What Scares You, Alice Henderson?

Friends, I devoured Alice Henderson’s first book A Solitude of Wolverines. I’ve got an obsession for survival tales, and combining that with a great mystery is a perfect book for me. I love Alice’s heroine, Alex Carter, a female Rambo/MacGyver combo. I’m so excited to read the second in the series, A Blizzard of Polar Bears, which just published this month. If you’ve got a nature lover or a survivalist or a mystery fiend on your Christmas list, I’ve just solved ALL your problems for you.

And now on to Alice’s favorite scary things! She’s got some good ones here…spoooooky!

What is the scariest thing you remember from childhood?

I grew up around the corner from my grandmother, who lived in a beautiful old house built sometime in the mid-late 1800s. Strange things happened in that place. Rocking chairs rocked by themselves. Footsteps creaked down the upstairs hallway when no one was there.

Once I was playing in her attic alone, going through old books and photographs. My grandmother liked to scare me, and this afternoon I heard her creeping up the attic stairs. So I snuck to the top of the stairs, and when her footsteps reached the top step, I jumped out, intending to turn the tables on her. Only she wasn’t there. I raced down the stairs, calling for her. No answer. Then I happened to glance out of the window, where I saw my grandmother way in the very back of her yard, gardening. I tore out of there, and the attic door slammed by itself behind me!

Do you believe in ghosts? Why or why not?

I do indeed believe in ghosts, and not just because of my grandmother’s place.

Once I was in the Stanley Hotel, that magnificent edifice in Estes Park, Colorado, that inspired The Shining. It was late at night, and I was standing in the billiard room. Not many people were still up, so I had the room to myself. Adjoining the billiard room was what I assumed to be a music room, as someone was playing the piano in there beautifully. But the double doors that separated the two rooms were closed, so I couldn’t see. I didn’t want to disturb the player, but I was curious, so I snuck to the doors and peeked through the crack to see who was playing. No one was. The music cut off abruptly. The bench in front of the antique grand piano was empty. The whole room was empty.

Alice, being very brave at the haunted Stanley Hotel.

What is your favorite urban legend?

When I was a kid I remember hearing about mutant alligators growing to gigantic proportions in sewers and storm drains. My friend Becky and I would routinely explore this large storm drain in my hometown, going deep inside the dark tunnels, bent over with flashlights. More than once we heard something scrabbling down there, but instead of picturing alligators, for some reason we always thought it was rabid clowns out for blood or mutant carnivorous creatures that could see in the dark, with long, raking claws.

What was your worst nightmare ever?

My worst nightmare ever was one I had at a really young age, probably around four, but that I still remember vividly. I was in my backyard and this thundering storm gathered, black clouds churning. A powerful wind kicked up, tossing leaves through the air. I looked behind me, and lumbering there was a gigantic turtle with black spikes on its back. The whole dream was in black and white except the turtle’s eyes, which gleamed with a sinister red light. I started running toward the house, but the wind gusted so forcefully that I couldn’t move forward. I tried crawling, but I just slid back toward the insidious armored turtle, grasping fingers sliding through the dirt beneath me. I woke up terrified. Because seriously. It was one really scary turtle. I mean it. Don’t laugh.

What’s something that most people are afraid of that you are not? Why aren’t you?

I love nature and spend a lot of time out in the wilds. People often ask if I’m scared out there. “What about bears? Or wolves?” they ask. But I find the wilderness and wildlife to be deeply comforting. I love the little creatures, too — spiders, insects, snakes. If I’m lucky enough to have a spider in my house, I always let it be.

Have you ever had any paranormal experiences or premonitions? How did you deal with it?

Yes, I have experienced premonitions, though none of them have been particularly helpful or of great import. Once I knew upon turning a corner in an unknown part of town that I would encounter a black dog on the far side of a chain link fence with a red collar on, and I did, about five minutes later. Usually these flashes come to me in an instant, sometimes only seconds before coming true, and I always wanted to let someone I was with know what I’d seen before it happened.

So once as a teen I was at my friend’s house. It was just the two of us, as his mom was out for the evening. Suddenly I had this image of her entering the house with a container of milk. I grabbed his arm and cried, “Your mom! She’s about to come through the door with a jug of milk!” He shook his head and said, “No, she’s out on a date.” Seconds later the door opened and his mom stepped in, carrying a jug of milk. “I remembered you were going to make pasta with cream sauce tonight,” she told us, “and we were out of milk.” I felt so satisfied that finally I was vindicated at showing my ability to see into the future, but my friend was seriously freaked out.

What is your favorite monster/villain?

This is a draw — Peloquin from Nightbreed and Pumpkinhead. And while both are monsters, I wouldn’t consider them villains. Peloquin is the fiery heart of the Nightbreed, wild and rebellious. And that Pumpkinhead can be called upon to avenge a terrible wrong, though at a great cost to yourself, is a powerful message. Plus Pumpkinhead just looks amazing. In fact, I have a Pumpkinhead figurine lurking on my bedside table.

Alice Henderson’s love of wild places inspired her new thriller series, which begins with A Solitude of Wolverines, as well as her novel Voracious, which takes place in Glacier National Park and pits a lone hiker against a terrifying foe.

In addition to being a writer, Alice is a dedicated wildlife researcher. Using a variety of methods including bioacoustic studies, she undertakes wildlife surveys to determine what species are present on lands that have been set aside for conservation. She has surveyed for the presence of grizzlies, wolves, spotted owls, wolverines, jaguars, endangered bats, and more.

She has also written media-tie in novels, including official novels for the TV shows Supernatural and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. While working at LucasArts, she wrote material for several Star Wars video games.