What Scares You, Sarah Strohmeyer?

Sarah Strohmeyer writes fantastic suspense novels. If you haven’t yet had the opportunity to read her latest, We Love to Entertain, I highly recommend it. She’s also incredibly funny and an amazing person with a ton of great stories. I’m thrilled to welcome her to What Scares You so we can all hear about the creepy ghostly encounters she’s had in her lifetime.

What is your earliest childhood memory of fear? Or the scariest thing you remember from childhood?

Oh, man, my childhood was filled with terror! I was the youngest kid of three. My brothers were much older, and my parents were old parents. So, while it was the Sixties and Seventies, there was something very Victorian about my childhood.

The worst was being sent to bed before everyone else. We used to rent a small, silver-shingled house on a remote island off Cape Cod (now very trendy, unfortunately), and I had to sleep in a bedroom off a long hall with the utilities. The pines whispered outside the windows, and there was a separate door to the outside. (God, now that I think of it, it was LOVELY!)

Anyway, my bed faced that damn hall. No feng shui at all. I’d wake up several times a night and see figure in the doorway. Even when I got into my teens, I screamed and ran to the rest of the house.

Years later, I rented the same house with two friends. One got up and left in the middle of the night, vowing never to return. Felt icy fingers through her hair. My best friend of all time, a diehard Roman Catholic and horror reader, said she’d sleep there no problem. And she did. No ghost.

My sister-in-law slept there with her newborn and woke to find two figures standing around the crib. So, yeah….

The house has been expanded. It’s now a super fancy mansion. I left a note in the door to ask the owners if they’d ever had an experience; heard nothing. So, somewhere in Massachusetts is a rich family that thinks I’m nuts.

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

Flying. I used to be in a long-distance relationship in my twenties and had to fly frequently from Cleveland to New Jersey. Had several scary flights (Maybe because I was going from Cleveland to New Jersey?)

Later, when I became an author and they sent me on book tours, I realized I had to make myself get over this fear. I started by pretending that we weren’t 35,000 feet in the sky. Then I took up knitting, which helped as a distraction, and then I got old and figured, screw it. If we go down, we go down.

Now, flying is scary for other reasons, of course.

Have you ever had any paranormal experiences or premonitions? How did you deal with it?

Only when my parents died. One story with my mother is beautiful and too long to go into here, but the one involving my father was interesting.

He was in Florida, about to go in for routine hip surgery. The week before, I had a dream that he was on life support and was dying. He was trying to tell me he loved me and couldn’t because he was intubated.

I called him that morning and we had a delightful conversation. He went in for surgery two days later, had a massive heart attack on the table, and was intubated. I flew down to see him and he kept trying to tell me something. I knew what it was because I’d had the dream. He died a week later.

That conversation I had the morning of the dream was our last…

What scares you most about the writing process?

The first notes from my editor. The. Worst. I always try to be positive, but when the editor pulls one thread, I’ve found the whole thing can unravel. It’s never an “easy fix” like they claim. It’s a total rewrite.

What is your greatest fear as a writer?

There are so many fears, right? Bad reviews. Being dropped by a publisher. Getting 50,000 words in and realizing you can’t write one more word. The industry’s gotten meaner and meaner, what with social media and anonymous reviews distributing one stars just for fun. All I can do is draw down the shades, put on metaphorical blinders, and write.
Kinda like how I got over flying.

But I guess my biggest fear is being…boring!

What’s your favorite horror movie or television series?

 The remake of Shirley Jackson’s Haunting of Hill House. Hands down. I loved rewatching to see all the hidden ghosts I’d missed the first time. That and Sixth Sense. So well done. I watch it every Halloween along with the 1931 Dracula!

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

Good question, one I’ve bluntly put to people in the medical profession, hospice workers, etc. My conclusion is death is like childbirth. You can’t fathom what it’s like until you’re in the process and can’t turn back. It can be painful and weird and certainly life changing. My hope is that the same joy and relief that comes when it’s over, when you hold your newborn, is what awaits us all on the other side. Because I’m sure there’s something…I just don’t know what.

What’s the scariest place you’ve ever been?

Sarah remodeling cabin.
Sarah remodeling the haunted cabin.

A cabin we own in the woods, a log home we got through a tax sale. It was in horrendous shape (dead dogs, dead chickens, eight tons of trash….). Anyway, we fixed it up, but it’s still haunted by the ghost of a woman who died there.

My niece has seen her. I’ve felt her. We’ve all “heard” her, even a family who lived there for 18 months because they lost their own home in a fire. It sounds like someone having a muffled conversation. Bells ring from nowhere. Lights turn on for no reason.

My daughter’s new theory is that it’s a thin place, a portal, if you will. It’s not just one ghost, but lots of spirits flowing in and out.

I’ve gotten used to them…kind of.

What’s creepier: clowns, dolls, or wax museum figures?

Unfair choice. I’d have to say a clown doll made of wax.

Sarah Strohmeyer is the award-winning, nationally bestselling author of eighteen novels for adults and young adults, including the Bubbles Yablonsky mystery series and The Cinderella Pact, which was made into the Lifetime movie, Lying To Be Perfect. A former newspaper reporter, she is currently the elected Town Clerk of Middlesex, Vermont, where she lives with her husband and cat. Two adult children occasionally drop by.