And now, without another moment of suspense...
The Horror Librarian: Your novel, A Head Full of Ghosts, gained some definite buzz both within and outside of the horror world. I found the juxtaposition of innocence and evil in the two sisters to be startling and entrancing. Can you talk a little about your approach to characterization?
Paul Tremblay: Thanks! Right off the bat I knew that I wanted to have two siblings be the main focus of the story, and I wanted the story to be told from the POV of the younger sibling. You know, the one who wasn’t possessed or experiencing a psychotic break.
I tried to make Merry and Marjorie’s relationship as authentic as I possibly could. The novel would only really work if the reader believed in them, in what they were going through together. Sibling relationships are powerful and complex, particularly at those pre and early teen ages. Rivalry and loyalty can seem like the same thing. The eight-year-old Merry loves and idolizes her sister as much as she’s confused and terrified of her.
The Horror Librarian: What’s your creative process? How do you build an idea into a story?
Paul Tremblay: It’s different with each story/novel. Generally I tend to jot ideas down in a notebook first. Nothing as structured or as detailed as an outline, at least not in the early going. More like impressions, bits of characters, conceits, or snippets of potential dialogue. A fair amount of doodling too even though I can’t draw worth a lick. From there I either dig in with the first chapter or write a ten page summary/outline of the plot. I’ve done an outline for four of my six published novels. I didn’t write an outline for A Head Full of Ghosts, and I have to say, it was a lot of fun working without that pre-made map. I wasn’t flying totally blind as I had the three part structure and the beginning in end and mind before I started. With Disappearance at Devil’s Rock, I did write a lengthy summary first. Of course, as I got into the book, I veered from summary (and gave myself permission to do so), and that’s a fun part too; those unexpected moments that really brings a story to life.
The Horror Librarian: You’ve served as editor for several prominent magazines, including Chizine and Fantasy magazines. What is your favorite part of editing? Least favorite?
Paul Tremblay: My favorite part was discovering great stories from new writers, or writers who were new to me. It really is exciting to come across something totally original and unexpected, particularly if you’ve just been through a rough patch in the slush.
Least favorite part is getting back passive aggressive or (not so passive) responses to rejection letters in which I included feedback. It’s part of the reason why I quit slush reading, honestly.
The Horror Librarian: It always astonishes me how unreceptive some folks can be to feedback. What writing/editing tools can’t you live without?
Paul Tremblay: My laptop. I envy folks who can write their stories longhand. I’ve tried but I can’t do it. I need a keyboard and cut and paste and delete and all the rest.
The Horror Librarian: What are you working on right now?
Paul Tremblay: I’m working on a new novel outline. I also have a handful of short stories I’m supposed to writing, and in the near future, I’ll be writing an introduction to John Langan’s upcoming collection from Hippocampus.
The Horror Librarian: Awesome! List five things that are on your writing desk.
--Empty mug of tea (just finished drinking it)
--Stacks of CDs I need to bring down to the basement.
--Plush Larry Bird doll.
--An assortment of books (including The Damned UTD by David Peace, Child of God by Cormac McCarthy, The Story of My Teeth by Veleria Luiselli)
--A black notebook.
The Horror Librarian: Thanks, Paul! I’m looking forward to reading Disappearance at Devil’s Rock!