It’s an exciting day here at What Scares You because I get to chat with Christopher Gonzalez, one of my favorite flash fiction writers and now my SFWP publishing sibling. Christopher’s collection, I’m Not Hungry But I Could Eat, is showing up on “Must Read” and “Best-Of” lists everywhere and for good reason. It’s also got one of the best covers I’ve seen in a while! So go get yourself a copy and support Chris and also our favorite small press, Santa Fe Writers Project.
Now, then, let’s get down to business. How does Christopher feel about scary things? Read on to find out…
Do you believe in ghosts?
I’ve grown up with too many ghost stories not to believe in them. Mostly from my mom. She’s very much a child of the ‘70s. I’ve never had any supernatural encounters myself. Still, there’s something about being raised Catholic that instills this fear of demons and the demonic in you, this fear of evil, specifically, that doesn’t plague my adult life as much but was certainly a huge part of my childhood. Maybe that has to do with movies like The Exorcist. I believe that if there are ghosts, they aren’t all malevolent beings. To haunt isn’t always to want to do harm, even if harm can be a byproduct. I guess I also think about ghosts being alive in memory and regret, which gets away from what you’re really asking, though I think that sense of endless lingering connects the real ghosts with the emotional ones.
Do you enjoy scaring other people?
Not at all, really. I’m sure there was a time when jumping out from behind a door and yelling “boo” at a family member was peak humor. Now, I’m such a scaredy cat. My roommate could walk into the kitchen while I’m washing dishes, and even if I knew he was home, his sudden appearance in the space would cause me to jump. I hate it. I hate feeling so easily shaken. So I don’t much enjoy scaring others.
Do you have any horror movie dealbreakers?
Yes—I flat out refuse to watch most horror movies. I can do psychological horror and thrillers, with your everyday violence. Extreme blood and gore make me queasy, so that’s usually out. If there is comedy woven into the horror, I’m much more likely to stomach my fears and watch. Honestly, with horror movies, it’s the noises and jump scares that do me in. I’m such a baby that way. Even with the diet horror I have consumed, I’ve had to be forced to watch them. All that said, anything with demons or dealing with religion? Count me out. There goes that Catholicism again.
People often say death is their greatest fear. What are your feelings about death/dying?
My feelings about death and dying have shifted over the years. The first death I remember was a classmate’s passing in 4th grade. One day he was in class and the next week his parents appeared to retrieve his belongings. He was gone. I still think about him sometimes, the life he might have lived, and whether or not we’d have become better friends. Who would he become? I guess that was the thing: back then, with death, I thought about the what ifs and what might have beens. The past few months we’ve lost a lot of extended family to COVID, and death is now imbued with this feeling of injustice, of feeling robbed. This feeling that it didn’t have to be this way. I think this shapes my feeling toward death and has for several years before the pandemic. I guess I no longer think about death as this individualistic thing that either comes about because a person ages into it or how their health plays some kind of part. Yes, sometimes it’s random and unpredictable. Absolutely. But I’ve started questioning what factors can lead to one’s death, whether it’s state-sanctioned, racist and gendered violence, lack of medical access and opportunity in this country, economical weariness, or the confluence of it all. So I don’t know if I fear dying itself, but rather what kind of agency is stripped from us in death, that I have no clue what circumstances will lead to my own death.
What scares you most about the writing process?
That so much of it is about holding the mirror to yourself and interrogating what it is you truly feel about the world. Epiphanies and clarity don’t arrive without horrific revelations of past mistakes and regrets. Writing feels like excavation of the heart. It’s not all bad in there! But you never know what you’ll expose.
What is your greatest fear as a writer?
Every answer I think of feels disingenuous. More than anything, I’m afraid I’ll lose it. That I’ll slip into a life where writing has gone from the most pressing matter of existence to the backburner to a distant memory of what it was I dreamt about, woke up for, used to make sense of the world around me. That one day I’ll wake up and it’ll have been ten years since I last wrote. That I won’t miss it at all.
Christopher Gonzalez is the author of I’m Not Hungry but I Could Eat (SFWP 2021). A recipient of the 2021 Artist Fellowship in Fiction from the New York Foundation for the Arts, his writing appears in Poets & Writers online, the Nation, Catapult, Best Microfictions, and Best Small Fictions, among other journals and anthologies. He currently serves as a fiction editor at Barrelhouse magazine and lives in Brooklyn, NY but mostly on Twitter @livesinpages.