What Scares You, Ellen Datlow?

When I thought of the idea for this blog series, I immediately thought of Ellen Datlow as someone to reach out to. Ellen is an expert in horror, after all. She reads hundreds–maybe thousands–of stories each year for the Best Horror of the Year anthology, currently in its 11th edition. Her latest anthology, Echoes, features 30 ghost stories by writers such as Joyce Carol Oates, Paul Tremblay, Alice Hoffman, and others.

Given that she spends so much time reading about the darker side, I wanted to know if she also spent a lot of time thinking about what truly scares her.

And today, my friends, you shall find out…

What is your greatest fear?

Loss of control of my life by Alzheimer’s, paralysis, that sort of thing.

Do you believe in ghosts?

I don’t. I don’t believe in an afterlife. However—I do believe there are inexplicable occurrences.

“I do believe there are inexplicable occurrences.”

Do you have a recurring nightmare?

My nightmares are only scary to me—and usually pretty obvious as soon as I think about them when awake: I’m in a phone booth, it’s an emergency, and I can’t dial the phone (rotary);  I work in an office, and when I come in one day, I can’t find my office or the furniture’s been rearranged (I haven’t had this one since I started working at home); I’m on the street where I live (not the real street) and can’t find the entrance to my building; I’m in a foreign country and don’t remember where I’m staying (this one prompted me to start getting cards of hotels with their addresses on them).

What’s the scariest book you’ve ever read? Is there a particular scene that really haunts you still?

The circumstances while I was reading Salem’s Lot scared me. I was in a friend’s large apartment on the upper west side of Manhattan (most apartment in NYC are small), reading alone in the living room as it was getting darker out. There was very little light in the room. At a certain point I was afraid to get up in the dark apartment to go into any other rooms. There must have been other people in the apartment, but I don’t recall them being around.

Who is the best villain, fictional or in real life?

Hannibal Lector. He’s fascinating and utterly terrifying

What’s worse: closed-in spaces or heights?

For me, heights. I think it’s the idea of falling, tripping, being pushed.

Have you ever had any paranormal experiences or premonitions?

Maybe. Several of us were hanging out in a partly deserted house that a friend was caretaking. The others all went out while I stayed in to read. I was pretty sure I was the only one in the building at the time, but I heard what sounded like footsteps upstairs. I kind of freaked, but figured maybe someone else stayed behind. I did NOT investigate. I ignored it, kept on reading, and waited for my friends to return. They said they all had gone out.

***

Ellen Datlow has been editing science fiction, fantasy, and horror short fiction for almost 40 years. She currently acquires short fiction and novellas for Tor.com. She’s edited more than 90 anthologies and has won multiple awards for her work. Her next original anthology is Final Cuts, an all-original anthology of movie horror. She has won the Karl Edward Wagner (special) award given by the British Fantasy Convention, and Life Achievement Awards given by the Horror Writers Association and by the World Fantasy Convention.

What Scares You, Dru Ann Love?

I’m very excited to welcome Dru Ann Love to my web site this month. Dru Ann is such a cheerful, supportive person who I’m always glad to see at writing conventions, so I was intrigued when I saw her post on Facebook earlier this year about her experiences with ghosts. I wanted to hear more!

I knew she’d make a great guest blogger for this series on all things scary, and I was right!

What is your greatest fear?

I have two: Because I’m a deep sleeper, my fear is that I won’t hear danger lurking, like a fire or something catastrophic.

Another fear is dying alone and no one finding my body for several days, simply because I like my solitude and may not be in contact before someone notices they haven’t heard from me.

What is the scariest thing you remember from childhood?

My father tried to drown me in the ocean, all in the name of trying to teach me to swim. To this day I don’t go to the beach or near a pool. I did, however, dip my toe in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and immediately left both places to get on solid ground.

My father tried to drown me in the ocean…

Is there any fear you’ve overcome in your life? How has that changed you?

It goes back to the water thing. My Zodiac sign is Pisces, and you would have never gotten me on a boat before, but when I went on my first cruise with friends, I found that I loved it and have been on cruises multiple times. There’s a huge distance between me on a cruise ship or boat and the ocean. You’ll never find me on any boat that skims the water.

What is your weirdest fear?

That aliens really do exist.

Do you believe in ghosts?

I was about six when I sensed someone was following me, and when I turned around, no one was there, but I knew they were standing next to me as I could feel them.

A week after my friend died, when I was in the laundry room, the washer and dryer would start like she was washing her clothes with me. When I was on the Queen Mary in Long Beach, we took a tour of the swimming room, and a woman waved to me from the bottom, and on a trip to Savannah, a young enslaved girl sat next to me on a bench.

So yes, I believe in ghosts.

How do you deal with fear?

I try not to let it get a stranglehold on me. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I don’t.

What is your favorite type of monster?

Godzilla. Because they keep trying to kill him and he keeps coming back.

What’s worse: closed-in spaces or heights?

Closed-in spaces. I have a touch of claustrophobia.

You are driving alone on a road at night and your headlights illuminate a man standing alone with a lantern in the middle of the road. What do you do?

I will call 911, but continue to drive on.

Is it more or less scary if it’s a little kid in pajamas?

Definitely scarier, and I will park on the shoulder and wait for the cops.

***

Dru Ann Love is the creator of dru’s book musings where the “day in the life” and “get to know you” segments are prominently featured. Dru Ann was awarded the Mystery Writers of America Raven Award in 2017 and was nominated for an Anthony Award in 2015 and 2018. Dru Ann is a member of Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America.

What Scares You, Laura Ellen Scott?

Happiest Halloween! The best day of the year, and not just because it’s my birthday!

My birthday gift to myself–and to all of you–is getting to chat with Laura Ellen Scott about the things that most disturb her.

Laura is not only a dear friend, but also one of the weirdest writers I know–and that is a high compliment. Check out her books here, and also one of my favorite stories she’s ever written right here.

But what we all want to know is: What scares you, LES? Read on to find out:

 What is your greatest fear?

I’m evenly afraid of illness, driving, heights, and spider babies. These are all self-explanatory, except for heights: I’m great at going up, but lose it on the way back down. I had to butt-scoot down the pyramids in Tikal, while all these Guatemalan women in high heels trotted past me. Related–after my first book tour, I developed a fear of flying. (That’s not my greatest fear, just my most inconvenient one.) I guess the worst thing would be if I was taking care of a sick spider-baby and I had to drive it to a hospital on a cliff to see the only in-plan arachno-pediatrician.

What is your earliest childhood memory of fear? Or the scariest thing you remember from childhood?

Earliest would be Uncle Steve’s fingers. There weren’t a lot of them. 

This would have been my scariest memory had I known about it:  There was a large, white iron crib sealed up behind the wall of my old room. I was already grown when I spotted it through a tiny hole in the paneling. When I asked my parents about it and they said, “Oh, we had nowhere else to put that old crib,” like that was a reasonable answer. 

My parents were weird people who made weird decisions and weren’t very parenty. They treated me like a little crime-buddy and took me to abandoned houses to look for stuff left behind, and I was pretty scared that we would get caught by the bandits that lived there. Get it? I thought they were “bandit houses.”

Here’s a pic of a dude who thought my house was abandoned. Turns out he was stealing crap, like vases and towels, to sell at his mother-in-law’s weekly yard sale. 

Most terrifying photo ever.

What is your weirdest fear?

Definitely horses. I have no idea why they don’t spend every minute of the day trying to pound humans into jelly.  

What are your phobias?

Street grates and hatches. Condiments. Toddlers with pickles.

What is your greatest fear as a writer?

Two things: One, that I might get over it. Two, that I might stick with it until long after people stop reading. You’ll be able to come see me “write” as an exhibit at an historical village alongside the coopers.

What’s the scariest thing you’ve ever written?

I wrote a kind of ghost story that appeared in The Collagist called “A Picture of a Man in a Top Hat,” where the neighbor says to the narrator, “Don’t look at me, and don’t look in the shed.” That’s actually what a guy said to me on the bus one day, right as I was getting off at my house. I went inside and stared out the back window at our shed until my husband came home. I have a chapbook called Curio that’s mainly stories I wrote after people were weird to me. People are often weird to me, by the way.

What is your favorite type of monster? Why?

I love an original demon, a personal, closet-monster–like The Babadook or Frank from Donnie Darko–as opposed to the unleashed-on-society monster. Although now that I put those two side by side in my mind, maybe I just like monsters with weird eyes.

What’s worse: clowns or spiders? Why?

Clowns, because they’re a drag. I love spiders. Remember when I dreamed you had a spider baby? You never did, though. Not yet.

“Maybe I just like monsters with weird eyes.”

You are driving alone on a road at night and your headlights illuminate a man standing alone with a lantern in the middle of the road. What do you do? Also, is it more or less scary if it’s a little kid in pajamas?

Both are pretty scary because I don’t drive, so it’s extra-bad if I’m out driving at night. That man and that little kid should just dive in the ditch and cling to each other and hope I don’t plow into them.

***

Laura Ellen Scott is the author of four novels, including THE MEAN BONE IN HER BODY and CRYBABY LANE, the first two books in the New Royal Mysteries from Pandamoon Publishing. The series is set in a fictional college/prison town in Ohio, and the third book, BLUE BILLY, is on the way. Seriously, it really is.

Where I’ll be at Bouchercon

The Bouchercon World Mystery Convention is almost upon us. This year the conference is in Dallas. It will be my first time in Texas, but unfortunately due to the whirlwind of activities, I’ll barely be able to enjoy it! No worries, though. I’m sure I’ll get at least one good Tex-Mex meal in.

Here’s where I’ll be at the conference:

Friday, November 1

3:30 to 4 p.m. —Signing at the Mystery Writers of America booth with Matthew Farrell, Meg Gardiner, Susan C. Shea, Art Taylor, and Wendy Walker

Saturday, November 2

Speed Dating with Art Taylor. Saturday, November 2, 7 a.m.

Panel: “The Postman Always Rings Twice: Desire as a Motive” with Claire Booth, Jane Cleland, Christa Faust, Christina Freeburn, and Anne Laughlin. 9:30 a.m.

I’ll also be attending other panels and programs and looking forward to seeing friends and meeting other writers.

What scares you, Paul Tremblay?

I’m so pleased to have Paul Tremblay kick off my new blog series on fear. Paul is one of my favorite writers, and if his books are any indication, he knows a lot about scary. After reading A Head Full of Ghosts, I knew that Paul was a writer I would be reading for a long time. His latest book, a story collection called Growing Things, is downloaded on my Audible app right now and accompanying me during my favorite month of the year.

It also helps that Paul is one of the nicest humans on the planet.

So, if you haven’t read any of his books yet, now’s your chance to fix that problem. And read on to find out what truly scares him. Here we go!

What is your greatest fear?

Witnessing the end of the world. In the ’80s I was convinced we would die in a nuclear holocaust. Now there are so many options to choose from!

Do you believe in ghosts? Why or why not?

I don’t because they don’t exist. That’s the agnostic/math teacher me speaking (typing). He has control of my brain between 95-97.5 percent of the time. That guy, he’d say something like billions of people have died and if ghosts were a thing we’d be swimming in them. We wouldn’t be able to swing a dead cat without hitting a ghost, even if only a fraction of those billions had ghosts that came back to haunt us. It’s a numbers game. That guy (sorry I split my personality and went 3rd person too. Don’t know how I lost control of this answer so quickly) would claim there was a scientific explanation (low frequency waves messing with our brains, for instance) to ghosts or paranormal phenomena, and if a scientific explanation doesn’t exist, it’s only because we don’t know enough science yet. That guy (me most of the time) is a lot of fun at parties.

The other 2.5-5 percent of the time, I’m not so sure what I believe. These maybe-there-are-ghosts-and-other-things moments tend to occur after a terrible nightmare, or if I’m home alone at night and I hear a noise.

Do you have a recurring nightmare? What was your worst nightmare ever?

After seeing JAWS in fifth grade, in almost all my nightmares, I would end up in the water and then Jaws (that’s the name of the shark, you see) would attack me. I still have weird shark nightmares from time to time. I used to also have Freddy Krueger nightmares too, but not since I was a teenager. But now that I’ve typed this, I’ll probably have another one.

There was one other nightmare I had multiple times as a kid. I would be climbing the stairs to the third floor of my grandparent’s triple-decker and on the trip up, between the stairs or sometimes in a hole in the wall, would be a face. A face that the dream-me knew was pure evil. Evil in face form. I’m writing about this in a silly way because I don’t want to recall that face too closely or accurately for fear that it will come back.

What scares you most about the writing process?

I’m afraid I’ll run out of good or worthy ideas. I’m not sitting on this giant mountain of great ideas that are waiting to be plucked (plucked?). I essentially work from story-to-story and very rarely have a backlog. I have failed ideas or ideas that I spent time with and even outlined, but for one reason or another I decided they weren’t good/weren’t worth the investment of time and effort. Those lost ideas haunt me and I’m always tempted to go back to them, but it has yet to work out for any of those rejects. The losers.

What’s the scariest thing you’ve ever written?

What’s scary is so subjective. What scares you is likely different than what scares me, etc. I roll my eyes when someone whines ‘this isn’t horror because it’s not scary.’ Please spare me and spare us that irresistible review/insight.  

Anyway, that all said, I think The Cabin at the End of the World, particularly the opening chapter, is the most intense and ‘oh no, oh no,’ thing I’ve ever written. It’s a lot of fun to read at readings/signings.

What is your favorite type of monster? Why?

Kaiju are my favorite. They’re so cool and fun, and they were my gateway to horror ultimately. On Saturday afternoons when I was a kid, there was a program called Creature Double Feature. The first movie was typically Godzilla, the second was a horror movie. Godzilla was the hook, and the second movie always scared the hell out of me. Thanks, Godzilla. Thanks a lot.

Though, in general, I like monsters that are lizard or dinosaur-like. A thing that’s almost plausible that it could exist. So the Creature from the Black Lagoon fits in my circle of monster love too. 

What’s worse: clowns or spiders? Why?

I’m not innately terrified of either, but both can certainly be scary. If I found a clown climbing on my bedroom wall instead of a spider, I’d be more freaked out by that wall-crawling clown. But, if I came across a spider the size of your average clown, I’d be more afraid of the spider. It’s all about context.

You are driving alone on a road at night and your headlights illuminate a man standing alone with a lantern in the middle of the road. What do you do? Also, is it more or less scary if it’s a little kid in pajamas?

I’d stop and help the kid, even if it meant my mostly-impossible supernatural death or demise. If it was a guy, I’d keep going. Sorry, lantern dude. Go home, you’re drunk.

Home alone. And scared.

Paul Tremblay has won the Bram Stoker, British Fantasy, and Massachusetts Book awards and is the author of The Cabin at the End of the World, Disappearance at Devil’s Rock, A Head Full of Ghosts, the crime novels The Little Sleep and No Sleep Till Wonderland, and the short story collection Growing Things and Other Stories. He is currently a member of the board of directors of the Shirley Jackson Awards, and his essays and short fiction have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Entertainment Weekly online, and numerous year’s-best anthologies. He has a master’s degree in mathematics and lives outside Boston with his family.

Best book launch week ever.

One Night Gone launched last Tuesday, October 1, and what a wonderful week it’s been. I’ve been so overwhelmed with all the enthusiasm and excitement from friends and readers–you all are the best! Thank you!

I kicked off my first month of events with a book launch party at One More Page Books and More in Arlington, Virginia. I love OMP–they hosted my very first launch party for Modern Manners For Your Inner Demons so many years ago, and I’m still grateful to them for taking a chance on my little chapbook. Eileen and crew are so supportive of local authors. We are blessed to have them here in the D.C. area.

I also had a bunch of other writings, interviews, and reviews published around the Internets. My essay about my mom’s death, ghosts, grief, and Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark was published in CrimeReads. The best part of this was hearing all the amazing stories from people who have also lost a loved one. I feel very seen.

I also had a Very Important Scientific Study over at Criminal Element. Meaning, my son and I watched A LOT of Scooby Doo episodes and ranked our top 10 monsters. Read it. Then fight us.

The Beast of Bottomless Lake

Bookish featured my essay about the three things that creep me out the most (hint: KRAKEN) and why I chose to write about them.

I chatted with Elena Hartwell on her web site, and also with Leslie Pietrzyk over at Work in Progress. Marni Graff allowed me to blab on about the challenges of switching from writing novels to writing short stories and back again. My husband Art Taylor invited me to discuss the beginning of One Night Gone on his popular blog series The First Two Pages. And I had a really wonderful chat with Meredith Cole and Kristin Swenson on the podcast The Writer’s Story.

The cocktails I paired with my characters were featured in “Drinks with Reads” at Mystery Playground.

And Washington Independent Review of Books featured a really great review of the book, in which I finally unlocked the ultimate level of achievement: a book that’s dubbed “unputdownable.”

WHEW! What a whirlwind. And the fun continues tonight when I get to chat with the always amazing Bethanne Patrick at another favorite D.C. bookstore: Politics and Prose at the Wharf. Hope to see you there–or at another event soon.

Main photo credit by David McDonald

Happy book birthday to One Night Gone!

A little over three years ago, I opened a Word document on my computer and started working on this little idea I had.

And now she’s here, this beautiful book. She’s here! She’s finally here!

Today is launch day for my debut novel of suspense, One Night Gone!

Come on over here and read more about One Night Gone. You can also order it at your favorite bookstore.

Or, better yet, check out my tour dates and stop by and say hello!

Happiest of Octobers to you!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go unearth all of my most favorite Halloween decorations to make my house boo-tiful.

Enjoy this, the Season of the Witch!

What scares you?

My husband and son and I recently invited another couple and their daughter over to watch the Ghostbusters: Answer the Call (2016) movie. We discussed with them all of the scariest moments of the film—when the ghosts pop out unexpectedly, some serious treatments of death, even the more vulgar gestures that might be too adult. We thought we’d done a great job of preparing them.

And then we got to the mannequin scene.

“Oh no,” our friend groaned. “Ainsley is terrified of mannequins.”

None of us had any particular fear of mannequins. It didn’t even occur to us to warn them about that. We got through the scene unharmed, and enjoyed the rest of the movie, but it got me thinking about how personal and ingrained our terrors are. Like our fingerprints, our fears are truly unique. And they can define us.

Because fear, like humor, is a very distinct and unique emotion, I wanted to discover more about the different ways it affects us. I guess I just find it really interesting to know what scares people.

For that reason, I’ve decided to start a blog series exploring this very thing. Horror. Anxiety. Night terrors. Monsters. You get the idea.

Twice a month—on the 13th (because…well, you know) and on the last day of the month—I’ll interview someone about their greatest fears. Most of the time, these will be writers (because I have a lot of writer friends), but you don’t have to be a writer to participate. If you’re really into exploring what’s spooky, then shoot me an email on my contact form for consideration.

Look for the first in the series — featuring Paul Tremblay!—starting October 13, 2019!

Win a debut mystery/thriller book bundle!

Friends of mine who love a good book bundle giveaway: I’m partnering with several kick-ass 2019 debut authors to give away copies of our new books to one lucky entrant.

The books included are:

SOPHIE LAST SEEN by Marlene Adelstein

PAST PRESENCE by Nicole Bross

LITTLE LOVELY THINGS by Maureen Joyce Connolly

ONE NIGHT GONE by Tara Laskowski (That’s me!)

COME AND GET ME: A Caitlin Bergman Novel by August Norman

HER DAUGHTER’S MOTHER by Daniela Petrova

The contest runs from May 25 through June 15, 2019. To enter, just fill out the form here at this link. Entering gives you a chance to win all six titles, plus you’ll be subscribed to our author mailing lists*, which will give you more scoop on our books and other giveaways and news.

Enter to win all these lovely books!

*You can unsubscribe at any time. Please see the full contest rules for more details.

My first Malice—A recap.

This past weekend I attended my first Malice Domestic convention in Bethesda, Maryland. I’d been to the Agatha Award banquet dinners in the past — cheering on my husband Art Taylor as a nominee (and four-time winner!) of the Agatha, but this was my first time attending the full conference.

I’ve heard often from regular attendees that Malice is a family, but I never truly understood what they meant by that until this weekend. So many wonderful people have been so kind to me in small and big ways, and that generosity is so amazing. Like all families, there are, of course, some moments of disagreements or bickering, but overall, Malice has always felt very warm and welcoming, and as a debut writer, I’ve never appreciated that more.

Art and I brought our son Dash with us, and while he wasn’t the only child there, he was certainly in the minority, and yet everyone eagerly accepted him into the fold. We had a babysitter (THANK YOU, AVERY!) watching over him, but at times it felt as though we had hundreds of people watching over him. And us, too! During one panel, Art got a text message from someone saying, “I have your name badge!” Turns out Art had lost the name tag in his badge without even realizing it, but he had it back, safe and sound, before the panel was even over.

That’s family.

This year was also my first Agatha nomination — for Best Short Story — so both that was both exciting and a bit nerve-wracking, I’ll admit. And yet, once I got into the swing of things and started to feel that warmth, I realized that no matter what, everything was going to be just fine.

The weekend was a whirlwind, as all good conferences are, but here are some highlights:

  • My first Malice panel on short stories, with fellow nominees Leslie Budewitz, Susanna Calkins, Barb Goffman and my husband Art Taylor, moderated by the wonderful Michael Bracken. I got to talk a bit about Dash entering his first writing contest (which embarrassed and excited him, apparently).
Short story panel!
  • Lunch with my Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine editor Linda Landrigan. It was so great to catch up with her. Later in the weekend, I also got to record an audio reading of my very first AHMM publication, “The Monitor,” which I’ll link to here when it goes live!
  • Talking with new friends and old. I’m sure I’ll forget someone, so I don’t want to even attempt to name names, but I love love love you all!
  • Author signing on Saturday morning, where I got to sign the very first copies of the advance readers of One Night Gone!!
So happy to be signing my first novel!
  • The Agatha banquet! Although I spent the majority of it super nervous, it was truly an honor and a delight to find out I was tied with Leslie Budewitz as a winner of the Agatha for Best Short Story! What an amazing experience! I have my own teapot now! Also, massive congratulations to all the winners this year: Ellen Byron, Sujata Massey, Dianne Freeman, Shari Randall, Cindy Callaghan, and Jane Cleland!

Now it’s back to (boring) reality again. But, can’t wait for next year!