TIH 512: Josh Malerman on Half The House is Haunted, Argyle, and Samhattan

TIH 512 Josh Malerman on Half The House is Haunted, Argyle, and Samhattan

In this podcast, Josh Malerman talks about Half The House is Haunted, Argyle, Samhattan, 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 0:28

Welcome to This Is Horror, a podcast for readers, writers and creators. I'm Michael David Wilson. And every episode alongside my co host, Bob Pastorella. We chat with the world's best writers about writing, life lessons, creativity, and much more. Now today, we are chatting with Josh Malerman. To celebrate the release of his new collection spin a black yarn is forthcoming from Del Rey, and it will be released in about a month on August the 15th. Now, this is a free Park conversation. As we've already seen, you can listen in any order. And this is the episode where things get really, really spicy. You see, not only do we talk a little about the collection, particularly the first and second story, but we get a real life ghost story from Josh. And this is a story that he has not told before he goes into some pretty graphic detail. He told a heavily edited version of the story once before, but we are getting the full details. And we also get the full details on a film that Josh made a number of years ago but he has not spoken about publicly. So a lot of exclusives, a lot of let's say interesting content. But before any of that, a little bit of an advert break.

Bob Pastorella 2:10

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RJ Bayley 2:49

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Bob Pastorella 2:58

From the creator of This Is Horror comes a new nightmare for the digital age The Girl in the Video by Michael David Wilson after a teacher receives a weirdly rousing video his life to send to the paranoia and obsession more videos follow each containing information no stranger could possibly know but who's sending them and what do they want? The answers may destroy everything and every one He loves The Girl in the Video is the ring meets fatal attraction for iPhone generation available now in paperback ebook and audio.

Michael David Wilson 3:27

Okay with that said here it is it is Josh Malerman on This Is Horror. So you have a brand new collection spinner black yarn, which is imminently coming out. So I mean to begin with, let's talk about how that collection came about. You know, why a collection? Why now? Why in the stories that you chose to put in it?

Josh Malerman 3:59

So I had signed a four book deal with Delray. But that's when I'm sure I have this right. Yes, three of them. Were like going wider with goblin house, bottom leg and on this day of the pig, which I foolishly renamed Perl. People will be like, Why did the publishing house make you change that name? And I'm like, Now shoot, man, that was my bad idea. Yeah, I don't know what I was thinking man. On this day of the pig is a great title and and when we went to publish it, or I had kind of suggested this like covering our thing, and I was like, what it was just called Pearl, whatever. And then they were all into it, you know? And then the minute I got it, I was like, oh, no, shoot, I should have left the sign up, but that's okay. So there were those three books and a collection. That was the four book deal like and when the collection would have come out? Who knew that kind of thing, but I had already begun somewhat on, like a in like an intentional collection of novellas. It's not quite as intentional as Goblin, which are six novellas in the city of goblin. But spin a black yarn is made up of five stories that take place in or near the city of Sam Hatton, which is about an hour's drive from goblin. This is all fictional for anyone. And so I was starting to do that. And the first there was originally six. The first story of the batch was Daphne. And my main intention was to open the collection with like a fastball just like a straight horror story over the plate. I didn't I wanted like no frills, no wild concept, you know, it is a bit it is a bit of a wild concept. But a monster as panic attack. We're going to open the the novel was like a fastball over the middle. This Is Horror. You can use that for a sound bite later. Ladies and gentlemen, this is for and I sent it to them. And Trisha, my editor wrote me back she said this first novella, this is this should be our next book. And I was like, Wait, really. Now, because I was afraid of pulling it out of the collection. The collection was balanced to me open with a fastball, then it was kind of like a little curveball, and a knuckleball, whatever. And so, but she explained to me what she was seeing, like, if you just do a little more here, a little more there. And I was like, oh, yeah, that is good. So then I rewrote Daphne, um, and then sent it and I told you I've the the editorial note on the wall from that. But that left, it's kind of like you're an opening with half the house is haunted, which is much, much different story than Daphne much if you ask me much richer story than Daphne. And then when I read through the collection that way, I was like, Oh, I actually I like this better. Because it wasn't it wasn't starting off, like, so deliberate. And it was starting off more shadowy, and it was starting off more suggestive. And, and I think that that Trisha wisely created two books that were both better than the one would have been. The centerpiece for me, is eager off, which is the books closer, that's that's, I don't expect a listener to fully understand this or, or agree with me doing this. But I want him to write a story. That was like, I'm a fan of like, Russian literature, right. But obviously, I've only ever read the translations. And oftentimes, they're clunky. There's flights of sudden philosophical fancy, their scenes that don't need to be there at all. And there's something about that variety of the kitchen sink, the Russian literary kitchen sink that I'm a fan of. And I wanted to write a novella or, or a short novel that felt that way. And so eager off was my like, opportunity to do this. And so in the rewrites of ego Rob, just so the audience knows he grabs about 40,000 words. I mean, it's, it's kind of like a Trojan horse the novel into the collection. And ego takes place in little Russia, Sam hadn't I don't remember exactly what year was like early 1900s. And it's about just to throw this out there. It's about a man like an old terrible man and eager off murders a man without realizing he's murdering a triplet. Okay. The two remaining the two surviving brothers stage like a foe haunting pretending to be the ghost of their brother trying to drive this old crazy person is all crazy murderous mad, mad. So I was just thrilled by that idea and thrilled by the concept of of this sort of like feel of a Russian translation but what that means what is during the rewrites there were scenes where I'm like, No, you don't really need this only No, leave it like this is clunky leave it. The character. Misha just suddenly goes on a philosophical rant for like four pages just let them go. And there was something very liberating it was like I guess you can argue that eager opposite was experimental. So I don't expect a reader to get from it where they're gonna get from Argyle I think Argyle probably is more palatable. I think half the house is haunted is certainly more palatable. But eager off to me is special because I somehow managed to get not just an experimental like story into into a collection, but like, pretty much a short novel. Yeah. Yeah. And now I'm just as a writer, and in terms of like, it would be like, if you As a musician, if you if you somehow managed to squeak out, like an experimental album, you know, and you're not necessarily known for that or something. And if there's something like I feel I feel really proud of eager off. So to me, that's sort of the centerpiece of it. And again, I think Trisha removing Daphne from the mix, makes the collections kind of like, almost like, wait a year.

Michael David Wilson 10:26

Yeah, yes, interest in everything you said, because you're now having read everything Kaido there was no way that you could have ordered the stories any differently. So it's interesting to find out well, actually, Daphne was at the start to begin with and then was cat but I mean, it just has such a natural sequence to me. I mean, we've how half the house is haunted. You've got echoes of Shirley Jackson and that lens into a kind of deathbed confession. But I felt you absolutely needed those two to get you ready for the house washer. You can't start with the house washer you need you know, for want of a better word more convention or stories. And honestly, for you to have Jupiter, you absolutely need the house washer. It's like almost the bridge between Argyle, and Jupiter is the house washer. And you don't put this kind of what initially starts off as a Russian murder mystery and then turns into a faux haunting you. You don't put that anywhere but the end. Yeah. Like, imagine if you put I mean, you say it's the centerpiece. But imagine if you literally put that in the center. It just, it doesn't work sequentially. You just got Yeah, perfect order.

Josh Malerman 12:01

I think Trisha ordered it. Also she ordered that. Yeah. And I remember I felt a little strange that the House washer and the Jupiter drop are nearly next to each other because they're both like, say sci fi but

Michael David Wilson 12:12

both like, yeah, the Sci Fi 10. General, I'd say.

Josh Malerman 12:16

Yeah. But she was like, eager on has to close it and this and that. And I was like, okay, okay, you know, I just went with what she said. And I totally agree. You can't start with the house Washington, not only because of the sort of like, straight story of a but because, man, those two are unlikable. Holy cow. Doug and Judy, man. Wow. And maybe like, Judy, is there's some semblance of like, Alicia, when she's thinking about who your friend was named Carla, that name right. That's the tree hugger hippie that thought, well, in this world. There's something about Judy, that strikes me as like she longed, or at least can envision having gone a different way. Dogs Last Man, there's that guy? Not a prayer? Because prayer from the start. Yeah, you can't start with that one. And but you could have made me start with Argyle. But again, removing Daphne starting with half the house with these kids. I was like, Oh, this works. This only works then. Again. That was and that's you know, that's the joy of working with a brilliant editor, man. Yeah. Order. And she sat Daphne on its own island. Yeah.

Michael David Wilson 13:29

Yeah. Yeah. And there's a lot of things that I want to talk about not only with the stories themselves, but just like all the all the questions and the little tangents that I get having. Read them. And I mean, so I mean, first of all, the concept of half a house being haunted, but it not being like an easy division of like, no, it's this half. It's that way. It's like, well, no, why can't it be like this object is haunted. That one's not this one is that you know, it doesn't have to be split, you know, up and down or left and right. And is this something you know, you've you've thought about in terms of like, places that you've been? Have you pondered this idea?

Josh Malerman 14:15

Yeah. Like, like instruct me once. It's probably probably out of like anxiety, right? Where it struck me that like, when you enter, like a hunt, excuse me, when you mentioned like a haunted house, right, or one that is reported to be haunted. Does that mean the whole place does that mean just this room? Does that mean just this staircase? Does that mean just this step? Not this step this step now this step does that mean this hall but not this hall, you know, and that that thinking started? Whatever started become attracted to me the idea that like I didn't, yes, I've heard this houses on it, but I don't know. It's not every because there's nothing scarier. About half of it being haunted to me than the whole thing. Because the whole thing okay, I'm in it. What does half mean? Like, am I in it? Am I okay as my bedroom in that half? Is my parent alright, you know the pet my parents bedroom? Is that in that half is the basement in that half? Oh my god I hope not right. Is the outside the halftime I was the inside is the upstairs, the downstairs the front the back. So, you know that concept of I don't know where exactly this is I don't know where the haunting is was like scarier than then a full haunting to me. And that was that was exciting as hell, too. Right?

Michael David Wilson 15:29

Yeah. Yeah, I don't want to give any

Josh Malerman 15:33

spoilers away. But her letter at the end was unplanned. Like I didn't really know exactly where this was going the whole time. But you would think after finishing it that that was my that I had that on my mind the whole time. But I didn't. I didn't think to the very end. I was like, Oh, this is what she means by that.

Michael David Wilson 15:53

Yeah. Yeah. And I mean, yeah, I can imagine if you found that like we're going to a half haunted house, it would be more anxiety. Right? Yeah. Like that inducing then like a haunted house? Because, you know, like, you can't have one room that is like, okay, that's 100% haunted. But then every room might just have a tiny amount. Like there might be one almost not haunted room. But there is that 1%? And it's like, what if I touch that little 1%?

Josh Malerman 16:30

In this one drawer have this on haunted room?

Michael David Wilson 16:34

Yeah. And then it's getting me the unit thinking about this concept will. If it's conceivable to have half a place haunted, then is it also conceivable that there's always 50%, but that 50% can change. So you know, on Monday, this is the bit But on Tuesday, this is the part that I wanted, so the whole thing can move about, but there will always be 50% will be on it.

Josh Malerman 17:01

And then and then you can also look at it as um, obviously, that we got the two, Stephanie and Robin with Stephanie and the sister and Robin is the brother for listeners. And you cannot you have to house meaning Stephanie is haunted, and Robin's not. But again, Robinson talent who ends up telling this whole long story and can't like get it out of his head. Maybe Robin is one that's haunted and stuff. He's actually not, because she like she stays in the house her whole life and blah, blah, blah. In other words, like 111 of these kids are hunted and one of them are not in which one isn't. And that change is like part two part. My favorite section of that is when he first returns home when their ages, like when they're like 40. And he first comes home. And right away, she says something like, like, oh, you know, I you know, I only cleaned every other room. And he's like, she's still dealing is she's still talking about every other item. And like that, that's my favorite moment. He's like, I don't even know if I want to be here. And she's like, well, let's get a beer, you know, you know, and that hole and then it starts to be like, hey, I'll give you a tour of the house. You know, but But you know, I didn't clean the second floor, but just the first. And it's just like, wow, she's still you know, and he believes at that moment. That she's just totally still screwing with him. Hmm. Yeah.

Bob Pastorella 18:19

And it's like her her ability to fuck with him has only gotten better with age. Yeah, when she was younger, it was it was based upon you know, a proximity a half. But now she's she's honed that skill to ambiguity. Like, you don't know if she's fucking with him or not. Yeah, I love that.

Josh Malerman 18:44

Yeah. And like, she's like, there's something frazzled about her, like, in the house like, yeah, yeah, there's a couple of spoilers that I want to mention, like the pink room and whatever, but like, like, she's still here. Like that would do, like, really think about that. But like, think about you have a sibling. Do you guys have siblings? Yes. Yeah. So like imagine like heading home to like up a house that like you literally, like grew up with that thought were hot was haunted to blah, blah, blah. And then coming back to the first time in a big way at age 40. And like your sisters still living there? Yes. Kind of talking about that same stuff. That's intense. Right? Yeah,

Michael David Wilson 19:24

very much. Yeah. Yeah. And I yeah, I love the story, the format you know, it was following them literally throughout their life. And so yeah, the main character in this it is the house you know, it seems like it's Stephanie and Robin cursory glance, but it's like no, it's absolutely the house.

Josh Malerman 19:47

Yeah, I kind of want to go to that house. I want to do something like I want to say hot but there's something kind of hard about Stephanie to me. I don't know I don't want to You're I don't think that that often about like my own characters I'm like, I don't think that way about Mallory, you know what I mean? Stephanie, like this, this this total, like, I just kind of want to like, go spend an hour there. I just want to go and like, have her show me around and then just run.

Michael David Wilson 20:13

Yeah. Yeah. And I think as well, you know, it got me thinking about what are like the most innocuous and innocent things that could be haunted. And, you know, I mean, I think you mentioned that the idea of a haunted condo is more terrifying than I guess, like a traditional, like haunted Gothic castle or something like that. And so I mean, would you say it as something innocent being haunted is perhaps more terrifying than something? I guess like archetypal or stereotypical because, you know, we kind of expect that that might be the haunted part. But what if it's not you know, what if it's the cattle only fits the pillow cover?

Josh Malerman 21:01

Yeah, absolutely agree. I, you know, I think that that paranormal activity was maybe one of the first that I've seen where it was like, like that, what is that like a little townhouse or a condo? What is that, that they're living in? You know, I don't even know what that is. And that's not like, there's no like, spiral staircase, you know, there's no like, dark basement like this is this is kind of like a well lit like white paint wall like, like the room that you are in right now. And like, you know, that that idea, there is something a little like, if you can find that space in your head to like really think of that place as as haunted. It's freakier in a way, because it doesn't follow any like pattern that we're used to in terms of horror movies, horror novels, that kind of thing. But meanwhile, Robin did grow up in a big garish home.

Bob Pastorella 21:54

Yeah. It's kind of like that. And river Siddhant novel, the house next door where the house is literally a brand new house. Yeah. And everybody who lives in it goes through a terrible situation in our life, that when you have so many families, you know, I think there's like three or four families who move into this house and something tragic happens to every single one of them. And it's the neighbor who's like this, there's something wrong with that house. There's a wrongness to it,

Josh Malerman 22:31

man. So when we moved in, when I was in fifth grade, we moved into a house, that's only I think, four miles from where I'm sitting right now, which is weird to me. And my younger brother and I were out in the front yard while moving trucks blah, blah, blah, and I swear my life a neighbor kid from across the street. His name was Will he came over and he was younger than he was either younger than I think he's younger than us. And he was like, um, everyone that's moved into this house. There, they get divorced. So they said to us, and I was like, Oh, I remember me and my brother like genius. You know, like every every couple gets divorced. And my parents got they got divorced. They're like I remember like years like it wasn't that long later I was in fifth grade. So and then I was was fifth grade 10 So five years later they my parents got divorced there and that is the house where I believe that I saw ghost

Michael David Wilson 23:27

will tell us about that experience.

Josh Malerman 23:30

I know that's how this story I don't shit man.

Bob Pastorella 23:35

You should

Josh Malerman 23:38

agree with that because this is kind of like a this is kind of embarrassing but I mean you know screw it I'll just ship you I don't know if I can do whatever is masturbating sorry you guys ready for that?

Michael David Wilson 23:51

Oh yeah. Okay

Josh Malerman 23:54

all right, I'll tell the story here we go. So I was probably 14 or something and everyone in the house had like gone to bed when first of all I need you I need to set the limit living room for you. So there here's the living room. There's like an easy chair. Here's the number this is like free internet shit. Okay, here's the TV and they're painting but like whatever our print behind glass here of like that weird like diner with Elvis Marilyn Monroe that stuff you know I'm talking about Yeah. You know, I was a kid. This wasn't my decisions dad or mom. But here so the TVs in front of me the entrance to the living room one entrances that way. Okay. But there's a second entrance over my shoulder. And this. This glass reflected the entrance to the living room over my shoulder. Okay. So it's late at night. The whole family goes to bed. I'm waiting from all go to bed because I know that you are staying up all night is on and whatever. Okay? So I like sneak downstairs and I'm like, I'm trying to get to whatever jackoff and I'm like in the little movies. And I'm like, starting to do it a little. And then I like look up and I see someone like in the reflection, leaning around the entrance like this, like looking. And I was like, oh, and I was like, Oh shit. Oh shit. And then the the thing went like this to me it goes. That was it sounds like oh, oh, God, like what just happened and I like felt like this like, chill like off my arms not up my my thing but my like uncovered body like just like I was wearing like a freakin rubber suit. All of a sudden, I was like, wait a minute, what, who is that? And I like get off and I like, whatever, pull my pants up. And I run to that entrance. Thinking it has to be like, my one of my brothers or something, you know, but it didn't really look like that. Yeah. And I run into the kitchen and I'm like, Derek, that's my older brother's name. I was like, Derek, Derek, like, where are you know, blah, blah, blah. And the, you know, the sound of like, the silent house now. Especially when you're like, 15. So the thing that scared I mean, I was, it was like, when there was no one down there. It was like dread that I felt and like bolted upstairs, woke me up further up, told him told it actually tell them what happened. told them how like scared to this day. He's like, I was it wasn't me. I wasn't awake. And but the thing that scares me about that story was number one. I don't I never had any, like guilt about doing something like that. So it wasn't that I wasn't like, I'm gonna be punished. Like, it's like some religious upbringing. Actually, that was the greatest thing ever. i It wasn't just the corner of the eye. It wasn't just like, when I was walking by and it's like, grandma in the bathroom. And I look No, it was I saw something like I can still see it. And I reacted to it. And it reacted to my reaction. This was like, there was like, a sequence of events and see it. I'm like, Oh, shit, and it says, I mean, that was that's not the corner of your eye. That's not I wasn't obviously it wasn't stoned, or drunk. And I didn't just wake up you know, it's not really I mean, a lot of stories began I just woke up or I got stoned. Or whatever. No, no, why very alert. And so that was in that house. Where will Peppo told me that my parents would get divorced and they did. And it goes about submitting so listeners Wow, I can't believe I just saw this story. Well, that's that's a good ghost story though. Yeah,

Bob Pastorella 27:38

it's creepy. Yeah. Oh, what do you think about the reaction the reaction of the of the apparition whatever it was, you know that that I can't think of the name of the movie and the movies not very good but it it's a girl waves at a figure that's like walking across something and it waves back to her and and it's creepy as hell and that sort of reminds me of a man when you when you said it wave like that man that the hair on my arm stood up. I was like

Josh Malerman 28:16

this day I think about that. I'm like, I'm like think about like, so what Okay, let's just have fun. And let's say for a second it was a goat. So what was it saying? Like don't it was I guess it would be saying like Don't Don't worry. Right I guess or it was always or like whatever you caught me watching you like what what happened there? Like what? Let's just say for a second that that's all real I mean, I believe me I can still do this I can still see because in that reflect I can still see it so clearly that the entrance that room in the hands on the edge and and like that the outline Well, it wasn't even out on her face and looking around the corner. I mean, that was in a particular I mean, what the fuck was that man can be up all night on USA, you know? Yeah, I mean, look, there wasn't many options back then. You know what I mean? Like 15 years old, you know? But yeah, like

Bob Pastorella 29:20

you said, many options. Just remind me a Seinfeld glamour, Glamour.

Josh Malerman 29:26

Like, ghost story I've ever heard in my life. I don't know why it is what it is. Wow, yeah. Yeah. So yeah, and every now and then I'll still bring it up to my elder brother. I'm like you swear to god You weren't like but he's like stop asking me No. And off dude.

Michael David Wilson 29:53

There was the was that the only kind of ghost like experience that you've had? Have you had and others.

Josh Malerman 30:01

There was another one during anal.

Michael David Wilson 30:05

He's back again. Oh, you caught me peeping the peeping ghost watching

Josh Malerman 30:23

Yeah, that was my one that was that one time.

Michael David Wilson 30:25

Yeah. And before that happened, what were your beliefs about ghosts and the supernatural or lack thereof? And what are your beliefs today?

Josh Malerman 30:38

I was already reading horror by then. So you know that like i There were definitely like freaked out nights in my bedroom like reading. I have it right here the first horror novel I ever read the face of fear the heavens but Brian coffee, I think was his pen name. And all that kind of stuff had cemetery the shiny blah, blah. So I definitely and I was starting to already watch horror movies by then. So I was definitely already like starting to, you know, we had stupid seances upstairs. That's how I like it. This is a movie that's like a very key moment that I just said that. We understand. This is upstairs. Who are you? Pete?

Michael David Wilson 31:26

This guy, he turned up the peeping ghost.

Josh Malerman 31:30

We were like, do you want to watch? He's like, Yes. He was like, I just want to see Ronda. Avanade I don't know. Okay, you kid you know.

So, and now, huh?

I don't know, I you know, I think that we've probably talked about this before, but I'm absolutely the kind of guy who, who believes in all these things, right, and ghosts and even demons and these kinds of things, at least for the duration of the movie, the book, the album, writing the book. And I think that that's sort of like an Arrested Development that I cherish. And the reason I'm even call it an Arrested Development is I think that it's commonly like a young person would be afraid of these kinds of things, right? And a lot of like, 40 year olds would not write. But I actually cherish this like, just recently I asked Allison to leave the light on in the bathroom. And she was never in my wildest dreams I imagined I'd be you know, dating this like this scared such a scared man, you know, maybe leave a light on in the bathroom thinking you know, as I'm going to bed. And but I cherish that because there's, there's a sort of wonderment to like, still believing in the possibility of these things. Not to mention the obviously, inherent optimism that if a ghost exists, maybe there's more than more than just this life. Right? These are all in a sense. In a bizarre way. All of these a lot of these horror supernatural elements are very optimistic thoughts. Yeah, music suggests more. Yeah. And who doesn't want to know more and who doesn't want there to be more so? So I think I know that I can believe in them for the duration. Now if I'm just alone thinking about these things. I don't I don't know where I land. Just thinking about them. And you know, in the course of every day, I don't know exactly. Maybe that's why I love reading and watching this stuff so much. Is that keeps that sort of a flame of belief alive.

Michael David Wilson 33:42

Yeah, yeah. And if the peeping ghost can you know have some sort of afterlife then there's hope for all of us.

Josh Malerman 33:50

Is this is this turning out to be our best episode ever that we've tried? We have the weird social media weird stuff. But now Wow Do not edit that ghost story out promise.

Michael David Wilson 34:07

I won't. I won't. It'd

Bob Pastorella 34:08

be the logline for the episode.

Michael David Wilson 34:10

I mean, there's always something weird that comes up and of course, as I said, our fan and weird thing that came up before was the Jizzly Bear. And of course you you said I can't believe this is happening. You said well, you know now I would keep it in if we were to talk about Wow, wow. I think you know what we go in this is a public moment to talk about

Josh Malerman 34:44

masturbation story, okay, I was okay. Actually, you know what, I think that this this applies. This is good. I was gonna borrow a night with James who is directing a Ben Evans film starring sky from the greasy strangler, I say all that sort of thing. soften the blow of juicy bear that's coming. Um, and I jokingly said to James like, Hey, man, where's we are wasted. I was like, where's the weirdest place you ever masturbated, you know? And then I like told him I and then he and then he told me that his was in a deer blind. And I was like, oh, that's disgusting. Like a deer blind like, like, while you were like hunting or so first of all, you hunt, you know? And second of all, blah, blah, blah, just shoot a little blank. But does that mean like two little people, you know? And then I was like, making a joke about what if, like, you did that and it shot out through the little window and landed in a bear. And then we thought, we thought it was so funny. And all night, we're like, geez, bear jizz very, you know, and Alison walked up to us. And she goes, I think you guys mean to be saying just lay bare. We were like, and so you know, I'm a writer, and James is a director. And I was like, Dude, if I write this script, you promise to direct it. And he was like, you know, this is like a Faustian deal. This is like Strangers on a Train. You know, if I kill your girlfriend, you murdered my father. If I run vizlly Bear, will you direct it? And he was like, Yes, sir. You know, okay, I woke up the next day. And I kind of have this like rule of my own, where I try. Didn't be good on my word, even if like I was drunk, so. So if I'm drunk, and I'm like, I'm gonna write 1000 page novel. Well, now we got to do it. If I'm drunk, and I'm like, we're gonna make a double album. Now we got to do it. If I'm drunk, and I say to James, I'm gonna write a script for Jersey, man, you have to make it. Okay. So three days later, just like Strangers on a Train. James gets a knock at his door, you know, Chancers, there's me. I wrote the script. And he was any he, I mean, I think he like blanched. You know, he's like, Oh, no, oh, shit. Because James is like a serious director, you know, like, yeah, wants to make movies and shit. And his friend is saying, attend this. To put this into context. Birdbox had come out, like the month before. So I had written, you know, in a vacuum for like, 20 years. I'm in a band writing blah, blah, blah, blah. I finally have like, without question, the most, like, commercially successful moment of my life, this novel comes out an echo. HarperCollins is even like an esteemed imprint of HarperCollins. Right. And like bird box, and it's getting all this attention, whatever. And I'm at his front door with like, I wrote the script for jillybear when you read it, and he was like, yeah, yeah, you know, yeah, that sounds good. Yeah, you know, and then so he took it. And after a while, it became very, very obvious that we were putting me and Alec because Alison was on board on this. Me, Alison, my friend, Eric, we're kind of putting James in a weird spot, you know, asking him to direct this movie. So finally, we're like, just don't worry. Don't worry, we're going to worry. I'm going to drag it. I'm gonna make this don't worry about it. We love you. But we are going to make this movie. I brought the script around to a bunch of comedians, like comedy troupes in the Detroit area. And essentially, it's a hunter that accidentally impregnates a bear and then the spawn comes back and kills everyone. Okay? So every comedy troupe is like, no, no, no, no, no, we can't do this. We can do this. And one day, Eric and I were hanging out at a bar. And Eric said to me, he's like, you know, Allison does like a gazillion faces that she has she ever been like a dude? And I was like, Ah, well, yeah, I don't. Maybe and then he's like, why doesn't Allison play the guy? And it changed everything. Because now there was something so weirdly meta about this. Now, it was like, Alice so it's like, a woman playing the hunter man and wax off into the bear. And then she also plays the bear like child and all this like stuff. And I wrote her I'm like, Are you a Gemini pictures of us? Like I do like Eric saying, Maybe you should start this. She hasn't responded. She doesn't respond, Eric and I drive home and when we got home, Allison walked out the front door, dressed up as this dude, with this awesome short black hair and this mustache and she's like, Hey, guys, like how you doing? And she was like, ready? Like, we were like, oh my god, we're making this movie. Everyone in town was involved like numerous other friends and, and camera people. And it turned into like, I imagined sort of like what a trauma. early trauma film must have felt like just like, this is the most fucked up thing. And I think what it was I think what Jersey bear was for me not to get like too heavy. But I think I almost needed it. Like I'm like a guy that was like, living on floors for 20 years in a band that was playing for 20 people a night and have the time his life drinking too much with friends. Writing 14 novels for no reason suddenly have this commercial release. I feel like I needed to like remind myself or something. I need to be like Hey, Oh, you think Oh you think you're Mr. Clean now Alright, let's go make drizzly bear Yeah. So that movie by the way, that movie is on what's called Vimeo or Vimeo, Vimeo, Vimeo. Vimeo, right. Vimeo is on Vimeo. Anyone listening go watch it, you just Google it, or I mean you just look it up on Vimeo you can just watch it it's just sitting there.

Michael David Wilson 40:14

We can put a link to it in the show notes if you want do you

Josh Malerman 40:18

really turning in this is a real episode we this is a real episode we got going here right now.

Michael David Wilson 40:25

Yeah, yeah, I don't know what your publishers would think. Because this this second part right here this is the laughing imagining, because this is the spin up black yarn. And it's like, your publisher sits down to listen like that. You know, it begins innocently enough. Okay, like we spoke about the story or do we complimented it Oh, everyone's having a good time. Oh, no. There's a master and ghost story. Oh shit. Why the hell did the host segue into digitally bear Why did he not bring it back to the second story in the collection?

Josh Malerman 41:06

Let me tell you you two are going to watch that movie and you are going to fall in love with Allison Ellis.

Michael David Wilson 41:13

I've seen a movie when you mentioned it last time yeah, like I I watched it within days and then I also sent it to my friend has nothing to do with the horror community and was like you need to watch this movie so yeah, I have seen it is oh, it is something

Josh Malerman 41:35

Wow, yeah. Allison. Oh my God. And so you know we every weekend like we filmed and she was dressed up as Sam every weekend. And I knew at the very the last weekend that we were driving to this like these woods to film if you remember when the when the forest starts pulling on everybody remember that? When the trees started pulling out everyone outs and I looked over at her I'm like, oh shit, I'm gonna miss the sky. You know? I was I started to feel like sad. I'm like, I'm gonna miss Sam. You know? I mean she was that dude for like every weekend for like a year you know? Yeah. We never made out with Sam I kind of still feel like that was like a missed opportunity somehow, but we never we never did it you think that we would have just just once we never did?

Michael David Wilson 42:22

I mean maybe she can like your slip of Sam for the 10th anniversary. Yeah your night was that I mean you didn't say you wanted a night something

Bob Pastorella 42:36

even further than these to go

Josh Malerman 42:39

I can remember right now like Hello Honey, can you come into the office dressed as Sam no probably take her like hours to get ready um but ya know, but I you know, I want to thought like just once one kisser nothing really no.

Michael David Wilson 42:53

Boy, well, I suppose and much to your publishers pleasure, we should probably move back to the collection. And so we should jump into our guy or which is, you know, a guy on his deathbed surrounded by his family makes quite the confession and talks about his real nature and I love like, you know, all your stories really you Do not bury the lede? You jump straight into things. You say in the first sentence that he's about to tell his family, the truth about himself, and oh, boy, does he do just that.

Josh Malerman 43:38

I you know, I had a friend. Um, I can't remember exactly what we were talking about. Something like Dahmer or something like that, you know, and, and he says it like, Thank God, like, Thank God, I wasn't born that way. Thank God, I'm not into that. Thank God, something of that nature. Hmm. And it struck me like, What a weird way of looking at that, as opposed to what a great way actually, of looking at that. As opposed to being this monster, which I'm not being empathetic, necessarily to like a serial killer. I understand. Abuse and all the shit Lisa, but that's not what I'm talking about. I'm just saying that it's very natural to respond to a monster as person by saying what a monster. And my friend was like, Thank God, God, I'm not wired that way. But I started thinking about what if you were and didn't do anything about it? So like that to me that there's like, like, extreme nobility in that right? There's, that's again, like me like you pulled off like the feet of a lifetime if you wanted to do something terrible like that. But you didn't see none of the three of us want to do that. And that doesn't mean us not doing it is meaningless. I'm glad none of us do it. But if we wanted to do that, like legitimately wanted to do that, and didn't do that, inherently, there is something so noble and so on. Meanwhile, here's his father on his deathbed saying to his, his two kids, his wife, his boss, family, friends. And he's flat out saying like, I wanted to hurt all of you, I want to do to kill all of you. I follow people around town. I like I, you know, came this close and this close, and he keeps mentioning, maybe that one time, maybe that one time, you know, counts as I did something wrong, you know, which kind of keeps you the reader the whole timeline. Like, well, what what is that one time, Shawn, you know, and it also gave me a chance real fast to start to interconnect all of the SAM Hatton stories, because the firt Sam Hatton story ever wrote was for Max booth, um, it was the givens sensor board, about real fast about a cemetery. With this new like invention, where if you buried someone alive, life would be detected in and a little sensor on their plot with our blinking and a serial killer named Randy Scott's was buried in the Samhain cemetery that day, and that night, the teenage freakin you know, Cheeto eating guy sees Randy Scott's light blinking. And he's like, What would you do? If you saw if you realize that like a serial killer had been buried alive, would you dig him up? And so that gave me in Argyle, our man Shawn meets up with Randy Scott's. And it gave me then I started to see sort of like, whatever I started, I think Daphne's mentioned or Ben Evans is definitely mentioned and then in that in that book, as well, and I started to be fun for me to sort of like make connections of all the stories and Argyl feels like this first, like, like, whereas camp was that for me and Goblin, where he's starting to like, combine stories. Argyle was that for me in this one?

Michael David Wilson 46:53

Yeah, yeah, no, curfew reference goblin as waylynn, our guy or very briefly, there's, yeah, there's all sorts of references. And I mean, I wonder too, I mean, where did Samhattan come from? And when did you know that was going to be a recurring theme in your stories?

Josh Malerman 47:16

I mean, because Goblin, to me is such a colorful place. Like literally populated by obsessives. I think I think if you went down any block in Goblin and went into any store, there would be a novella where the story of a man that runs the flower shop of any obsessive that is the runs the coffee shop, the obsessive that owns the bookstore, or the obsessive coffee, or whatever it might be. And I wanted a town to like return to you. Whatever. Hold on, Mike. Can you hear my dog is such a wearable? Yeah. Hold on. Hold on, buddy. I love you. Don't Don't turn into a werewolf. Hold on. I'll be right there. All right. She's a really smart guy. Okay, money. But have you heard it go? Yep.

Michael David Wilson 48:06

The funny thing is, was when you said all right, but if someone like next door said something, acknowledging it was almost like I got a reply.

Josh Malerman 48:16

And your story is it's gotten under your skin. Oh, gross. That doesn't sound right. But anyway.

Michael David Wilson 48:20

Well, it didn't. It didn't when you drew attention to me.

Josh Malerman 48:27

So Sam Hatton gave me a little bit more palatable like I want to write like a return to goblin. I do want to write that but same hadn't gave me like a place to go that everything doesn't have to be so heightened, so colorful, so obsessive, so it's almost drab, white in stone, sort of like industrial Midwest City. gray skies, like there's some stuff there's a candy shop that you know, in Daphne and like there's some stuff but now like goblin goblins, like so colorful. And so Samhain was an opportunity to write about maybe like colder subjects. Whereas camp is scared of being scared to death. Sam Hatton has like a serial killer, like you know, but a guy that you know didn't and

Michael David Wilson 49:19

so that there's one bit in our guy or that's like, really stuck with me and like, I also like wonder, like, like, I'm not even 100% sure what happened and I have like various theories, but because I don't want to spoil it for people. It involves a stove. Yeah, a person on the stove and it's never explicitly stated exactly how I stove and something or someone else happen to be on the stove and then like about three or four answers to what happened there. That's such a wild moment and I'm not sure if this is like terrible listening for people that I'm like very certainly talking in encoded terms about a moment in a book that isn't out for people to read yet so great fucking

Josh Malerman 50:22

Yeah, yeah, I I don't think I'm gonna say a word about it. Yeah, I knew that that I was like, in my head I was just saying about the stove. Um, I feel though we can talk about her for a second you know? Yeah,

Michael David Wilson 50:35

I mean what what what a kind of masterful class and foreshadowing as well like as seasoned readers and storytellers. We knew that fo was going to come back at some point but like, the fun is in the journey and seeing okay, how is therefore gonna tie into all it is?

Josh Malerman 50:55

You know, I think that there's a big difference. It's they wouldn't be the angel devil on your shoulder thing. But here in Argyle here in Sean's life, right from his parents, atheletes Shawn sister. And as a reminder, Shawn is confessing that he is a serial killer who never killed atheletes a sister who was aware of these urges and him witnessed these urges and him witnessed these close calls and him in for Argyle, though, is a friend that he that knew what he was from was the right word. What's the right word for that? Like discovered for herself intimated through his personality that something was up. And I think that Argyle gives us a window into like how like a person with any sort of sense of like, like powers of observation would have, like spotted this in him. Fo literally was like following him and seeing it. Argyll was more like sun's up at the sky in that moment when they're in the woods. And she's like, why don't we draw like our greatest fantasy? Why don't we try. And she draws a picture of herself as a business owner, as a CEO. That and then he hands her the most messed up drawing you can imagine. And there's a sense there. And that moment, that arc, I was like, that's what I expected. You know. And so I think that it was a I know, it was fun to play with. Because he, let's say he's not a serial killer, just just for the sake of this, like, whatever he is, it was fun to play with the idea of someone who was raised with you and knows you that way. But then also someone who had a limited experience with you but was able to recognize it right away, and even kind of warned you like on that drive from that bar back to Sam hat and she's like, warning him essentially, like you got a long road ahead of you, you know, that stuff. Um, Argyle became and that's essentially why she became the title character. She became almost sort of like the like this truth prism. For me. Like she was she, the way she saw him. That was Sean. Whereas Athos seemed a little more her her view of her brother and her obviously the stove seen her view of her brother and all that seems more like a frantic, harried, frustrated, helicopter parent. Like million like, like a family member. And it kind of like said to me or underscore to me, which I love my family and my siblings, but underscore To me that's oftentimes, even a family member is like a little too close to the truth. And and with powers of observation, can see it for exactly what it is. And I think that Argyle Is that is that prism in that book? Or that novella?

Michael David Wilson 53:52

Yeah. Oh, yeah. And like it, it's gotta be up there with my favorite stories of yours. And particularly, because I love minimalist setting. I love dialogue heavy. So then there's the conference, this story is essentially a conversation. Yeah. And there's no So

Josh Malerman 54:11

breaking that one.

Michael David Wilson 54:13

No, no. I mean, I feel of all the stories in the book as well, this will be the easiest to make into a film. I mean, it's very minimal in terms of what would be required, and I hope that it does get made into one

Josh Malerman 54:31

there is there as a director attached. Um, and, but we because of this writer's strike, yeah. We had, we had to, like, stop talking about it, essentially, because this director also writes, and so we weren't able to talk about like, any vision of anything, you know, I mean, like I can, and rightfully so. I don't want to I don't want to like crossed that line or Yeah. So, so it was kind of like it's I had to sort of stop with, like, I'm, you know, like, it's interesting right now those business meetings during this writer's strike are interesting. Because they're all neutered, and like, that's, that's fine. But they are, which is like, there's a sense of like, like, if you're talking to a director, writer, well, you can't talk about the writing. So the director calls and says, I love this novella. And you're like, thanks. And you can't really talk about anything else. Meet, and you didn't make contact and you're like, I love her. You love her. You like our girl, you know, that kind of thing. But we were able to talk to him a little bit more than that before like, whatever this is all happening. You get what I'm saying. So. And yeah, he is attached to direct Argyll and I don't know, we'll see. I agree. I think that that's probably the easiest to adapt. Although I have the house design in my mind. The hardest would be eager for sure. And that that into me, but that includes freaking Jupiter, which by the way, the Jupiter drop is with universal with monkey paw producing. And I've also had I also have not announced that before. This this is a doozy. This episode is a doozy man, we got announcements. We got more, you guys. We got announcements we got what's it called? You guys now can go watch my directorial debut. And we even gotta go stories. Like computer is dying has been okay. But yeah, so the Jupiter job is I even I have already read the script and everything. Um, and Argyle there's some traction but eager off. That's That's my baby.

Michael David Wilson 56:55

Yeah, that's right. Yeah. Yeah,

Bob Pastorella 56:58

the half the house is haunted. Felt very much, you know, it had that whimsy of, you know, Shirley Jackson. You know, the thing about Argyle that got me is that it had this feeling and I know this is going to sound like it's coming from left field. But it's really not, if you think about it, and had this feeling of something that was written by Peter strop. Especially his shorter, his shorter works, but if they were written, you know, from from, you know, basically, you know, from like, like cocoa, it because because you had these these long conversations, and a lot of a lot of his is his work was not it was more against exposition. But Coco is is is actually a very dialogue heavy book. There's a lot of conversations, a lot of that's mingled in with inner, you know, inner monologue, stuff like that. And then, just, while I was reading, I was like, Man, this reminds me a strop. And maybe I might be the only person in the world who felt that but I mean, I mean, as as a compliment. I was just like, I was, like, really, it was really, in parts of it were very kind of funny, in a dark way. You know, like, his, his, his, you know, you know, when when someone would come up and see, Shawn, he was on his deathbed, you know, and he's like, you know, basically, I've thought about getting a file nail and sticking it into your gut, you know, and I can just hear this. I just saw a guy, and I just imagined Bruce Dern. You know, you know, just with his hair slicked back, and you know, and just Just let me go on, you don't understand, you know, how I felt. And I was like, man, dude, this is this is like some massive heavy imagery. And it was, it was great. It was fucking

Josh Malerman 59:01

not thank you so much. And I want to ask you to use that as a blurb or something for you to say how 1000s on it is surely Jessica Jackson ask. And then I got the BPOS Job asked like, I'm like, if you don't mind, I may want to like actually just use that on the book.

Bob Pastorella 59:16

Well, I'll have to try to write it up a little bit more eloquently than my Texas pronunciation would say, you know, yeah,

Josh Malerman 59:25

I mean, okay, if you would, that would be the honor. Because that is freaking Thank you for saying that.

Bob Pastorella 59:34

All right. You're welcome.

Josh Malerman 59:37

Um, yeah, you know, that is also one of the beauties of the novella, right, is that you can look up and be like, there were no chapter breaks, but you know what? That's okay. As a word words, and I think it moves and that kind of thing. And that's sort of middle ground for the writer where you can kind of get away with and eager Rob, we talked about the experimental elements before Write, like, you can kind of get away with some of these these things in a novella that are a little less abrasive or something that might be like in an in a novel. Now I want to write a novel with no chapter breaks. Because obviously people be like, I like short chapters, and that makes me want to write like 1000 pages. Meanwhile, let's do one more thing was that the birds of a feather element that again, the Randy Scott's like, meeting where, you know, like bus drivers, not to each other, you know, I think people that own Jeeps like waving to each other something that you know, that kind of thing. And the idea that game recognizes game or a vampire recognizes a man but you know, that kind of thing. addict. I liked that element that was fun to write about because it was almost like being part of like a like a subculture. You know, that Sean was like, one of like, like, trying to grapple with so there's, there's like, there's some identity there. You know, which you could like equate with sexuality, you could equate with lifestyle, you can equate with a million different things. That either way, it's private to you until someone else who is existing on the same plane recognizes it in you. And that element. It was like a lot of fun to write and Randy's a jerk. But it was fun to have that acknowledgement. Like section of it. It was fun. It was thrilling to write that like that stretch of it. Yeah. I feel like this is such a big deal that Ashley Lawrence is doing the audiobook. Let's see now. Okay, yeah, she's doing half the houses on it. And Doug and Judy. Oh, wow. guy is doing Argyle and the Jupiter job but then this other guy sort of this like, like this like manly man. Like I cannot wait to hear that. Yeah.

Michael David Wilson 1:02:08

Thank you so much for listening to the second part of the conversation with Josh Malerman. Join us again next time for the third and final part, the completion of the trilogy with Yash. We are going to be talking about the stories in the collection that we did not get to in this episode. And this is another great episode is always a great episode with Josh. And if you want that third party ahead of the crowd if you want every episode ahead of the crowd if you want the ability to submit questions to guests such as Dean Koons, then become a patron@patreon.com forward slash This Is Horror. You know the drill by now you head over to the website, look at what we have to offer on Patreon. If it's a good fit for you, you join us if it's not a good fit for you, then tell us how we can make it a good fit tweet me at This Is Horror. Find me on blue sky. That's This Is Horror to you know we want to be of service to you. We want to make Patreon as good as it can be, and perhaps even a little bit better. So, reach out. Let us know how we're doing. Let us know how we can improve. And now for a little bit of an advert break.

RJ Bayley 1:03:32

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Bob Pastorella 1:03:40

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Michael David Wilson 1:04:50

On that about does it for another episode at This Is Horror. So until next time for the third and final part of the conversation with Josh man element take care yourselves. Be good to one another, read horror. Keep on writing and have a great, great day.

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