Posts in "What Scares You" Category — Page 2

What Scares You, Richie Narvaez?

Dear Readers… Today I chat with Richie Narvaez about all things scary. Richie teaches lit classes to fashion students, so his horror lens ought to be incredibly interesting, right? Also, check out his YA mystery Holly Hernandez and the Death of Disco, which won both the Agatha Award and the Anthony Award. Finally, I will say that Richie’s argument for why basements are scarier than attics seems pretty damn solid to me, so I’m officially convinced. Onward!

What is your greatest fear?

Hah! That I “may cease to be / Before my pen has gleaned my teeming brain.” And I mean, teeming! A fear that just gets exacerbated by my own procrastination, which is in turn is exacerbated by the state of the world, which brings up my second greatest fear, for democracy and civilization, our imperiled, fragile institutions, and this in turns causes nightmares about armageddon. So thank you for bringing that up! I need a hug now.

What’s scarier: attics or basements?

When I was about five or six, one of my uncles died, and his daughters told me that he had been killed in their basement by the Devil because basements are closest to Hell, so, duh, that’s how the Devil gets into your house.

Now, where I lived, our landlord would, on cold nights, ask my brother or me to go down to the basement to turn on the boiler. She was older, and the narrow stairs were rickety and lit by a single naked bulb, so she would ask us to do it. You had to feel in the air, in the absolute darkness, for the pull-string hanging down. You’d often find the string with your face, and, if you were an imaginative child, you could easily think it was a spider’s web or the caress of a corpse’s finger. Once you got the string and yanked it, the light was feeble, so the basement remained murky, full of hidden things. The boiler itself was set in a corner, and, thanks to my cousins, I had become convinced that behind it must be a tunnel that connected directly to the underworld, and that when I went to turn the little handle for the boiler, the Devil’s hand would fly out and grab me.

So, I would say: basements. By the way, years later, my father told me that that uncle had been shot to death in the basement—by a drug dealer.

Do you believe in ghosts?

I don’t. Beyond the power of coffee to revive the dead, I no longer believe in anything paranormal or supernatural. But the idea of ghosts is fascinating to me—and tragic. To be disembodied, to be able to do no more than moan and rattle and maybe spew a little ectoplasm while witnessing the world move on without you—what a terribly sad thing to imagine. That said, as a kid I dressed as Casper for three Halloweens in a row and quite enjoyed it.

What is your favorite monster/villain?

The Wolfman! Lon Chaney Jr.’s Wolfman, that is. In fact, a frequent part of his outfit—besides the hair, I mean—was a black or dark shirt and pants. So whenever I happen to be dressed like that I like to imagine I’m Larry Talbot. It’s very satisfying.

The Wolfman? Or Richie in the morning? You decide!

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What Scares You, Tiffany Meuret?

Tiffany Meuret writes about “monsters and vicious women.” So, basically, we’re soul mates. If that’s not enough to intrigue you, check out her latest novel Little Bird, which releases this month. It sounds like a wild ride!

Freshly divorced and grieving the death of her father, Josie Lauer has caged herself inside her home. To cope with her losses, Josie follows a strict daily routine of work, playing with her dog, Po, and trying to remember to eat a decent meal–and ending each night by drinking copious amounts of vodka. In other words, she is not coping at all.

Everything changes when Josie wakes to find a small shrub has sprouted in her otherwise dirt backyard the morning after yet another bender. Within hours, the vine-like plant is running amok–and it’s brought company. The appearance of the unwieldly growth has also heralded the arrival of a busybody new neighbor who insists on thrusting herself into Josie’s life. The neighbor Josie can deal with. The talking skeleton called Skelly that has perched itself in Josie’s backyard on a throne made of vines, however, is an entirely different matter.

As the strangely sentient plant continues to grow and twist its tendrils inside Josie’s suddenly complicated life, Josie begins to realize her new neighbor knows a lot more about the vines and her bizarre new visitor than she initially lets on. There’s a reason Skelly has chosen to appear in Josie’s suddenly-blooming backyard and insists on pulling her out of her carefully kept self-isolation. All Josie has to do is figure out what that reason is–and she has only a few days to do it, or else she might find herself on the wrong side of catastrophe.

If that isn’t wild enough for you, read on to find out what scares her most…

Do you believe in ghosts?

No, never have, and yet I am fascinated by ghost stories, hauntings, demon possessions, you name it. I find them to be hugely terrifying, perhaps because of the loss of control. To have something intangible and untouchable interfere in dangerous ways with my bodily autonomy, my family, and my mind is probably my absolute greatest fear. I am a total control freak, so I think I would collapse under such pressure. 

What are your phobias?

I am mildly claustrophobic. It doesn’t debilitate me, and I never even considered it until my therapist brought it up. I hate being hugged, laid on, or constrained in any way, even with blankets. I panic almost immediately. I also can’t sleep if anything is even remotely in front of my face, for example, a pillow billowing up around my face as I lay down or a blanket curled in front of me. That said, I have zero issues with elevators or other similar smallish spaces. 

Do you have a recurring nightmare?

Oh yes. I have multiple recurring nightmares. My most prominent is of sharks, specifically great whites. I watched Jaws from a very early age (it was one of my favorite movies as a kid because I was a weird kid) and while I love sharks and find them to be some of the most interesting creatures on the planet, the idea of a set of teeth coming towards me from the black depths springs a very visceral terror for me. If there is water in my dreams, there is a shark. Every. Time. Never fails. I have had shark nightmares where the shark is chasing me underwater, where I have turned around just in time to see their open jaws snapping down on top of me, and I’ve been swallowed in one nightmare and lived inside the shark, similar to Pinnochio inside Monstro the whale. One of the worst I’ve had, though, was a nightmare where I could see the shark coming for my mom, and every time I yelled it froze time. The shark, my mom, everything froze. Every instance time restarted, the shark got closer, and every time I tried to warn her time stopped again. So I essentially watched helplessly as this shark came for my mom, eventually eating her because she could never hear my warning. 

“The idea of a set of teeth coming towards me from the black depths springs a very visceral terror.”

Do you have any horror movie dealbreakers?

Excessive gore and torture. I don’t find it entertaining in the least, and the guts and bone and blood actually make me nauseous. Slasher films are something I almost never watch, both for these reasons and because I find some to be rote and lazy, hoping the guts will shock where the storytelling does not. I know there are excellent films in the genre too, but I wouldn’t be able to tell you about them because I am too weak-stomached to watch them. 

What is your favorite monster/villain?

Jaws might be my favorite, for all the reasons I already listed. That shark haunts me to this day! Besides Jaws, however, another favorite is Medusa. Having a nest of snakes for hair and turning people to stone sounds like a feature, not a bug. Her heartbreaking creation aside, she and her gorgon sisters are incredibly badass. 

Do you like Halloween? If not, why?

I mean…not really. It irritates and exhausts me more than anything. I really hate having to entertain people, and so having the entire neighborhood ring my doorbell all damn night is literally a nightmare for me. I usually leave the porch light off, take my kids to trick or treat near their grandparents’ house, and then come home and pray no one dares come to my stoop. It just gives me anxiety. 

What’s more terrifying to you: freezing to death in a blizzard OR dying from extreme heat, lost in a desert?

A blizzard is far more terrifying, hands down. I live in the desert, and I think I tolerate the heat far better than the cold. In the heat, at least I know what to expect, even if it is killing me. There is also the added terror of being smothered and immobilized by snow that makes my chest tight.

How do you deal with fear?

Indignance and blind stubbornness, probably. I deal with the world by rationalizing everything and making game plans. So if fear levels me one day, by the next I am the type to unfurl a mental checklist of ways I am going to manage said fear or uncertainty. I am an expert at stuffing unwieldy emotions away and tackling things, which definitely is not a healthy approach, but it does get shit done. 

Tiffany Meuret’s debut novel, A Flood of Posies, was published in 2021 with Black Spot Books. Her next novel, Little Bird, releases in June 2022. She has published multiple short works and poetry in various venues, which can be found on her website She lives in Phoenix with her husband, kids, and a menagerie of animals. 

What Scares You, Elise Kress?

Elise Kress is a member of the Chesapeake Chapter of Sisters in Crime, which is how we met (on Zoom!) When I found out she was a Tarot reader, I knew she was my people—and when I found out she had ghostly encounters, I knew I had to have her as a guest on What Scares You. Read on for more about Elise, including her writerly fears, what she thinks about Halloween, and the spooky story that she and I share a great love for.

What is the scariest thing you remember from childhood?

In 1968, a young woman was kidnapped and buried alive. The kidnappers rigged up a casket so she could breathe and eat, using small tubes inserted into the locked casket, running through the ground to the surface. She was buried underground in that casket for over 80 hours. What if something blocked one of her tubes? What if they never discovered where she was? After an agonizing three days, the police found her and dug her up. Our newspaper ran a series of detailed drawings of her casket and how it had been jerry-rigged to accommodate her breathing and eating tubes. Those drawings haunt me. Such a small. Space. For. So. Long.

What is your favorite urban legend?

There was a road out in the country near my hometown called Cold Soul Road. We heard that a woman who lived in a house on the road was cheating on her husband. He discovered the betrayal and one night dragged her from their house up the hill on the road into the trees. She begged him for mercy with outstretched arms but he savagely beat her to death.

The story went that if you stopped your car at the bottom of the Cold Soul Road hill and put your car in neutral, the murdered woman would drag it up the hill in her grieving arms. I went there with friends late at night and there was a lot of screaming in our car as it drifted up Cold Soul Road hill, backwards.

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

As a Tarot Reader you might think I have a lot of paranormal experiences. But when I’m reading the cards, my words come tumbling out and to me it feels normal.

I do believe in after-death communication. My father sent me a message after he died. He and I had discussed art and nature often. He was fascinated by the geese who visited the exact same field in our town each year. After he died, just as the Rabbi began chanting the graveside prayers at his funeral, a flock of geese flew straight up in the air, wings battering, from the field behind the cemetery. They flew over his grave and over our heads. In that moment I knew it was a wave of greeting from my beloved father.

“I love how Halloween gives us a chance to toy with our fears.”

What’s the scariest book you’ve ever read? Is there a particular scene that really haunts you still?

“The Monkey’s Paw” by W.W. Jacobs

It is the story of an elderly couple and their grown son who entertain an old friend who has returned home from exotic travels. The friend has brought back a singular souvenir: A monkey’s paw. This bizarre object is said to have the power to grant three wishes, but in a disturbing way. The family pays no heed to the warnings of their guest and decides to make a wish. The father wishes for £200 holding the paw aloft. As he speaks, the Monkey’s Paw moves in the father’s hand. He drops the paw in fright, but nothing else happens. Until… you read the rest of the story. I think your heart will pound as much as mine.

The severed paw wriggling in the man’s hand still sends chills up my spine.

What is your greatest fear as a writer?

What if my writing is a cliché-ridden, trope-filled bore? What if I never write anything worthy of being read?

Do you like Halloween?

So many things scare me, but I love Halloween. I love children dressing up and going door-to-door. I love the crisp air, the ghosts and goblins, pumpkins, and skulls. I love scary stories, macabre music and black bats and cats. I love how Halloween gives us a chance to toy with our fears.

What is your greatest fear?

I fear that I will leave this world never realizing that I was alright.

Elise Kress is a professional Tarot reader and musician (Irish Flute, penny whistle and vocals). Her company, Celtic Music for All Occasions, employs well-known Celtic musicians for weddings and other live events. She has read Tarot cards professionally for fifteen years, specializing in private readings and readings at parties and other celebrations. Elise is at work on her first mystery novel about an amateur detective, a Tarot reader who uses the cards to solve cases.

What Scares You, Richard Thomas?

Richard Thomas’ new story collection, Spontaneous Human Combustion, looks terrifying and wonderful. A blend of horror, science fiction, and fantasy, the collection has been praised as “simultaneously lush and terrifying” by A.C. Wise and got a starred review in Publisher’s Weekly.

On another note, I’ve been doing these Q&As now for almost three years now. I feel like I learn a lot about each person from their answers, and their experiences and emotions fascinate me. But no interview has given me chills the way this one has. Read on, my friends. You are in for a treat!

What is the scariest thing you remember from childhood?

I was hiking in downtown St. Louis with my Boy Scout troop, and we saw a man parachute out of a small plane, land briefly on the St. Louis Arch, and then plummet to his death right in front of us. We tried to run up the stairs, as one of our leaders was saying, “We can save him, we can catch him!” He bounced, like ten feet in the air. I’d never seen so much blood—a sheen of it as wide as a leg of the arch. I often wonder if that’s why I started writing horror stories.

“I’d never seen so much blood—a sheen of it as wide as a leg of the arch.”

Do you believe in ghosts?

I do, because I’ve seen a ghost. My friend Martin passed away at an early age. He was only 52. Before he died, he told me he had been dating this woman who was a witch. If anything happened to him, he said, it was her. And then he died. It was quite unsettling. What shocked me was that one day he appeared to me in shadow, dark, and translucent. And he was angry. I wasn’t expecting that. I told him I loved him, and that he had to move on, that he was freaking me out. I blinked, and he was gone.

Have you ever had any paranormal experiences or premonitions?

In addition to the Martin story, my son once did a photography project with candles and a pentagram he drew. I didn’t know this. When he was done, he asked what to do with the drawing. I was obviously not happy with this. We tore it into four sections and then drowned it (flushed it down the toilet), thew away part of it in the trash, buried part of it, and burned part of it. That night I woke up to a shadow standing over my bed. That happened a few times. My son didn’t think it was funny after that. We eventually smudged the house, and it seems to have moved on. Did not enjoy that, no.

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What Scares You, Edwin Hill?

I’m thrilled to welcome Edwin Hill to What Scares You! I’m a big fan of Edwin’s writing, and I also just really really like him as a person. It was great fun to be on a panel together for the Suffolk Mystery Festival earlier this year (despite the stupid tech issues) and an even better treat to catch up with him in person at Malice Domestic last weekend, where he was a finalist for the Best Contemporary Novel Agatha Award for Watch Her. His latest novel and first standalone thriller, The Secrets We Share, sounds amazing, and I can’t wait to check it out. And now we get to hear more about the things that keep him up at night…..

What is your greatest fear?

I’ve developed a late-in-life and thoroughly annoying fear of heights, which I discovered while standing atop one of the pyramids in the Tikal National Park in Guatemala. Before that, I hadn’t really had those kind of mortality fears, but now, I think about plummeting to my death more often than I’d like. If it happened, I’d be so angry with myself that I let it happen!

What scares you most about the writing process?

My novels tend to be pretty complex, with lots of interweaving pieces. There is this period—and it can last for months—where I don’t believe the pieces will ever come together. So far, they have, but there’s always next time!

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

I wrote a short-short called “Outside” for This Time for Sure, the 2021 Bouchercon Anthology that Hank Phillippi Ryan edited. It is about a group of terrible high school kids in the drama club who drink a lot of Bartles & Jaymes. The last line gives me chills!

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What Scares You, Tessa Wegert?

Tessa Wegert writes the Shana Merchant series, which takes place in the Thousand Islands. I love these books. They are creepy, atmospheric, twisty, and tense, with a great cast of characters. The third in the series, Dead Wind, was just published this month (buy it here!) and I hear she’s finishing up Book 4, which means more, more, more!

You can also learn more, more, more about Tessa’s fears right here:

What is the scariest thing you remember from childhood?

I was a pretty serious sleepwalker as a kid; I once walked right out the back door of our house and apparently hung out in the driveway until my dad clued in and retrieved me. I never had any memory of those nocturnal adventures, so I spent a lot of my waking life afraid of what I might do the next night. Now I have a daughter who sleepwalks and who once walked out our back door in the middle of the night, too. I might have gotten over those early fears, but let me tell you, they all came rushing back the second I found my kid sobbing on the front porch in her nightgown. 

What is your weirdest fear?

I’m terrified of swimming in dark or murky water, which is only weird because I do it all the time both in the Thousand Islands — where my mystery series is set — and in the Long Island Sound, close to where I live. Swimming at night is the absolute worst. I’m sure it’s perfectly safe, but I can’t shake the feeling that there’s something creepy lurking down in the weeds. 

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What Scares You, Sherry Harris?

Sherry Harris writes the Sarah Winston Garage Sale mystery series and the Chloe Jackson Sea Glass Saloon mysteries. Things I know about Sherry: She’s a great writer, she’s got an amazing laugh, she likes a good cold beer on a hot summer day, her husband makes a mean paper airplane, her daughter is delightful and smart, and I’m lucky to call her a friend.

What I don’t know about her? What scares her!

So here we go… 

What is your earliest childhood memory of fear?

Going down into our basement. It was dank and dark with rough, gray stone walls. On the way down the steps, I had to pass a leering coconut head that my dad brought back with him from the Philippines after WWII. I still shudder at the thought. When we moved from that house when I was five, the coconut head moved with us to the basement of our new house. Even though it wasn’t as dark and dank, that basement scared me too.

What is your weirdest fear?

I’m afraid there’s going to be a snake in the toilet. I don’t know why—I guess from reading stories about them. Although I may have been one upped because I recently read a story about a Komodo dragon in a toilet. Moral of this fear—never go to the bathroom in the dark.

What was your worst nightmare ever?

I remember one from when I was in third grade where I was in a dark, creepy Victorian house. There was a clank, clank, clank, coming down the steps. In the dim light I could see a robot with three vertical openings for a mouth. It was coming for me. But my scariest dream came not long after I was married while my husband was out of town. I dreamed I was being dragged off the bed by a man. He had hold of my foot, and I was helpless to stop him. It was such a vivid dream that I woke up with my heart pounding. Moral of this fear—never sleep with any body part over the edge of the mattress.

“Never sleep with any body part over the edge of the mattress.”

What scares you most about the writing process?

Sitting down at the computer wondering if any words will come. So far they always have, but some days the walk down the hall to my office is a terrifying one.

What is your greatest fear as a writer?

With my first book it was a bad review, but I survived that. Now, it’s being called a fraud or a fake. I think a lot of writers feel this way and I’m not sure why. Anyone that’s brave enough to write and publish a book opens their soul to criticism. Authors are heroes and we slay our insecurities every time we write.

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

The next book is always the scariest thing I’ve ever written because what if it’s not as good as the last one? Absence of Alice is a little darker than my other books because Sarah is cut off from all the people who she normally turns to for help and her good friend has been kidnapped to get to Sarah.

What animal scares you the most?

Probably horses because they are so big and powerful, but also so beautiful and they don’t look threatening. Why? I’ve had a couple of bad experiences on horses—once as a child and once as a teenager.

What’s scarier: attics or basements?

You might guess from my childhood memory above that basements are scarier. To me attics are places filled with old trunks that have delightful things in them—treasure maps, beautiful costumes, a diary, a wardrobe that leads to some fantastical world. They are light-filled and cobweb-free, at least in my dreams.

Sherry Harris is the Agatha-Award-nominated author of the Sarah Winston Garage Sale mystery series and the Chloe Jackson Sea Glass Saloon mysteries. Sherry is a past president of Sisters in Crime, a member of the Chesapeake Chapter of Sisters in Crime, the New England Chapter of Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America. Sherry loves books, beaches, bars, and bargain hunting — not necessarily in that order. She is also a patent-holding inventor.

What Scares You, K.L. Romo?

I know K.L. through her work with The Big Thrill magazine, where she is assistant editor and writes wonderful and thoughtful articles about crime fiction authors and new releases. (She even made me look good.) She also reviews books for the Washington Independent Review of Books and Library Journal, among other places. Because she’s so good at interviewing people, I wanted to turn the tables on her! So here we are—and here we go. What scares K.L.? Read on and find out…

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

My five kids are grown now, but when they were teens, my greatest fear was that one of them would derail their lives by getting pregnant (or getting someone pregnant). It happened with two of my girls when they were 16. With the first one, the fear was visceral, like a huge fist had grabbed my insides and twisted, leaving me terrified of the future for my daughter and my family. But then something happened that was even worse than a teenager having a baby—the teenager losing the baby. My daughter had a stillbirth when she was about six months along. The experience brought our family closer together and taught us that as long as everyone is alive, we can figure out a way to get through anything. My grandson’s death gave us a unique perspective that we still hold on to.

What is your greatest bodily fear?

I am terrified of suffocating. My father choked to death, as did a young cousin, so I’m supersensitive to the danger of a clogged windpipe. Either choking to death or suffocation because of drowning are both right up there at the top of my fear-factor list.

What is your greatest fear as a writer?

I’m most fearful of writing something no one wants to read. Although writing is cathartic to “get things off my chest,” and it’s part of my DNA to put words on paper (or the computer screen), the main point of writing is to leave a mark on readers. If no one reads what I write, what’s the point?

“I’ve also developed a strong respect for Ouija boards.”

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What Scares You, Jennifer Anne Gordon?

Jennifer Anne Gordon is one of the hosts of the delightfully entertaining podcast Vox Vomitus and a true lover of all things Halloween. So of course we are soul mates, right?

She also writes creepy fiction and her novel Pretty/Ugly is currently on sale on Amazon for $.99. That’s right, kids. One dollar. What are you waiting for?

She has made her living as an actress, a magician’s assistant, a “gallerina”, a comic book dealer, a painter, and burlesque performer, and, for the past 10 years, an award-winning professional ballroom dancer, performer, instructor, and choreographer.

BUT WHAT SCARES HER? Let’s find out!

What is the scariest thing you remember from childhood?

The first time I really remember being afraid of something was when I was watching the Electric Company. I was probably about three-years-old. I don’t really remember why, but they showed an X-ray. I was mortified by the thought of bones. It scared me to see what was inside of us. The next day in pre-school I told some of the girls during lunch. One girl, I still remember her name, told me that at night sometimes she saw a skeleton walking around in her hallway.

I think that broke my brain a little. I was scared enough just thinking of an X-ray of an arm or leg, but to think that all the bones in a body could move without the actual body. Well, that was more than three-year-old Jennifer could handle.

I remember some sleepless nights after this and making sure that the hallway closet was closed tight, and that we kept a light on in the hall. I remember staying up most of the night staring into the hallway and just waiting.

The fear of the skeleton eventually went away, but what did stick with me was the need for a nightlight. I still sleep with one, and the need to have all closets closed tight before bed!

What is your weirdest fear?

I have an intense fear of eyes, specifically having to touch my eye or have someone else touch my eye. I can’t even have someone do makeup on my eyes, and I have never worn false eyelashes. (That’s saying something seeing as I have been a professional performer on some level for most of my adult life.)

I blame all of this on an unfortunate incident from second grade. It involved a very sharp pencil, me fainting in the bathroom, and then eventually getting sick all over my teacher—Sister Assunta—because, of course, this was in Catholic School.

The worst part of all of this (besides the sharp pencil in the eye) is that it happened on Hot Dog Day. So I also have a fear of hot dogs, and maybe this plays into why I became a vegetarian.

“I have an intense fear of eyes, specifically having to touch my eye or have someone else touch my eye.”

What are your phobias?

Eyes, spiders, ticks, heights, closed spaces, wide open spaces, going under water, accidentally dropping a baby, car accidents, being kidnapped, death by hammer, driving—yikes this is a lot.

And to answer the question people are probably asking themselves…yes, I am on anti-anxiety medication.

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What Scares You, Christopher Gonzalez?

It’s an exciting day here at What Scares You because I get to chat with Christopher Gonzalez, one of my favorite flash fiction writers and now my SFWP publishing sibling. Christopher’s collection, I’m Not Hungry But I Could Eat, is showing up on “Must Read” and “Best-Of” lists everywhere and for good reason. It’s also got one of the best covers I’ve seen in a while! So go get yourself a copy and support Chris and also our favorite small press, Santa Fe Writers Project.

Now, then, let’s get down to business. How does Christopher feel about scary things? Read on to find out…

Do you believe in ghosts?

I’ve grown up with too many ghost stories not to believe in them. Mostly from my mom. She’s very much a child of the ‘70s. I’ve never had any supernatural encounters myself. Still, there’s something about being raised Catholic that instills this fear of demons and the demonic in you, this fear of evil, specifically, that doesn’t plague my adult life as much but was certainly a huge part of my childhood. Maybe that has to do with movies like The Exorcist. I believe that if there are ghosts, they aren’t all malevolent beings. To haunt isn’t always to want to do harm, even if harm can be a byproduct. I guess I also think about ghosts being alive in memory and regret, which gets away from what you’re really asking, though I think that sense of endless lingering connects the real ghosts with the emotional ones.

Do you enjoy scaring other people?

Not at all, really. I’m sure there was a time when jumping out from behind a door and yelling “boo” at a family member was peak humor. Now, I’m such a scaredy cat. My roommate could walk into the kitchen while I’m washing dishes, and even if I knew he was home, his sudden appearance in the space would cause me to jump. I hate it. I hate feeling so easily shaken. So I don’t much enjoy scaring others.

Do you have any horror movie dealbreakers?

Yes—I flat out refuse to watch most horror movies. I can do psychological horror and thrillers, with your everyday violence. Extreme blood and gore make me queasy, so that’s usually out. If there is comedy woven into the horror, I’m much more likely to stomach my fears and watch. Honestly, with horror movies, it’s the noises and jump scares that do me in. I’m such a baby that way. Even with the diet horror I have consumed, I’ve had to be forced to watch them. All that said, anything with demons or dealing with religion? Count me out. There goes that Catholicism again.

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

My feelings about death and dying have shifted over the years. The first death I remember was a classmate’s passing in 4th grade. One day he was in class and the next week his parents appeared to retrieve his belongings. He was gone. I still think about him sometimes, the life he might have lived, and whether or not we’d have become better friends. Who would he become? I guess that was the thing: back then, with death, I thought about the what ifs and what might have beens. The past few months we’ve lost a lot of extended family to COVID, and death is now imbued with this feeling of injustice, of feeling robbed. This feeling that it didn’t have to be this way. I think this shapes my feeling toward death and has for several years before the pandemic. I guess I no longer think about death as this individualistic thing that either comes about because a person ages into it or how their health plays some kind of part. Yes, sometimes it’s random and unpredictable. Absolutely. But I’ve started questioning what factors can lead to one’s death, whether it’s state-sanctioned, racist and gendered violence, lack of medical access and opportunity in this country, economical weariness, or the confluence of it all. So I don’t know if I fear dying itself, but rather what kind of agency is stripped from us in death, that I have no clue what circumstances will lead to my own death.

What scares you most about the writing process?

That so much of it is about holding the mirror to yourself and interrogating what it is you truly feel about the world. Epiphanies and clarity don’t arrive without horrific revelations of past mistakes and regrets. Writing feels like excavation of the heart. It’s not all bad in there! But you never know what you’ll expose.

What is your greatest fear as a writer?

Every answer I think of feels disingenuous. More than anything, I’m afraid I’ll lose it. That I’ll slip into a life where writing has gone from the most pressing matter of existence to the backburner to a distant memory of what it was I dreamt about, woke up for, used to make sense of the world around me. That one day I’ll wake up and it’ll have been ten years since I last wrote. That I won’t miss it at all.

Christopher Gonzalez is the author of I’m Not Hungry but I Could Eat (SFWP 2021). A recipient of the 2021 Artist Fellowship in Fiction from the New York Foundation for the Arts, his writing appears in Poets & Writers online, the NationCatapultBest Microfictions, and Best Small Fictions, among other journals and anthologies. He currently serves as a fiction editor at Barrelhouse magazine and lives in Brooklyn, NY but mostly on Twitter @livesinpages.