Josh Malerman broke onto the horror fiction scene in 2014 with Bird Box – one of those name-making first novels that anyone who complains that there’s nothing original left in the horror genre should definitely check out. When he’s not writing fiction – his second novel Black Mad Wheel is due out next year – he fronts the rock band The High Strung.
I first interviewed Malerman when he was doing the press tour for Bird Box, and it’s a pleasure to have him here for the Library’s launch.
Okay, time to get scary!
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31 Days of Halloween… with Josh Malerman
Describe a time when a scene in a horror novel really unnerved you.
There’s this pocket-sized scene from The Exorcist that didn’t make the movie that really messed me up at the time. I read it on an airplane (don’t remember where I was going) and I had to pause, look around the plane, and piece myself together again. Here’s the scene, when Chris (Regan’s mom) is visiting the string of doctors, trying to find out what the hell happened to her baby girl):
She’s been sitting in the kitchen, Chris told the doctors, when Regan ran screaming down the stairs and to her mother, cowering defensively behind her chair as she clutched Chris’s arm and explained in a terrified voice that Captain Howdy was chasing her; had been pinching her; punching her; shoving her; mouthing obscenities; threatening to kill her. “There he is!” she had shrieked at last, pointing to the kitchen door. Then she’d fallen to the floor, her body jerking in spasms, as she gasped and wept that Howdy was kicking her. Then suddenly, Chris recounted, Regan had stood in the middle of the kitchen with arms extended and had begun to spin rapidly “like a top,” continuing the movement for several minutes, until she had fallen to the floor in exhaustion
(There’s an animated version of this scene on YouTube if you wanna see it played out. Just search: The Exorcist Novel- “Captain Howdy’s Chasing Me!”)
In your opinion, what is the all-time scariest horror novel or short story?
Bianca’s Hands by Theodore Sturgeon stunned me. Not saying any more about this one other than you might as well find it online and listen to the audio version in the dark.
What’s the scariest scene and/or book you yourself have written?
I’ve got this scene that takes place in On This, the Day of the Pig, a novel of mine that I’m talking with Cemetery Dance about publishing in a limited edition. In the scene, a boy spots the shadow of his grandfather’s telepathic pig out in the hallway outside his bedroom door. Hoping to escape the pig that must be coming for him, Jeff crawls out his bedroom window, out onto the roof, where he finds his deadbeat father crouched on the shingles. Jeff hasn’t seen “dad” in ten years and the old man simply says, “Hey, Jeff. How you doing?” And that just about cracks Jeff’s mind in two. He’s doing all he can to escape this impossible surreal horror inside the house only to run into an impossible but very real horror outside on the roof.
What are your top three fears?
Here’s a few that really stand out:
1 – The idea that a demonic parasite could become profoundly interested in me, enough so that it follows me everywhere I go, watches me from less than a foot away, crouches beside my bed and nods to itself as I sleep.
2- Truly losing my mind, even for a moment. Standing in line for a movie, say, blinking, and looking around to find all the other moviegoers and the ticket taker bathed in a blood that matches the blood congealed on the blunt instrument I hold, the instrument I don’t remember lifting at all.
3- Driving on a slim winding mountain road when both my headlights die together. Just me then… and the darkness… and the ledge…