In this podcast, Josh Malerman talks about the early years on the road, living off $10 per day, The High Strung, the Hall of Fame van story, 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 brand new book, Spin A Black Yarn is out now.
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Not Forever, But For Now by Chuck Palahniuk
Meet Otto and Cecil. Two brothers growing up privileged in the Welsh countryside. They enjoy watching nature shows, playing with their pet pony, impersonating their Grandfather…and killing the help. Murder is the family business after all. Downton Abbey, this is not.
What this IS: the groundbreaking new novel Not Forever, But For Now by Chuck Palahniuk. You may know Chuck as the author of Fight Club. Now you’ll know him as the author of Not Forever, But For Now, wherever books are sold.
The Handyman Method by Nick Cutter and Andrew F. Sullivan
The Handyman Method the thrilling new novel from Nick Cutter and Andrew F Sullivan is on sale now. Bestselling author of Chasing the Boogeyman, Richard Chizmar, says this book is “Nightmare territory. . . Cutter and Sullivan have created a modern masterpiece.” The Handyman Method is available wherever books are sold.
Michael David Wilson 0:07
Welcome to This Is Horror, a podcast for readers, writers and creators. I'm Michael David Wilson and every episode alongside my co host, Bob Pastorella. We chat with the world's best writers about writing, life lessons, creativity, and much more. Now today I am presenting this conversation solo. And I am chatting with Josh Malerman for a This Is Horror Podcast conversation like no other. In fact, this is like no Josh Malerman conversation. You'll have heard anywhere. You see Josh and I we sat down to discuss his pre budget Bob's life on the road touring with his band to high strung on just $10 per day. So we got riding lessons we've got on the road lessons, we got some Wild Rock and Roll stuff. And honestly, I can't wait to hear how you get on with it all. This is the first of a two parter. But before we jump into the meat of the content, a quick advert break
Bob Pastorella 1:46
the handyman method the thrilling new novel from Nick cutter and Andrew F celebrant is on sale now. Best Selling Author of chasing the boogeyman Richard chizmar says this book is nightmare territory. Cutter and Sullivan have created a modern masterpiece. The handyman method is available wherever books are sold. Meet Otto and Cecil two brothers go in a privilege and wealth countryside. They enjoy watching nature shows playing with their pet pony, impersonating the grandfather and killing to help murder is a family business after all, Downton Abbey This is not what this is the groundbreaking new novel not forever but for now by Chuck Palahniuk. You may know Chuck is the author of Fight Club now you'll know him as the author of not forever but for now wherever books are sold.
Michael David Wilson 2:41
Okay with that said, Here it is. It is Josh Malerman on dare says Hara. Josh, welcome back to This Is Horror Podcast. It has only been a few weeks this time since you were last on but here you are, surprise
Josh Malerman 3:01
me amazing. We went like a couple years or whatever it was. And then now it's only been a few weeks. And it should be more like this all the time.
Michael David Wilson 3:08
Here. Hey, yeah. Yeah. And I mean, normally, when somebody returns to the show, we're like, oh, so what have you been? What have you learned? What have been the big changes? And it seems like a ridiculous question to ask when Yeah, it's probably been three weeks. But actually, there has been a big change for you. Because you now have the books in a black yarn that we were talking about before it is now out in the world.
Josh Malerman 3:37
Yeah. I think this is the 12th book now, which is so bizarre, because like, my bird box was 2014. So it's not, I guess that's a minute ago, it's nine years. But to be at Book 12 already and rewriting 13 and 14. And it's like, wow, this is really happening. Like there's, for some reason this book is in this release is signifying to me some sort of like, Hey, Josh, this this is a career that's actually happening. Like, this is like a decade now. Almost, and a dozen books and, and writing more and in this tonight and and there was something I'm not prideful, but like calming about that for me. When there's, I assume that this must be true. Even like people like Stephen King or Dean Koontz. Like we're putting out books regularly for a very long time. Must be like sort of a cyclical nature, right? Where for whatever reason, this or that release signifies something for them, right? Like while you're still doing it, or or, wow, I finally did this book that I wanted to do or whatever it might be. And I don't think that you could like necessarily plan on my 10th book. I'm going to be happy about that. Right. I think it's sort of like something like the winds of the universe like like blowing against your back rather than against your your face or something and you feel That's sort of momentum of things. And with this book, I definitely feel that way.
Michael David Wilson 5:06
Yeah, yeah. And you know, for this conversation, because people may be wondering, why are we talking again, you know, after we've been talking last month specifically about spin at black yarn? Well, this conversation was actually inspired by a series of tweets that you put out, and you were talking about when you were living on the road touring with your band, you were living off $10 a day. And I know, this is something that in all the This Is Horror Podcast that we've done with you. And in all the other interviews that I've had with you, you haven't gone into in a lot of depth. You know, it comes up sometimes. But it's almost a soundbite. And I know, this is fascinating. This is something I want to talk about. So we're doing it we have this episode, pretty much to talk about those early years. And in preparation for this, I thought, well, let's listen to the first ever podcast that I did with you back in 2015. And, of course, you mentioned then, and at that time, it's kind of crazy, because you had written before Birdbox was published 20 novels and 12 novellas. But when we first spoke, you had one of our layout, bug bugs. You had one novella gasolin. You and one short story. That was it when we first spoke, and I know what what a journey you have been on in that time. So I guess that was eight years ago. But as you say, you've now got 10 books out? Well, I don't know how many novellas you put out as well. There's numerous short stories. I mean, do you ever take stock to just think about that? And
Josh Malerman 7:10
absolutely, you know, the one of the biggest things and I think we maybe talked about this before is Birdbox hit that like, sales landmark recently in Finland. I just want you to know, yes, of course, I care about sales, and everyone hears about sales, but but also, like, I barely ever talk about it. I don't I don't check in on these things very often, because I am fearful of them. You know, looking at inspection sold more than goblin or whatever thinking is better than goblin or some stupid thing like that. And, like to me, of course, sales mean something. But when I say like, yeah, I don't want to think about that shit. It's not because I don't you know, it's not because I don't need money like everyone else. But it is something I don't think about that often. But Birdbox crusted the million sales mark. And I think we talked about this before, where the thing that crossed my mind was that I have been doing the same exact routine, free Birdbox being bought, and coming out to it now in the eight, eight or nine years since. So average of two books a year for about came out in 14. That means that I mean, it's like clockwork, in a way. I've nine years I've written 18 books since it's come up. So like that, and I can like look at it that way. I can even say to myself, by the time you're 58, you will have written 58 novels, you know what I mean? Because it's just now it's been almost, let's see, it's been 19 years have about two a year. And many of those earlier ones. Prior to Birdbox. were written on the road in a band van. Well, actually, it was a short bus. And there were outlines for story ideas and book ideas like written all over the inside of the bus. And even on the outside of the bus. Because I would be you know, Derek can be driving and I'd be like, oh, you know, what about this? And I'd write like on the ceiling, you know, I'd map out like Walter camps, you know, afraid of being scared to death. Right? Right. You know, Goblin, but I didn't have it. Oddly enough. I didn't have the name goblin till I was almost through that book, or deep into that book. Um, I was keeping count. I was calling that city rolling hills. That's so dumb. Like, I'm like enrolling horrifying rolling hills, you know, and then somewhere else in Israel at the time and she she'd said something like, she honestly says like, Oh, that guy's a goblin or something. That was a goblin. Ah, that's it. That's the city name. And she was like, city name. I'm like, That's so much better than rolling hills. Anyway. Um, right. So to a year but so the band we're called the high strung for listeners. And we've all been best friends since we were about like 11 years old. And I was already trying to write books and are not really books Have a poems and stupid stuff, you know? Oh actually some fun stuff like cartoon like that I wouldn't say comic books but like one panel things. And, um, Derek and Chad, the bases are the drummer and bass player respectively. We're already playing and playing at the talent shows and covering songs like the doors and motley crew and stuff. And everyone in the world, like these two are unbelievable musicians and, and Mark owyn, who's my songwriting partner, the two of us write the songs and sing for the band. Him and I were a little bit more late coming to music, we come to it at around age, like 19 or so something like that 1920 We start singing and playing and blah, blah. At the same time, we both started talking, hey, let's get serious and write novels. Because, you know, we're again, trying and kind of some short stories, trying weird emo poems when you're in high school, this kind of thing. Eventually, this all leads to an absolute, you know, just blindingly brilliant period of learning music, writing songs, and trying to write novels at the same time. And this all leads to the band, putting out albums and being on the road and actually finishing novels while traveling from city to city. So that would be sort of the route, beginning of all this upon which we're going to talk about Yes,
Michael David Wilson 11:24
yeah. And just to give people a sense of the timeline, so the highest rung, I believe, formed in 2000. So when we're talking about being on the road, and living golf $10 a day, what year is this happening?
Josh Malerman 11:44
So that's from 2001, to 2008. I think somewhere in there. Like we were, we were on the road for six and a half, seven years. And, um, yeah, you know, we would play for like, I don't know, an average of 20 people a night or whatever it was, for those years, you know, don't don't picture like, you know, some huge famous band or something. And it was, but it just didn't. It's hard to explain like it in the same way that maybe like an indie author, and half my books have come out with indie presses, like an indie author, or do it yourself kind of mentality. Like, nobody was thinking about, like, oh, there's only 20 People that no, it was like, Oh, my God, we're playing in Seattle tonight. We're in Seattle, and we're drinking and like, some friends are here, and we're playing and then we're in Portland, the next night or Vancouver the next night, and like, oh, maybe the other band will be good. And this went on for years, years where we didn't live anywhere. We didn't have apartments. Um, we had moved out of New York. So for for the first sort of six months of this of this, like years long tour that we didn't really know that we were going on, we tried to maintain that, that that apartment, those loft spaces, and that was just ridiculous. And we were making zero money out here. So finally, we're just like, we have to just let those apartments go. And that was a big moment, man. Because you're out on the road. And you're waiting when you are with your best friends and you're writing songs, you're writing books, and you're drinking, but you still also had a place you could call home, until we decided we could save a lot of money if we just stay out here and because we were gonna stay out there. And we can make a lot of save a lot of money by getting rid of those, those that home base. That now that thought sounds like insane to me sounds like it'd be being sent in like the stratosphere of like, holy shit, talk about the unknown and talk about, you know, the basic human securities, right, um, you know, food, shelter, you know, and sleep. And all three of those were, like, questionable. For like, the problems. You know, I mean, there were times I remember, I remember waking up, you know, and looking up and seeing the underside of like, a laundry room sink, like, I'd fallen asleep and someone on someone's laundry room floor, you know, and like, in the beginning of this whole thing we were so, you know, we have no idea what to do like, you we got paid, I think $20 our first gig, it was in Philadelphia, and we got like, 20 bucks for and we're like, 2020 What does that mean? What did we do? Like, I don't know what we thought or were expecting. And we were like, I think that we just thought well, if you go out and play well each make like $50 and we'll have a hotel there's no no, each place was different. And then some were amazing and some are horrifying and this kind of thing. But there was an immediate sense of like, you know, if we're gonna do this, we're gonna have to like, what's the right phrase? ingratiate ourselves with like a fan or something or like the booker like, maybe they could house us, you know, and it's not like, like trying you know, You just discovered that on the road, there are people kind of like a lot. That'll be like, hey, just come over to our house. Come on over, and you'll like, we'll have like partying. And then you can sleep over. But the and as wonderful as that sounds, and as wonderful as that is, it's also the you know, it's there that one night of the week for them, where they got banned came over the one night in the month. For you, every single night, there was this kind of a sense of, hey, we're going to their house, we can't just go to bed, we let's hang out, we got to hang out and talk. You know, so eventually, months and months and years of this, you're like, wow, we've been, we've been like the party. We've been like the after party for like, years. years. Yeah, that's like, not like a night, man. Not like you had a crazy night, you know, one night, like, like, years of it in a row. But, you know, we're all like, level headed dudes, even though and I mean, there were some freaky moments in terms of drugs and other stuff. But we're all like, level headed dudes. And it was kind of like, you know, you stopped when you could and this kind of thing. I feel like I'm talking too much. But I can, I can talk about this literally nonstop for days.
Michael David Wilson 16:06
Right? This is what we want to do about from maybe we'll have to limit it to not actually days. But I mean, kind of being the after party for so many nights in a row literally going on. For years. I mean, that's got to take a toll on you, physically and mentally. And, like, even forgetting, like kind of drugs. So alcohol, just like I'm imagining every day, you're getting slightly more sleep deprived. So that's gonna, you know, result in some trippy things. So I mean, what are the things that you're trying to put in place to, you know, at least in some way, make sure that you're stable? Are you having to, like do a lot of sleeping in the day before the night just to make sure that you are rested on some levels?
Josh Malerman 17:04
Brilliant question. Because, yes, um, we had to start saying like, you can only drive like four hours at a time because Derek, Derek loves to, like Derek could have driven the whole the whole decade or whatever. Like, he would get to the gig and our drummer would be like, exhausted, like, he'd be exhausted. And it's kind of like, well, no, hold on. So we need to put like, caps on this. And for a while, Derek had a rule for the rest of us. Remember, we've all been best friends since we were 11. We're all like Jewish weirdo. Like imagine the Marx Brothers on the road. And Derek's like you had a rule where like, hey, only one or two drinks you know, before the show, so we can go in get blasted have this like we drove all the way to Fargo. Actually, in Fargo, Derek and I threw up in harmony. I'll never forget, we both after our show went outside the gate, and we both trip at the same time. And I'll never forget, I can hear that mine was like a higher register than his vomit sound. And it sounded like, like people throwing up on harmony.
Michael David Wilson 18:04
You're saying hang on someone get a recorder. I think we can use this let's fucking record the sounds like the bat. Yeah.
Josh Malerman 18:13
Yes. But anyway, yes, there were like things you had to start thinking about, like, Dude, we, you know, we're gonna burn out. Physically, if we keep like, you know, wasted till 4am Get up at eight and drive to Salt Lake City, right. So, but at the same time, completely fueled by playing like new songs in a different city every night and, and I was just, I finished my first novel in Oh, four finished writing it. So about halfway through this experience, I started writing novels on the road. And again, just the just totally fueled man by the artistic life, by the fact that I'm writing novels. And I've been wanting to for for like, like decades, but at least had been trying and not finishing one for at least 10 years before. And so that whole side of it was so inspiring and so electrifying, then I mean like, alright, yeah, you're a little tired. But like, man, you're halfway through your second novel. Now. You're halfway through your third novel, and you're driving through like Albuquerque at night. And you're, you're the boy maybe chairs working on the base in the back seat. And Derek's talking, we're talking about this gig coming up in Santa Fe or wherever it is, you know, and I think that yes, there were precautions taken small ones, smart ones, but really, it was so fueled by by the artistic life that I'm not even sure that it mattered.
Michael David Wilson 19:55
Yeah, and I mean, some people they talked about one right angle They need these optimal conditions, they need this care, they need this music. But I mean, you're literally writing on the road. I mean, it sounds like you're kind of writing this first novel, but at the same time, you know, a band member could bring you into a conversation. So you've got to be able to like, almost write the novel or maintain the conversation, then go back to the novel. I mean, it's kind of to use a cliche, a baptism of fire, but you're going to be ready to write in any condition if you've done that.
Josh Malerman 20:35
Yes, I agree. I agree. So, you know, I've made this joke before, but it's true. Like, if you can write a scary novel, while while your bandmates are listening to the Grateful Dead, then you are you're, they're listening to me, man. Yeah, and you're like, you know, trying to write this, you know, the scary always seen, you know, yeah. If you can, if your book can be scary while the debtor on then you're, then you pull the sun off, you know? And there was a lot of that there was a lot of music that you would never listen to, because what am I gonna do tell Derek not to listen to music while I'm writing? That's ridiculous. I was writing while we were driving from like Denver to Salt Lake City. So, or LA to Las Vegas, you know? I'm God, there are so many amazing stories. And let me let me just tell you one, just because I would love to tell you one right now. We played with this band in Los Angeles. And we were gonna we played with him on a Friday and we were gonna play with him again on Sunday in LA. We had Saturday off. So we were like, let's schedule a show in Las Vegas. That's how things were back then. Like, if there was a day off, find out find a place to play. Why not? I mean, gosh, you know, I don't even know how far what is Las Vegas like 456. I've known how far it is from back then a six hour drive felt like nothing. And so we booked a show in Las Vegas. So after the show on Friday, the other band they played first that night, they said it was hey, we're gonna see you Sunday where you grab our money for us. And we'll see you Sunday. We're like, Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. Well, we'll grab your money. We'll have it you know. So we grabbed the money was like, $184 I'll never forget this man. Because back I mean, back then, man. $184 was like, you know, that's good. On the way to Las Vegas to play this one off. You know, Derek turns me and he's like, maybe, maybe we should bet Tommy as money. And as it went, No, no, no, Derek. Derek. Derek. No, no, dude, if we, if we lose Tommy's money, like we have no way of getting Tommy's money back, you know. So what are we gonna do on Sunday when we see him again in LA, right? Like, yeah, we don't like literally we don't we have none, right. But Derek has a persuadable nature. And I am persuaded. And I was like, Okay, fine. Let's do it. So Chad is not into Las Vegas. It's all sort of like, you know, gaudy bullshit. And so he stays in like the van. And he's like reading and stuff. And the Eric and I go to like, to casinos, and we're playing and when we got, you know, we're down to like, I think Derek was playing alone with Tommy's money at first, because we didn't have any of our own money. And he was really not really. And we get that I think Derek got down to like, 30 $40 or something. And then he's, he goes, maybe you know, and shit. Maybe if we split it, like you take 20 and I take 20 I think it was 15 each. If we just take, we increase our chances of winning Tommy's money back, and we, we totally went on a tear. And the two of us together made like 1100 bucks. And I mean, this was the US this was I had, I mean, I can still see the look of Derek's I like it was almost like, like, Gollum with a ring. And I was like, ah, yeah. hits me. And I'd be like, Derek guy leaving. He's like, What are you talking about? This isn't I'm a no no, no. Right now. I think we should leave right now. We have 1100 we made Tommy's money like 10 times, you know, whatever. Let's get out of here. We did we got out of there. We got we had a hotel room we ate at the buffet. We just got like 100 bucks or something. The rest Eric put in the van. We drive back to LA and I'll just never fucking forget Derek. Pulling out $184 and giving it Tommy and being like, oh, so here's what you made Friday night. With no 11 word.
Michael David Wilson 24:38
Yeah. I didn't think it was gonna go in that direction. It didn't look like Tommy was losing his money.
Josh Malerman 24:50
But that's like, that was the road and it was magic. It was so far below the radar man. It was so It was it was so like indie. So do it yourself. And I think for like, listeners, they might imagine that this sounds like the lifestyle of like a punk band. But we're not. And we weren't. We're not a punk band. But it certainly sounds like Henry Rollins or son lived like this. Yeah, but oh no, we're like, think of us more is like either vibe like vaudevillian in our nature, or or think of us as like the beats, like the meats. Like on the road. Don't think of it as like, you know, like, fuck it. We can live off $10 a day, you know, like, no, no. Like, we were all like horribly nervous about only getting $10 a day, but I was so electrifying. What would you rather be doing? And I told you, I'll never forget telling Derek one time. Somewhere in there. I was like, Dude, if we broke up tomorrow, if we sold a million albums tomorrow, we I don't know that we'll ever top what we've done out here. And we were literally just circling the country. And eventually, we got smart in the winter, you'd be in the south. We weren't at first. And that first tour when I was when I booked us, we went through Wyoming in the winter. And that was freaking scary, Dude, that was scary. So, but anyway, I mean, I can literally talk endlessly about it. But the sort of biggest takeaway to me is, I don't wanna say like the equivalent of the do it yourself or self published or, or in the press, that kind of thing. But for those out there that are either writing, or I'm sure everyone here reads that, right. This is absolutely of that same cloth. And I am and we are, and we always have it. I mean, I made an album A few months ago, and a cassette deck that's behind the computer right here. So the high strong have always been, it's not like, it's not like, Fuck you do it yourself. It's more like, well, we want to play shows, we want to write songs, we want to record we want to make albums, I want to write books, and what are we? What are we waiting for? So let's just do it. But it was more like it was more like just this bizarrely pragmatic or practical approach to a very impractical thing. Like, I mean, if we want to do it, let's just do it. What are we waiting for a major label? Or Big Five waiting for like, a day? Are we waiting in so the same thing with, with with the books, let's just go go go. And hopefully something. You know, hopefully, something comes from it outside that art that can help us but all we really care about, and all they still really care about is making the albums and the books?
Michael David Wilson 27:40
Yeah, yeah. And I wonder I mean, initially, when you set out Were you even touring in a van or a vehicle that was logistically big enough for you all to sleep in? Or was this like, a moment? Like, I don't know, in 2007? You're like, we got a van that actually fits us.
Josh Malerman 28:02
We didn't have getting a sort of a more proper van around the way we did. But no, we originally had a short bus. And this is a pretty cool story. I don't know, do you know this story? Or the Hall of Fame story?
Michael David Wilson 28:15
I don't think so.
Josh Malerman 28:17
Alright, so again, the inside is now covered with outlines for stories and books. We had driven straight from Detroit to La which dude was 41 hours. So someone was driving while other ones were asleep, straight through. Never, we didn't spend the night anywhere. And we like it was insane. When we got there, we all felt kind of insane. And then we parked like on the beach or whatever. And I think it was me. I woke up in the passenger seat and looked out the window and someone was like, tagging the bus. Like with graffiti. And we I was like, oh, and I was like, no, no, no, hold on, hold on. No, it's okay. Hold on, let me see. And I get out of the van and or the bus and I like look over and I'm like, I know that that kind of looks awesome. And he was like, really? I'm like, yeah, no, no, it's fine. Thanks. Yeah. And then it became, oh my God, I'll send you a photo. Maybe you could put it in that. Oh my God. And when you see this thing, and again, a listener or viewer is going to think that this is a punk band. It just wasn't. It started to become I was writing, you know, you we would go into town, we'd hand some Sharpie. they'd write all over the car and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. One day, after a few years of touring with that car, the car break, the bus breaks down, your vocal breaks down, Derrick locates another similar thing. And tells me on the phone, we can scrap the bus for about 200 bucks. And again, back then 200 bucks. We're living off $10 a day. $200. So that's a big number to us. And this was for years. And I was at my mom's house and I was drinking my drinking mom. I was drinking wine with mom. And I was like, man, Mom, I don't know like that boss is like been through some stuff. I don't I don't feel right just scrapping it. Like, I feel like we should like, drive it through the front doors of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. You know, this thing is like, this is like the spirit, right? Like, right. And my mom's like, Well, I mean, you know, I don't think you should drive it through the front door, but you could leave it at the front door. And I was like, Oh, shit. Wait, this is good. Wait, mom, what are you so I call the boys. Let me arrange. We arrange this in wild fucking thing. Where Mark dry. It's a so the Hall of Fame is in Cleveland. And we're in Detroit. It's 184 miles away. And we're going east of Cleveland for our first show. So either way, we're passing Cleveland for that first show. We just need to get that first bus to Cleveland and Mark is driving the getaway bus. And Derek and I and I don't even remember how it's all divvied up. There's girlfriend's son, I think is in the other bus. I can't remember how everything's divvied up. But so we drive out there and Derek had made like a plaque. Like Like, like a plaque in cement and everything that said says like, the highest touring bus, you know, as 260,000 miles and rather man, and I wrote a letter to the Hall of Fame. And I left like on the front seat, and a letter for the police to saying like, here's the keys. If you don't have to tow it, you're going to drive it away. But in other words, we made it look like it was like an exhibit. So at like 3am and I feel like if we did this today, we'd be like arrested man. But at like 3am we pull into Cleveland. We're so scared man. Derek has to be behind the wheel because he's the only one with the stones to fucking dry. There's like concrete steps that lead up to the front door. He's the only one of us with the stones that drive up those steps. I would have been like, oh, no, this is fine. This is fine. No, Derek would have been like, No way dude. All right. So I'm in the passenger seat like so scared driving and march parked like up the street. And Derek just floors it up those steps, we pull up in front of the museum, leave them in, Derek sets up the plaque, I leave the letter blah, blah, blah, we both we run to our other bus and take off into the into the next four, five years, four years of touring or whatever. It was unbelievable. He got that move that whatever that how that was got, like more press than we had ever got before. It was like in the Cleveland Plain Dealer. It was in the you know, somebody from the Hall of Fame said um, I mean, there are proper channels by which to submit your and I'm like, What do you mean? What if we would have taken the proper channel you would have considered like housing our tour bus right? What I got an email from the from a cop from a Cleveland cop. That was is the most amazing thing ever. And it says Dear Mr. Mallory, and I'm the cop that had to like get rid of your vehicle. We actually thought this was really funny. ballsy. Don't worry about it. We like towed it to this like yard. I just wanted to know it was you know, if you receive a thing, a letter in the mail from the Cleveland Police Department about like, tell me like, just honestly, like, don't worry about it. We thought this was a funny, ballsy like thing you did. And I was like, why? I like show The Voice. I'm like, This is unreal. But that's what I'm talking about. There's that. That spirit of things? Where even like the fucking police officer that did take the fucking bus away. Even that dude was like, yeah, that's funny. That's good. And like, and there was for the whole time on the road. There was that sense. And I still feel that way about the books. You know, like, I just wrote a nonfiction book like from for why what am I what am I even doing? Like? Like, I felt like I even talked to my agent or anything about it first, but like, it's just like the spirit of the thing. Let's go let's go let's go. And the high strong embody that. Geez, better than ever. I could on my own like it just it was just a Yeah, completely fueled by the spirit of the thing.
Michael David Wilson 34:07
Did you ever take any photos of the bus as you left? It? Is
Josh Malerman 34:14
there our I'll ask Derek, or Chad for them. But there are photos from that night and I think of the plaque. And I gotta send you the one photo of the bus that you're gonna be like, What the fuck? Like that we that thing we turn? Oh, there was a thing called the tomb. Because so there was like two rows of seats as a short bus. And the derrick changed the back into a loft so you can kind of like pull out this wood board right? But then we're born went over the second row seats. So we would call it the tomb who's sleeping in the tomb tonight? Because whoever got on the second row, the whiteboard would be like above you. Two guys up there, one in the two And then one of the front beds, right? And I was like, I don't I don't want I don't want to see from the tomb. No, never. Like I'm like, you know, I'm very careful Edgar Allan Poe like, No, I'm not sleeping in the fucking tomb. Yeah. But Mark didn't care. And some of the other guys didn't care. But I mean, all over the country man from New Orleans, to all the way like through Canada to Portland, San Diego, all the four corners, Key West, all of it everywhere. For seven, almost seven years of this and again, $10 a day. So yeah, that's why sometimes I feel like sometimes I feel like like, we don't want to get too heavy into this. But sometimes I'm not. I feel like it might be hard for like a, like, there wasn't Twitter or Facebook, then there wasn't things where it was just kind of like starting or something. Like imagine if there was, I don't know, maybe maybe if we were like constantly talking about it, it was just seemed like just another voice in the wind or something like that. Maybe Maybe it's fortunate that there wasn't that. But I do wonder like, from let's take me for a second. I feel like there could be it would be easy for younger readers and writers to think that I was a part of like the the writers who are like my age, Stephen Graham Jones, John Lang and Paul Tremblay, that whole crowd. I'm not I didn't come up with them. I was like, you know, in a bus, living off $10 A day like writing novels at like, maniacs pace and sleeping on people's like laundry rewards and trying to hit on girls and Neo trying to trying to find food and trying to you know, I was like living this insane. Electrifying artistic life? Well, I don't know, I'm I don't know, I don't even know what they were doing. But I do know, they were all publishing already while I was doing this stuff. So my first book comes out the same year max booths first book comes out. I'm, like, 1415 years older than him or something. So I think that people my age, no, oh, he isn't a part of this group. He's more like with that group in terms of publishing. But younger people think, Oh, he must be part of that group. And I feel like I'm in some sort of like, Limbo in this way. Not really, like part of like, either moment in time or something. Because while I was writing or whatever, you know, Chad used to say to me, you should, um, he would say you should Self Publish. But this was like an old 405 It's a different world, in that way, different world. And I didn't, if I was doing that now, I would for sure. 100% and be like, Yep, yeah, let's do that. Right. Now. I put every single one of them out. That way, from the start, I would have done it. But back then it wasn't like that. I was like, I don't even know what that means. How do I do? Like, what or where do I go to publish? Where like, I didn't even know what it would have meant. And so I guess my point just for bringing all that up, is that the it's like this like, hyper artistic period of my life that I feel like in here we are talking about it right? That I feel like isn't known or whatever amongst like, the horror fans or like the scene or whatever, they probably think that you know, I had some job and I've, you know, wherever the hell people work, and then just, I wrote a book and it got published and oh, no, look at him. Me the kind of movie name and, you know, everything went everything's just went right in, right in order like dominoes for this guy. Yeah. Okay. They were like decades of like, crazy, broke. Fun. You know, that's the thing, man. That is the thing. Like, even talking to you right now about it. Like, it's I don't want to go so far as to be like, you know, being broke was liberating. I understand there. We were all freaked out about a lot of things. But those days were fun, man. Yeah, the people that you would meet way, like in New Orleans outside of restaurant, restaurants. You were there for like four days because like our van broke down or bus broke down or something. And literally just waiting outside restaurants to be like, hey, I can eat those leftovers. Yeah. And some people will be like, Oh, no, here. Yeah, take them. And then we you know, you get one or two people that do that and any aid for the day. Yeah.
Michael David Wilson 39:28
Yeah. Yeah. And you talk about almost like kind of being trapped between generations. I mean, if we say like, you know, one generation is the max move generation. The other is the Paul Tremblay. Is that liberating in a sense, because it kind of means that you've got like your foot in both doors or is it scary or is it kind of Niva and you're just embracing look, this is a different path, but it's like here's the use your path. The Tremblay in the booth. And then this is just like it's not even. They're not even parallel. He just did something completely different.
Josh Malerman 40:10
Yeah, no, I think it would be more like the latter. I sometimes I find myself like a little bit sad about it. Like I just, I get like this sense you can just feel like a camaraderie between like Laird Barron and Lincoln. And then like all these there's a camaraderie that you get a sense that all these guys, Sarah Lange, and that they all like we're coming up at the same time. And I think I'm, I'm close to their age, maybe a few years younger. I don't I don't know. But I got I'm close. I'm right there. And sometimes I do get a little a little a little bit sad. Like I can sense this camaraderie that I guess I wasn't there. I wasn't on the same rocket as them. You know, I, I took a rocket like 10 years laters that Max Booth was on? Yeah. And we became immediate friends on that rocket Max tonight. And it's like, but then the flip side is it? I think people like Max's age and that generation don't. I think they assume that I'm part of the other one. And I'm like, no, no, no, no, no. But then it's like, what what are you part of this really? Well, you know, I was writing for like a like, like, 20 years before I got where is this? Not scared, sometimes feel a little bit on an island? Feel a little bit isolated with it. But also, I don't know, like you said the last thing you said about doing something just so the path was so different. And so fun, and so colorful and interesting. All right. Well, if that's led to the books I've written, then I would take that exchange again.
Michael David Wilson 41:40
Yeah, yeah, I just feel like we're all on different trajectories. And there's like, I guess, more linear and conventional ones. And then there's like, kind of offbeat ones too. And like, I haven't even really thought about this with my own path. This is the, you know, you bring in that outfit. It's like making me think like, well, what, what's my path? What am I doing? And I guess, in a way, like, mine's a little bit different, too, because we've got these really tight knit scenes in both the UK and America. And like, even though I mean, engaging with and talking with all these people, I decided, like, let's go and live in Japan and I lived in Portugal. So in terms of like going to these, like social events, and in person events, like I'm not doing that I was doing that a little bit for the early years of This Is Horror. So I guess like 2011 to 2014. But in 2014, I don't let let's live in Japan. Let's just see what happens. And I've
Josh Malerman 42:45
known you since then. And that's exactly exactly what was on what I'm talking about. So I meet you, then. I only know you that way. Yeah, it's gonna be weird for you. Because you're like, oh, wow, this is you only know this part of me. But there was like a whole Yeah, all existence before this part of me. Right that, you know, it's easy with like Bob Dylan, we can go to Wikipedia and read or see bio on him, where we get his entire story. So wherever we meet him in his career, we can easily get the rest of his story. That's not necessarily the case with with each of us, like in this scene. And you know, I'm sure, I'm sure there's no I mean, who is the straight path, right? I'm sure everyone's is like different or whatever. But what you and I are just trying right now seem fairly extreme. Right, in terms of like demarcation lived in been in Japan since 2014. is a dramatic difference from England or American. And then I same thing, first book 2014. Like, impossible to express to the, to the scene of how different things are right now than that, or near decade of living on the road. Writing books in bars, there were times where we were like in New Mexico, and the boys would be like, Hey, we're gonna go we're gonna go and look at a city on the side of a mountain, you know? And I'd be like, No, I'm anyway. I gotta write I haven't written yet today. And they've had well, yeah, sure. Like, I'm like, I know. I know. I know. I just want to, you know, I started to become very disciplined about it. If I was whether I was hungover whether I was tired, I had to find like three hours in the day and most the time that was driving, but if we had a drive that was 90 minutes or or if we were in one city for a couple of days. Then I had to I had to sort of carve out that those few hours. All right, so they're gonna go sightseeing. Well, do I wish I went and saw that city. The thing that I don't even know what the hell they're talking about. I'm sure that if we googled it right now, it's like super famous. Anyway. You know, it is it's almost it's like a borderline regret. Because it's like You know, I remember they went to some amazing place in New Orleans that I didn't, they went to a place in Tombstone, Arizona, they have this legendary night where they went out to like, the town square and like, ran into some like, like, our nose cowboy dude out there. And I'm like, build it. Those are the books, you know, like this nerd as bookworm back in the back of the hotel room, or a bar or the van. But it started to become, if you're living this chaotic life, and you actually want to finish these novels, you have to work on them, you have to find the time to work on them at least a little bit every day. So there was some like, give and take, push and pull again, if that all happened in the age of Twitter, I guess I would probably be like, saying all this shit as it was happening, but it didn't. And so I come out with here's a guy with with with a novel, and it's optioned for a movie. And the book does well in verb Oh, this guy must be a little dandy this guy, but it's like no, man. Yeah, no, no whole, wonderful, colorful period before meeting the scene. And same thing with you this whole whole different life, this whole different setting mindset. And then you meet the scene. And here you are in Japan. That was That was interesting.
Michael David Wilson 46:21
Yeah, yeah. No, I mean, it is interesting to wonder, you know, what people's perceptions are of Me. And maybe you wonder what people's perceptions are of you. Because of course, The Girl in the Video that didn't come out until 2018, where it seems like super late in the sense that like, I've literally been writing stories, all my life, I did an English and creative writing course at university starting in 2004. Just like I'm studying creative writing, you know, academically, my first book comes out 14 years later. You know, This Is Horror that started in about 2011. So then then there's still a three year gap between finishing university in 2008. And starting, This Is Horror, but I I've said this before, but I think like I inadvertently put this pressure upon myself that when I started This Is Horror, it developed very quickly into like, this resource for horror fiction and talking to people such as Adam Neville, and Ramsey Campbell and David moody. And it's like, a Hachette people are really vibing with what we're doing. And you know, even when I started the This Is Horror awards. I started that as just like, oh, this seems like a cool thing. And then there was this appetite, and people are taking it really seriously. So because of that, I felt like, Man, I'm talking to people like Ramsay Campbell. And now I'm going to pull out my weird, quirky brand of fiction and I felt like people are not going to dig it. Or they're going to think what Who the fuck is this guy? Interview Ramsay Campbell
Josh Malerman 48:14
random. Such an interesting thing. Right now. So interesting. Because I do think that we often make the mistake of like, and we're all probably guilty of this, like the first book someone puts out or whatever it is, like, oh, well, that's him that that's his story. But if you know someone's whole whole life story, or a whole, let's say, adult, you know, artistic life story. You see, you see something like that book is just one thing that's being done, like, like, one offering, like, like as one dealing song, but you know, 100 other ones. So it's not like that one deal is Dylan song represents him in full. But when someone has just like one novella, or one book, I think, we have a tendency to be like, Oh, this is him. This is his style and who he is and where he's coming from. This is what he writes like, and it's like, now not necessarily, this is just this like, Yeah, you had directed five movies before? Well, you actually did have to have the years of the podcast and like this whole story before this book, I think and I we can't expect everybody to know our entire like life story. But we can meet up for a conversation like we are right now and remind listeners and remind readers and remind ourselves that a similar book by someone likely doesn't represent them in full right and possibly even like three four books don't represent them in full. It's like you need like a full life's body of work or in the in the life story in this kind of thing. So it is interesting I do. I have moments where I wish I could like touch like the scene and everyone would know know the whole life story because I think that It would just, I just think that it would make more sense of like, I'm going to cave, it would make more sense of unmake, it make more sense of writing carboneras farm on just the website during the pandemic for free. And it's still just sitting there. But it make more sense of the alternating between the big five and the indie, Big Five, indie Big Five, because there's the whole insane beat Nick, do it yourself, life that like led artistic life that led up to where Vox coming out? And so sometimes I wish I could, that that lens like a frame like a prism, to what like you and I are doing here, you're putting out books, you're you're, you're you're doing your show. And sometimes I feel like without that prism, you're like, Hey, do they? Are they seeing all this? Are they getting all this? You know what I mean?
Michael David Wilson 50:50
Yeah, yeah. And I mean, honestly, like putting out my first short story and putting out my first book, those were the most kind of nerve wracking and difficult parts, just taking that first step. In fact, even sending my first story to my first beta reader, I think that was when self doubt was highest. But at this point, when I put out a book or a story, that like there's not really any fear, because the thing is, yeah, of course, that there's awareness that it might not resonate with some people, but I just feel like well, in a way, so what because there's a next one, there's a next one after that, and after that, so it almost doesn't matter anymore.
Josh Malerman 51:38
In that goes back to what I was just saying about. If you only have one book? And let's see. Totally, then then there is a tendency to think that it has to represent you in full and I think, yeah, that what a what a starting band, or a new writer, that can be like major pressure, like, Oh, my God, like the street name, my grandfather's name, so that he's represented and, and my philosophy on on marriage, my philosophy on money, my philosophy on war, that better all be in here. Yeah, no, no, no, no, you don't represent yourself in full in any of the books. And hopefully, what happens at the end of the body of work does, because what happens is you write that first one, then when you read the second one, the spotlight is now just first, a third novel or third story, whatever, now the spotlights on it now, it's, there isn't even a spotlight anymore. And now the lights just on and like now you're just having like a bunch. So I think that that's a common, what's the right phrase fear, I suppose to be a little self conscious, when it would be the only thing you have out there. But now let's listen to what we're saying. If people knew the entire context of life, sorry. So in my case, the for like, I am putting them out Birdbox. But I obviously have read the dozen or 15 other novels I've written. Yeah, both. Not to mention the 20 hours with the band and the 2000 shows in the band, and the living in New York and the discussions about novels, and this and this and this and this and this and this. And then Birdbox is the pressure that shrinks so much into just it's just, that's all it is. This is called artistic life. This is just the novel.
Michael David Wilson 53:23
Yeah. Yeah. And I think some people who have watched your previous interviews and kind of know that Josh Malerman persona, they could have a misconception that, you know, you've never had any self doubt about anything, that you just have confidence in everything that you do. But I mean, you said,
Josh Malerman 53:49
No, but I do I do, because of the reasons that we're talking right now, because of removing, but you got you finish, you finish. Oh, here's
Michael David Wilson 53:57
the thing. You said that you finished your first novel in 2004, you said that there were numerous incomplete ones before. So that, to me says that there was a time at some level that you had some doubt, because you didn't finish these novels. So I'm wondering what was going on there? And then what changed the mindset?
Josh Malerman 54:24
I wouldn't say doubt about those. It was more like I didn't know what to do. I literally didn't know how to do it. Like, there was one. I think I've told you about this one before. It was four novellas that each one is like a different person in this man's life. They're all describing the same dude. But it's for like so as an ex girlfriend, a best friend, the nurse that helps him at the end of his life and someone else blah, blah. And there's the stories they literally sound like four stories about an unrelated characters. And the whole point of this book was supposed to be like, Who the fuck really knows you. If you talk to him for people were interviewed about You and literally would sound like four different people were being talked about. So that seems like a very doable book, right? Because first of all, it's in for you almost want the inconsistencies between stories, right? So, but I literally didn't understand how to end it. So let's, let's equate it to music. Okay. Let's say you're just learning music and you're like jamming with your friend like jing, jing, jing, jing, jing, and you're playing and Bernard here. Do they? Do they do they did it and you're like playing? And then if you don't know, music, or whatever, you might just be like, I don't know. Like, should we go somewhere? What do we do now? Like, like, when do we stop? Like, do I tell Derek when to stop? Because Derek tells me when to stop. Like, like, what happens here, right? But you start to learn these things. Or you started to be like, Oh, well, that was enough. Let's boom, we're done with that song, you know? Or let's you turn it into an actual song, that kind of thing. But that takes playing music to get to that spot. I can't imagine someone just picking up a guitar and being like, alright, it's an easy watch me on the changes. We're gonna stop after the third riff, you know, I mean, come on, right. So same thing with the novel, is that it felt like I was like playing jing, jing, jing jing, without having any fucking idea when this ends, where it's going, if I'm supposed to like, like, hot, like, where I'm supposed to direct it, blah, blah, blah. For whatever reason, when B had a clear finish line to me, or like, like, like a spot that I was like, Oh, this is a great way for this story to end. So because I had that landmark in mind, I worked my way there. So I wouldn't say when he was the first book I wrote. So I wouldn't say lack of confidence. Just straight up. Lack of know how, because and for listeners. Yeah, I would never want this this sense that you're saying, um, this guy sounds like he's confident believes in himself. I would never want that to be unrelatable in like, I would never want to listen to back Well, I don't feel like him. He has him. That's kind of lame. Is that whatever the fuck? No, of course, I'm like freaking out all the time, like everyone else. But to me. There's a few things like we we all have read LeMans bad books by our favorite authors. We've all we all our favorite directors have made movies. They were like, yeah, it was alright. And if you can say like, Yeah, this is okay. A book by one of your favorite authors. What are you scared about sitting the right one here? Oh, yeah. This is one of your favorites. And this guy wrote a lemon. Chillin? Yeah. What are we talking about here? So never doubt. But I mean, you know, never tripling down. There's moments for sure. But definitely, certainly, there's a period of like, I didn't know what the fuck I was doing. Yeah,
Michael David Wilson 57:52
yeah. Yeah. So I think yeah, self doubt must have been the wrong word that you then kind of latched on to that like, no, no, no, not self doubt.
Unknown Speaker 58:05
Was Trina you? Yeah.
Michael David Wilson 58:07
Yeah. But you know that there was something missing. And then we've Wendy, it wasn't missing. And I think that will be hugely relatable because we have these moments. And then, I mean, it can feel, you know, looking in that it's like, well, since since Wednesday, then you just went forward, like you found the piece for that one. And then you could end stories going forward. Now, I'm sure. And, you know, we even spoke about, you know, when you wrote Mallory, originally, it was a completely different story. So it can't be that now, every time you set out to write you have the perfect story. But there must be something within that is, I guess, assisting you to end stories in a in a better way or to have a higher chance of completion.
Josh Malerman 59:03
Yeah, you know, I think I saw like a tweet or something by Sarah Lange. And recently where she was saying that she had had that moment. And it's not that often when this happens when you're writing and writing and then you realize, oh, oh, this is the end. That moment where you realize I've reached the end, but you didn't, you didn't realize it was like coming up, or that the perfect spot was about to happen, the perfect spot to enter a great ending. I definitely have a sense now in the same way that with like an album, or even just a song of the arc of something and look like that nonfiction book. I wouldn't say there's, well, no, there's an arc in there too. But there's a just a sense of it. There's a sense of the rhythm, the arc, like how deep into this, because some sometimes somebody will be like, how far into it, are you and I'm like, you know, you'd almost expect me to be like, Well, I don't know. I mean, I don't know I'm just writing it, you know, but now Yeah, I can kind of sense, I can kind of sense that this feels like it's a third of the way D for or like, like two thirds in or something like that you can kind of like sense that shit. Um, and so that, again, I think comes with not only writing a lot, and I think it also comes with what's the right word, having a few landmark moments in mind. So in the case of Wendy, the ending, I knew what the ending was, but it doesn't have to be the ending. But like in Birdbox, I had the birth scene in mind, I'm working my way to the birth scene. And that is going to be a min until we get there. So when we get there to me, and it's in a way that the book ends there, the book ends at the bursting, even though there's another, I don't even know 50 pages or whatever after you that's, that's the apex, that's, that's where the book ends. And so it's like, it has more to do now for me have not have not a detailed outline. And now that like a structured like, know how, or this kind of thing, but enough landmark moments and far enough apart from each other, to give yourself like, You got to work from here to there. And once you get to here, now you have a sense of where are we on this arc? So I think a few landmark scenes and having, you know, a sense of rhythm and arc. And that's it. I can't imagine not finishing one now.
Michael David Wilson 1:01:27
Yeah, yeah. And it's interesting, too, because, you know, when we talk about different approaches to novel writing, people seem to almost make it a binary thing, or it's like, Well, are you a plotter or a pantser? But I mean, often times and the way that you've described it to, I would say what you're doing is a hybrid between the two? Because yes, you might think, Oh, well, it is, you're a pantser. But actually, I mean, you've got these scenes, you've got these landmark moments that you're aiming towards, well, that's kind of a plan. It might not be a plan in terms of the traditional definition, but you have things that you're shooting towards. And I think this hybrid style probably keeps you both focused, but also interested because if you over plan, if you put every single scene, there's no discovery, it's going to be a little bit boring doing it. But then equally, if you have no idea where you're going, then I mean, it can work, but sometimes you'll just abandon it because, yeah, it's too much. It's like, where are we driving?
Josh Malerman 1:02:39
I can't believe that in my near decade. And in publishing that I've never heard someone say what you just said about about anyone, not like there's, there's a hybrid, by the way, folks, you know, of this, it really is such a binary question that I think we all like, well, oh, I guess I'm a pantser. But one time I outline you, but no, no, no, you're right. Because landmark scene is nothing to sneeze at, like, you're literally working your way to it. The beauty of the hybrid, I think, is that are there is a plan, as you're saying, and there is a direction. But there is also the freedom of I don't know exactly how I'm going to get there. And so there's a spontaneity there. Right. And I think that a oftentimes, like, almost every time a person will tell me that their favorite part of the book is like one of those interstitials one of those like transitory moments where I'm like, really? That's the part where they're talking in the grocery store is the one you like, like, what about the big burst? And they're like, like, I'd lead up to that amazing smoking Maxi ending, but you'd like you like the outhouse moment, okay. And it's like that's, that happens a lot. So you have the landmarks, the tentpole, the centerpieces, but at the same time, you give yourself that the room to be like spontaneous and emotional on between these moments.
Michael David Wilson 1:04:09
Yeah. Yeah. Thank you so much for listening to This Is Horror with Josh Malerman. Join us again next time for the second and final part of this conversation, where things get crazier. We talk about the impact of the luck you've got as the shameless TV series theme tune. We got some even wilder on the road stories. So if you want to hear that, and every episode ahead of the crowd, become our patreon dot com. Forward slash deaths is hora. Okay, before I wrap up, a quick advert break.
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Michael David Wilson 1:05:48
As always, I'd like to end with a quote. And as we've been talking about life on the road, who better than Jack Kerouac for today's quote. So here it is. Writing at least is a silent meditation, even though you're going 100 miles an hour. I'll see you in the next episode for the second part with Josh Malerman. But until then, take care yourselves be good to one another. Read horror. Keep on writing and have a great, great day.