“To learn what we fear is to learn who we are. Horror defies our boundaries and illuminates our souls.”
― Shirley Jackson, The Haunting of Hill House
Another week drops off the calendar, another week closer to Christmas, and I’m still searching peoples heads for their fears. This week I have a wonderful guest in Karla Forbes author of the Nick Sullivan series of political thrillers, including her latest offering Fallout, who has shared her darkest fears with me, and again I am fascinated by how we are all fearful of something, and that it always seems to come from something in our younger days when our young minds are grasping at the threads of the world, pulling our dreams out of the clouds and sometimes, unveiling nightmares. Welcome Karla….
Even though I don’t actually remember watching it, I know for a fact that the film that scared me most as a child was the original Walt Disney version of Snow White. Let me explain.
I have a lifelong phobia of ghosts and the dark. I didn’t admit it to anyone, not even to close family members until just a few Christmases ago when we had driven to a holiday home we used to own in Germany. It was late in the afternoon on the shortest day of the year when my husband slipped on the ice and broke his ankle. As I watched him being taken away by ambulance, I knew that I’d be spending the night alone in this large house situated on the outskirts of a dark and gloomy forest. For the first time ever, I was being forced to face up to my biggest fear and I didn’t cope at all well. I spent most of the evening on the phone in tears to my two adult children who were not only shocked that their dad was in hospital but that their mum was blubbing down the phone because of a phobia that no one had ever suspected.
The moment we arrived back in the UK, I decided I needed professional help. Since then, I’ve had numerous counselling sessions and even tried hypnotherapy but nothing has changed. My phobia is as severe today as ever but my bank balance is a bit lighter as counselling and hypnotherapy don’t come cheap.
So where did it come from? Well, that’s an easy one to answer. My mum was heavily into spiritualism and filled my young head with her talk of the spirit world. In my mother’s defence, she had no idea of the damage she was causing and for some reason, I never plucked up the courage to admit that she was scaring me witless.
But I have an older sister who was also frightened by all this talk of ghosts but as she grew up, she left her fears behind whereas I have been stuck with them for my entire life. I have often asked myself why this could be. What was different about my sister which enabled her to move on whereas I become a small, scared child whenever I’m alone in a house at night?
One possible answer brings me back to Snow White. At the age of three, I was so frightened by Snow White that I had to be taken out of the cinema, screaming in terror. I don’t even remember the incident as I’ve probably blocked it from my mind but I know it happened because my mum mentioned it in conversation a few years later when I was a young woman. I suspect that it’s this incident that cemented my fears somewhere in my child brain and meant I could never move on.
The irony is that I’ve never had a paranormal experience in my life. I’ve never seen, heard or even sensed a ghost. The problem for me is that authors have too much imagination. I don’t need to see a ghost to fear it because it’s all there in my head.
I avoid anything ghostly. I never read anything spooky and if I find myself accidentally watching anything vaguely supernatural on the television I panic and grab the remote control to change the channel.
A literary agent once told me that I should embrace my phobia and learn to love it because it helps bring out the best in my writing. I refrained from telling her what I thought of that particular theory.
My fear of the paranormal, doesn’t mean that I can’t write anything scary. My books contain murder, terrorism and blackmail. Fallout is the first book in a series of nine thrillers featuring the same protagonist. It’s about a consignment of plutonium, left over from the cold war, which is discovered by terrorists and used to make dirty bombs. It’s contains scenes of violence but there is also humour because that’s what life is like, a mixture of good and bad, nice and nasty. One thing you can be sure of though is that none of my books will ever contain anything even slightly supernatural.
I think you are onto something here Karla – I realized while reading this that its the only Disney movie I watched once and wont watch again. Looking at images from it now I am reminded of how terrified I was of the witch and of the woods. And anyone who’s read my book Purgatory Hotel knows I might have an issue with woodland…..Thank you so much for sharing this with me, and for awakening my own fears again…..
Universal link to Fallout mybook.to/fallout1