You didn't need this chapter at all. Great, great, great. But it's all under the umbrella of we're writing a novel, which is a very, in and of itself, optimistic endeavour because number one, it implies there's meaning in things. Do we accomplish anything? And number two, it sort of implies somebody else would read it. And so to me, the act of writing at all in and of itself is optimistic, even if there's a struggle.

Michael David Wilson (00:26:06): I was thinking about this the other day, particularly because the current novel I'm writing, it's called Daddy's Boy. It has the most dick jokes and euphemisms I've ever put in any project. It's kind of like, I don't know, the Greasy Strangler meets a Joe R Lansdale heist. And I thought, how optimistic is this act? That there was just a moment where I came out of myself almost. It's like, how optimistic is this? I'm spending a substantial amount of time. I've spent the best part of a year on this. And it's like just, it is an extended dick joke in a sense. So there's got to be a lot of optimism to even do that.

Josh Malerman (00:26:53): I cannot wait, I read, I would like to be one of your first Dick Joke readers. Yeah,

Michael David Wilson (00:27:01): Yeah.

Josh Malerman (00:27:01): That's also a good book title Dick Joke.

Michael David Wilson (00:27:06): I'll have to consider changing the title. What do I call it? Boy? And Underneath, it's like a Dick Joke novel, which then implies that there's a load of them. Do I start the Sub-genre? This is similar to how Yes. Joke Punk,

Josh Malerman (00:27:30): 30 years from now, you'll be honouring for this.

Michael David Wilson (00:27:33): Yeah, yeah. I mean, there's the Splatter Punk Awards. It's the World Ready for the Dick Joke Awards. I feel we're probably in the wrong decade. It's like if that was going to kick off, that was the nineties or the noughties. This is, if I consider the climate, we're in this, this is not the moment. Yeah, I

Josh Malerman (00:27:52): Think we missed the Dick joke era, but you never know. You never know

(00:27:56): You're

(00:27:57): Really onto something.

Michael David Wilson (00:27:58): I mean, things are cyclical. Maybe it will return. We'll find out.

Bob Pastorella (00:28:04): It's like Clerks, I'm going to bring it back. I'm

Josh Malerman (00:28:06): Bringing it back. Yeah.

Michael David Wilson (00:28:10): But I mean with the cameras as well, did you feel at least to begin with a little bit, or did you feel like maybe there are things that you would normally do that you're like, well, shit, there's a camera there. I better not do that. Or on the reverse end, did you ever feel like there was a need to perform? Because quite often, I'm writing a story and I'm silent, but maybe if there's cameras, I might want to turn to it and be like, oh, well, this is the bit with the dialogue now. I dunno why,

Josh Malerman (00:28:50): By the way, I've missed you guys. Wow. Wow. My face hurts right now from smiling, and I don't even know how long we've been talking. My freaking face hurts. So it was liberating. It was liberating the whole thing, because again, I mean, I don't know how to explain it. It's not like I hate people on Twitter. Of course not. It's not what I mean. That is just so not home for me. It's just so unimpressive. It's just so bland to me. It's so transparent to me. I'm just not into it.

(00:29:24): And so I've been for a couple years now, who can I talk to about this? I'm going to talk to Allison. There's 50 hours of footage. What am I talk to Allison for? Hey, baby, hear me out. And then 50 hours of talking about writing the novel. So yeah, it was just liberating, man. It was looking the camera in the eye, and there was a gleefulness about, I'm finally talking about this and not thinking, is someone going to think I'm too upbeat? Is someone going to say that I'm toxically positive? Is somebody going to say that? I'm like, oh my God, dude, I'm writing a novel and I'm electric with it, and I want to talk about it and talk about the problems of it too, and blah, blah, blah. And so it was just liberating. But the first couple of days were a little nerve wracking. After that. It was a free fall, kind of a free fall, maybe a downward spiral, perhaps.

Michael David Wilson (00:30:23): Right, right. No, I can't wait to see it either. And whatever form it takes, whatever channels it comes out on, I will be watching this. It sounds amazing.

Josh Malerman (00:30:38): I asked them if I could edit it, and they were like, no, no, no, no. I'm like, no, but I haven't edited it. No, no. We're going to get a real editor. Okay, fine.

Michael David Wilson (00:30:45): Fine. Yeah. When you were submitting each day's session, did you ever give them kind of timestamps? It'll be like, oh, 38 minutes in, you're not going to believe what I did, so I want you to pay close attention

Josh Malerman (00:31:01): To that. You really are. I'm asking amazing questions as if you've done this or something. Because oftentimes a segment closer to the end of it would be the great moment. So if I was filming for six minutes around four or Fourty five, something exciting starts to happen, and that became almost routine with it. So I did talk to 'em about that. I'm like, most of these clips, the latter third of them is where the more interesting stuff happens, or the more interesting revelation or whatever thing to say, or maybe I had an idea for the book or started doing something really weird in the office, whatever it is. It almost always came later late in the segments. So yeah.

Michael David Wilson (00:31:47): Yeah. I'm sure

Josh Malerman (00:31:49): I'm not put together enough to have thought in terms of stop timestamps, but I'm like, it's late in the clips.

Michael David Wilson (00:31:56): Yeah. And so it sounds like you were turning the camera on, you were recording at specific moments rather than literally just having it recording the entire time. Oh my God,

Josh Malerman (00:32:11): No. I can't even, in terms of the writing itself, I try to just get creative with camera. For a while. I had the camera phone directly above me, and there's some awesome shots of the, so I'm writing in the cats or walking around the computer, walking around the desk while I'm writing. And there were some moments like that, but very little of, this is actually me just sitting there writing. I mean, what is that? What the hell does that mean? There's a funny moment where I started that way, and so I'm like, all right, sentence one. And right away the first word I spelled wrong and I was like, God damn it. And there are many, many moments like that where it's like, I get the feeling that somebody who is trying to write a novel or trying to write their first novel, if they saw this movie, they're going to be like, if that dude can do it, I can do it.

Michael David Wilson (00:33:05): Yeah, yeah. No,

Josh Malerman (00:33:08): I hope that's what they walk away with.

Michael David Wilson (00:33:10): I wonder too, if you needed to get some hours of you writing just so they can do some sort of time lapse, and I like you drumming and do a line, oh, sped up

Josh Malerman (00:33:28): Pretty soon. There's actually a drum set behind the and a drum set between us.

(00:33:34): That's

(00:33:34): A great idea. Now, I kind of want to film that. I do have a drum set in this house.

(00:33:41): There you

Michael David Wilson (00:33:42): Go. Is it too late? Can you be like, we've got an emergency scene,

Josh Malerman (00:33:48): Guys, don't hold the presses. It's like the end of a movie. The music is swelling. I'm racing for the airport with this scene of

(00:34:00): That would be a great end credits. Yeah.

(00:34:05): I honestly think I'm going to do this. I'm going to bring the drums in the office. That's a brilliant idea. Even

Michael David Wilson (00:34:09): If it's an end credits, it could be like, where is he now? That's what he's doing now

Josh Malerman (00:34:16): And out, and my office is in a mental home.

Michael David Wilson (00:34:23): But I mean, to briefly return to social media, I mean, I think a lot of people have a similar relationship with social media. Not many writers say, you know what I love about marketing, or, you know what I love about writing? It's the tweets. It's putting a tweet out. That is why I got into this. But

Josh Malerman (00:34:48): That's a good point, a good

(00:34:50): Point, yeah.

Michael David Wilson (00:34:51): But I mean, there's many things going on with social media for one. I mean, a lot of people have been conditioned to a point where it almost becomes part of your brain. You have a thought, you're like, oh, well, I better put that out in a tweet. No, no, no. You can have a thought. You can let it pass. And you didn't open Twitter. Okay. So that's one side of it, and I'm not being hyperbolic about that. There are literally studies to show that this is affecting your brain chemistry. So it is something that you have to be pretty careful about. But then on the other hand, I mean, it is a marketing tool. It is a device to try and get your work out there. I think a lot of people are battling with the idea as to like, well, how essential is this?

(00:35:49): Or what is the minimum effective dose? I mean, I got rid of Facebook about three years ago, and since doing that, it hasn't been like, wow, there's been a real decline in terms of people knowing who I am. So it's like you can clearly get rid of a number of platforms and then see no detrimental effect. I mean, the only one that I'm really on is Twitter at the moment. Obviously, we're now putting the podcast out as a video on YouTube, but I see that as a separate, it's a kind of social media, but it's also a platform for publishing your work in a sense.

Josh Malerman (00:36:34): Oh, yeah, no, I absolutely see your podcast the same way I would see a novel the same way I see the documentary. This is not to sound, not to hit someone the wrong way, but this is art. What's happening, guys? We're in the middle of art right now. No, but really we, this is art and the tweet and the strategy of the online, even the engagement stuff, I'm just like, oh my God, no, I can't even do this right now. And also, I didn't have a cell phone until I was thirty-one or something. So there is sometimes this sort of longing for before this in me, I understand the potential merits of this stuff. It's just not me, man. It's just not my language. It's just not, it's like I even feel like me on the telephone. I'm not as effective as what we're doing right now. I'm just more myself in an actual personal moment.

Michael David Wilson (00:37:40): Yeah. So I wonder now, with the success that you've enjoyed with, there's a level of fame to a point people, if a Josh Malamon book comes out, they will buy it, even if nobody really mentioned it. I mean, one person would have to mention it just so that they're aware that it is out. But assuming that one person has done their job, it would sell to a point. So are you considering just not being on social media, is that something you would do? Have you reached a level where you could just be like, I'm done? No.

Josh Malerman (00:38:23): No. I don't think so. Not only that, I have fun writing messages with friends and stuff. God, that's about it though, man. No, I would definitely feel weird if I had an account, even an author account that someone else ran. I would feel weird about that. Right? It's like, hi, I'm Jim. I'll be running. I'll be answering for John. No, no, no, no. We're not doing anything like that. But it also does feel a little, not reactionary, but a little permanent as well as you get off of everything, something about that feels a little too severe to me. So what are the options? The options are just, I mean, which is what I do, and not spend that much time on there. And when I do go on there, I'm just like, oh my God, everyone's so mad. Everyone's so mad. I don't know. I just live in a like, man, I just live in a different place than the vibe, whatever that vibe is. I don't live there. That's not the frequency. That's not the radio station I listen to. That's not the frequency I'm at. I don't speak that language.

Michael David Wilson (00:39:30): Yeah, and I know that we've spoke about this to a point on the podcast before, but I do hate those very firm statements that you often see on Twitter that will be along the lines of, if you do this or if you think this or if X, Y, and Z, you are a piece of shit. Or that's wrong, or that's not, there's almost an orwellian and that this is not the correct way to think. And that is very scary for me, not least because I just think there's so much nuance. And I think on most sides of a discussion, there are good points and there are bad points. And even if there's going to be one side that I gravitate towards, there's probably something on the other end of the argument that I'm in agreement with. And it's like, well, you can see how that is. You can see why they came to that conclusion or what happened there. And I think too, as you said before, new facts emerge. New information emerges new ways of thinking. So it's just really dangerous to say this is bad when it's like, but we don't,

Josh Malerman (00:40:53): I dunno, anything about the story, whatever it was, the news comes out literally an hour before, and everyone has such strong things to say. I'm just not that kind of guy. That doesn't mean that I'm a spineless jellyfish with no opinions, but that also doesn't mean that I'm some super hardened guy with opinions that I'm afraid to write down. No, no, no, no. It's not that. I just like, I'm doing my thing. I saw that news. It once was, the news would come out, you'd hear something happen, and then maybe it came up a couple of times during the day, and then maybe you saw something on TV again about it at night. And so in the course of that, there was a lot of space for you to either think about it or not. Maybe you talk to someone, learn something about it, or not this kind of thing, but how these things are set up now, let's just say a fight between writers or something strange like that. Not only will you hear about it, but in Kaleidoscope. So now you hear about that. You hear about it a thousand times in one day, and it doesn't really even give you the opportunity to sit and think, what do I think about that

(00:42:02): Coming at you? And it's not like, hold on. I don't know either of these writers. I don't know what either of them are. I don't know anything. You know what I mean? I don't know what the hell is going on in their lives right now, but then maybe a few days later, I do have an idea of it. You realise this guy was a trick or something. Okay, fine, that's fine. But it's that sort of the permanence of it. I don't know. I'm just coming from a much brighter vibe. This is the best way I feel. And I could explain it. If Twitter was a party, I would've walked in, turned to Alison and been like, eh, let's go want to, I would've been like, you want to try the bar up the street?

Michael David Wilson (00:42:40): Yeah.

Josh Malerman (00:42:41): If that was a bar, I wouldn't have stayed five minutes.

Michael David Wilson (00:42:44): Yeah. Yeah. I think the other thing as well is that there seems to be, with some people, a pressure to state an opinion on a matter very, very quickly. And as we've said, number one, I'm going to need a little bit longer to understand even what's going on. But also often I think, who the fuck am I? Who is thinking I need to know what Michael David Wilson thinks before I can move on from this?

Josh Malerman (00:43:19): Some of that too, a little bit of that. But okay, how about this idea? And obviously we don't talk about this the whole time, but it feels like we could. But if you do not have, and this is where I kind of understand what I'm seeing out there. If you do not have an artistic outlet or an expression, an outlet, you have this, you guys write, I write, I'm in a band, all this stuff. Imagine then how social media would look to you. It could look then as this is how I'm going to express myself. But if you are already doing that for hours with a novel and you're already doing that for hours with an album, when you get online, you're not thinking in terms of express myself. You're already got that out of you. We even just said the three four hour creative limit or whatever the hell we're talking about.

(00:44:09): So you get online. Now, imagine though that you don't have an outlet. You're mad about something. If I'm mad about something and I'm writing a song, I guess more music, I guess it would come out maybe in there, it doesn't matter. You get what I'm saying? Now, imagine something that doesn't have an outlet and they sit down, then I understand. I understand. Or I can empathise with wanting to express yourself and having an outlet, but to someone who has one before sitting down to the computer, it all feels very, what's the right word? Not unnecessary, but very sort of transparent. I can see, I can see what's going on. You felt like you had to say this, you felt you had to say this. And I'm like, to me, it's like I already got it out, whether it's in what we're doing right now, writing a novel, writing an album, talking to friends who are philosophical minded or just whatever, like-minded friends. So those opinions, those initial reactions are already out in certain ways. And then I sit down and all I want to do is make dick jokes. Yeah.

Bob Pastorella (00:45:17): When you talk about it in reactions, I mean, that's what's happening is our attention spans have gotten so short that we're in a soundbite era. And that goes both ways is so we process information very quickly. We don't get the entire story. We don't have time to actually process it and think about it and find out what our opinion is on it if we have an opinion at all. And what social media does is it forces you to have an opinion about something that is a reaction to something, and you are going to react in the same way that you received. You received a soundbite, you give out a soundbite and other people and now. And so it causes this cascading effect of everyone's reacting to what you just said. At the end of the day, it doesn't fucking matter. Usually the arguments that you see online about stupid shit is quite simply because somebody needs to be looking square in the eye, face to face and go, you're stupid. You really are.

Josh Malerman (00:46:28): Or Bob,

Bob Pastorella (00:46:29): Or, because a lot of those comments that people make, they get an opinion and people worship in 'em, and it's like, wait, this guy's stupid. And that makes me get off social media that makes me go, okay, I'm done. I'm done. I'm going to go for a ride. I'm going to go read. I don't want to see this bullshit anymore.

Josh Malerman (00:46:49): No, it's strange. It seems like certain people are delegated this guy is the truth in this lane or something like that, or this lady is the truth in this field or something. And it's like, no. Yeah, I know. It's very, again, and I'm not trying to change the subject, it's what led me to the documentary is that I was like, I need a different way or a different place to talk an things. Because when I would write stuff, and Facebook's a little more fun for me, mostly family and friends, but Twitter is especially cold outer solar system to me. But it's like, I don't know how to explain it because I get it. I empathise. I understand wanting to express yourself, wanting to say something, but it seems to me it feels like there's that word against strategic

(00:47:44): People that do well on there. It feels very, very strategic that you're like really, every day, you're like, every day you wake up with an engaging question for everybody in your life, okay, buddy. You know what I mean? No. You don't wake up and you're like, I need to engage because for this silliness, and then that's going to die one day. And then it's like, what was all this? But what's not going to die one day? Well, the whole planet might, but is the novel you write, the documentary you make, the podcast you guys are doing. Now, these to me talk about, there's a permanence to me in Ghoul, in the Cave that is not fine in social media in a gazillion years, even if I wrote 300,000 words, words worth 300, hello, 300,000, 300,000 words worth on social media. Anyway, if any of listeners are into all that, whatever, I love you. Let's come hang out. You're never going to get to know me on there. Not that you would want to necessarily, if you do want to, let's hang out because whatever that is online, that's the truncated muted me.

Michael David Wilson (00:48:55): Yeah. Yeah. And I mean listeners that the podcast know that me and Bob semi regularly disagree with each other, and we're not afraid to call each other out on different things or to express our differences in opinion. And I mean, I guess the way that Bob sometimes views things is a little bit different to me as it should be. And so I never really think like, oh, this person is stupid. This person is an idiot. I'm trying to think, well, why have they came to this conclusion or What's going on here? So I don't want to write anyone off as an idiot. I think we're all a kind of product of all our experiences and our circumstances, and I genuinely think that the vast majority of people, what they're doing, they're doing it because they think it's right. They've came to these conclusions because they think they're right. They're not an idiot. Perhaps they're misguided sometimes, but I don't want to view my fellow humans, as it were, as idiots. There's just differences in opinion, different conclusions. So yeah, I'm trying to be as positive as I can. Your

Josh Malerman (00:50:11): Positivity is toxic.

Michael David Wilson (00:50:17): Okay, could wait to say that.

Josh Malerman (00:50:21): I'll not stand. The first time I saw that phrase, I was like, somebody's after me,

(00:50:27): He is got this toxic positivity that's just killing me.

(00:50:31): This guy doesn't have imposter syndrome. Pull out the torches. This guy actually thinks that we're all capable of writing a classic novel, literally both of you, me, undoubtedly us. Almost every single person I've met in the scene is capable of writing a classic. And if that's toxic, then, sorry.

Michael David Wilson (00:50:51): Yeah. Yeah. I just prefer it is better for my mental health. It's better for my being. It's better for my soul to think what if it happens to me rather than it will never happen to me. Because even if I think what if, or I know you before Josh, you took it even stronger. You said, well, why not me? And it's like, yeah, it has to be someone. Why not me? And even if you go through life and then it didn't actually happen, but the fact that you believed that it could probably means that you had a better life.

Josh Malerman (00:51:30): Amen to all of that. And also, here's a big one is the idea of, and I think that people think this of other authors as well, that the last book or however good you think he or she is, that's as good as they are ever going to be. But people have breakthroughs. People get better. People will have suddenly a brilliant movie just in the same way that the opposite might happen, where a favourite director or writer of yours writes like a total lemon novel or makes a bad movie, whatever it is. So I don't have a permanent opinion even on my fellow writers. There's a guy who's rolling right now. Well, he might not forever, but if there's someone who I read a book and it was like, it's all right. That next one could be literally be a classic, and I believe that. And so if you turn that same idea towards yourself,

(00:52:26): Every time you sit down to write, there is the potential to do something like the Shining. There's the potential to do something like the Loney, what's his name? I just read it. Philip Roth Portnoy's complaint. Beloved. Anyone listening, you two me. We have a potential classic in us, or we're no less ones. Whether or not it comes out or whether or not it comes out exactly how it, we would want, whatever. To me, that's not just what's the right phrase? That's not just to satiate some self-doubt or something. I believe that. I believe that you guys sitting down the book that you said that you are working on right now, it's funny, as silly as we're being about it, for all I know, it's absolutely brilliant, and I have that open mind with each every other author in the horror scene, if there's Todd. Kiesling recently made that, did you see that collage picture of 300 horror faces and stuff? Did you guys see that? It's awesome. It's amazing.

Bob Pastorella (00:53:35): I've seen it. We're on there, Michael,

Michael David Wilson (00:53:39): Are we?

Bob Pastorella (00:53:40): Yeah. Yeah, you both

Josh Malerman (00:53:41): Are.

Bob Pastorella (00:53:41): We're both on there. We're front and centre. Our faces are real big. They're bigger than everybody's.

Michael David Wilson (00:53:46): You knew. No,

Bob Pastorella (00:53:50): We're on there. Yeah, we're on there.

Josh Malerman (00:53:52): Really. When I saw that he made that, I was like, I'm so glad that somebody did this about this moment in time. Exactly what I'm saying. Everybody in that frame. I know Lovecraft is no longer with us in public, but everyone in that frame has the potential of doing something brilliant.

Bob Pastorella (00:54:12): I think Michael's looking at it right now.

Michael David Wilson (00:54:16): Look, when you mentioned it, I, I'm interested in seeing this. When you said we are on it, obviously there's a lot of egos like, wait, I'm fucking looking at it right now.

Josh Malerman (00:54:30): Did you find it?

Michael David Wilson (00:54:32): I was trying to find it, and I know I was doing it subtly until Bob called me out. So temporarily I can see it. I can see it.

Josh Malerman (00:54:44): I guess all this to say just for me, and I'm actually kind of glad that we are talking about this. It was an opportunity for me to get some of this off my chest, I guess. But for me, I would just prefer to express myself through novels, through albums. But if it comes to, but these are so far fictional. That's a weird idea. A non-fiction album is a really weird idea, but that sounds, I was born July. My mom's name is Debbie. My dad's name is Steve. Anyway, so even with the non-fiction, the express yourself, what the equivalent of what social media might be even that I feel like has to have some degree of artistic groove to it. It's just the only place I'm at home. And so the documentary was, yeah, it was much needed

Bob Pastorella (00:55:39): To go back to something you were talking about. Each one of us has the ability to do something that would be considered like a classic novel or something like that. And if you look at any type of artist's career, you will see highs and lows and peaks and valleys and things like that. I'm a metalhead, so it's like, I'll use Judas Presett for example, because they tend to front load their albums. They have gone through highs and lows. They have changed styles sometimes to the point of being completely, drastically changing styles. Yet when they go to the studio and they write a song or they're recording an album, they're not going on screaming for Vengeance. They're like, okay, the hits are going to be, you got another thing coming then Hellion Electric Guy and Devil's Child, they'll like that. Because if they thought that that would be, Hey, there's the four tracks we're done.

(00:56:47): We did an Ep, great bam. They put their heart and soul into every single song that they wrote and every single song that they played, not knowing how it was going to be reacted to or what type of reaction they were going to get in the court of public opinion and all that, but they put their heart and soul in there, just like writers put their heart and soul in every single project that they write, every single story that they write, every single character that we write. So the concept that, hey, this person, they wrote this book, but the last couple of books weren't that good to that writer. Those books may have been a breakthrough for them. It may have been a turning point for them. It may have been something that they're extremely, extremely proud of because they pulled it off against all odds.

Josh Malerman (00:57:40): And we don't know exactly where that's leading yet either.

Bob Pastorella (00:57:43): Exactly. We don't know. And of course, later on we have these, Hey, and actually that was actually quite an underrated novel that he wrote or she wrote, and it's actually now it's a critical darling, and it's like, why did these people even have this opinion so early on? It goes back to the little reaction thing.

Josh Malerman (00:58:13): I think you guys would probably agree. I do think most, well, actually, I don't know if this is true, but maybe the more well-known reviewers or something do seem to be like if an author they writes a book they don't like, they're sure to frame it in that light. I love books by him or her, but this book didn't do it for me. I can't wait for the next one. You know what I mean? I do think the more well-known reviewers are saying, I don't know if everyone on Goodreads is like that. Probably not. I haven't been there in seven years, but seriously, I haven't been on Goodreads in seven years or so. That's crazy, man. I went on there one day and I was like, Nope. I opened the door. I was like, Nope. That's what I mean. That was another bar on that block.

(00:59:00): I walked into that bar, I was like, Nope, let's go the road. Yeah. But I do think, Bob, I think you probably agree is that you and me, I almost feel like when our Heroes make a movie that's maybe weirder than what we want or write a book that isn't so great, there's almost something awesome about that too. There's cool about the fact that Stephen King has written some bad books. It's cool. I know it sounds funny to say that, but it's true. It's cool that I don't love every single Kubrick movie that I don't love every single Hitchcock movie. There's something like some people would likely say that makes them more human, and I guess that's probably the right answer, but there's, for me, it is more what you were just saying, more like that journey, maybe Barry Lyndon was a breakthrough for Kubrick. What comes after Barry Lyndon and the Shining, right?

(00:59:57): I think so. Right. So you went from Clockwork Orange where people are like, whoa, to Barry Lyndon, where I bet you a lot of people were like, oh, this guy's done. This guy's boring. Now he's using everything's by candlelight now. And then his next movie is the Shining. And that's exactly what you're talking about. The Barry Lyndon is awesome, actually. And I know everyone thinks that doesn't matter. You get what I'm saying? There is that mountain range to the artist's career, and I've always thought that the moment you've had a real breakthrough as an artist, as a writer, as a musician, is when reviewers start comparing your work to your previous work rather than to someone else. So as opposed to, I don't need to explain it, but it's fun to do it. Your first book comes out, it's like, oh, this is like Stephen King or Dean Kins, but then your second book, they're like, well, in Bird Box he did this and Black Man Wheely is doing this. And then by Daphne there's a bunch of books to reference and you're like, okay, this is good. Now we're talking about that artistic mountain range. We're talking about the can and the body of work rather than comparing it to something else and just dismissing someone.

Michael David Wilson (01:01:13): Yeah, I think that of course, there are a lot of people who will have these questions about, I dunno, the artistic value of their own work, or is what I'm doing is this the best story that I could be working on right now? But I mean, if I ever get things like that, which occasionally during Daddy's Boy I have, it's like, is this really what I want to be spending my time on? And it's like, well, if some people think it does suck, if they think this was a waste of their time reading it, then it is like, well, no matter, because the next one hopefully won't be. And it's like, I've made the decision to work on this one now. So if I come up with something that I think, okay, no, this is what I should be spending my time on, it's like, well park that idea. Write it down briefly. Now you can work on it next, but you made the decision to write this story now, so bloody well see it through. And that's what I do. And also anytime I get doubts about that kind of thing, if I didn't go, this is a little bit too Napoleon Dynamite, unless The Great Gatsby, it's like, yeah, but I bloody love Napoleon Dynamite and Spinal Tap and the Greasy Strangler and even Freddie got fingered. So there is value in all of these things existing.

Josh Malerman (01:02:48): Oh yeah, absolutely.

Michael David Wilson (01:02:49): Yeah,

Josh Malerman (01:02:50): Man. I had a meeting two today, today with Sky Alibar from the Greasy Strangler because as I think he's started in the short version of a Ben Evans film, and I think I can just say this now, today, we got the funding for it, for that being a feature now

(01:03:14): Today. And so you brought up the Greasy Strangler twice. The first time you brought it up was like, I almost said something then, but now I'm like, just talk about it. Yeah, Ryan and I had a meeting with the financial guy today, and then a meeting with James Hall, the director and Sky following James and his Uncle Brett are directing, and yeah, that is going to be a feature now a Ben Evans film for anyone listening a Ben Evans film is a short story of mine in which a fella is determined to make a feature movie no matter what, and he initially thinks of casting his parents as the lead roles. Both his parents die and he decides to use them as the lead characters anyway, so imagine him dressing up as parents as the different characters and doing the voices for each of them throughout. And just imagine a total madman in his home, making a movie starring his dead parents. It's called a Ben Evans film, and it was a short was made of it that I loved, but a feature as of today, a feature is going to be start filming in September.

Michael David Wilson (01:04:23): Yeah. Yeah. So I'm not sure how much you are able to talk about it, but I mean, are you writing the script for that? Is there a screenwriter?

Josh Malerman (01:04:36): Yeah. No, James already wrote it and I love it. It's freaking grey.

Michael David Wilson (01:04:39): Yeah. I

Josh Malerman (01:04:40): Could just tell you a little bit more, I guess, because this wasn't in the short story or the short is that it involves Ben's trying to get that movie into a festival, so that opens a lot of doors in terms of characters and other stuff.

Michael David Wilson (01:04:56): Wow. I really, really hope we get to see that. Yeah.

Josh Malerman (01:05:03): Sky's incredible, man. I know.

Michael David Wilson (01:05:05): Yeah.

Josh Malerman (01:05:06): Yeah. Kind of reminds me of there's something just naturally Tim Burton like a character Charlie Chaplin, like Peewee Hermione. There's a character in and of himself, and him as Ben Evans is like, oh, it's just so perfect, man. He's so perfect. I can't wait for this. Yeah.

Michael David Wilson (01:05:29): How did you first get connected with Sky?

Josh Malerman (01:05:33): I think James did it. Think James and I saw the Greasy Strangler with Alison late night, and we were like, this is the greatest movie ever. And then I think when James, he asked if he can make a Ben Evans film, and then I think he said, Hey, I'm going to reach out to that guy, the son in the movie. And I think James did that. Yeah.

Michael David Wilson (01:05:57): Yeah. Well, congratulations on getting the funding

Josh Malerman (01:06:03): And we're filming it here. We're doing it here in Michigan. Yeah. Yeah. I'm so excited right now. Yeah. I don't know. Friends might be working on the movie and James is one of my good friends. James is in the troupe that does all the theatrical readings. You guys know we do that. I've told you that.

Michael David Wilson (01:06:24): Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Josh Malerman (01:06:25): James is in that troupe.

Michael David Wilson (01:06:27): Well crossing everything. Marty Feldman.

Josh Malerman (01:06:32): Marty Feldman. The book is dedicated to Marty Feldman and Ryan Lewis.

Michael David Wilson (01:06:37): I noticed that. Yeah. Yeah.

(01:06:45): Thank you so much for listening to this as Horror with Josh Malerman. Join us again next time for the second part of the conversation in which we talk about Josh's new collection, spinner Black Yarn. Josh tells us a real-life ghost story, and he talks about a never-discussed film involving jizz. Yes, you heard me correctly. No, I won't elaborate. You just have to tune into the episode for more information on that one. And if you want to get that ahead of the crowd and every other episode ahead of the crowd, become our patreon at patreon.com forward slash this is horror. You'll also get to submit questions to each and every guest, and in a week we will be chatting once again to a returning guest, Dean Koontz. So if you want to submit a question for Dean, do consider becoming our patreon patreon.com com slash This is horror. Okay, before I wrap up, an advert Break

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Michael David Wilson (01:09:03): As always, I would like to finish with a quote, and this is something to ponder from the philosopher Cato. An angry man opens his mouth and shuts his eyes. I'll see you in the next episode for part two of Josh Malerman. But until then, take care of yourselves. Be good to one another, read horror, keep on writing, and have a great, great day.

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