Ferndale author to share debut novel with community at Ferndale library

By: Joshua Gordon | Woodward Talk | Published March 5, 2015


FERNDALE — How do you conquer the fear of something if you can’t face it?

This is the question Ferndale author Josh Malerman poses in his debut novel, “Bird Box,” and one fellow residents will have a chance to answer during the month of March after the Ferndale Area District Library selected Malerman’s book as the official novel of Ferndale Reads, a program established to celebrate National Reading Month.

“I remember when I was 13 and my teacher said a man could go crazy if he were to contemplate infinity, and at 13, that was a really frightening thought,” Malerman, 39, said. “Years later, when I was looking for new, strange monsters and I was writing about a woman traveling down a river blindfolded with two kids, and I thought about what she was fleeing, I thought about that whole infinity concept.

“There was something she could not wrap her mind around and she could not look at without fear of going mad.”

Malerman’s book was released in May 2014, but it wasn’t easy to get to that end point. Writing was something Malerman always liked to do, even in the fifth grade when he attempted to write his first book, but it took a lot of failures before he reached the point of having his first book published.

“Between the ages of 19 and 29, I failed at writing about six novels,” he said. “I made it about 300 pages into one and I didn’t finish it. It was about a decade of believing I could do this, but for 10 years it never happened.”

Instead, a few of Malerman’s friends pulled out some old poems he wrote and started to sing them to music and found that they made great song lyrics. So, instead of working toward publishing a book, Malerman became the frontman for The High Strung as they toured across the country.

But, he never stopped writing.

“I was touring around the country with my friends, and we toured for six years, but I was always riding shotgun and writing on the road between Portland and Salt Lake City,” Malerman said. “ I had this growing pile of rough drafts, but we were on the road having the time of our lives, so I was never in this rush to get the books published. I never looked at the rough drafts and saw any money signs.”

After overcoming the writer’s block that stopped him from completing a novel, Malerman said, he wrote about 20 different rough drafts in the past decade. And somewhere in there was “Bird Box,” though even Malerman didn’t know it would be the one to be his breakout book.

A chance posting on Facebook about a different book helped Malerman partner with a lawyer who represented authors and eventually a manager and agent. As Malerman looked through his manuscripts, it was “Bird Box” that stuck out as the potential first step.

“Bird Box” was three times longer than its current 260 pages in paperback when it was first written, Malerman said, and it was penned in less than a month before being completed on Halloween a few years ago.

Working with a manager and agent, Malerman cut the pages back and refined areas, but the crux of the novel stayed the same.

The book follows lead character Malorie as she tries to guide herself and her two children down a river, blindfolded, to avoid laying eyes upon whatever entity has caused the entire world to go mad from viewing it. The story is told with current-day happenings intertwined with flashbacks.

Writing for the horror genre, Malerman said, he always has had a soft spot for monsters and feels his stories can offer something different.

“As with any writing, if you and I wrote the same exact scary story, they would be different because we are different,” he said. “Every little thing would be different. So taking aspects from the modern world, plus your own voice — that combination brings about something different automatically.”

Ferndale Reads will kick off at 3 p.m. March 7 with a party. Book discussion meetings will take place at 7:30 p.m. March 19 and 31, and an event for readers to meet Malerman will be held at 7 p.m. April 2. All events will take place at the Ferndale Area District Library, 222 E. Nine Mile Road.

Reference Librarian Darlene Hellenberg said the library chose Malerman’s book as a way to get residents reading a local author. The library also chose the book because it is in the horror genre.

“One of the main reasons we picked it was because it was different than all the other books we have picked before; it is a thriller and just a different genre, so we can pull people who are excited about that type of book,” she said. “Also, we thought it would be really cool to celebrate our hometown guy because it is awesome that someone who lives in Ferndale is having great success with his book. It was sort of a no-brainer to pick it and get people more excited about it.”

With “Bird Box” available in more than 30 countries, Malerman has had the chance to promote his book locally and in New York City with publisher Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins. He said he has received messages from readers in Brazil, Spain and France who have enjoyed his book.

Having the chance to share his story with others is a great feeling, Malerman said, and he hopes those locally enjoy his book as much as he does.

“This is the biggest thrill in the world because I blindly thought this was always going to happen,” he said. “It is part I-can’t-believe-this-is-happening, but the other part is yes-I-can, because I thought this would happen.”