Megan’s book, Thicker Than Water, released this week! It’s a thriller about two sisters-in-law who “are at painful odds when the man who connects them—the brother of one, the husband of the other—is accused of a brutal crime.”
There’s a reason many of us write suspense and thriller novels about family. Because the people closest to us often have the capacity to mess us up the most. I’ve been doing these interviews long enough now to note that many of our fears stem from childhood things, such as Megan’s example below about watching a spooky movie too early (and having a MEAN sister who capitalizes on that to scare the pants off you).
Read on to hear more about Megan’s fears of natural disasters, penguins, free-falling, and other happy topics. And then, go buy her book!
What is your greatest fear?
It’s a three-way tie between tornadoes, appendicitis, and being buried alive.
What is the scariest thing you remember from childhood?
As a kid, I was terrified/traumatized by the movie The Watcher in the Woods. And yet, every time it came on TV, or every time my sister and I saw it a Blockbuster (oof, am I aging myself?), we had to watch it. The image that scared me most was that of Karen, the sixteen-year-old girl who was trapped in another dimension and appeared to the main character in mirrors and other reflective surfaces. Karen is blonde, blindfolded, and whispering “Help me,” and one night, my blonde sister put on a blindfold and shuffled into my bedroom whispering “Help me.” And though I knew it was just my sister torturing me (like older sisters tend to do), it was also very much Karen, who’d walked out of the television screen and beelined straight toward me. Needless to say, I did not sleep that night.
What is your weirdest fear?
This isn’t something I’m afraid of, per se, but the name for it has “phobia” in it. I’m repulsed by clusters of circles and/or holes, or as I put it for much of my life before I learned it had a name, “round things close together.” The name for it is trypophobia, and some things that really trigger it for me are wasps nests, honeycomb, barnacles, and some plant I don’t know the name of and refuse to google because that would mean having to look at it.
What is your favorite urban legend?
There’s that one about the babysitter who’s trying to watch TV after the kids go to bed but is totally spooked by a clown statue in the room. She finally can’t take it anymore, so she calls the parents and asks permission to move the statue, at which point they tell her: “We don’t have a clown statue.” There are various conclusions to this story—the clown is an escaped mental patient, or a serial killer, or a ghost—but it doesn’t really matter to me how it ends. “We don’t have a clown statue” is chilling enough for me.
“There’s that one about the babysitter who’s trying to watch TV after the kids go to bed but is totally spooked by a clown statue in the room.”
Do you have a recurring nightmare?
When I was a kid, I had a recurring nightmare of my grandfather walking into a room with a penguin. The dream was always in black and white, and my grandfather’s hands were always shaped into claws, which he shook at me as he slowly approached. This dream never made sense to me. My grandfather did not scare me in real life—and why was there a penguin there?? Why was it in black and white?? This is probably not the worst nightmare I’ve ever had, but it always freaked me out so much, until I woke up and was like “Gramps doesn’t even have a penguin.”
What’s the scariest thing you’ve ever written?
Does my terrifyingly bad sixth-grade poetry count? If not, I’ve been told that my scariest book is The Family Plot. Apparently, my dad jumped like three feet out of bed one night while he was reading because he heard a noise from another room, and other people have told me it left them unable to sleep. I don’t find it scary myself, but I do think it’s likely my creepiest book to date.
What’s your favorite horror movie or television series?
The Netflix show Midnight Mass, created by Mike Flanagan. It’s not the series that scared me the most (that might be Requiem, which I also discovered on Netflix), but it’s the horror series I found to be the most brilliant and breathtaking. It’s beautifully written, filled with horrifying surprises, and I love what it’s saying about religious extremism, about the dangers lurking in close-knit communities, about guilt and regret and what it means to be “good.” Every single performance in the show is an absolute masterclass, and the fact that it received zero Emmy nominations is one of the biggest snubs of all time, if you ask me.
What animal scares you the most?
Do spiders count as animals? If so, spiders. Especially those enormous ones that live in Australia. I once saw a picture of a spider that was hiding behind a clock—like the kind of clock you’d see in a school—and YOU COULD SEE THE ENDS OF ITS LEGS POKING OUT FROM UNDER THE CLOCK. A spider should not be bigger than a clock!!! As for the why: I do not care for their creeping or their skittering or their insane number of eyes and legs.
What’s something you’ll never do because you’re too scared?
Jump out of an airplane. WHY? Why do people do that? Nope. Uh-uh. It is not for me. I will watch safely from the ground. Actually, I won’t watch because I’ll be too terrified that I’m about to see you die, because, again, you jumped out of an airplane.
Megan Collins is the author of Thicker Than Water, The Family Plot, Behind the Red Door, and The Winter Sister. She taught creative writing for many years at both the high school and college level and is the managing editor of 3Elements Literary Review. She lives in Connecticut, where she obsesses over dogs, miniatures, and cake.