What Scares You, Alexia Gordon?

Today we chat with Alexia Gordon, who is known not only for her excellent crime fiction writing, but also, according to my 10-year-old son Dash, her incredibly thoughtful thank-you notes. Dash isn’t impressed easily, so this, my friends, is an endorsement to be taken seriously.

Alexia has penned the Gethsemane Brown mystery series, and you can find the first book in the series, Murder in G Major, here. She is also the host of a bi-weekly podcast The Cozy Corner.

But what scares her, you ask? Read on to find out…


What is your greatest fear?

That no one will show up for my funeral, except the funeral director and the priest.

What is your weirdest fear?

That no one will be willing to be my emergency contact.

What is your favorite urban legend?

I can’t pick one favorite—I like them all! I think Slenderman has stuck with me the most because it’s a great example of how although the way urban legends grow and spread has changed (Slenderman started as an online creepypasta and then developed a life of its own that, sadly, inspired a real-life murder attempt), the tradition of urban legends persists. At the end of the day, is Slenderman much different from a creepy clown in the 1980s or the boogey man in the 1500s? I will mention one of my favorite podcasts, Camp Monsters. The host takes urban legends and campfire stories and gives them a modern spin. I also like two of the Candyman movies, the 1992 original and the 2021 remake. They’re a love letter to the best urban legends.

Do you have a recurring nightmare?

I don’t have a recurring nightmare. However, I have experienced transient sleep paralysis with hypnopompic hallucinations—a fancy, insurance-billable way of saying hag riding. This is a neurological phenomenon/sleep-wake disorder which many people still attribute to supernatural/paranormal forces. Basically, your brain wakes up while your body is still paralyzed in REM sleep. You sense a physical presence in your room, you see some “thing” in your room—and you’re terrified. Because the “thing” is the embodiment of actual evil. Call it a demon, call it a hag or a witch, call it misfiring neurons. Doesn’t matter what it’s called, it’s fucking evil, and all it has to do is reach out its arm and get you and you can’t. Fucking. Move. Knowing that there’s a scientific/medical explanation for it doesn’t make it any less horrific. That’s the one thing I actually wouldn’t wish on anybody, not even people I dislike.

What animal scares you the most?

Chihuahuas. Those are some vicious little shits. You can be six blocks away and they’ll start barking. They always act like they want to rip your eyebrows off. On the other hand, they make great burglar alarms. I used to have a chihuahua named Barron. He had three legs, and he was the meanest dog in Dallas. He had creeper radar and any man that even thought about looking at me funny got the full-on fuck-around-and-find-out treatment.

“Chihuahuas. Those are some vicious little shits. They always act like they want to rip your eyebrows off.”

How do you deal with fear?

I deal with fear by trying to unpack it. What’s making me fearful? Is fear a reasonable response to the situation/stimulus? Fear is not always a bad thing. If I’m afraid to make give a presentation at work, I unpack that sensation and realize that I’m actually afraid of making a mistake because I’m afraid a mistake will make me appear incompetent. Then I walk through the worst that can, realistically, happen if I make a mistake. Realistically, embarrassment is the worst that would happen.

On the other hand, if the sensation of fear is triggered by a dark alley in an isolated area late at night after I’ve just withdrawn money from an ATM, that’s a reasonable warning that I’m entering a potentially dangerous situation and I should turn around and call a ride share service or wait for someone I know to walk with me or find a different path. Reasonable fear is a tool our brain uses to keep us safe.

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What Scares You, Steph Post?

You’re in for a treat today to hear from the lovely and inspiring Steph Post. She’s a writer and an artist, and she’s got the best wildlife and farm animals at her home. One day I’m just going to show up there and hang out with all the chickens and dogs and owls. (Don’t tell her!)

Jasper.

Seriously, the owls!

Check out Jasper. I’m not sure how she ever gets any writing done with all the amazingness outside her window, but she does! You can find out more about all her novels and stories on her web site, and you can also visit her Etsy store and get yourself some wonderful prints and tea towels and ornaments and other beautiful things.

But we’re all here for the fear. So let’s go…


Do you believe in ghosts? 

Yes! I’m not sure if they’re conventional ghosts or not, but I’ve definitely seen spirits and apparitions, so I certainly believe in otherworldly visitations. I was also brought up thinking everyone else did as well! I remember coming downstairs one morning before school and my mom was like, “Oh, by the way, I saw a ghost last night. I think she was one of the sharecroppers who used to live here. [We lived on very old land out in the middle of nowhere.] She came through the living room, so if you happen to see her, just know she’s cool.” And then I went on to toast some Pop Tarts….. So, yep, I believe in ghosts. 

Do you have a recurring nightmare?

I have incredibly vivid dreams and can lucid-dream often, but nightmares that I can’t control are the worst. The usual, being killed or dying dreams, are bad, but the worst are dreams about alligators. Although this has never happened (except for the small alligator in my front yard a few years ago that my dog found), I have recurring nightmares of having to fight a vicious alligator that’s trying to kill my dogs. I’ve personally been chased by an alligator and have fought off possums and rattlesnakes from my dogs, but never the way it happens in my dreams. Also, I just realized how these situations must sound to people who didn’t grow up/live now in the woods.

Photo by <a href="https://unsplash.com/es/@blahji?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditCopyText">Balaji Malliswamy</a> on <a href="https://unsplash.com/s/photos/alligator?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditCopyText">Unsplash</a>

“I have recurring nightmares of having to fight a vicious alligator.”

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What Scares You, Teel James Glenn?

Happy Halloween! And what better way to spend the best day of the year than chatting with Teel James Glenn about his greatest and strangest fears! Teel is a writer, actor, stuntman, and–I hear–is pretty scary with a sword.

In other words, don’t piss him off.

Also in other words, I bet he’s a blast to have at a party!

Find out more on his web site and check out one of his most recent books, Callback for a Corpse, part of the Maxi and Moxie Mystery Series.

He also has some pretty fabulous stories to tell. So let’s get to it…


What is your greatest fear?

Being homeless. I was for a time after my apartment was flooded out. It was a humbling experience that even with freelance income it was difficult to be able to climb back into the “regular world,” and it drove home how close any of us are to that possibility at any time. I guess it explains why I am a semi-hermit and love sitting like Smaug amongst my books in my Wordcave.

What was your worst nightmare?

I have a vague memory of a nightmare of being trapped in a frozen basement with people trying to hack their way to me but moving in slow motion. I suspect it was after seeing a Twilight Zone episode, but I couldn’t swear to it.

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

Talking in public. I know—I stand up in front of strangers and spew words all the time. But I am actually terribly shy and have to psych myself up every time I go out in public. I was/am a wallflower. In high school I had to make a deliberate attempt to find a “public persona” and Groucho Marx was my model—hence my continued smart-assery…

Do you believe in ghosts? Why or why not?

Yes. Absolutely. I have had a number of “encounters” and for a time functioned as a medium, so I feel I believe and have had experience with survival beyond the flesh. No sense in preaching about it, and I never try to convince anyone else, but for me, that unknown country from whose bourn no traveler returns is not scary.

What are your phobias?

I developed a fear of heights after finding a friend who had been tossed out of a fifth-story window—before that, I could do high falls and rappelling. Not since, even with therapy.

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

Fire. I’ve done fire burns for stunts, and while I recognize it is dangerous, I really don’t have the immediate terror most have.

What is your greatest fear as a writer?

Repeating myself. Mediocrity. I strive to challenge myself, which is why I switch genres frequently, so I am not treading over the same territory; even in the series I write I try to move to fresh places in that particular world so any given tale or series can be reduced to a formula.

Do you have any horror movie dealbreakers?

I can’t bear to see children in jeopardy. Being a father and having spent 30 years teaching young kids, that is a definite deal breaker—why I could not watch a popular TV show that was essentially built around torturing kids.

Second would be depictions of rape—again, having counseled and taught self-defense to survivors it gets my hackles up…

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What Scares You, Bobby Mathews?

Here we are, in the greatest month of all. My various skulls are up. My house ghost Margery is outside keeping watch. I drink my cold brew out of a skeletal hand wine goblet. The leaves are changing. The creepy doll videos are in abundance. It’s a beautiful thing, my friends. Beautiful.

And I get to share it with Bobby Mathews, who is here today to tell us all about his greatest and deepest fears. I’ve only met Bobby once, very recently at Bouchercon when I weirdly went over to him and said hello like we’ve been besties forever and gave him a hug and he was gracious and kind about it and didn’t call security. But he’s got that kind of persona, an infectious sort of energy that makes you feel like you’ve known him a lot longer or better than you actually have. He also, according to his bio, makes the best grilled cheese sandwich, which is clearly a lie, since my dad makes the best grilled cheese sandwiches, but whatever. We’ll let it slide this time.

Anyway, onward! Tell us, what scares the crap out of you, Bobby?


What is your greatest fear?

As the years pass, fear of failure has become much more prominent in my mind. That fear is sometimes nearly crippling. I have two little boys, one just starting middle school and one in elementary school. I worry whether I’m properly equipping them to make their way in the world, and I alternately fear that I’m being too hard on them or too easy on them. I fear failing them, even though I know that I will at some point. I fear overreacting to a given situation or underreacting to it. Parenting is such an easy thing to get wrong, and I think everyone leaves unintentional scars on their children. My hope is that I leave as few as possible. 

What is the scariest thing you remember from childhood?

When I was five years old, my parents went to a drive-in movie theater playing The Exorcist. The movie originally came out in 1973, Google tells me, so this must have been some kind of revival or second run down in the Deep South because it was 1976 or early 1977 by the time my parents and I went. Maybe it was playing in support of the sequel, I’m not sure. Regardless, my parents thought that I was asleep in the backseat of the car, and maybe I was for a time. But I was awake and wide-eyed by the time Regan MacNeil’s demonic head spun all the way around on her body. I stayed quiet and low in the back seat, barely breathing, until the movie was over. Then once the credits began and I knew it was over, I laid back down and shut my eyes tight. I don’t think my parents ever knew that I’d woken up.

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

I used to be scared of heights, but when I was 14 or so my dad got me hired on under-the-table for a summer as a general contractor’s helper. Part of the job was toting bundles of shingles up to the rooftop, hammering in 2 X 4 boards so the roofers had a place to put their feet so that they could maintain their balance and work. Sometimes I laid shingles myself. I hoisted shingles, kegs of nails, boards, equipment, and swung a roofing hammer on top of a lot of houses for the next two years. I learned that I needed to respect heights—because if you lose your concentration, something could go wrong—but going up and down those ladders every day of the week changed the way I viewed heights. As far as changing me, the thing it taught me was that sometimes you just gotta get on with things despite your fears.

How do you deal with fear?

I start by admitting I’m afraid, even if it’s only to myself. I think there’s a dangerous (one might say toxic) element in some masculinity that says that men shouldn’t show fear. I think understanding that you’re afraid—admitting it—is a healthy step in dealing with fear. As a fiction writer, I may lie to readers, but I try not to lie to myself. If I can admit to being afraid, I can think somewhat logically about what to do next in a given situation. I subscribe to the notion that I first heard espoused by Oprah Winfrey: “Real courage is being afraid but doing it anyway.” Part of my writing process is that I try to do something every month that scares me. Submit somewhere that might laugh me out of the slush pile, put together an anthology, give a talk, lead a seminar … whatever “it” is, I try to just be afraid and do it anyway. 

Ladder. Photo by <a href=

“Going up and down those ladders every day of the week changed the way I viewed heights.”

Have you ever had any paranormal experiences or premonitions?

To borrow a phrase from a couple of friends of mine (Hi Paul and Kent!), I think the veil is thin sometimes. I also think that our hunches and feelings about certain places or things often hinge on senses we may not know about. Once, several years ago, I had lunch at what was then a favorite restaurant. I like to dine alone and read while I do it, but some feeling made me restless that day. I could only get a few lines into the book … something kept doing the emotional equivalent of poking me in the ribs. I paid and left. A car came through the wall of the restaurant less than 10 minutes later. It wasn’t exactly where I was sitting, but it was close enough that I would have likely been badly hurt had I stayed.

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Happy 1st birthday to The Mother Next Door!

Today marks one year that The Mother Next Door has been out in the wilds of the world. Thank you so much to everyone who bought, read, borrowed, listened, reviewed, added to their massive to-read list, used as a doorstop, or fed to their dog. I so appreciate your support!

Thank you to my publisher Graydon House for getting this story out into the hands of readers, and to the excellent editors, designers, publicists and marketing teams for keeping me line and making the book shine. (Especially you, Melanie Fried.) And a special shout-out to my audiobook narrators Andi Arndt, Teri Schnaubelt, and Emily Lawrence for bringing my narrators to life.

And if you have not yet gotten your hands on a copy, this is the perfect month to spend some time with the Ivy Five! Get your Halloween fix right-o here.

What Scares You, Edith Maxwell?

Edith Maxwell, or Maddie Day, as you may also know her, makes me jealous every day with how prolific she is. She’s just releasing her 28th book, Murder in a Cape Cottage THIS WEEK! (Grab a copy here.) I can’t even imagine writing that many books!

She’s also wicked.

No, really, she is! I love her posts over at The Wickeds, where she and her fellow crime writers discuss all things crime writing.

She’s also a delightful person, which of course makes me want to know all the things that make her scream, inside and out.

So here we go!


What is your greatest fear?

That something will happen to one of my sons. I have no basis for that, except that bad things happen sometimes. They are both in their 30s and well-adjusted, happy, functional members of society. And I worry!

What is your earliest childhood memory of fear?

By way of explanation, I’ve always had a rabidly overactive imagination. I wasn’t allowed to watch scary shows (Twilight Zone) or movies. But the family bookshelves were always open, and my mother loved crime fiction. I was a young fluent reader, and I soaked up Poe and Sherlock Holmes stories at age nine. As a result, I would gaze at my smooth white bedroom ceiling when the light was on and feel safe. The minute the light went out, however, I knew there was a grate up there and the speckled band was coming for me. Little me would lie there paralyzed with fear!

Do you believe in ghosts?

I don’t rule out the possibility of ghosts or other spectral beings. There is much we don’t know about the world, life, and other dimensions. That said, I try not to think about ghosts too much, per previous answer about my imagination. I’ve lived in a half dozen antique New England homes for the past forty years, and they have lots of unexplained noises. Which could be ghosts…so I don’t go there.

What are your phobias?

Ah, don’t laugh. I don’t like being closed in. I want curtains open whenever possible. I don’t wear turtlenecks. And I’ve been known to break into a run walking through a pedestrian tunnel so I don’t have to stay in there a second longer than necessary. I’m also a bit afraid of ledges and cliffs—not that I will fall, but that I might jump to see what it’s like. And nobody wants that—least of all me.

Do you have a recurring nightmare?

I often have flying-themed nightmares. Sometimes I’m at the airport and my passport is at home. Sometimes I’m on the plane with no prep, no luggage, no phone. Most times I’m traveling to China. The worst involve me actually flying the plane (Big plane! Holding lots of passengers!) when I know full well I have no idea how to fly a plane. In daylight, I wonder about these dreams. I have had a passport since I was seventeen and have traveled and lived internationally for many years (although never to China) and flown several times a year for most of my adult life. Go figure!

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

I’m not afraid of spiders. I don’t want them rappelling down over my bed, but they don’t send me shrieking. They’re good for the eco-system and don’t bother me (unless I unwittingly walk into a web in my garden).

I’m not afraid of spiders. I don’t want them rappelling down over my bed, but they don’t send me shrieking.

What is your greatest fear as a writer?

I have written 33 novels. My newly released book is number 28. And I’m still afraid in the middle of each manuscript that I won’t be able to finish, that it will be awful, that no one will want to read it, and that my career as an author is over. Every. Single. Book. Luckily, it doesn’t stop me from blundering forging ahead and finishing.

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

I had to stop reading Patricia Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta series when her stories got too scary for me. I enjoyed them for a while, and I don’t remember which book it was that terrified me. I like a good suspenseful tale, but not when it makes me scared to go to sleep at night.

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

I don’t fear dying. If I’m aware at the time that I’m going, I know I’ll feel sad about leaving family, close friends, and my writing, but not because the next phase is scary. Who knows, it might be a delightful new existence.


Agatha Award-winning author Edith Maxwell writes the Quaker Midwife Mysteries and award-winning short crime fiction. As Maddie Day, she pens the Country Store Mysteries, the Cozy Capers Book Group Mysteries, and the new Cece Barton Mysteries. Day/Maxwell lives with her beau north of Boston, where she writes, gardens, cooks, and wastes time on Facebook. Find her at EdithMaxwell.com, wickedauthors.com, Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen, and on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

What Scares You, Dan Malmon?

Coming off my Bouchercon 2022 high, where I got to hang with some of the best people on the planet, I am so pleased to be uploading this chat with Dan Malmon. Who, yes, is one of those best people I just got to see in person. From the moment I heard he and his wife Kate were editing an anthology in which all the stories had to kill him off, I knew that they were my people. I was correct about that.

So, friends, grab your coffee or tea or vodka and read on to discover all the things that terrify Dan Malmon. And that fierce (but incredibly adorable) doggie that will protect him.


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

A few years ago (Maybe more? Time has been really weird the last few years.), my wife Kate and I were visiting friends in Chicago. One of our very favorite cities. Great food, great folks. While out seeing the sights, we decided to go to the Willis Tower/Sears Tower. To get to the observation deck, you must go through a long cattle line. We were just packed in there, with no room to move. After a period of slow, shuffling movement, the line just stopped. Everyone grumbled and waited for the line to move again. No biggie. But for me, the room started to spin. Cold sweats, shortness of breath. I haven’t ever really cared about close quarters before, but at that moment there was no greater need in the world than to get the hell out of there. Not gonna lie, that freaked me out badly.

Once we got to the top, I was fine. The tower has these clear plastic enclosures that extend out from the building. You can step inside and it’s as if you are floating in midair, high above the city. I was first in line: I knew in my heart of hearts that this was something I had to do. That if I chickened out here, I would regret it forever. I paid for the ticket, now it was time to take the ride. I finally got to the front of the line, and I thought to myself “HERE GOES…!”  And I stepped out over the line from sturdy floor to clear plastic cubicle… and it was the greatest thing ever.

That being said, my palms were sweating as I was typing all of this.

“I knew if I chickened out here, I would regret it forever.”

Do you believe in ghosts?

Probably? I haven’t encountered any, but I’m not saying no. I have friends that swear that they have stayed in haunted hotels. The stories they tell are freaky as hell. But I honestly get more chills from going back to childhood neighborhoods, driving past your old schools. Those are the ghosts that you carry with you, and they are always around.

What is your greatest fear as an editor?

My greatest fear when we were putting out KILLING MALMON was that people wouldn’t see past the gag and see the exceptional work that we were showcasing in the book. The hook was simple, “Somewhere in your story, a character named Dan Malmon must die. The story can be scary, funny, happy, or sad, but somewhere in the story he’s gotta die.” It was a fun premise that opened the door to tons of different stories. People seemed to like it, and the experience was incredible. But I was worried that the public would think of it solely as a gag and ignore the quality of the stories inside. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case.

Do you have any horror movie dealbreakers?

The Omen and The Exorcist. I’m not religious but there’s something about those films.

Can’t do it.

Nope.  

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What Scares You, Yasmin Angoe?

Yasmin Angoe’s first novel, Her Name Is Knight, was all over the best-of and most-anticipated lists when it came out. The book features an “elite assassin heroine on a mission to topple a human trafficking ring and avenge her family.” Kirkus Review called it, “A parable of reclaiming personal and tribal identity by seizing power at all costs.” Now she’s got the second book in the series, They Come At Knight, releasing in a few weeks, so you have time to catch up if you haven’t yet read the first!

In the meantime, I am excited to hear all she has to say about the stuff she finds scary. Let’s do this!


What is your greatest fear?

My greatest fear is waking up one day and having no story to tell. Sounds dumb or like something a writer would say, but I really mean it. It’s probably why I obsess so much about the stories I am telling.

What are your phobias?

I have a phobia of spiders and clusters of bubbles or holes. Just writing it freaks me out. Ick! 

What is your favorite urban legend (or one that’s really stuck with you/freaked you out)?

That would be Bloody Mary, I think. Or any story where if you repeat a name it comes to get you.

What is your greatest fear as a writer?

What scares me most is writing something that people will hate. Like, the story just flops. That’s terrifying.

Do you have any horror movie dealbreakers?

I used to be scared to read/watch movies with the devil or possessions. I thought those could hit too close to home, being Catholic and all. LOL.

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What Scares You, Christopher Swann?

I’m so excited to chat all things scary with my friend Christopher Swann today (pictured here after painting a ceiling last summer, or right before the authorities come to take him to a safe, locked room—your choice). Chris’s book, Never Go Home, released this month, and you need to get it right now. I had the pleasure of reading an advance copy of the book and I will tell you if you love bad-ass female protagonists (and who doesn’t?) then You. Will. Love. This. Book.

But the most important thing is what terrifies the shit out of Chris. So read on, my friends!


What is your greatest fear?

It’s a tie between being eaten alive and dying alone.

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

Talking to large groups of people. I overcame it by becoming a high school teacher, where you have to, on a daily basis, engage groups of adolescents who may not want to be there. I still get nervous, but that fear energizes me rather than keeps me from talking.

What was your worst nightmare ever?

I had a nightmare where I was in an airport and my father walked past me, wearing a trench coat and a hat and carrying a briefcase. I called out for him, but he ignored me. I ran after him, but it was like running in slow motion—he kept walking, and I barely made any progress. I finally caught up to him when he was about to go through the metal detector. “Dad!” I yelled, and he turned around. But it wasn’t my father. It was Morgan Freeman, and he opened his mouth and had long vampire-like teeth. I woke up screaming.

What scares you most about the writing process?

Submissions. And writing a synopsis.

What is your greatest fear as a writer?

The fear that I’ll have nothing to write, or that no one will care about what I do end up writing.

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What Scares You, Jackie Sherbow?

I was excited to catch up with Jackie Sherbow, managing editor of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine to chat about all things scary. Turns out Jackie shares my love of the best holiday ever (of course!) and the Bloody Mary urban legend. You may also check out their new small press, Thrash Press.

Read on for more awesomeness!


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

Yes. I used to have a constant fear upon parting with anyone that that would be the last time I saw them. Aside from that being a scary and depressing thought, it also put a lot of pressure on every single interaction I had. Now I give myself and others more grace, and I’m able to say goodbye without feeling awful.

Do you believe in ghosts?

I believe in ghosts—in a way. First, I want to believe in them, or at least in strange things we can’t quite understand. Second, I think it doesn’t necessarily matter if the ghost is real or not: If we believe in something, and it makes us afraid, it affects us all the same. I think different experiences, memories, and traumas in our life can act as ghosts for us. And I think that in a way society has ghosts as well, persistent hauntings that appear repeatedly throughout the years.

What is your favorite urban legend?

Bloody Mary. It always had a bit of the vertigo effect for me, the feeling people describe of being afraid of heights and then having the compulsion to throw themselves off the ledge. Bloody Mary only appears if you say her name three times. Why did I always want to say her name!? Or, I’d be afraid I would somehow accidentally say it or think it. The agency of the situation scared me, and I think that’s an interesting element of this one.

Do you have a recurring nightmare?

I have several recurring nightmares. I’ve noticed that, recently, most of my dreams are nightmares. There are the standard ones of being lost, trying to climb up a hill, or my teeth falling out. I also get sleep paralysis, and it tends to be seeing someone invade my home and not being able to wake up. Lately I’ve had a recurring dream that is a bit more mundane but still awful: Trusted people in my life turning on me.

What scares you most about the writing process?

Revising! I can sit down and write, but I am terrified to look back at my work. Am I afraid it will be horrible? Afraid that it’ll be great? Afraid that I will not have the energy or skill to make it better? Afraid I’m creating into a dark abyss? I’m not sure, but I’m working on it.

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