Please welcome Tyler Hayes to The Qwillery as part of the 2019 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Imaginary Corpse is published on September 10, 2019 by Angry Robot.
TQ: Welcome to The Qwillery. What is the first fiction piece you remember writing?
Tyler: When I was ten years old, I wrote a two-page piece of Anne of Green Gables fan fiction about Anne visiting my fifth grade classroom. I think it was a writing prompt, but I don’t remember for sure; I do remember the piece implied I had a crush on Anne and I wound up writing in permanent marker on the paper that I refused to read it aloud in class.
TQ: Are you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?
Tyler: Plotter with pantser tendencies. I world-build and outline meticulously but I find myself skidding and drifting all over the place once I get down to the actual prose. I find I don’t really know a character or a scene until I sit down to write it, and sometimes I discover I’ve thrown a monkey wrench into my own plan.
TQ: What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?
Tyler: The doubt. Art is very personal and very subjective, and I have an anxiety disorder for added neurochemical fun. I have some days where doing the work is a struggle just because my own brain is telling me that I’m not good enough, that there’s something wrong with the work I’m not seeing. For reasons I’m sure will always be a mystery, it seems to happen most frequently during revisions.
TQ: What has influenced / influences your writing?
Tyler: The fiction I read, of course, but also the fiction I watch and the fiction I play. I’m an avid video gamer (mostly Steam with an odd dash of old X-Box and SNES games) and player of tabletop RPGs, and both of those have leaked into my work. My experiences in therapy for anxiety and PTSD and my ongoing time as a part of social justice circles have also left their marks.
If I were to analyze my literary DNA, I’d point to Mike Carey, Raymond Chandler, Neil Gaiman, Tim Powers, and Noelle Stevenson for prose and comics; from TV, Steven Universe; from film, Wes Anderson, Pixar, and Guillermo del Toro; and from video games, Chrono Trigger, EarthBound, Sam and Max Hit the Road, and Silent Hill. I’d give a lot of credit to the narrative beats used in a Dungeons & Dragons campaign and the melancholy world-building of the tabletop RPG Changeling: the Dreaming, too.
TQ: Describe The Imaginary Corpse using only 5 words.
TQ: Tell us something about The Imaginary Corpse that is not found in the book description.
Tyler: For all that it does carry a lot of noir sensibilities, The Imaginary Corpse absolutely rejects the cynicism of noir in favor of hope and empathy. That was a deliberate choice on my part.
TQ: What inspired you to write The Imaginary Corpse?
Tyler: The Imaginary Corpse is a stone soup put together out of childhood memories of a game of Let’s Pretend, my experiences working on my own mental health and helping friends deal with theirs, my love of noir style, my desire to tell a story about imagination, and my desire to tell a story about trauma.
TQ: Why a triceratops?
Tyler: Tippy is based on my own childhood stuffed animal, Tippy, who is a plush yellow triceratops. I figured, what better imaginary character to put in the driver’s seat of the narrative than one who had kind of been loved Real already?
TQ: What sort of research did you do for The Imaginary Corpse?
Tyler: A lot of my research came in the form of reading fiction, especially the work of Raymond Chandler, whom I’d always love but hadn’t come back to in a few years. I wanted to make sure I was doing an homage to his wit without just copying his voice or compromising my own. I also did a lot of informal research into trauma, anxiety, healing from abuse, and similar topics.
TQ: Please tell us about the cover for The Imaginary Corpse.
Tyler: The artist is Francesca Corsini. It depicts a character from the novel in the form of Tippy, but otherwise it is very much an abstract representation of what’s inside -- that particular scene doesn’t occur anywhere. But Corsini’s drawing of him really tells you a lot about who he is: you see he’s a detective in the way he dresses, and his missing eye both clues you in that he’s a stuffed animal and hints at the damage done to him and the other Ideas living in the Stillreal. The clenched fist gives you a sense of human connection, a rooting in the real world, but it’s also off to the side, not the primary focus, just like the Realworld in the narrative. The skewed view of the buildings in the background gets you ready for the dreamlike and weird qualities of the book’s voice, and the colors reference both Fritz Lang’s movie posters and Frank Miller’s Sin City artwork, which help give you some genre and tonal hints.
TQ: In The Imaginary Corpse who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?
Tyler: Tippy is the easiest character to write of any character I have ever written. The way he thinks and talks just flows out of me like it was always there. It isn’t even because he sounds exactly like me -- he’s someone separate, but he’s close to my heart.
The hardest character to write was Big Business. I can picture his personality and demeanor just fine, but his way of speaking in business buzzwords was very hard for me, as someone who has only minimal experience with that kind of environment. He required a lot of research and revision.
TQ: Does The Imaginary Corpse touch on any social issues?
Tyler: The Imaginary Corpse is, on one level, about mental health, so it very much touches on the ways in which people get traumatized and abuse, and the ways in which we can help and hinder each other in our separate journeys to get better. It’s also in a lot of ways a response to today’s political climate, though early drafts started before the absolute horror show that was 2016. I needed to write a world where being kind was the answer, so I could try to remember it’s the answer here.
TQ: Which question about The Imaginary Corpse do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!
Q: If The Imaginary Corpse weren’t a book, what form of entertainment would it be?
A: An adventure game in the vein of The Longest Journey or Thimbleweed Park. The bizarre logic, the disparate settings, the mystery thread, it all feels like it’d play naturally as a series of puzzles with some solid graphics work and voice-acting. Plus a video game would be a great place to capture all the different aesthetics of all the various Ideas.
TQ: Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from The Imaginary Corpse.
“Big Business flashes his real smile – the big, terrifying one. It fills the entire bottom of his face, his cheeks folding up into a flying V to accommodate all those professionally polished teeth. I’ve seen that smile on one other being in my entire memory. It was a T-rex.”
“The entrance is a single black door with a bouncer in front of it, a pile of muscles shoved into a coat. She looks at me with eyes just begging for a good fight, quickly decides I’m not going to give it to her, and goes back to glowering at the world like it owes her money. I keep my quip to myself, and head inside.”
TQ: What's next?
Tyler: Next up, I’m working on a possible sequel for The Imaginary Corpse. I’m also working on a contemporary fantasy we’ve been pitching as Lucha Underground meets Winter Tide, and I have a love letter to Dungeons & Dragons on deck for whenever I get the time for it.
TQ: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.
Tyler: Thank you so much for having me!
The Imaginary Corpse
Angry Robot, September 10, 2019
Trade Paperback and eBook, 400 pages
A dinosaur detective in the land of unwanted ideas battles trauma, anxiety, and the first serial killer of imaginary friends.
Most ideas fade away when we’re done with them. Some we love enough to become Real. But what about the ones we love, and walk away from?
Tippy the triceratops was once a little girl’s imaginary friend, a dinosaur detective who could help her make sense of the world. But when her father died, Tippy fell into the Stillreal, the underbelly of the Imagination, where discarded ideas go when they’re too Real to disappear. Now, he passes time doing detective work for other unwanted ideas – until Tippy runs into the Man in the Coat, a nightmare monster who can do the impossible: kill an idea permanently. Now Tippy must overcome his own trauma and solve the case, before there’s nothing left but imaginary corpses.
File Under: Fantasy [ Fuzzy Fiends | Death to Imagination | Hardboiled but Sweet | Not Barney ]
Tyler Hayes is a science fiction and fantasy writer from Northern California. He writes stories he hopes will show people that not only are we not alone in this terrifying world, but we might just make things better. His fiction has appeared online and in print in anthologies from Alliteration Ink, Graveside Tales, and Aetherwatch. The Imaginary Corpse is Tyler’s debut novel.