Debbie: Josh, please tell us a little about yourself.
Josh: For ten years I was a “failed” novelist. That means I began many of them but never finished one. I had a breakthrough at age 29, wrote a crazy psycho-sexual horror novel in 28 days and in the ten years that have followed I've been finishing them one after another. Of course, there are many things I could tell you about myself. But the middle point of those two decades really means something to me.
Debbie: And, of course, we want to know all about your book.
Josh: Bird Box is about a mother and two kids traveling down a river blindfolded, attempting to escape Infinity. Sounds nuts, yeah? Well we've all heard the idea that man can’t fathom infinity… that our minds aren't equipped for it. Even as a kid this idea worried me. But what scares me more is the idea of infinity personified, a creature capable of scrambling our brains in the same way. I imagine Infinity on the porch-swing, waiting for me to finish my coffee and leave the house. There I’d see him/it and… and who knows, right? What would happen if we encountered this impossibly lofty idea in a sentient form? Well, that’s what’s happened to Malorie in Bird Box. The book alternates between these river scenes and snapshots of Malorie and a half dozen housemates, people trying to figure out how to live with Infinity out on the front porch.
Debbie: Other books or projects on the horizon?
Josh: Working on the follow up now. I don’t have a title for it yet. Usually I do and usually those few words propel me. Maybe I’ll find it soon. In any event, it’s about members of the army band, sent into the jungle to locate the source of a mysterious, nasty sound. Imagine musician-soldiers on night-watch, wearing headphones, pointing boom-mics into the deep dark woods.
Debbie: Upcoming appearances?
Josh: February 16th at Literati Books in Ann Arbor. April 11th in San Antonio, TX. Since Bird Box was named one of Michigan’s notable books, I’ll tour a handful of libraries. An appearance at the Ferndale Library on April 2nd, which is especially exciting because the book is featured for the month of March, in which copies are handed out to library members who want it. So that appearance could be a good one.
Debbie: Do you have a favorite Michigan bookstore?
Josh: Book World in Marquette is exactly what I love about a bookstore. I lived up there for three months and that’s where I got my magazines (Rue Morgue and Fangoria) plus any new horror novels that came out. Got Breed there. McLean and Eakin in Petoskey is out of this world. Kind of place where you wanna absorb every book in the store. Book Beat in Oak Park is incredible. Just wonderful. The feel in there, the stock, the owners. It’s the kind of place you can walk into and immediately start talking books with people. They turned me on to Philip K. Dick, amongst others. The Library Bookstore in Ferndale has a great horror section, manned by a fella who knows more about the genre than just about anybody I know. When my band was touring I used to call him up on the phone, “Hey, I’m at a Salvation Army in Arizona… found a collection called Dark Forces. Is it a good one?” Bookbug in Kalamazoo is awesome. Nicola's in Ann Arbor. I love love love Schuler Books in Lansing, Okemos, and Grand Rapids. I mean, there are so many good ones. Brilliant Books up north.
Debbie: How about a favorite place in Michigan?
Josh: I love Marquette. My girl is from the UP and her sister lives in Marquette and we spent a season (Autumn) up there. I rented an office from which you could see Lake Superior. It was one of those old detectivey offices; frosted glass windows, creaky wood floors… felt straight out of Who Framed Roger Rabbit? But there are so many places. One summer Allison and I really experienced Michigan’s west coast. It’s hard to spend time out there and not wanna move there. You know? And yet, how is home not my favorite? Where my family and insane friends live? Where my office is? Where I can hang out with a different invigorating character every night of the week?
Debbie: Do you have a Michigan event or happening that you love to attend?
Josh: Motor City Nightmares. I love when a conference room becomes a horror market. I love when people dress up scary. You can meet weird filmmakers there, find old horror soundtracks on vinyl. I met Dee Wallace there one year. I was so nervous.
Debbie: A few fun Michigan people we should all know about?
Josh: Ah man. How about the actor Jason Glasgow. And my girl Allison Laakko is a holy-shit artist, actress, singer, too. I not so secretly see her completing a masterpiece one day. Matt Jones. Musician from Ypsilanti. Misty Lynn, also from Ypsilanti. Start there. They’ll blow your minds up the middle and their shows feel like summer camp used to feel; that sense of, But I don’t wanna go home yet! Go Comedy and Planet Ant both have great comedy troupes. Jeff Milo is our music-journalist-hero. The bass player form my band, the High Strung, also plays in a band called the Mythics and they are really good. Gorgeous, delicate, classy, inspiring. The Handgrenades, a rock band who are reinventing themselves as I write this. James Hall, filmmaker, just finished the Harbinger, a great horror short you can find online. He’s another one I anticipate a holy-shit work of art from. Eleanora’s new EP is magnificent. Get Super Rad, filmmakers, editors; these guys are amazing.
In other words, I’m surrounded. We all are. And we love it that way.
Debbie: Something you'd like a non-Michigander to know about Michigan?
Josh: Oh, I don’t know! Come visit Allison and I. Come over to our house and we’ll play you records and we can talk weird books and movies and maybe we’ll even paint ourselves up and build an alien landing pad out in the yard. Maybe aliens will even land on it. We can shoot a movie, eat well, sleep, whatever. But whatever we do, we’re gonna do it with spirit and I think most houses are like that in this area. Let the non-michiganders know that there’s a lot of spirit here. You know how some places, some locales are regarded as “spiritual vortexes”? Michigan is kinda like that. In a less crystally way.
Debbie: Last question. Some folks in Michigan refer to themselves as Michiganders, others as Michiganians. For our ongoing vote tally: are you a Michigander or a Michiganian?
Josh: Michigander. I’ve never tried the other one on. Maybe I should. Maybe that’ll be like an artistic phase thing. Malerman was a Michigander up until 2015, when he quite suddenly became a Michiganian. Some found it curious, others snooty, but as they say, Life is a wheel that constantly turns, and reinvention is how the old ways burn…
Debbie: Josh, we'll add you to the Michigander column - for now! Thank you for joining us today for Michigander Monday!