What Scares You, Rob Osler?

Rob Osler writes mysteries featuring LGBTQ+ main characters. Each time I’ve seen him present his work during one of those “speed dating with the authors” events at mystery conferences, he always shares information about his books in delightful rhyming poetry. I thought about trying to do that for my intro, but then I realized no one wants to be subjected to my terrible poetry.

So instead I will tell you that Rob’s won a lot of awards for his fiction. His short story “Miss Direction” (Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Sept/Oct 2023) was a 2024 MWA Edgar Awards finalist. His debut novel Devil’s Chew Toy, predecessor to Cirque du Slay, was a 2023 Anthony, Macavity, Agatha, and Lefty Awards finalist. His first short story, “Analogue” (EQMM), won the MWA 2022 Robert L Fish Award. Rob lives in California with husband and a tall gray cat.

But what makes the hair on his arms stand on end? Read on to find out…

What is the scariest thing you remember from childhood?

I remember going to the movie theater as a kid to see The Poseidon Adventure. I would have been around ten. When the movie ended and I rose from the seat, my back hurt. I realized I’d had my entire body clenched and hadn’t moved a muscle for an hour. If memory serves, there is a scene where Shelley Winters must swim underwater for a nearly impossible length of time. It was beyond intense for my young brain.

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

Speaking to others—not just public speaking but speaking to people I didn’t know—even on the telephone. My mom helped me by having me write down ahead of time what I would say on the phone. I would write out the conversation like a script and rehearse before making the actual call.

What person living today terrifies you the most and why?

Donald Trump. He manifests the worst behavior of what humans are apparently capable of, but what makes him truly terrifying is that he stirs hatred in so many people.

What are your phobias?

I do not like heights or turbulence during a flight.

What is your favorite urban legend?

I grew up in Idaho and then lived in the Pacific Northwest for decades, so Sasquatch was a thing. I never really thought he/she/they existed, but I can easily envision Sasquatch romping through the forest and catching salmon from a stream with its bare hands.

Do you have a recurring nightmare?

Home invasion. Just those two words combined are terrifying!

What’s the scariest thing you’ve ever written?

I did write a mystery/horror short story called ANALOGUE. It was the first piece of writing I ever had published—thanks to Janet Hutchings at Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine for that! The story features an old-school, by-the-spreadsheet CEO from the East Coast who arrives at a San Francisco-based tech company. It doesn’t go well. Fun fact: the story idea was inspired by my time consulting for what was Twitter.

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

Dolls. One hundred percent. My mother’s mother had a large doll collection that she kept wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling in a room of her house. The super creepy image of hundreds of sets of tiny, unmoving eyes inspired a doll collection scene in my debut novel DEVIL’S CHEW TOY.

“The super creepy image of hundreds of sets of tiny, unmoving eyes inspired a doll collection scene in my debut novel DEVIL’S CHEW TOY.”

What’s your favorite horror movie or television series?

OMG, The Shining is still terrifying. Witnessing a person’s psychological unraveling is scarier than just being presented by a bad person from the get-go.

What is your favorite monster/villain?

I’m not sure I’d call him a “favorite,” but Anthony Hopkin’s portrayal of Hannibal Lecter was terrifically frightening. As over-the-top as the character was, he was horrifyingly believable. Though not as scary as Jack Nicholson’s character in The Shining—he was the worst.