Josh Malerman's horror 'Bird Box' takes flight

Josh Malerman. (Supplied Photo)

Josh Malerman. (Supplied Photo)

Liz Braun, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:56 PM ET

For a rock star, Josh Malerman turns out to be a heckuva novelist.

Malerman is the lead singer of The High Strung, but being in a successful band never curtailed his fiction writing.

He's been writing his entire life. At the moment, he has a successful horror novel in Bird Box and he's thrilled, but it's really just the tip of the iceberg.

"The only real failure to me is if you don't finish something," says Malerman, who came through Toronto recently to promote Bird Box.

"At 29, I had a breakthrough: I wrote a book. Finished it. Now, I'm 38, and in those nine years, well, I'm working on the 18th book right now. Bird Box is the first one that's been published."

Being published was the plan. "It's not like I was writing for fun — it was like, this will happen one day. Bird Box was just the next idea in line."

In Bird Box, a young mother and a motley group of survivors do their best to carry on in a dystopian world in which nameless monsters lurk. Just the sight of these creatures makes people go stark raving mad, become murderous and then suicidal; to survive is to wear a blindfold. Close your eyes.

Never look.

Sure, the blindness is a metaphor, says Malerman. "You can't even look outside because everything's so crazy, especially in America," he says. "And I live in Detroit! There's the economy, and the fact you can't even open your door any more without going nuts."


Bird Box by Josh Malerman. (Supplied)

But the idea of not being able to look was the real genesis of the novel.

"Some readers tell me that Bird Box is not exactly a horror novel," says Malerman. "You tell someone it's horror, and they're going to imagine a book where a wolfman breaks through the door and eats the family. Which sounds fun," he says, laughing. "But I have nothing to add to that zombie, vampire genre. I am fascinated with the idea of abstract monsters. Like, this conversation is a monster. Or this drink. Or every time you use this pen you're engaging with a sentient entity.

"And one of the things I was most enamoured of, in this away, was the idea of man's inability to comprehend infinity. So if we can turn that infinite idea into an actual figure standing on your front porch, that's kind of what turned me on."

Bird Box is going to become a film, although nothing is finalized yet.

"How wonderful would it be if this book ended up in some experimental filmmaker's hands, who was willing to let the screen go black for a while?" says Malerman. "Imagine – pitch black and all this crazy sound. As a 14 or 15 year old horror fan, that would have been the best experience of my life."

Malerman was around 10 or 12 years old when one of his uncles showed him the Twilight Zone movie. "I was especially smitten with the segment Joe Dante directed, where the kid can create anything with his mind," says the author.

"That's when it all sank in."

Years later, his career in music began when friends from childhood had a band and needed a songwriter. They bought Malerman an organ and asked him to set some of his poems to music. "And after two or three days of it, I was smitten! Oh my god, this was amazing. Play 2 simple chords and say all these wild words over it! It was magnificent."

Adds Malerman, "Writing and music were always together for me."

His take on the whole Bird Box phenomenon?

"Really, the most exciting moment of my life."

Twitter: @LizBraunSun

liz.braun@sunmedia.ca


Videos

Photos