Paul Tremblay’s latest novel, “Horror Movie,” is about a horror movie named “Horror Movie.” The film in the story was produced by a skeleton crew of filmmakers and actors in 1993, an artsy, avant-garde film that developed a rabid fan base — even though the full film was never released. The story is told through the point of view of one of the last surviving actors as he navigates a big-budget reboot of the film.

GBH’s All Things Considered host Arun Rath spoke about “Horror Movie” with author Paul Tremblay. What follows is a lightly edited transcript.

Arun Rath: So, I just finished reading this book and I loved it. To start us off, tell us a bit more about the narrator. Don’t tell us too much about him, but in the “Horror Movie” movie, He plays a character known only as The Thin Kid, and this role really stays with him.

Paul Tremblay: Yeah, correct. Within the book, and this isn’t really a spoiler, you only ever know this man by the name “The Thin Kid”, he never gives his real name. Partly to help further blur the line between actor and character, which happens throughout the book. So it’s The Thin Kid who’s really narrating an audiobook. He says he’s composing an audiobook about his experiences on set, off set, and the years in between 1993 and 2008 — and then even 15 years after, when they’re trying to reboot the movie.

So you get it from mostly his point of view, which is certainly sort of a classic unreliable narrator. Maybe. But you also get the whole screenplay of the movie sprinkled throughout the book.

Rath: So we have three different frames going on at the same time. We have the narrator in the past, in the present, and the script of the original film. It’s kind of interesting that the tension builds up along all three, and it’s almost like a fugue.

Tremblay: Yeah, I hope that’s the case. I hope I didn’t make it sound too complex. I don’t think it is, although I had to explain it to my mom.

That was part of the fun: the ambiguous, sort of liminal space that this story ends up taking place in where things seem very realistic. But then things start to get a little foggy and dreamlike, I hope.

Rath: There’s actually a lot of funny parts in this along with a lot of horrible parts. But when he finally decides to cash in on this experience, he starts out on the horror convention circuit selling signed photos. There’s this great scene where he’s at a table between a horror writer and the guy who played Jason in the “Friday the 13th” movies. I’ve got to ask you, is that based on personal experience?

“I wanted to try to roll in not only that there’s the movie that’s being made, but the whole weird experience that is now pop culture. Of anything that’s popular, you get this almost rabid fan base, you’ve got conventions, you’ve got the Hollywood experience.”
Paul Tremblay, author of “Horror Movie”

Tremblay: Oh, yeah. 100%. It’s based on a wonderful convention that takes place in Williamsburg, Virginia, called “Scares That Care” — although they’ve broken up into multiple ones now. Scares That Care picks three families in the local area and raises a boatload of money for them, so it’s a really wonderful charity event.

The first time I went to Scares, it was some authors and a bunch of horror movie actors and celebrities. It was a fun opportunity to do a few things, poke fun at Hollywood a little bit and my experience there. Also to honor my fan experience because I’ve gone to those things — outside of events that I’ve been at as a writer, too.

I wanted to try to roll in not only that there’s the movie that’s being made, but the whole weird experience that is now pop culture. Of anything that’s popular, you get this almost rabid fan base, you’ve got conventions, you’ve got the Hollywood experience where you get some very cynical producers and studios sniffing around even though they’re really not interested in making art, they just want to make money.

So, yeah, I tried to put as much of the very strange 21st-century experience of trying to make art, whether it’s writing or a movie.

Rath: On the Hollywood side of things, there’s a funny contrast between the original, super low-budget version of this and the big-budget Hollywood reboot. You’re someone who’s now had a book made into a Hollywood movie. How much of that is in there?

Tremblay: Sometimes I’ve been describing “Horror Movie” as like, “Oh, you know, it features a really grim, disturbing horror story, but also with a little bit of Hollywood satire.” Even though it’s from the actor’s point of view, it’s reflected my anecdotal experience as a writer going through the Hollywood stuff, and I borrowed some friends’ experiences too. There’s a line in the book that came straight out of my film rep’s mouth when I first joined up with them, when he said, “I’m going to pitch you as a creator, not a writer, because no one out here respects writers.” Which is funny in sort of like a sad-clown kind of funny way — because in my experiences, that’s been true.

Rath: The writer’s role in this is really central. That script that is intercut from the original horror movie into this is written really strangely for a screenplay. There are long stretches describing interior thoughts, and then these parts where it’s engaging the reader directly and accusing the reader, saying basically, the reader or the watcher — is complicit in this horror.

Paul Tremblay: I think if it’s horror fiction or horror movies, on some level, I don’t necessarily want to say you’re implicated all the time, but there is sort of that accusation there.

Since you’ve been reading my stuff, I don’t know if everyone asks you like, “Oh, why do you like reading this stuff?” I mean, I get that all the time. So that part was like, “Oh, how can you read about horrible things happening to people?”

Rath: I get that question a lot, actually.

Tremblay: Yeah, so part of that is directly engaging with both myself as a fan of horror and also as someone who creates it like, is there a line? What’s the line? Why do we do this? I find like all of those to be really interesting questions.

Rath: There’s also people going to extreme lengths for their art in [the making of] this “Horror Movie.” The narrator kind of does that. Can I say that without spoilers? Again, I wonder about you as a horror writer. Is that something that you do, or is that something that disturbs you on a meta level?

Tremblay: Well, from the writing side of things, I was more looking at it like, typically I’m alone in a room writing. I might send my draft to some first readers or my editor at the end of the process. But I wouldn’t describe it as a collaborative process, per se — certainly not the same as it is for a movie, particularly for an independent small budget movie like this. I’m sure all the people involved would like to make money, but they’re definitely going in wide-eyed, knowing that they’re probably not going to make a lot of money. They’re doing this because they have this drive to do it.

So I was really fascinated by that collective will to make such a small movie and the sacrifices those people are willing to make, could be financial and even taking physical risks, too, with what’s going on in the movie. I base some of that off of what had happened on the original “Texas Chain Saw Massacre,” what a really dangerous set that ended up being. What I just really wanted to dig into is the collaborative process: When do these people go over a line where this group thought, “Well, we’re making decisions that are best for the movie and not necessarily the best for the individuals”?

Now, obviously, we see that writ large when you’re talking states and corporations and things like that. But that line is really fascinating in terms of making art as well.