Posts tagged "suspense"

What Scares You, Carol Goodman?

I’m very excited to chat with Carol Goodman for this installment of What Scares You. Carol’s books are among my favorites of all time. They are filled with spooky houses, buried secrets, myth, Gothic imagery, writers and artists, and ghosts. With all that swirling around in her mind, how could this interview not be interesting? Read on to find out what scares Carol.

What is your greatest fear?

That something will happen to my daughter. 

What is your earliest childhood memory of fear? Or the scariest thing you remember from childhood?

I remember when I realized that people died, specifically that my parents would die someday and that I would die someday. I would like awake at night obsessing over that, and finally the only way I could overcome my fear was to make up a story where my family and I were transported to a planet where we would all be immortal—at least, I think I included my family in this fantasy at first. Eventually it was just me who got to go live on the planet and be immortal. This fantasy was really comforting until I became a parent, and then I couldn’t resort to it because I somehow knew I wouldn’t be able to bring my child with me. What self-respecting child wants to go live on a planet with their mom?

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

See above: Mortality conquered by fantasy. Also, I used to be frightened of being alone in a house, but mostly I’m not anymore.

What is your weirdest fear?

None of my fears seem weird. 

Do you believe in ghosts?

My daughter recently answered this question with: “I don’t believe in ghosts, but I am afraid of them.” I love ghost stories, but if I actually saw a ghost, I’d completely lose it.

What is your favorite urban legend?

I remember hearing “The Claw” when I was a teenager and being terrified that I’d be out parking with my date and hear that scritch-scritch-scritch on the roof.  There was a version of it, too, where the woman is driving and people are pointing at her car with horrified faces and when she gets home she realizes there’s a madman on her roof—or maybe a corpse? That terrified me because of the idea that other people could see the danger you were in but you couldn’t.

Do you have a recurring nightmare?

For years I had the classic school anxiety nightmare in which you are sitting down for an exam and realize you’ve forgotten to come to the class all semester, only in my version the exam would be in my Greek class (I took Greek for two years in college) and my Greek teacher Mr. Day would be towering over me like Zeus, brandishing a lightning bolt, and the exam would be in Sanskrit.

How do you deal with fear?

I make up a story that’s even worse than the thing I’m afraid of, and then I write that story. For example, when I was in my early thirties I’d separated from my husband and gone to live at my parents’ house with my two-year-old daughter. I was afraid that my life was over, that I’d have to live with my parents forever, and that my soon-to-be-ex-husband would kidnap my daughter. So I thought: this could be worse; what if I hadn’t had my parents to come home to? So I made up a story about a woman in similar circumstances who takes a job at her former boarding school so that she’ll have housing and childcare. The only thing she has to worry about is the vengeful figure from her past wielding an ice-pike. Somehow I found this comforting, and it was the origin of my first novel, The Lake of Dead Languages. 

What scares you most about the writing process?

Every morning when I sit down to write I feel a little frisson of dread. I’m not sure why. I think it has to do with exposure—the sense that I’ll have to peel away the protective layer between my inner self and the world—and, worse, that there won’t be anything there when I do.

What is your greatest fear as a writer?

That I won’t have anything left to write.

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

I recently wrote a scene in which a man saws his own hand off. That was scary.

Do you have any horror movie deal-breakers?

I hate whenever anything happens to a character’s hands.  And yes, I know that contradicts the answer above.

“I recently wrote a scene in which a man saws his own hand off.”

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

The Shining was for a long time the scariest book. The Kubrick film absolutely terrified me the first time I saw it (in the movie theaters when it first came out) and haunted me for years. Probably when the twins appear and say “Come play with us.”  When I read the book years later I was amazed that the book was AS scary. I also remember being really creeped out by Superstition by David Ambrose. Billy O’Callaghan’s The Dead House scared me, so then I read it a second time.

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)?

Well, given our present situation, let’s hope it’s The Stand. I really wouldn’t do well with zombies, and I haven’t read The Last Policeman.

What’s worse: being haunted by a demon or having a stalker?

I’ll take the human stalker.  Demons are definitely scarier.

You are renting a remote house with a few close friends when all the electricity cuts out. Are you the friend who goes down to the basement to check on the situation? If not, what do you do when someone else does, and you hear them calling your name from that dark basement? (Assume your cell phones don’t work out there in the remote wilderness.)

Since I am the Mom in my house, I am ALWAYS the one who goes down to the basement to fiddle with the circuit switches even though I LOATHE the basement. So yeah, I’m the one who goes down. I’m calling for you now. Taaarrraaa …. Come play with me … foreverrrrr ….

Carol Goodman is the author of twenty-one novels, including The Lake of Dead Languages and The Seduction of Water, which won the 2003 Hammett Prize, The Widow’s House, which won the 2018 Mary Higgins Clark Award, and The Night Visitors, which won the 2020 Mary Higgins Clark Award. Her books have been translated into sixteen languages. She lives in the Hudson Valley with her family, and teaches literature and writing at The New School and SUNY New Paltz.

What scares you, Ed Aymar?

I can’t remember when Ed Aymar and I became friends. One day, he was just suddenly there, like a fungus. However, if you’re going to get a fungus, Ed’s probably the best one out there.

In addition to being such a good friend that I have no problems comparing him to a spore-producing organism, Ed’s also a great writer. His latest book, The Unrepentant, is the kind of thriller I wish I could write. It’s non-stop, gasp-worthy, and keeps you turning the pages until the very end.

Ed’s also terrified of EVERYTHING. Want to know more? Read all about what scares him….

What is your earliest childhood memory of fear? Or the scariest thing you remember from childhood?

I had a dream, when I was very little, of three women’s heads sitting on a table in our living room. I don’t know how young I was, but I’m pretty sure I couldn’t have been older than five or six. I remember walking past the heads, and they stayed still. But when I went outside, the heads had turned to watch me.

I’ve since had scarier dreams and experiences, but that’s my first memory of a nightmare.

Do you believe in ghosts? Why or why not?

I mean, I’d kind of like to? The idea that our loved ones are nearby, and that there’s something mystical and maybe wonderful after our lives end, is powerful.

And I never want to say that I don’t believe in ghosts because I’m always afraid a ghost will read that and decide to scare me. Like, the ghost is saying, “Believe in me now, motherfucker!”

So maybe I do. I dunno. But this question reminds me of a poem by Marie Howe (“Buying the Baby”) that has remained with me for years, and seems the perfect answer to your question:

Sometimes I prayed so hard for God to materialize at the foot of my bed
it would start to happen;
then I’d beg it to stop, and it would.

So I guess I do believe.

(I bet you didn’t think I read poetry but I do. It’s one of my layers.)

“I had a dream, when I was very little, of three women’s heads sitting on a table in our living room.”

Do you have a recurring nightmare?

I had terrible sleep paralysis growing up. I would lie in bed as a child, believing I was awake, but then realize I was still asleep. I’d hear (actually, dream I heard) people around me, sitting next to the bed and talking, but I couldn’t move. I would strain to lift my arm or pull the covers over my face, as some sort of meek protection, and then discover, in fact, I was still asleep. But discovering I was asleep made me believe I was actually awake, and the process would begin again. It was exhausting and frightening.

Sometimes the people talking were my parents, sometimes they were strangers. Sometimes it was a figure standing at the foot of my bed, watching me. And I would try with all my might to wake up, to pry one eye open. I remember groaning, hoping that my parents would hear me and come wake me…but even those groans were part of the dream. In reality, I was lying in bed, entirely still. And the room was empty. And I was fighting and screaming in silence.

I still get hit by sleep paralysis – not frequently, usually when I’m exhausted. And it does worry me. Not so much for me, but for my son. I hope he doesn’t have to go through that as he grows up, at least not as frequently as I did. I hope he’s not scared that same way, calling for me to help him, and I don’t come.

How do you deal with fear?

This sounds like a brave answer, but it’s not because I’m not: I have to face it.

That’s not to say I’d be the type to charge headfirst into battle or walk down the stairs to confront a killer. But the idea of not knowing a danger, and have it out there and waiting, isn’t something I can distance myself from. That type of haunting will remain with me.

So a fear has to be confronted, but that doesn’t mean I’m charging into a dark room, biceps flexed, roaring “BRING IT ON!” I’d have the cops go first, then peek over their shoulders.

“Twitter is a long field of people being loudly tortured for their sins…”

What is your greatest fear as a writer?

This time in social media is so threatening to people. Every day someone makes a mistake, and social media is relentless in its reprisal. Twitter is a long field of people being loudly tortured for their sins, and I would hate to be one of those people. Some are made for it, and they navigate that ground easily, casting insults and proclamations and brushing off comebacks. I’m not one of those people. The minute someone yelled at me, I’d probably just delete my account and join MySpace or something.

Strangers yelling at you, often stupidly, isn’t really the fear, of course. The fear is that it’s deserved, that you do something wrong worth exposing, and that every element of nuance is brushed aside. That your life is suddenly and irrevocably yanked from your control.

All of my answers in this interview, I now see, touch on something that’s imperative to my happiness – a sense of control. Most of us have fashioned our lives to our liking, or we’re attempting to. We can prepare to have that taken from us but, when it does happen, it’s violent and unexpected and, often, not what we anticipated. I think that’s where fear preys. It’s what we can’t imagine, but is often inevitable. Like the end of a good story. Or the end of a life.

Of E.A. Aymar’s The Unrepentant, Publisher’s Weekly wrote, “Readers who appreciate depth of character alongside gritty nonstop action will be rewarded.” His newest thriller is the novel-in-stories anthology The Swamp Killers (in which he served as co-editor and contributor with Sarah M. Chen). He has a monthly column in the Washington Independent Review of Books, and he is also the managing editor of The Thrill Begins on behalf of ITW; he also serves on the national board of that organization. He was born in Panama and now lives and writes in the D.C./MD/VA triangle.

Best book launch week ever.

One Night Gone launched last Tuesday, October 1, and what a wonderful week it’s been. I’ve been so overwhelmed with all the enthusiasm and excitement from friends and readers–you all are the best! Thank you!

I kicked off my first month of events with a book launch party at One More Page Books and More in Arlington, Virginia. I love OMP–they hosted my very first launch party for Modern Manners For Your Inner Demons so many years ago, and I’m still grateful to them for taking a chance on my little chapbook. Eileen and crew are so supportive of local authors. We are blessed to have them here in the D.C. area.

I also had a bunch of other writings, interviews, and reviews published around the Internets. My essay about my mom’s death, ghosts, grief, and Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark was published in CrimeReads. The best part of this was hearing all the amazing stories from people who have also lost a loved one. I feel very seen.

I also had a Very Important Scientific Study over at Criminal Element. Meaning, my son and I watched A LOT of Scooby Doo episodes and ranked our top 10 monsters. Read it. Then fight us.

The Beast of Bottomless Lake

Bookish featured my essay about the three things that creep me out the most (hint: KRAKEN) and why I chose to write about them.

I chatted with Elena Hartwell on her web site, and also with Leslie Pietrzyk over at Work in Progress. Marni Graff allowed me to blab on about the challenges of switching from writing novels to writing short stories and back again. My husband Art Taylor invited me to discuss the beginning of One Night Gone on his popular blog series The First Two Pages. And I had a really wonderful chat with Meredith Cole and Kristin Swenson on the podcast The Writer’s Story.

The cocktails I paired with my characters were featured in “Drinks with Reads” at Mystery Playground.

And Washington Independent Review of Books featured a really great review of the book, in which I finally unlocked the ultimate level of achievement: a book that’s dubbed “unputdownable.”

WHEW! What a whirlwind. And the fun continues tonight when I get to chat with the always amazing Bethanne Patrick at another favorite D.C. bookstore: Politics and Prose at the Wharf. Hope to see you there–or at another event soon.

Main photo credit by David McDonald

Cover RE-REVEAL: One Night Gone

Surprise! Just when you thought I had a cover….I have a new cover.

The smart, lovely team at Graydon House/Harlequin decided that my original cover didn’t quite speak enough to the suspense/thriller genre that my book really fits in. So they gave it a facelift! And a beautiful one at that.

For those of you who were fans of the creepy house in the original–good news! It’s still there. But we’ve shifted focus slightly to the stormy night sky instead of the sandy beach, giving the overall look one with more menace and intrigue. Check it out!

Same house, added creepiness!