What Scares You, Alexia Gordon?

Today we chat with Alexia Gordon, who is known not only for her excellent crime fiction writing, but also, according to my 10-year-old son Dash, her incredibly thoughtful thank-you notes. Dash isn’t impressed easily, so this, my friends, is an endorsement to be taken seriously.

Alexia has penned the Gethsemane Brown mystery series, and you can find the first book in the series, Murder in G Major, here. She is also the host of a bi-weekly podcast The Cozy Corner.

But what scares her, you ask? Read on to find out…

What is your greatest fear?

That no one will show up for my funeral, except the funeral director and the priest.

What is your weirdest fear?

That no one will be willing to be my emergency contact.

What is your favorite urban legend?

I can’t pick one favorite—I like them all! I think Slenderman has stuck with me the most because it’s a great example of how although the way urban legends grow and spread has changed (Slenderman started as an online creepypasta and then developed a life of its own that, sadly, inspired a real-life murder attempt), the tradition of urban legends persists. At the end of the day, is Slenderman much different from a creepy clown in the 1980s or the boogey man in the 1500s? I will mention one of my favorite podcasts, Camp Monsters. The host takes urban legends and campfire stories and gives them a modern spin. I also like two of the Candyman movies, the 1992 original and the 2021 remake. They’re a love letter to the best urban legends.

Do you have a recurring nightmare?

I don’t have a recurring nightmare. However, I have experienced transient sleep paralysis with hypnopompic hallucinations—a fancy, insurance-billable way of saying hag riding. This is a neurological phenomenon/sleep-wake disorder which many people still attribute to supernatural/paranormal forces. Basically, your brain wakes up while your body is still paralyzed in REM sleep. You sense a physical presence in your room, you see some “thing” in your room—and you’re terrified. Because the “thing” is the embodiment of actual evil. Call it a demon, call it a hag or a witch, call it misfiring neurons. Doesn’t matter what it’s called, it’s fucking evil, and all it has to do is reach out its arm and get you and you can’t. Fucking. Move. Knowing that there’s a scientific/medical explanation for it doesn’t make it any less horrific. That’s the one thing I actually wouldn’t wish on anybody, not even people I dislike.

What animal scares you the most?

Chihuahuas. Those are some vicious little shits. You can be six blocks away and they’ll start barking. They always act like they want to rip your eyebrows off. On the other hand, they make great burglar alarms. I used to have a chihuahua named Barron. He had three legs, and he was the meanest dog in Dallas. He had creeper radar and any man that even thought about looking at me funny got the full-on fuck-around-and-find-out treatment.

“Chihuahuas. Those are some vicious little shits. They always act like they want to rip your eyebrows off.”

How do you deal with fear?

I deal with fear by trying to unpack it. What’s making me fearful? Is fear a reasonable response to the situation/stimulus? Fear is not always a bad thing. If I’m afraid to make give a presentation at work, I unpack that sensation and realize that I’m actually afraid of making a mistake because I’m afraid a mistake will make me appear incompetent. Then I walk through the worst that can, realistically, happen if I make a mistake. Realistically, embarrassment is the worst that would happen.

On the other hand, if the sensation of fear is triggered by a dark alley in an isolated area late at night after I’ve just withdrawn money from an ATM, that’s a reasonable warning that I’m entering a potentially dangerous situation and I should turn around and call a ride share service or wait for someone I know to walk with me or find a different path. Reasonable fear is a tool our brain uses to keep us safe.

Do you have any horror movie dealbreakers?

I don’t have any horror movie dealbreakers. I’ve cut into human bodies, alive and deceased, so I don’t find much intolerable, visually. Theme-wise, real life is worse than anything in fiction. I prefer horror that’s subtle, the kind of stuff that seems scarier the longer you think about it. Jump scares and gross outs don’t appeal to me but I wouldn’t refuse to see a movie that was gross instead of scary. (I’d drag it, though.)

What’s the scariest book you’ve ever read?

The scariest books I’ve ever read are short stories: “The Boogeyman” by Stephen King and “Oh, Whistle and I’ll Come to You My Lad” by M.R. James. They get scary right. Neither King nor James gives you a detailed description of the horror. They leave most of it to your imagination, trusting that what you imagine is worse than anything they could describe. Those stories have stuck with me since I first read them decades ago. Both made me look over my shoulder and shiver for weeks. I have to mention two movies that had the same effect on me: The Blair Witch Project and The Babadook. Both of those films suggested the horror. I’m the type who gets anxious waiting for a specific bad thing to happen. Once it happens, I’m like, “Okay, the worst happened, now that I know what it is, I can figure out how to deal with it.” I’m the same way about horror. I’m on edge wondering what “it” is. The actual “it” is usually less impressive than the expectation.

Do you have a childhood memory of your parents or other trusted adults being truly terrified by something?

I have a younger-than-I-am-now memory of my mom being terrified. I was moonlighting one weekend at the hospital in Bamberg, South Carolina. I called my mom from a phone in the ER, just to let her know what I was doing. I guess the caller ID showed the call coming from the hospital because I hadn’t managed to say, “Hi, Mom,” before she demanded to know what had happened to her daughter. I felt bad for making her think I’d been hurt or worse.

What’s scarier: attics or basements?

Basements are scarier. They’re dank and grotty. And if someone was going to break in, hide out, and wait until you get home to cut you into pieces, they’d most likely hide in your basement. You’re welcome.

Alexia Gordon is the award-winning author of the Gethsemane Brown mysteries,
paranormal cozies set in Ireland. She is also a physician and host of The Cozy Corner with Alexia Gordon, a biweekly podcast that features interviews with authors of traditional, historical, and cozy mysteries.