Tyler Hayes is an American author living on the West Coast. His debut novel, The Imaginary Corpse, was released through Angry Robot on September 10, 2019. I really enjoyed my trip to the Stillreal (you can find my review HERE). Always late to the party, I missed his initial release Blog Tour, but managed to get in on the action (if a bit late) enough to get a quick Q&A with the guy.
• So, first off, how’s it feel to have your first novel published? Gotten used to seeing your name plastered on books and billboards yet?
I’m not sure there’s a portmanteau dense enough for how good it feels. It’s a mix of a rush of energy, a rush of anxiety, and a tingly feeling like I’m in a slightly cooler alternate universe.
• The Stillreal is quite the amalgamation. A contrast of different cities, worlds and characters. Where you can think around from Playtime Town to the Heart of Business to Avatar City and beyond. What helped inspire this unique setting?
The Stillreal is cooked out of the Dreaming as portrayed in Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman, the Dreaming as portrayed in the tabletop RPG Changeling: the Dreaming, and my memories of The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster and The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams. The tone is heavily influenced by the bittersweetness of all those things, plus the noir writings of Raymond Chandler (though Tippy is at core more Hercule Poirot or Kurt Wallander than he is Philip Marlowe or Sam Spade – his empathy is tuned a bit higher) and the Super Nintendo RPG EarthBound.
• Tippy—sorry, Detective Tippy is one of my favorite characters in a long time. A yellow, triceratops gumshoe that enjoys root beer and long rides in the dryer. Where the heck did you come up with this amazing Friend?
His roots lie in an actual stuffed animal and an actual game of Let’s Pretend. The original Tippy is a stuffed yellow triceratops who lives on my nightstand and has been with me for thirty years. It only felt natural for him to become the main character of this novel when the plot and world started rolling in my mind.
The root beer sprung organically from my mind as a kid-friendly alcohol equivalent, a way of hinting at the arrested development Tippy deals with and the tropes that are crafted into his identity.
Him using the dryer for self-care both came from the scene explaining his relationship with the rain – if a stuffed animal gets wet or dirty you have to clean it and dry it off, right? – and a childhood memory. When we’d go to my grandmother’s house when I was a little kid, I’d have my bath (or later shower) when we got there after a long drive, and then I’d sit down in front of the heating vent in her living room to dry off. I still associate the feeling of heated air on my skin with a sense of relief and comfort, and I passed that on to Tippy.
• And the Detective Stuff?
I wanted to give Tippy something equivalent to Sherlock Holmes’ “mind palace” of information specifically dedicated to the business of private investigation, or a sort of baked-in version of the epiphanies detective characters are always having in mysteries and procedurals. It felt like a logical creation of a small child who has a detective imaginary friend, but not the life experience to understand how the character he’s based on are making the kinds of mental leaps they’re shown to make. To a kid, it could look like magic, so for Tippy, it is.
• The conclusion of The Imaginary Corpse was somewhat open ended. Any chance of a return to the Stillreal in the future?
I’m really hoping so! I have a sequel written and ideas for another sequel queued up, too; whether or not I get to do those really depends on the success of The Imaginary Corpse.
• I eagerly await the official stuffed companion Tippy—yellow as the morning sun, gumshoe cloak about his shoulders, clutching a root beer in one… hoof? Hand? Whatever triceratops’ have. When can we expect it?
I actually raffled off a custom Tippy stuffy at my launch party [Note: I didn’t win]. After he’s out in the world, though, I’m hoping we get swamped with demand and that official stuffy is immediately put into production.
The original Tippy stays with me, though.
• Let’s say that for some reason you aren’t writing. Maybe your wrists are broken. Maybe it’s carpal tunnel. Or maybe you just needed an off-day. What’re you up to?
Assuming my hands are working, I’m sleeping in, taking myself out to breakfast, getting a mani-pedi, and then reading and playing some board games. Probably exercising at some point, too.
• And finally: congratulations for your success, sir! Thanks for taking time out of your undoubtedly busy schedule to indulge my ludicrous questions. I expect great things from you in the future. Good luck with the extended blog tour, signings, and further and future writing!
Thank you so much for saying so, I really appreciate it! Take care of yourself and I’ll be hoping you hear from me again very soon.