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!

A mysterious kind of week

This week has and continues to be a whirlwind! Last Thursday, we traveled up to New York City for the Edgar Awards. We spent some time at the Dell Magazines cocktail party, where my friend Stacy Woodson was honored with the Readers Choice Award for her story “Duty, Honor, Hammett” in the Nov./Dec. 2018 issue of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, along with other friends Josh Pachter and David Dean rounding out second and third place.

2018 Readers Choice Award winners for Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine
From left, David Dean, Janet Hutchings, Stacy Woodson, and Josh Pachter.

Later that night, I got to see my fabulous husband take home an Edgar for Best Short Story!

Art Taylor! And Mr. Poe!

If that wasn’t enough mingling for this introvert, I’m now looking ahead to this coming weekend and the Malice Domestic convention in Bethesda, MD. I’ll be on a panel at 2 p.m. on Friday, 5/3, with the other Agatha Award nominees for Best Short Story–Leslie Budewitz, Susanna Calkins, Barb Goffman, and Art Taylor. You can read all our stories here if you want to check them out!

I’ll also be doing an author signing from 10-10:30 a.m. on Saturday, 5/4, and I’m told there will be galleys of One Night Gone out in the wilds of the conference (or stuffed into registration bags), so if you happen to snag one, come see me so I can practice signing my novel. AHHHHHH!!!!

Cover RE-REVEAL: One Night Gone

Surprise! Just when you thought I had a cover….I have a new cover.

The smart, lovely team at Graydon House/Harlequin decided that my original cover didn’t quite speak enough to the suspense/thriller genre that my book really fits in. So they gave it a facelift! And a beautiful one at that.

For those of you who were fans of the creepy house in the original–good news! It’s still there. But we’ve shifted focus slightly to the stormy night sky instead of the sandy beach, giving the overall look one with more menace and intrigue. Check it out!

Same house, added creepiness!

Story Sprint—Writing a Story in 20 Minutes

Everyone has a reality show these days—housewives, house hunters, doctors, singers, sword-swallowers. I’ve always thought it would be the most boring show in the world to watch writers write.

And yet, about 60 people showed up last week in Old Fairfax Town Hall to do just that—watch writers write. Well, to be fair, we went into a different room to do the actual writing, but the purpose of the evening was to see what three writers could do with the same first line and same last line and twenty minutes in between to craft a story.

I was pleased to be one of the three writers, along with Zach Powers and Colleen Kearney Rich. I will admit—I was terrified leading up to this event. I’m generally a fast writer, but writing under pressure? I wasn’t sure I’d be able to come up with something—anything—coherent.

Luckily, the audience was great, and the lines they chose were just interesting enough to be interesting, but not so crazy weird that we couldn’t come up with anything. Here were our first and last lines:

Grandma’s cookbook is worn and torn, a living record of splotches, comments and comfort.

When the plane lands eight hours later in Rome, the airport is completely deserted.

My first thought—zombies. So I went with it. I am actually proud of the story I came up with, though I’m not going to share it here since I want to work with it some more and maybe, at some point, submit it. But we’ll say that it was not so bad that I was embarrassed to read it aloud, so I consider that a win.

In fact, I was impressed with all three of the stories—all different in tone and plot despite having the same starting and ending point. It was fascinating to hear them all and see the audience response.

A really great event overall. Thanks so much to Fall for the Book, George Mason University, and the City of Fairfax for hosting us. I had a blast!

Photos by George Bradshaw