Eyes have no use in the world where something terrifying that must not be seen. One glimpse and a person is driven to deadly violence. No one knows what it is or where it came from. Lacking the feeling of trust, Malorie doesn’t have to stay alive but keep her unborn offspring alive.
‘Bird Box,’ a book that has a wider audience in 2014 is now a Nexflix product in which Sandre Bullock has a leading role. Josh Malerman, the author of the overdose thriller ‘Bird Box’, talked to us about his journey from paper to screens.
‘Bird Box’ is your debut novel and its cinema adaptation is going to be on Netflix. How do you feel about the fame you have gained with your first book? Have you got stressed while writing your recent books?
Well, one of the advantages of having written so many books before shopping ‘Bird Box’ was that I never felt the pressure of writing a second or third book. Obviously I’m aware of the fact that I want each of the books to live up to what ‘Bird Box’ has done, but in my world, they’re all about as good as each other.
‘I’ve always seen all the books as episodes of one giant TV show’
So while I worry, like anybody would, I’m also just happily rolling books out, giving them as much care and attention as I did ‘Bird Box’ and let’s take it from there. I’ve always seen things in terms of a ‘career arc.’ I don’t mean to say that I’m worried about my standing or a brand or something, but rather, I’ve always seen all the books as episodes of one giant TV show, as if ‘Bird Box’ was episode one and ‘A House at the Bottom of a Lake’ was episode two. Like the songs that make up an album. And hopefully, one day, it’s the body of work that’ll mean more than each individual story.
Your first novel has published when you’re 39, an age that is neither late nor early at starting a writing career. Tell us about your writing process.
Its funny because I’m grateful for that number: 39. If all this had happened when I was 22 I might’ve lost my mind. But I’ve been writing regularly, for no reason, for so long, that it’s not difficult to continue doing exactly that.
‘The rhythms of the books, the pacing, is very important to me’
My process is fairy simple. I’ve got a long list of ideas that I’m electrified by, I commit to one at a time, and I write every day until that idea is done. This has resulted in many rough drafts around my office, but I’m not afraid of the rewrite work that each calls for. I’m excited for that because the rewrites are where a draft can become a work of art.
You are also the frontman of The High Strung band and you get on the stage. How does it affect you writing practice?
I think the closest link between the band and the books is the idea of writing to a rhythm. I often feel like I’ve got an invisible drummer with me in the room. A guy or a girl who sits down at an unseen drumset and starts playing as I start writing the book. The rhythms of the books, the pacing, is very important to me.
Another thing I’ve discovered is that I work well with notes. When my editor gives me notes, I’m almost always able to see how they help the story. I think that’s possibly from working with a band for so many years, being used to group decisions.
The protagonist of your novel Malorie is pregnant. We see her with two kids on her age in the flash-forward scenes. In your opinion, what does Malorie’s pregnancy contribute to the story?
I see Malorie as a strong, smart, independent person. If she wasn’t pregnant she might play a larger role in the decisions made in the house. She might be something more like Tom. But because she is pregnant, it kinda forces her to be a fly on the wall, to observe, as she’s caring for her baby-to-be first.
It also clearly makes her predicament heightened, right? Because here she is set to bring a baby into a pretty crazy world! Yet, somehow she still comes out strong, smart, and independent. But it’s not until the kids are born that we really see just how strong she is.
I think the idea that underpins ‘Bird Box’, is the indefinite and intangible creatures which takes different forms on the reader’s mind. What does it stem from? Do you have invisible fears like in the novel?
For me it’s always been the concept of infinity. The fact that our minds are incapable of assimilating infinity.
‘You look outside, you go mad’
So now, let’s imagine that Infinity personified, comes to town. There’s a knock at the front door, you answer it, and infinity is standing on the front porch. You can’t fathom it, so you go mad.
I like the idea of a ‘concept’ coming to town in a threatening way. I’ve always been afraid of ‘losing my mind.’ So the idea of sending a concept that delivers madness… It frightened me enough to say yes let’s write this story immediately.
Your characters find the secure place at home, they go into their home in order to protect themselves and break the bond between them and outer world. This reminds me the depression after the terrorist attacks both in Turkey and the world (eg. gay bar attack in Orlando). Most people in Turkey has stood at home for a few days. What do you think about that?
I do think that, in today’s day and age, it’s impossible to read ‘Bird Box’ without seeing it as a metaphor for how crazy the world can be. You look outside, you go mad. But I wasn’t necessarily seeing it that way as I wrote it. I saw it more like, again, a ‘concept’ that could drive you mad, rather than the ways of the world.
But even I have to rethink that now and wonder as to whether or not the book has something more to do with society, and the bad things that can happen out there. I’d rather think of the book as a mediation on the mind, what we’re capable of fathoming. It’s like a Rorschach Test.
Have you ever imagined that ‘Bird Box’ would be a movie one day? What do you feel about the idea that seeing your novel on the TV?
It’s tempting to use the word ‘surreal.’ But the real surreal thing for me was living with the fantasy of all this for two decades. What’s happening now feel hyper-real. As if I’m watching the colors and details of a fantasy drawn in, right in front of me. As if I’d been living in a sketch for a long time. To call this period thrilling doesn’t do it justice. It’s all been an incredibly warm, welcome experience and I can’t stop smiling.