What Scares You, Valerie Burns?

Ok, so I know that people joke all the time about burning down the house if they find certain things inside it–namely a snake. Or a spider. Or a flying squirrel. Or…you get the idea. An exaggeration. But honestly, I’m not sure how Valerie Burns spent even one additional evening in her house after opening the closet and finding that creature inside. Yes, you have to read on to find out what I mean.

Also, given all the trauma it must’ve caused, the least you can do is go buy her newest book, Bookclubbed to Death, the 8th book in her Mystery Bookshop Mystery series.

And, of course, read this great interview with her about all things terrifying…

What are your phobias?

I have a fear (some would call a phobia) of reptiles and rodents. Okay, so it’s my pest control technician who said it was a phobia just because I saw a mouse and threatened to burn my house down if he didn’t come out (after-hours on a Saturday) to catch it, and YES, I want it REMOVED. For the record, he came.

What is your favorite urban legend?

Snakes and small reptiles that people have dumped into the sewer coming up through the pipes and ending up in your toilet. Why? See comment above about phobias. 

How do you deal with fear?

I avoid it. I don’t enjoy being afraid and my reaction isn’t proportionate to the fear. So, my first goal is to avoid things that scare me. If I can’t avoid it, then I become a psycho-killer with no limits. For example, I don’t like spiders. So, I pay a pest control company to spray a barrier around my home to prevent their entry. IF a spider manages to cross the barrier, then I have been known to crush it with a broom/shoe/large heavy object and then use an entire can of bug spray to melt the beast until there is nothing left but a mound of foam and the outline of a carcass. If I had a flame thrower, I’d probably be homeless.  

A wolf spider hanging out on Valerie’s clothes. Nope.

What scares you most about the writing process?

Sending my manuscript off to my editor scares me. Even after 20 books, I get scared when I press SEND. A feeling of terror grips my heart, and I anxiously await an email telling me that my writing sucks and they are now canceling my contracts.  

What’s your favorite horror movie or television series?

I used to enjoy The Twilight Zone with Rod Sterling. There was a psychological element of those episodes that made them scary in a completely different way than most shows that were airing at the time. There were often episodes featuring people who looked like your neighbors, but there was something a little off-kilter, which was far scarier than typical slasher films. The episodes made you think, and that’s dangerous and often quite scary.  

What animal scares you the most?

Reptiles and rodents. See phobias above. Seriously, I have no idea why I’m so scared of rodents and reptiles. I’ve heard people say, “They’re more afraid of you than you are of them,” but I seriously doubt that’s possible. 

What’s something you’ll never do because you’re too scared? 

Own/handle a snake. Notice a theme? Personally, I’m good with my fears, and I’m not trying to overcome them. I plan to take them to the grave with me. I’m good. 

Which evil, murderous persona most matches your personality and why: slow-walking psychotic serial killer; vampire stalking victims in the wee hours of the night; rich megalomaniac with grand plans to take over the world; centuries-old demon witch looking for revenge; or Hyde-like, fueled with rage and no impulse control?

I’m closer to the slow-walking psychotic serial killer. People who look normal on the outside, but no one has any clue what’s going on inside. Then one day, the police arrive and take them away in handcuffs and the neighbors say, “I had no idea they killed 26 people and buried their bodies in the backyard.”  

Valerie (V. M.) Burns is an Agatha, Anthony, Edgar, and Next Generation Award-finalist. She is the author of the Mystery Bookshop, Dog Club, RJ Franklin, and Baker Street Mystery series. She is a mentor in the Writing Popular Fiction Program at Seton Hill University in Greensburg, PA. Born and raised in northwestern Indiana, Valerie now lives in Northern Georgia with her two poodles.