Whenever I hear Adam Meyer talk about his stories, I am immediately interested. Maybe it’s the screenwriter in him, but he’s got a great talent for reducing down a plot line into a great pitch that hooks you in. I’ve bought several anthologies just because I heard what Adam’s story was about and wanted to read it.
Therefore, of course, I wanted to find out what creeps him out, since he does a pretty great job of creeping his readers out. Read on to find out…
Is there any fear you’ve overcome in your life? How has that changed you?
For a long time, one of my greatest fears was public speaking. I can still remember standing up for the 4th grade spelling bee and being barely able to speak, let alone spell! This fear stayed with me into adulthood, and in my early thirties I decided to conquer it by trying the scariest thing I could think of: standup comedy.
I took a class with a professional standup, and we worked on our routines over several weeks. At the end we were supposed to do ten minutes in front of an audience, and I almost bailed. But my classmates and teacher were so supportive, and I practiced like crazy, and when the time came, I did my ten minutes and had a blast.
I’ve done standup a few times since, and it’s always terrifying and usually great fun. But when I get up in front of a group of people to talk about writing? It doesn’t really scare me, not anymore.
What are your phobias?
Claustrophobia is my big one! It doesn’t often come up, but sometimes I’ll be in the backseat of a car or on a long bus ride and before I know it, whoa! I feel like the walls are closing in, and my heart races, and I’m white-knuckling it the whole way.
My other phobia is dogs. The neighborhood where I grew up in New York City sat against this huge stretch of wild marsh. My parents had forbid us from going in there, so naturally my little brother and I went in there all the time! These wild dogs would roam around, and I can remember one barking fiercely and chasing after us. In retrospect, this scraggly mutt was probably more scared of us than we were of him, but the fear I felt that day has stayed with me.
These wild dogs would roam around, and I can remember one barking fiercely and chasing after us.
What is your greatest fear as a writer?
Like almost every writer I know, I fear the blank page. Starting a project always scares me, even if I have a good sense of where it’s going. What if it’s no good? What if I run out of ideas midway? What if people read it and think it sucks?
After the first few pages, that fear usually drops to a low murmur. But as much as I fear beginnings, I also fear endings, especially on longer projects. What if I can’t stick the landing. And what’s the next project going to be?
All of this said, I like to be scared when I write—that’s how I know I’m challenging myself, and that’s where the fun lies.
What’s the scariest thing you’ve ever written?
My first novel, The Last Domino. There’s nothing supernatural in it, but it’s about a school shooting and is told from the point of view of the perpetrator and his best friend. I remember writing the scene late in the novel where the shooting unfolds—I did it several times, throwing it away and starting over.
The last time, I put myself into a kind of trance, imagining myself in that school with bullets flying. It all seemed so real that I wrote down what I felt and saw and that was the version that made it into the final book.
A colleague told me that when his teenage daughter read it, she was traumatized … which I feel badly about, and also take as a compliment. My own daughter is seven now and she’s asked when she can read The Last Domino. My wife told her not until she’s sixteen. I say when she graduates college … maybe.
What’s the scariest movie or TV show you’ve ever seen?
I can remember so many from when I was a kid, maybe only ten or twelve years old. In Search Of, hosted by Leonard Nimoy, is a favorite. The stories of ghosts and aliens were all supposedly true and that added to the delicious scariness.
I also remember my brother and I had a babysitter who’d let us stay up late on Sarturday nights to watch Tales from the Darkside. The opening titles alone were terrifying!
Later, I watched the original Halloween on VHS in our neighbor’s basement. The masked face of Michael Myers, the eerily repetitive John Carpenter score. I was terrified and hooked.
But the absolute scariest thing I remember watching as a kid was A Nightmare on Elm Street. Those images of Freddy Krueger have stayed with me for over thirty years now, and if I put on that DVD late at night, chances are I’ll have nightmares. But so worth it, because I still love that movie.
How do you deal with fear?
For years, I was terrified of the dentist. Sitting in that oversized chair, feeling the scrape of metal on my teeth, hearing the whine of the drill …
This is a somewhat common fear—Marathon Man, after all—but I took it seriously. I long avoided the dentist whenever possible, and when I finally had to deal with some problem teeth, I vowed to face my fear instead of running from it.
What I did was learn to meditate. It’s a great tool. Incredibly simple, but it’s been a lifesaver for me, and I use it in almost any situation where fear comes up—including at the dentist’s office, where I now go for regular checkups. Of course, it helps that my current dentist is a super nice guy … and looks nothing like Laurence Olivier.
Adam Meyer is a fiction writer and screenwriter. His latest short stories appear in the anthologies Crime Travel, the Joni Mitchell-inspired The Beat of Black Wings, and Seascape: Best New England Crime 2019. He’s written several true-crime TV series and TV movies, including the upcoming film Deadly Ransom. He’s also the author of the novel The Last Domino and is currently finishing his second novel, Missing Rachel.