What Scares You, Rosemary Hennigan?

Rosemary Hennigan lives in Dublin, and her dark academia thriller The Favorites is now available in the U.S., so we can all read this delicious, shivery novel. You can read more about it and buy yourself a copy right here.

And then read on about Rosemary’s terrifying sleep paralysis, all the urban legends she’s terrified of stumbling into or upon, and the one animal she cannot forgive for being evil.

What is your greatest fear?

By far, losing the people I love.

What is your earliest childhood memory of fear?

As a child, I was fascinated by the Faeries, by which I mean the terrifyingly sinister Tuath de Danann from Irish folklore and not the completely unscary tiny people with wings. In my family, there were a lot of stories passed down through the generations about various strange encounters and weird happenings that were attributed to the Faeries, much of which was spoken about in hushed and superstitious tones that had a big impression on my child brain. So, naturally, I was cautious around such dangerous things as fairy rings, mushrooms sprouting in woods, and any dark tangle of trees where you might encounter a creature that would snatch a child away and replace her with an imposter. It never happened, of course, but I can only assume that was due to my constant vigilance!

What is your weirdest fear?

Well, in a totally unprovoked and shocking attack, I was once chased by two very large, very pretty, and very mean geese. It was both a frightening and humiliating experience, since I had to run through a carpark full of people to escape from the foul fowl. At least 100 people (probably more like three) witnessed the spectacle of me fleeing for my life, seeming to find this sickening scene hysterically funny for reasons I couldn’t possible fathom.

Ever since that dark and painful day, geese have been my biggest fear. I run in the opposite direction when I see them. I keep my head down and don’t make eye contact. I know they can feel my fear. Don’t be fooled! Geese are evil! Consider yourselves warned!

What is your favorite urban legend?

When I was growing up, legend had it that if you walked three times around the Black Church in Dublin, the devil would appear. I didn’t know where the Black Church was, and my bedtime was way before midnight, but I was, nevertheless, very afraid of this happening by accident. As unlikely as it might seem now, it remained a live concern throughout my childhood.

I was also very afraid of Ouija boards, as was every ‘90s kid, right? I didn’t actually know what they looked like and, growing up in the ‘90s, you couldn’t just google those things, so I was careful to avoid communicating with wooden boards of any sort, just in case I might accidentally find one with paranormal powers.

Do you have a recurring nightmare?

Ok… so, this one is quite intense.

I get sleep paralysis sometimes, and it always involves a lucid nightmare where someone (or something) is standing at the end of my bed. It’s always a sinister figure and always in the process of attacking me. Sometimes it’s just a dark shape and sometimes it’s more concretely demonic. The sleep paralysis means that I’m aware that I’m asleep, but I’m not able to wake up or move, so all I can do is scream for someone to wake me. But because I can’t open my mouth or wake up, only a horrible, strangled sound comes out and, because I’m also still asleep, in my dream this will usually manifest as the horrible thing at the end of my bed choking me. So, then I scream harder until someone hears me and wakes me. It’s truly awful, and I’m often really shaken for ages after I wake up! 

What’s something that most people are afraid of that you are not? Why aren’t you?

I don’t fear my own death. I have lost some people very dear to me and the experience of such profound grief forced me to spend a long time contemplating the nature of death. Though it took some serious soul-searching, I’ve come to terms with how inescapable, unmovable, and unavoidable death is, and I no longer find it frightening to think about. I prefer to accept that I will one day die, rather than be squeamish or shy away from that reality. It has given me a fresh perspective on the temporary nature of life and taught me to appreciate the time I have. However long I get, I’m grateful for it, and plan to live as well as I can, for as long as I can, with the people I love. No point fearing an inevitability!

Have you ever had any paranormal experiences or premonitions?

I don’t believe in ghosts, but I once woke up in the middle of the night to find a blindingly blue-white light glowing at the end of my bed. In the moment, I was so terrified that I just shut my eyes and didn’t move a muscle, hoping it would go away. Eventually, I fell asleep and, when I woke up again, there was nothing there. This happened when I was about seventeen, and I didn’t really know what to think. It really, really seemed like a ghost but I’m pretty sure that it was related to the sleep paralysis / lucid dreaming I experience. Having said that, to be completely honest, it didn’t feel exactly the same that night. For one thing, unlike my usual experiences of lucid dreaming, I had fully woken up when I saw it, so… who knows?! 

What is your favorite villain?

This reference is pretty old at this stage but I think the writing of the ‘villain’ Tony Soprano is perfect. He is so awful but so compelling at the same time. In one episode, he’s morally bankrupt. In the next, you’re rooting for him. But then he does something awful again, and you find yourself grappling with wanting to let him off the hook, then being horrified at your own willingness to excuse him… It’s incredible writing (and acting) and he’s such an immensely complex villain and, for me, he’s a masterpiece of a character!

ROSEMARY HENNIGAN studied Law at Trinity College Dublin and practiced as a solicitor for several years before completing a Master’s in Law at the University of Pennsylvania. She has worked in advocacy for a number of human rights focused NGOs and lives in Dublin with her husband and a lot of books. Find her on Twitter @Rosemary_Henn and on Instagram @Rosiehennigan.