I’m so thrilled to welcome the great Gabino Iglesias here to What Scares You. Gabino is an excellent writer, a champion of other writers, and someone who is just very, very cool. Case in point: He’s currently co-editing a collection of found footage horror stories–find out more information here and submit!
We also share a deep love of creepy things, including dolls and ghosts. I loved hearing about what scares him. I really appreciated his interpretation of the “do you enjoy scaring people” question, which I always thought of in the sense of practical jokes or campfire ghost stories, and I totally agree about his deal-breaker in horror. Read on to find out more…
What is your greatest fear?
Strangely enough, it’s real stuff: poverty and sickness. Both of those can make you feel powerless and desperate. You can talk to someone about zombies, werewolves, ghosts, and demons all day and you’ll hear them laugh, but ask them to imagine their child or mom or spouse dying from cancer and their face will change.
Do you believe in ghosts? Why or why not?
Hell yeah! I believe in ghosts for two reasons. The first one is that I dated a woman who could see them. I wrote about it recently. Hopefully someone will pick it up. The second reason is because I saw one in an old hotel.
What’s something that most people are afraid of that you are not? Why aren’t you?
The two most common fears I encounter/hear about/read about that don’t affect me are fear of ghosts and fear of animals (i.e. spiders, snakes, scorpions, etc.) I’m not afraid of ghosts because I’ve never heard of one with a knife or a gun. They are creepy, sure, but they can’t hurt you. As for animals, they are what they are. I won’t try to grab a rattlesnake when I see one, but it probably belongs wherever I find it, so it’s on me to leave it alone. Most animals have relatively predictable behaviors, and unless you’re trying to shoot a video for your YouTube channel, your chances of survival are high. You know, unless you encounter a hungry shark or an angry bear, but that’s like a car crash in the sense that there’s not much you can do about it, so no need to live your life afraid of it.
Have you ever had any paranormal experiences or premonitions? How did you deal with it?
Yeah, I saw a ghost at a hotel. Life went on. I grew up in the heart of syncretism and almost everyone I know believes in something, so my definition of paranormal might be a bit weird, but I’ve seen things, heard stories. I deal with it by accepting that I don’t understand everything. I don’t know how to slice a human open, take out a tumor, and close them back up, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen every single day.
Is there anything you are terrified of eating? Why?
I’m not terrified of anything in terms of food, but I hate the smell of liver, and gizzards are awful.
Do you enjoy scaring other people?
I love it. Fear brings us closer to our feelings, to our humanity. It also serves as something that pushes our fragility to center stage. I love making people feel unsettled because doing so with fiction is a challenge. I can write about a kid being mutilated and some folks will feel uncomfortable, afraid, or unsettled, but I can do the same to other readers by talking about racism, sexism, or homophobia. Finding out what makes people afraid of or unsettled is a constant challenge I relish.
“Fear brings us closer to our feelings, to our humanity.”
What is your greatest fear as a writer?
My biggest fear is that one day I’ll run out of energy and the insecurities will get the best of me. This is a business in which bad reactions, bad reviews, and rejections are a given, and we must constantly find the strength to overcome that and keep going, and losing that strength, which I’ve seen happen to many writers, usually means not writing ever again, and that would be horrible.
What’s the scariest thing you’ve ever written?
Can you vaguebook in an interview? I’ve heard more comments about a scene in my next book than I’ve ever heard about anything else I’ve ever written…
Do you have any horror movie dealbreakers?
I do, and it’s the same one I have with horror novels: rape. I will read nonfiction from sexual abuse survivors, but when a movie or book uses rape as the one thing that should horrify you and there’s nothing else in the plot, I’m done. Rape is horrible and should never be used for shock value.
What’s worse: the black abyss of space or the black abyss of the bottom of the ocean?
The black abyss of the bottom of the ocean because, in a way, it’s closer. Also, folks don’t swim around in space. The bottom of the Mariana Trench hides many things, and I’m sure half of them want to eat us. I grew up in the Caribbean and Jaws messed me up for life. If great white sharks hang around the surface and giant squid swim under them, what’s looking up at the squids?
Gabino Iglesias is a writer, book reviewer, editor, and professor living in Austin, Texas. He’s the author of ZERO SAINTS and COYOTE SONGS and the editor of BOTH SIDES and HALLDARK HOLIDAYS. He has been nominated for the Bram Stoker Award twice, the Locus Award, and won the Wonderland Book Award for Best Novel in 2019. He teaches creative writing at SNHU and runs a low-cost series of workshops for writers. You can find him on Twitter at @Gabino_Iglesias.