A self-proclaimed Scream girlie, Alice Slater’s debut novel Death of a Bookseller published just last month and is a “darkly funny suspense” about true crime, bookstores, and the limits of friendship. You can get your copy right here. And then read on to find out her favorite horror movies, big fears, all the other things that terrify Alice…dum dum dum.
What is your earliest childhood memory of fear? Or the scariest thing you remember from childhood?
My first brush with fear—real, gut-wrenching, blood-to-ice fear—was the Honey Monster, the yellow yeti-style mascot of the cereal brand Sugar Puffs. My small brain understood that danger lay within that cheerful exterior, and I went into fight-or-flight mode every time his guffawing mug appeared on our television screen.
What are your phobias?
I’m quite frightened of the dark, although I’m not sure why. Somewhere between a real-world fear of who and an irrational fear of what could be lurking in the shadows, I suppose. I don’t believe in ghosts, but I do believe in the way they make me feel. I don’t believe it’s likely I’ll come across a stranger in my home, or in my garden late at night, but it isn’t impossible. I use a lot of my own fears and paranoia in my writing, and I hope that shines through in my debut novel, Death of a Bookseller.
What is your favorite urban legend?
Do you know the one about the babysitter and the clown statue? A young babysitter, a suburban home full of weird art. Every time she checks on the sleeping children, she finds herself creeped out by this horrible clown statue standing in the corner of the room. Freaked out by its cold dead eyes, she throws a blanket over it so she doesn’t have to look at it. When the parents finally get home, they ask how her evening was and she says it was fine, but she has to apologise for covering the children’s clown statue with a blanket. The parents look confused, and the mother says, “I’m sorry but I’m not sure what you mean—what clown statue?” [Editor’s note: You can listen to a super creepy homage to this story over at The Strange and Unusual podcast.]
It’s so silly, but I remember the first time I heard it, a real curl of fear unfurled within me. My brother also found it deeply disturbing, which lead my mother to wonder what shared childhood experience we might have had for us to both find it so upsetting. As far as I’m aware, we have never encountered a clown anywhere it shouldn’t be.
How do you deal with fear?
I’m an incredibly fragile little baby, so I either refuse to face my fears entirely (I’m queen of covering my eyes in the cinema) or I demand mollycoddling. If I was a dog, I’d be a shivering chihuahua that requires human contact at all times.
What’s your favorite horror movie or television series?
I’m a Scream girlie, and my order of preference is 1 > 4 > 2 > 3 > 5 (I haven’t seen 6 yet as I’m on a deadline for book two, and it’s killing me). Aside from Scream, I love 90s slashers, 70s Hollywood, big sharks, and smart, strange movies with a really incredible female lead: Carrie, Midsommar, Ginger Snaps, May, Excision, It Follows, St Maud, Us. You get the vibe. The only thing I really don’t like is extreme violence: 00s splat pack—Hostel, Saw, House of 1000 Corpses and the like.
What’s creepier: clowns or dolls?
I’m very fond of both, actually, but I think clowns have the edge. I love the uncanny fear that clowns strike into the hearts of adults, and I find it really difficult to imagine a pre-Pennywise world in which clowns weren’t intrinsically linked to murder. Dolls I don’t consider a particular threat to my peace. Chucky, Annabel, and Brahms aren’t anywhere near as scary as Art, Captain Spaulding, or Twisty. I do think there’s space within this question to raise a possible third option though: how do we feel about waxworks? I’d rather be trapped in a lift with M3gan than the Peru waxwork of Lady Gaga. Google her. Vile.
Alice Slater is a writer, podcaster and ex-bookseller from London. She studied creative writing at MMU and UEA. She lives in London with her husband and a lot of books.