What Scares You, Darby Kane?

Darby Kane is a former divorce lawyer with a dual writing personality. Her debut thriller, PRETTY LITTLE WIFE, was a Book Of The Month pick, #1 international bestseller, and has been optioned by Amazon for a television series starring Gabrielle Union. Darby’s books have been featured in numerous venues, including The Washington Post, The New York Times and Cosmopolitan.

But what scares her? Read on to find out…


What is your earliest childhood memory of fear?

I grew up in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Our town was more idyllic farm country than anything else. The crime rate was not high. Kids stayed out playing until the streetlights came on. I walked to and from school by myself or with friends. Despite this cocoon of safety, I had an almost irrational fear that I was going to be attacked by a stranger in my house. Back then I didn’t consume true crime information like I do now, and I have no idea where the fear came from, but I do have specific memories of being alone in the house and walking down the hall with my back to the wall so no one could sneak up on me. Thinking about it now makes me anxious. I never told my parents until years later.

What is your weirdest fear?

These aren’t current fears, but I remember being bombarded with information about the Bermuda Triangle, nuclear annihilation, and quicksand growing up. I’d think about all three all the time and how to escape or survive each. It would have made more sense to be afraid of being run over by farm equipment, but no. I’ve heard this from other people my age, so I’m blaming adults in the ‘80s for this.

What are your phobias?

Heights and open water. The fear of heights kicked in when I was a little kid and my mom made one of my older brothers take me on a Ferris wheel. He didn’t want to go, so the whole time we were up there he told me scary stories about people falling and dying. I’ve never gone on a Ferris wheel again. The open water fear is relatively new. I love swimming. I went to the beach and swam in the ocean every summer.  As an adult, I can’t tolerate the idea of being in water where I can’t see what’s happening below me.

Do you have a recurring nightmare?

I practiced family law for years. During that time, I had a recurring nightmare completely unrelated to being a lawyer about someone breaking into the house. One time the terror was so real I felt like I was being held down, trapped in my covers, suffocating, and unable to move. I woke up screaming. The interesting thing is that the nightmare went away when I left the full-time practice of law.

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

Tight spaces. I had a friend growing up who is now a scientist with the U.S. Forest Service. She loved doing anything outside that involved adrenaline and exertion, her favorite being caving. As a result of going in and out of caves and exploring with her, I’m fine being confined in a dark, small space.

What scares you most about the writing process?

There is a point during the writing of every book where I wonder how I’ve ever finished a book before. It’s paralyzing. I don’t think I can move forward, and I don’t really want to. I’d rather do anything else. Eventually the panic subsides, and I remember that this is, unfortunately, part of my process, then move forward. I worry that one day, while writing some future book, I will hit that point in writing and not be able to overcome it.

What is your greatest fear as a writer?

My greatest fear is that the book I just turned in will be the last one any publisher will ever buy from me.

What animal scares you the most?

Hippos. I read that hippos are the deadliest mammals on the planet. They are aggressive and territorial. They move fast. They can run 30 mph and they do this thing in the water where they go under and run on the bottom then pop up again. The videos of that are absolutely terrifying. I try very hard to never be in a position to meet a hippo.

Thank you, thank you

The Weekend Retreat has been out for two months now, and I just want to express my gratitude to everyone who has helped make it a success and/or read the book. Thank you to all the bookstores and influencers and podcasters who invited me to talk about the book or helped share it. Thank you to the libraries who are carrying copies of the book on their shelves. Thank you to the book clubs who are reading my novel! Thank you to friends and family who’ve been telling their friends and family about the book. Word of mouth is so powerful! I’m so grateful to folks for doing this.

The Weekend Retreat is a finalist for the Agatha Award!

I’m thrilled to announce that my third novel The Weekend Retreat is one of five finalists for the Agatha Award for Best Contemporary Novel. Agathas are presented each year at the Malice Domestic convention in Bethesda, Maryland.

This is particularly exciting because I share this honor with four amazing writers–Ellen Byron for Wined and Died in New Orleans; Annette Dashofy for Helpless; Korina Moss for Case of the Bleus; and Gigi Pandian for The Raven Thief.

The Agathas winners will be announced on Saturday, April 27 at Malice Domestic.

What Scares You, Araminta Hall?

What is your greatest fear?

Death, in relation to myself or my loved ones. I’ve always had an exaggerated sense of mortality, even when I was very young. I’m the eldest of six children, and I was always counting heads in the park or worrying about illness. As a teenager, I went through a bad period of hypochondria, with my main fear being that either I or someone I loved had eaten glass. Then after I had my first child, I developed terrible anxiety, in which the whole world felt like a dangerous death trap. I haven’t felt like this for a long time–good therapy and maybe getting a bit older and wiser. But still now if I wake at 4:00 a.m. my mind will play with illness and death. I cannot stand the thought of either being left or leaving behind the people I love most, which maybe has quite narcissist roots, in that I mentally have put myself at the centre of these lives? I’m not sure where it comes from, as I had a happy, stable childhood, although my father is quite neurotic and was often overly protective or worried. As the eldest child maybe I absorbed some of this?

What is your earliest childhood memory of fear?

One Halloween when I was probably 7 or 8, my mother put a cut-out of witch on our front door. It had movable arms and legs, was as tall as an adult human and, looking back now, a real work of art. The next day she said it was so pretty she couldn’t bear to throw it away and pinned it to a cupboard door on the landing outside my bedroom. I had to walk past it to get to the toilet at night, and it completely terrified me. I would lie in bed trying desperately to hold in my pee and then, when the need became urgent, I would race past the witch, trying not to even look at her. Funnily, I told my mother about this recently and she was mortified, saying she couldn’t believe she’d put it there and wondering why I’d never said anything. It seems crazy that I didn’t just say something, as Mum would have taken it down, but as kids I think we totally internalise fear, which of course is not the best lesson for later life!

Is there any fear you’ve overcome in your life?

The anxiety that I was talking about in my first answer was the worst fear I’ve felt in my life. And it went on for years. At first, I tried to ignore it because I felt embarrassed. I also had a baby who needed looking after. But fear doesn’t like to be ignored, and I ended up avoiding things and feeling generally dreadful. I finally started therapy when I began to find it hard to go to the supermarket or take my son to the park. It was a long road, but it totally changed everything. For many years now I would say I’ve had a healthy relationship with fear. I know my limits, I don’t put myself knowingly in dangerous situations, and I have a perspective that helps me to rationalise what’s worth getting frightened by.

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What Scares You, Carl Vonderau?

I’m excited to chat with Carl Vonderau this cold January day! Carl and I are agent siblings—lucky enough to have the best agent, Michelle Richter, in our corner. Carl’s debut novel Murderabilia was nominated for a slew of awards and his latest, Saving Myles, is about a father who would go to any lengths to get his kidnapped son back.

Read on to discover Carl’s fears and terrors and all that happy stuff.


What is your earliest childhood memory of fear?

Strangely enough it’s Santa Claus sneaking into my room at night after I was put to bed. I was afraid he would suddenly materialize over me, so hid my head under the covers.

What is your favorite spooky holiday?

I love Day of the Dead. It happens just after Halloween, but Day of the Dead is much deeper than that. Its origins date to more than 3,000 years ago with indigenous people in Mexico and Central America.

What I like is that it isn’t about ghouls coming back to haunt the living, but the living celebrating the lives of their lost loved ones. Those who passed are alive in memories. It is a joyful time rather than a day of mourning.

We have our own little display at our house. I love the bright dresses the skeleton women wear. The skeleton men are always in black tuxedos.

Do you have a recurring nightmare?

Yes. It always has to do with a deadline for travel or an exam or some business meeting. Often I’m unprepared and don’t know until that moment that I was supposed to be there. I keep getting lost on wrong streets or wrong buildings or a car goes the wrong way. Then I wake up and am relieved.

What’s your favorite horror movie or television series?

The Twilight Zone. I still remember some of these episodes from more than forty years ago. Like the blabbermouth who needs money. He accepts a bet that he can’t stay quiet for a year. He has to live the whole time in a room with microphones to pick up any word he says. He succeeds and then, at the end of the year, we find out that the man on the other side of the bet doesn’t have the money to pay him. We also learn that the day before the blabbermouth started the task, he had the nerves to his vocal chords severed.

One thing I never realized until now is that music in that show is wonderful. The dissonant and avant guard passages fit perfectly with the strange themes.

What is creepier: clowns, dolls, or wax museum figures?

Definitely clowns. They were always scary, but since I learned about John Wayne Gacy, they’re even scarier. He made a whole series of Pogo the clown paintings where the clowns were white-faced, and their white hands often held balloons. You can buy these original paintings for $10K or more. Gacy used to dress up as a clown to visit hospitals in Chicago. He murdered 33 young men and hid their bodies in the crawl spaces of his house.

What is the scariest place you’ve ever been?

A long time ago I went to Bogotá, Colombia, to research setting and content for my first novel. It was, of course, never published. I had a friend there who worked with street orphans, and he took me to Cartucho, a section where the authorities allowed crime and drugs. Drug addicts lined the streets. Most of them were hooked on basuco, which was a cocaine freebase. They built shelters from plastic bags filled with newspaper. There were also restaurants. I remember a girl of high-school age serving someone on a terrace. She turned to cast a ferocious look at me. We came across a dead youth in his twenties who’d been shot and his body lay on the street. Murders happened there most every night. The Bogotá police were photographing him. Our group couldn’t take pictures because doing so would have offended the people there. Our guide made sure we weren’t in any danger, but I was still scared.  


Carl Vonderau grew up in Cleveland in a religious family that believed God could heal all illness. Maybe that’s why he went to college in California. After majoring in economics and dabbling in classical guitar, he ended up with a career in banking. Carl has lived and worked internationally and has managed to put his foot in his mouth in several languages. He brought his banking expertise to his debut thriller Murderabilia as well as to his most recent novel, Saving Myles. He has won Left Coast Crime, San Diego, and American Book Fest awards. Carl is president of the San Diego chapter of Sisters in Crime and also helps nonprofits through San Diego Social Venture Partners.

What Scares You, Stacy Woodson?

Stacy Woodson

Happy New Year! I can’t believe I’m entering my fifth year of doing these interviews. I feel like I’ve learned so many interesting things about people’s fears, and I hope you have, too.

Excited to kick off 2024 with Stacy Woodson, a fantastic short story writer and friend. Stacy’s newest published piece is a novella, “The Cadillac Job,” the first in Michael Bracken’s latest crime serial from Down and Out Books. Each episode features Huey’s Auto Repair, an auto shop in Dallas that doubles as a chop shop, and the ruthless man who runs it.

Read on to hear about all the things that freak Stacy out, including snakes, dolls, and incredibly large rodents. Also, if you’d like her son to lead us all on a ghost hunting tour, please raise your hand….RIGHT? I’m so ready.


What is your greatest fear?

My greatest fear is something happening to my children. I’ve deployed to a combat zone, jumped out of airplanes, and fought cancer. This, by far, is what scares me the most.

What is your weirdest fear?

This question immediately made me think of one of my college roommates. She’s afraid of melon—cantaloupe, honeydew—anything in the melon family. For me, it’s rodents of unusual size. (Yes, I’m a Princess Bride fan.) I was working background for Wonder Woman 1984. Between takes, I saw a rat the size of a schnauzer run across the sidewalk. I wasn’t expecting it, and I think that made it worse.

How do you deal with fear?

When I’m afraid, I get angry. Talk to whatever the fear is like it’s a tangible thing—which usually involves a string of expletives and sarcasm. Then, I take the hill (so to speak). If the fear is tied to a yes-or-no choice that I can make, I push myself to say yes. For example, I hate public speaking and always say “yes” hoping it will get easier. (I’m still hoping.)

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

My nine-year-old son is obsessed with ghost hunting. He even has equipment. We visit places that are rumored to be haunted, take ghost tours, etc. Our favorite place is Ocracoke Island. It’s rich with history, and we often stay at a haunted inn called Blackbeard’s Lodge. Room nine is known for paranormal activity, and the innkeeper let us in late one night. My son claims to have seen a ghost in the mirror and bolted out the door. I went after him and didn’t stay long enough to confirm it.


“My son claims to have seen a ghost in the mirror and bolted out the door. I went after him and didn’t stay long enough to confirm it.”


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What Scares You, C.M. Muller?

I am excited to be wrapping up the What Scares You year with C.M. Muller! My first-ever horror short story was published this year by C.M. in the very cool anthology Come October, which features a lot of very creepy stories about leaves (among other things) and is available here if you’d like to spook yourself.

C.M. also just edited the fourth installment of Chthonic Matter, which will be out on the 21st or you can pre-order now.

After you get all your ordering done, read on to discover all the things that terrify this master of horror…


What’s the scariest story and/or book you’ve read?

I’ve always been particularly fond of Jason A. Wyckoff’s story “Knott’s Letter” (Black Horse & Other Strange Stories, Tartarus Press, 2012), an epistolary tale that still gives me the creeps. As far as novels go, I would have to say that Michael Aronovitz’s Alice Walks takes top honor, a ghost story beyond compare. Both of these horrors have sunk deep into my DNA.

What’s your favorite horror movie or television series?

Lately, I’ve really enjoyed the weird films of Panos Cosmatos, which include Beyond the Black Rainbow and Mandy. He’s not very prolific, but has such a unique vision. One of his short films was featured on my newest favorite series: Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities. While I loved each episode, I thought Panos’s contribution (“The Viewing,” starring Peter Weller) was the highlight.

What is the scariest thing you remember from childhood?

I must have been ten or so, and a friend of mine (who lived across the street) invited me over to watch Alien. We sat in front of his blocky “big screen” ’80s TV, growing more and more terrified as each scene washed over us. When the movie ended, it was dark outside, and I was absolutely terrified to cross the street. I ran as fast as I could to my front door, all the while imagining an acid-filled xenomorph hot on my trail.

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Incentives to pre-order The Weekend Retreat (AKA free stuff!)

My third novel of suspense, The Weekend Retreat, is releasing on December 26, 2023! If you want to pre-order a copy as a gift for the book lover in your life, or if you want a copy for yourself as an end-of-year treat, now’s a great time to snatch it up!

There’s free stuff waiting for you if you pre-order.

  1. My publisher is hosting an amazing contest right up to the day before publication. If you pre-order a copy and upload proof of purchase here, they will enter you in a drawing to win a Kindle (loaded with my two previous novels!)
  2. If you want to give the book as a gift for the holidays and need something to wrap up or put in a card, I’ve got you covered. Download this PDF and print it out!
  3. Finally, if you email me your proof of purchase from now through December 25, 2023, I will send you a sheet of wine stickers and a cute tiny bookmark (while supplies last…U.S. mailing addresses only.)

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! 

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What Scares You, Mandy McHugh?

Hi my ghostly friends! I’m here today with Mandy McHugh, whose debut novel Chloe Cates Is Missing was one of my favorite reads of 2022. If you haven’t read it yet, go pick up a copy for one of the most memorable and deliciously wicked characters you’ll ever have the pleasure to hang out with for a few hundred pages. AND I’m so excited that Mandy has a new novel out–It Takes Monsters. I cannot wait to read this one. You can grab yourself a copy here.

But now we will spend some time chatting about “the nature” and zombies and Mandy’s really great taste in horror movies. (Hi, if you haven’t seen The Descent yet? Go, now.)


What are your phobias?

My friends laugh because I call it “the nature.” Spiders—actually, all bugs, especially ones that fly or buzz near my ears. It’s so weird, too. I grew up playing outside in the woods with my friends. We’d spend all day in the dirt, picking up daddy longlegs, climbing trees, pretending we were pioneers—and none of it fazed me. Fast forward to one afternoon when I was fourteen and got lost in the woods walking back from a local lake with a friend. It was dark, humid, and we got swarmed by these black flying bugs. We had to walk with towels draped over our heads because they were on us like Amityville bad. Ever since then, I’ve had a really hard time with outdoorsy situations.

What is your favorite urban legend?

Ooh, I love urban legends. The first one that came to mind when I read this question was Bloody Mary. There wasn’t a sleepover after the age of eight where we weren’t in the bathroom with the lights off saying Bloody Mary three times. I knew it wasn’t real, but there was always that little “what if” of fear running through me right before I said her name for the third time.

This one also managed to bleed into local legend. I grew up in a small town in upstate NY near one of the most haunted cemeteries in the country. One Halloween as I was watching Leprechaun and handing out candy to the neighborhood kids, my dad told me about a statue of Mary whose eyes would allegedly bleed. He may have dared me to sneak into the cemetery that night to see for myself, which I did not do but definitely considered, but some of that imagery has made its way into my own writing. I think every town probably has some version of this story, but that’s always been one of my favorites.


“There wasn’t a sleepover after the age of eight where we weren’t in the bathroom with the lights off saying Bloody Mary three times.”


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