You’ve probably heard of ‘Bird Box,’ the apocalyptic Netflix thriller driving the Internet up a wall (and making its fans walk blindfolded into one). No one has died from the ‘Bird Box Challenge‘, but everyone is dying over the viral memes that haven’t slowed since their initial breakout. You may know that the movie’s original inspiration was a Josh Malerman novel of the same name—but how much do you know about that novel? By the end of this article, the answer will be a lot more. Let’s go.
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Josh Malerman is one of those frustratingly talented individuals, who, having succeeded in one artistic field, then went on to succeed in another. Given that becoming a famous author or a famous musician is already pretty unlikely, this dream career gets even harder with the addition of the ‘and’. Malerman is the singer/songwriter of Detroit rock band The High Strung, and that comes with some seriously high ambitions.
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When the band took off after hit TV series Shameless chose “The Luck You Got” as its theme song, Malerman’s life got a whole lot busier. Despite playing over 200 shows per year on tour, Malerman found the time to write many rough drafts of novels—that’s not drafts of the same novel, by the way. In total, he wrote fourteen unpublished novels before publishing Bird Box, though it’s uncertain whether or not Malerman wrote all of those during his six years of touring. If so—damn.
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Why did Malerman get into a second incredible-but-not-usually-profitable art form? Shocker—it wasn’t the money. Malerman remarks: “I never saw the books with dollar signs in my eyes. It was no hobby, that’s for sure, it was the real thing and always has been, but I was happy, then, simply writing.” He credits his own success as anyone might: a potent concoction of hard work and blind luck. When Malerman reconnected with a high school friend who had publishing industry connections, it wouldn’t have mattered had he not already cranked out up to fourteen possible books. And ‘cranked out’ is the right term to use here—Malerman wrote the draft of Bird Box in only twenty-six days.
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He describes the timeline and the draft itself:
It was dreamy as hell. Nightmarish and fast. Foggy, strange, scary. I didn’t set out to write an experimental draft but that’s sure as hell what itsomething lo-fi about that draft and I think lo-fi is always scarier than hi-fi. A shitty, crackly microphone makes you wonder what’s going on in the vocal booth. A grainy film makes you wonder who made it? The rough draft of Bird Box was like this. And yet, the final draft, the one we have now, is just as misty, just as ghostly, and certainly scarier overall.
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Bird Box became his first publication, and the film rights were optioned in 2013 before the publication of the book. As a debut author, Malerman tried some gimmicks to promote his work. After its release, he and his wife gave the audience blindfolds on his book tours, encouraging them to experience the dark world of his characters. (Unlike in the ‘Bird Box Challenge’, everyone probably remained seated.) Either the trick worked or the writing did—Malerman’s debut, Bird Box, has been his most successful novel to date, a twist almost as shocking as the actual book. Though debut novels are much harder to sell, Bird Box was nominated for several prestigious awards. Ultimately, it won the Michigan Notable Book Award. Since then, Malerman has written a total of seven books. Losing your mind yet?
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