Friends! Pleased to introduce you on this last day of July to the fears of Cheryl Head. Cheryl lives in the Washington, D.C. area, but she’s originally from Detroit, where she sets her awesome Charlie Mack Motown Mystery Series. If you’ve never read these books, you’re in for a treat. I love Charlie for all her complexity as a character. She’s strong and sassy, but also very vulnerable, and gets into plenty of trouble while fighting for justice. Check out the latest, Find Me When I’m Lost, right here. And now, read on to discover all the things that keep Cheryl up at night…..
What is the scariest thing you remember from childhood?
It’s an incident from when I was probably ten or eleven. My younger sister and I had a summer camp trip to an amusement park in or around Detroit. My mother’s last words to me had been, “Take care of your little sister.” My sister, Linda, who was always a dare devil, wanted to ride the rollercoaster. I’d never ridden one, but somehow I knew it wasn’t something I’d like. Linda insisted on the rollercoaster ride. I said no, but she darted from the line into one of the cars. I followed to protect her. Thus began the most harrowing and frightening event of my childhood. Going up in the air, and then down at fast speeds, when I’m not in control, is not my idea of fun. I still do not ride rollercoasters. You will find me on the ground, holding the purses, backpacks and jackets, and waving to my pals on the ride.
“Going up in the air, and then down at fast speeds, when I’m not in control, is not my idea of fun.”
Do you believe in ghosts?
Yes. I do, although I’ve never seen or interacted with a ghost. But I do believe we are spiritual beings and spirit has no temporal, or physical boundaries. So ghosts must move amongst us all the time. I am a religious person, and the idea of a Trinity where one of the expressions of God is a “holy ghost” resonates with me. I wouldn’t mind having a ghostly visitor, one who is friendly, who helps me imagine things I could not imagine. That would make me a better writer.
What’s something most people are afraid of that you are not?
Snakes. As long as I can outrun it, I’m not afraid of it.
Have you ever had a paranormal experience?
Yes. Ten years or so ago, the Washington, D.C., area had an earthquake. I was working at a desk on the lower level of my house, and I felt the movement very clearly. On the second roil, I stood and walked to the front of my house to the staircase leading to the upper level. I very clearly (in my head) heard a voice say: “Get out!” I did. I was the first on my block to head to the sidewalk and knocked on a couple of my neighbor’s doors to tell them maybe they should also come outside. Turns out it was a 5.8 earthquake. It freaked me out. Decided that day that my reaction to danger is more flight than fight.
What’s the scariest thing you’ve ever written?
In my first Charlie Mack Motown Mystery, I write about Charlie being knocked unconscious, hogtied, and left for dead under furniture in an overgrown city lot. It took me several days to write that scene, trying to get into Charlie’s head, and imagining the sensory reactions she would have to such an experience. Readers have told me the scene is dynamic, but it was scary for me to envision and get down on paper.
Do you have any horror movie dealbreakers?
Yes. No slashing of women with knives. That theme used to be so ubiquitous in horror movies—and now in a lot of the crime/mystery content on various cable/streaming networks. I’ve watched it in the past, but I can’t watch it anymore. I recently tried to watch Brian DePalma’s Dressed to Kill, but I just couldn’t get past the elevator scene. If you know that movie, you know what I mean. Really the whole “slasher” genre is crossed off my list.
What is your favorite monster/villain?
The monster in Alien. It is such an adaptive monster. It has the ability of camouflage, an unyielding desire to survive, acid secretions, with sentient intelligence, self-awareness, and it likes to kill.
You are renting a remote house with a few close friends when all the electricity cuts out. Are you the friend who does down to the basement to check on the situation? If not what do you do when someone else does, and you hear them calling your name from that dark basement?
I’m a crime writer. I don’t go to remote houses without thinking a bit about the potential dangers and pitfalls, and having made some preparations. I will not be the one going into a dark basement for any reason, mostly because of mice, not bad guys. But, I’ll be able to give my more courageous friends my flashlight, or candles that I’ve brought. I will also have warned my friends to wait until morning to figure out the electricity, so unless it is my child (I will move into any dangerous situation to protect my child) my friend will have to fend for him or herself.
Cheryl Head spent twenty years in public television and radio before turning to fiction writing. Her award-winning first novel, Long Way Home, is a story of the experiences of black soldiers in America’s segregated war-time army. Head writes the Lammy, Goldie, and Next Generation Indie Books-nominated Charlie Mack Motown Mysteries, whose female PI protagonist is queer and black. Head is director of inclusion at the Golden Crown Literary Society, whose mission is to increase the visibility of lesbian-themed literature. She is also a Bouchercon board member. In 2019, Head was named to the Hall of Fame of the Saints and Sinners Literary Festival.