Paul Tremblay is a two-time nominee of the Bram Stoker Award whose eerie and fiercely speculative stories have appeared in such publications as Weird Tales, Horror: The Year’s Best 2007, and The Last Pentacle of the Sun: Writings in Support of the West Memphis Three. He is also the author of the surrealist noir novels The Little Sleep and No Sleep Till Wonderland, and In the Mean Time, a collection of his stories recently published by Toronto’s ChiZine Publications. Torontoist subjected Tremblay to its grueling questionnaire, which our loyal readers know as “Coming Soon.” Enjoy.
Torontoist: Give us your one-sentence pitch for the new book.
Paul Tremblay: In the Mean Time is dark/weird/lit collection featuring 15 stories of fear and paranoia, stories of apocalypses both societal and personal, and stories of longing and coping.
Torontoist: How long have you been working on this book?
PT: The collected stories were written over a five-year-period: 2004-2009. While I didn’t solely concentrate on short fiction then (I wrote three novels—two of which were published—over the same period), it does feel in some ways that this book was a long time in the making.
Torontoist: Did anything surprise you about the editorial process?
PT: The biggest change/hurdle for me was adhering to Canadian spelling rules. Heh. The process was certainly different than my editorial experience with my two novels. With the novels, you get the big, scary ‘editorial letter,’ which details all kinds of changes and suggestions, and that revision work can take months. With Mean Time, 11 of the stories had already been previously published and edited, so there wasn’t as much heavy lifting. That said, Helen Marshall of CZP was a joy to work with, and she very much helped me improve one of the original stories to the collection, “Harold the Spider Man.”
Torontoist: How did it feel when the final galleys arrived at your door?
PT: The arrival of a new book is always exciting. A big part of me felt like the kid sitting before a big, wrapped birthday present. Yeah, you’re mostly excited to open the thing, but there’s that tinge of anxiety, the what-if-it-isn’t-all-I-hoped-it-would-be? Another part of me reveled in a genuine feeling of accomplishment, of seeing all that hard work completed. On the heels of the look-at-what-I-did-ma! feelings, another part of me was a nervous wreck: worrying about how readers and reviewers will react, or worse, if there would be any readers and reviewers. Another part of me felt hungry, because I’m always hungry. I’m so complex!
Torontoist: Were you tempted to make major changes to the manuscript at this late stage in the game?
PT: Not seriously tempted. You have to learn to let go and just let the work be at some point. Especially if you’re a hopeless tinkerer, like me. When I reread anything I’ve written, I cringe more times than not, and fret about all the things I should’ve done differently. That said, I’d be more worried if I read something I’d previously written and thought, “This is perfect. I’m a genius!” because that would mean I wasn’t growing as a writer. Oh, and that I was an egomaniac. I’m less worried about becoming an egomaniac, though. Frankly, I see no downside in that were it to happen. I imagine egomaniacs are quite happy.
Torontoist: Is there anything you wish you’d done differently?
PT: Last week, while in a panic to rinse my mouth out after sucking down a shot of NyQuil (vomitous stuff, that), I wish I didn’t rush to shut the medicine cabinet. If I’d have been more prudent, I wouldn’t have gashed my hand on the unseen jagged edge of the medicine cabinet mirror.
As far as this book is concerned, I don’t have any regrets or do-over wishes. That’s not to say I think this is a perfect book. But I do think Mean Time, as much as any book I’ve written, reflects who I am as a writer, and more importantly, I think it comes close as I can get to saying what I want it to say.
Torontoist: What do you think of the cover? How involved were you with the cover process?
PT: I love the cover. I love that Erik Mohr chose to model it on my story “The Two-Headed Girl.” It’s a beautiful, clever, and it’s own odd way, creepy cover. While I have no idea if it’ll help/hurt sales, I think the cover challenges the notion of what a book of dark or horrific stories is supposed to look like, at least where your average reader of dark or horror fiction is concerned. Aesthetically, I love that. ChiZine kept me quite involved all through the process and asked for my input and suggestions. They shot down my idea of having a huge author photo taking up the entire back cover, though. Can’t win them all.
Torontoist: What do you hope to achieve with this book?
PT: I hope for everything, really. Of course I want it to sell well, get great reviews, get buzz, notice, accolades, awards etc. Ultimately, and more modestly, I want the people who read this book to feel something. Disquiet, sadness, anger (at the situation in the story, or at me, I don’t really care), hope: I want you to be moved one way or the other.
Torontoist: Are you working on anything new yet?
PT: I am currently co-writing a young adult novel with the amazingly talented and gracious Stephen Graham Jones. Co-writing axiom: If you’re going to work with a co-writer, always make sure your co-writer is a better writer than you are! I succeeded in fulfilling this axiom. Poor Stephen failed miserably. But he’s a good sport and puts up with my foibles and all the shorter-than-me jokes I make. Well, I haven’t made them to his face yet, but I’m planning on it at some point.
I also have another novel (not related to my first two, The Little Sleep and No Sleep till Wonderland) summarized/outlined. And, I hope to continue squeezing out the occasional short story here and there as well. One such story, “The Getaway,” will be appearing in Ellen Datlow’s Supernatural Noir anthology next year.