What movie/book scared you as a child?
I was such a wuss as a kid, and hated horror movies. But one of the most disturbing was not horror movie at all: *batteries not included. It’s a family film with Jessica Tandy, for chrissakes. The decrepit building, the palpably unstable slumlord, the erratically flying aliens with glowing eyes made a very unsettling ride for little Jenny.
As for books, there are two that stand out: The Dollhouse Murders by Betty Ren Wright and The Secret Bedroom by R.L. Stine. I still read them, that’s how much impact they had on me. The idea that dolls move about when you’re not looking and recreate scenes of an unsolved murder was unnerving enough. But Stine’s tale of a girl with a secret bedroom (an introvert’s dream!) inhabited by a spirit that can not only invade your mind, but contort reality until you’re just a shell to possess, was enough to keep me up nights.
What was your biggest fear as a child?
For some reason, fire. I was never in one, I was never burned, but I’d get anxious even going near a building in the aftermath, much less look at one on TV. I found the blackness and destruction terrifying, the gaping windows and shredded wood and plaster hanging beyond the frames monstrous.
In *batteries not included, there’s a scene in which some characters take a blissful walk home after a fun night out, only to find their apartment building ablaze. I think that’s what is so upsetting: fire is such a simple, vital element, yet it can destroy your home, kill your loved ones, erase every memento from your past.
Do you like scary movies? Which one is your favourite?
Now I do. I met (and eventually married) a horror movie geek (his descriptor) and I think he was secretly disappointed that I avoided the genre altogether. But little by little he introduced me to older movies like The Seventh Victim (1943), Brides of Dracula (1960) and Masque of the Red Death (1964), and now I seek them out. I begged him to take me to The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2017).
Ghosts are guaranteed to creep me out. Have you ever had a paranormal experience in real life?
No, and I’m sure if I did I would freak right out and move. But I’d like to think we’d be pals, Casper-style. As long as he’s not the chatty type.
Has a book ever really scared you?
In adulthood, no. I’ve gotten the shivers, I’ve been creeped out, but mostly, I applaud the writer for eliciting a visceral response. Ha! Perhaps writing has ruined me for raw terror!
Can you share with us an example of fear in one of your own novels?
Certainly. My protagonist in my novel, Edge of Sundown, is an author too, and much of his motivation comes from fear. The fear he’ll be forgotten, the fear that his creative well has run dry. Turns out it’s much worse: the world moved on and didn’t leave a forwarding address, and his reality is more fiction than his book.
In real life what is your biggest fear? Do you use that when you write?
I have the same fear as my poor protagonist: that one day I’ll be out of ideas and I’ll lose my ability to write.
But also bugs. Even helpful ones, like centipedes and common spiders and crickets. There’s regular ol’ roaches, but also hissing, flying frickin’ roaches. There is no God. Yet I’m writing a picture book about a girl who’s airlifted by a horde of butterflies, or as I call them, Satan’s biplanes. Go figure.
Thanks so much for sharing – am totally with you on the cockroach front – they are pure evil. Also I really want to read some RL Stine books now, I seem to have missed those when I was growing up!
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Edge of Sundown: mybook.to/edgeofsundown
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