Posts tagged "snakes"

What Scares You, Layne Fargo?

Today I welcome Layne Fargo, writer of bad-ass scary novels, to talk all about her fears. Layne’s latest novel, They Never Learn–AVAILABLE TODAY–features a female serial killer and English professor. I mean, really, you’re clicking through and buying this right now, right?

And after you’ve bought it, come on over here and read more about Layne’s most favorite scary things.

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

My fear of snakes—though I’m not sure I’ve overcome it so much as learned to manage it. I used to be so afraid of snakes, I’d have a full-on panic attack if I even saw a picture of one. When I was in college, I sought therapy for this, which helped some—but after that I sort of did my own therapy, which involved forcing myself to read books about snakes and watch movies with snakes in them, then working my way up to going to the reptile house at the zoo and even touching a snake (held by a zookeeper with its creepy little head turned away from me!).

Over the years I’ve adopted the snake as a symbol in my life: of my ambition (yes, I am a Slytherin) and my willingness to face my fears head-on. I own lots of snake-shaped jewelry, and I even have a tattoo of a snake wrapped around my right ankle. I’d still run away screaming if I saw a snake, like, crawling across the ground in front of me, but the fear no longer controls me.

How do you deal with fear?

I tend to get curious, because your fears can tell you so much about yourself. Sometimes fear is your intuition warning you away from something that’s not right for you or even actively dangerous. But other times it can be like a glaring neon sign pointing you to what you really want in life. Especially in my writing career, I’ve found that if something—a project or an event or an opportunity—scares the crap out of me, it’s a sign that I care a lot about it, and I have to find a way to push through the fear and go after it.

What scares you most about the writing process?

The actual writing! I hate drafting; the blank page makes me freeze in terror. I love revising, but unfortunately you have to write first in order to have something to revise. I’ve developed all these tricks to make the first draft process feel more like revising so I can get through it, like brain-dumping a stream-of-consciousness version of each scene first or writing in script format (just dialogue and action). Anything to avoid the dreaded blank page!

What is your favorite monster or villain?

I’m not sure I have a #1 favorite, but Jennifer from Jennifer’s Body is up there. I can’t get enough of female villains who thoroughly enjoy doing bad things and don’t feel guilty at all. Jennifer’s Body was a huge source of inspiration for my new book They Never Learn, which features a similarly remorseless female villain who enjoys killing boys (and men).

“I used to be so afraid of snakes, I’d have a full-on panic attack if I even saw a picture of one.”

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

I know I was just talking about how I’ve moved past my snake fear, but the baby snake scene in Riley Sager’s Home Before Dark will haunt me for the rest of my days. It starts with a character finding a baby snake in his coffee cup, and I had the misfortune to be drinking coffee when I read it. I may never recover.

In which post-apocalyptic scenario are you most likely to survive and thrive: 28 Days Later (zombies), The Stand (sickness kills all but a few), or The Last Policeman (asteroid hits Earth)?

I would be screwed in just about any post-apocalyptic scenario. I have no survival skills whatsoever, unless making kickass spreadsheets counts. But of these, I think I’d have the best shot in The Stand. I’m good at finding efficient ways to do things with limited resources, and I don’t mind being alone for long periods of time, so a world with only a few people in it doesn’t sound so bad.

Layne Fargo is the author of the thrillers Temper and They Never Learn. She’s a Pitch Wars mentor, vice president of the Chicagoland chapter of Sisters in Crime, and the co-creator of the podcast Unlikeable Female Characters. Layne lives in Chicago with her partner and their pets.

What Scares You, Erica Wright?

Erica Wright has chosen to write a book about snakes. When I found that out, I decided I needed to know what scares her. Little did I know she grew up in a haunted house! Gold mine! Read on to discover more gems from Erica, and pre-order her essay collection Snakes right here.

What is your greatest fear?

If you had asked me this a few years ago, I would have said snakes. I’ve seen three of the four Indiana Jones movies, and you can probably guess which one I turned off after the hero descended into a pit. Seriously, why did it have to be snakes? But in 2013, I attended the Rattlesnake and Wildlife Festival in Claxton, Georgia, and started to gain an appreciation for this animal. The beauty pageant contestants posing with vipers gave me the heebie-jeebies, but most of the presentations involved nonvenomous species. I was particularly taken by The Orianne Society, which focuses on conserving ecosystems in order to protect reptiles and amphibians. They had this little booth where they told small groups about Eastern Indigos, a snake that’s almost iridescent up close, like an oil spill. The one they showed us really was beautiful, and my fear was pricked with admiration. Fast-forward seven years, and I’m about to publish a collection of essays about snakes (a.k.a. danger noodles, a.k.a. nope ropes) for Bloomsbury’s Object Lessons series.

What is the scariest thing you remember from childhood?

This is a sweet rather than a scary memory, but it involves fear. When my brother and I would sleep over at my grandmother’s house, we would sit on her porch swing at night making up stories for each other. She lived in the country, so it was often dark and spooky out, but we were tucked safely under a blanket. The stories I made up were always about monsters and witches and dangerous men waiting to gobble up wayward children. But I would end every one with “and then they lived happily ever after”—no matter how many people had died—which would make my brother and grandmother laugh. I don’t think my storytelling aesthetics have changed very much, to be honest.  

“I would end every [story] with ‘and then they lived happily ever after’—no matter how many people had died.”

What is your weirdest fear?

I don’t know if “fear” is the right word, but sometimes I get paranoid that I’m going to get stuck in my clothes. This is especially true if something’s a little bit tight. I can be out having a grand old time, then start to worry about what I’ll do if I get home and the dress or shirt or pants won’t come off. This is less of a concern now that I’m married. I figure Adam can cut me out of anything that decides to squeeze me to death.

Do you believe in ghosts? Why or why not?

My childhood home was haunted. Footsteps in the attic, children’s laughter in the foyer, that sort of thing. My grandfather was helping us with plumbing one summer afternoon when he felt an icy hand on his shoulder and turned around to empty space. A very religious—not at all superstitious—great aunt recalled a glass shattering in the middle of the night. The supernatural occurrences were common enough that I never thought to be afraid of them, though. I was afraid of the Bell Witch, which was a Tennessee urban legend. If you say her name in the mirror three times, supposedly she appears, but I don’t have a death wish so I’ve never tried.

Erica’s haunted childhood home!!!

Have you ever had any paranormal experiences or premonitions?

Almost all of the paranormal experiences I remember as a child were auditory, but one night my mom, brother, and myself saw these floating orbs outside the living room window. We turned off all the lights to better see, and they were out there hovering. Maybe four or five? They looked like those splotches on photographs that are the result of a camera flash hitting a dust mote at just the right angle. But this was real life. No cameras involved. We didn’t do anything. I remember feeling unnerved, but also a little in awe. It’s kind of wonderful that there is still so much we don’t understand about the world.  

What is your greatest fear as a writer?

Last summer, I was lucky enough to visit Ireland and went to a W. B. Yeats exhibit at the National Library. It was a surprisingly emotional hour for me, reading original drafts of some of my favorite poems. Yeats is a writer who defied my greatest writing fear, which is that poetry is a young person’s game. He wrote “The Circus Animals’ Desertion” (and other exceptional works) late in life when he could have rested on his laurels. But I do believe that there’s something pure about writing poems while still learning how to write poems, without a focus on publishing. I understand the yearning for validation—for audience—but there’s a lightning that can strike while noodling, especially when your mind is nimble and open.

What is your favorite monster or villain?

For my book about snakes, I spent some time researching regional animal legends like the Lake Hopatcong anaconda (which turned out to be someone’s pet boa constrictor). I’m partial to the Honey Island Swamp Monster because it sounds like a summer cocktail. It’s a Louisiana Bigfoot of sorts. Then there’s the Eel-Pig of Herrington Lake in Kentucky. I find that combination more funny than terrifying. I want to be friends with whoever dreamed up an eel-pig.

Erica Wright’s essay collection Snake will be released this fall as part of Bloomsbury’s Object Lessons series. Her latest crime novel Famous in Cedarville received a starred review from Publishers Weekly. She is the author of three previous novels and two poetry collections, Instructions for Killing the Jackal and All the Bayou Stories End with Drowned. She is the poetry editor and a senior editor at Guernica Magazine as well as a former editorial board member for Alice James Books. She grew up in Wartrace, TN, and now lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband and their dog Penny.