What Scares You, Christopher Swann?

I’m so excited to chat all things scary with my friend Christopher Swann today (pictured here after painting a ceiling last summer, or right before the authorities come to take him to a safe, locked room—your choice). Chris’s book, Never Go Home, released this month, and you need to get it right now. I had the pleasure of reading an advance copy of the book and I will tell you if you love bad-ass female protagonists (and who doesn’t?) then You. Will. Love. This. Book.

But the most important thing is what terrifies the shit out of Chris. So read on, my friends!

What is your greatest fear?

It’s a tie between being eaten alive and dying alone.

Is there any fear you’ve overcome in your life? How has that changed you?

Talking to large groups of people. I overcame it by becoming a high school teacher, where you have to, on a daily basis, engage groups of adolescents who may not want to be there. I still get nervous, but that fear energizes me rather than keeps me from talking.

What was your worst nightmare ever?

I had a nightmare where I was in an airport and my father walked past me, wearing a trench coat and a hat and carrying a briefcase. I called out for him, but he ignored me. I ran after him, but it was like running in slow motion—he kept walking, and I barely made any progress. I finally caught up to him when he was about to go through the metal detector. “Dad!” I yelled, and he turned around. But it wasn’t my father. It was Morgan Freeman, and he opened his mouth and had long vampire-like teeth. I woke up screaming.

What scares you most about the writing process?

Submissions. And writing a synopsis.

What is your greatest fear as a writer?

The fear that I’ll have nothing to write, or that no one will care about what I do end up writing.

People often say death is their greatest fear. What are your feelings about death/dying?

I’m at an age where I’m not old, but I have more yesterdays than tomorrows, and it’s making me realize how valuable time is. Immortality sounds great, but I think it would be miserable, at least in this life. Everything has value because it’s finite. The thought of death is sobering, but it also motivates me to both enjoy the moment and to write the books I want to write before I no longer can. I don’t know what will happen to me when I die—if I’ll go to heaven or nirvana or some sort of hell or just cease to exist. But I have a hard time believing that a merciful God would condemn sinners to burn for all eternity.  

What animal scares you the most?

Great white sharks. I’m fascinated by AND terrified of them. When I was a kid, my next-door neighbor had HBO, which was a big deal in the early 1980s, and HBO played Jaws constantly, so I saw it several times. Ever since, I can’t swim alone. I could be in a hotel pool in Denver, and I won’t swim alone because the shark might swim up through the drain and get me. I know sharks aren’t evil and that they are an important part of the food chain, but I’m horrified by the idea of being eaten alive by one.

What’s scarier: attics or basements?

Basements. Attics are hot and dusty and have spiders. Basements have the whole “buried alive” thing. There aren’t many terrifying dungeons in attics, excepting the madwoman in the attic in Jane Eyre.

If you HAD to live through/experience one of Stephen King’s novels or stories, which one would you pick and why?

Oh, dear God. I mean, I like the ones where a band of friends join together to defeat evil—which is a lot of them—but so many awful things happen along the way. What’s the least horrifying Stephen King novel? Is there one? Probably not. But if I had to choose, I’d say maybe The Dark Tower: The Waste Lands, when Roland’s ka-tet is formed.

Christopher Swann is a novelist and high school English teacher. A graduate of Woodberry Forest School in Virginia, he earned his Ph.D. in creative writing from Georgia State University. He has been a Townsend Prize finalist, longlisted for the Southern Book Prize, and a winner of the Georgia Author of the Year award. He lives with his wife and two sons in Atlanta, where he is the English department chair at Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.