What Scares Daniel Kraus?

What scares you? That’s the question I asked YA authors for this blog series featuring frightening—even surprising—fears.

Our surprise guest for Halloween is Daniel Kraus, author of Rotters, Scowler, The Monster Variations, and more.

What scares Daniel? I have to warn you, it’s kind of terrifying…


Guest post by Daniel Kraus

What scares me is that we are bags of meat. Hold up your fist. They say that’s the size of your heart. Picture a gray fist flexing right there in your chest. Be still. Can’t you feel it? Runny liquid slurped through opaque tubes. It’s worse than that, even. The tubes are fibrous. You can’t fix these things. It’d be better if the heart were cradled in bone. Instead it’s just suspended in there. That’s worrisome. Heavy things that are suspended pull against that weight. Things snap. People can talk all day about the miracle of the body or the beauty of its engineering. Nice try. Your heart is dangling from strings of bubblegum, jostling with every motion, making wet noises as it slaps against lungs. The potential points of failure here are innumerable. Remember when you held an uncooked chicken breast, soft and slick and malodorous? Your cavities are filled with such things. Give us a poke and we split like trash bags, lots of work for the night nurse, lots to clean for the janitor. We aren’t repulsed by the scabbing. How is that? It rises from nowhere in the manner of maggots. I’ll grant you this: There is magic in the brain. I’ll be damned if it’s not alchemy, the transmutation of raw sausage into electronic telegraphs. Don’t get romantic about it. Peel off your skin and scoop out the muscle and you’re a jellyfish. Meet your jellyfish tentacles: your drapery of veins and your purses of bile. How did we get so good at disassociating our viscera from our brain? You know how many things have to squirt and spasm for you to have a single thought? The worm—now that’s good design. The human is not. We’re an inside-out flystrip for stupid clots and dumbfuck cancers. We’re future spoilage. We’re spoiling right now, overdue to be scraped from the plate. These bags we call bodies keep our cankers from staining the floor, that’s all. Yet look at us go! We feel emotions and have opinions and do lots of other curious things. This is darling of us. Isn’t it? We are not who we think we are. This is scary.

Thank you for sharing your fears with us, Daniel! I find what you said… alarming. Happy Halloween, all!


Daniel Kraus is the author of Rotters, The Monster Variations, and the upcoming novels Scowler and Trollhunters (with filmmaker Guillermo del Toro). You can find him at danielkraus.com and twitter.com/DanielDKraus.


Here, if you want to scare yourself further, are all the posts in the What Scares You? series:

Happy Halloween!

Series art by Robert Roxby. Email to contact the artist directly.

What Scares Robin Wasserman? (+Giveaway)

What scares you? That’s the question I asked YA authors for this blog series. Stay tuned for interviews and guest posts as authors visit and reveal their frightening—even surprising—fears.

Today’s guest author is Robin Wasserman, author of The Book of Blood and Shadow, the Cold Awakening trilogy, and more. (And be sure to enter the giveaway to win a signed copy of The Book of Blood and Shadow!)

What scares Robin? Read on to find out.


Guest post by Robin Wasserman

As an independent, twenty-first-century, spunky city-living lady in my (uh, let’s still call them) early thirties, I’m pretty sure there are certain things I am officially too old to be afraid of: The dark. The woods. The boogeyman. The ceiling fan.

I’m doing pretty well on all but that last one.

Blame David Lynch. Or blame my parents, for letting me watch and get obsessed with a David Lynch show when I was twelve years old. Or blame me, for continuing to watch, even after I could sense my inner pendulum tipping from “delightful frisson of fear” to “holy freaking crap terror.”

But in fairness to me, I didn’t have much experience in being that particular kind of afraid. I didn’t see it coming.

When I was a kid, everything in the real world scared me—getting in trouble, getting hurt, talking to strangers, failing. At least, it was the idea of these things that scared me—for the most part, I was too timid to do anything that might lead to them actually happening. (No comment on whether this has changed as I’ve grown up. That seems like the subject of an entirely different and potentially humiliating soul-searching essay.)

Life was terrifying.

Fiction, on the other hand? When it came to fiction, I was fearless.  Horror books, horror movies, horror TV shows—I was a horror vacuum, sucking up anything and everything I could find about the worst of the worst, about evil clowns and hearts of darkness. While my mother hid from the gore in her cozy, no-one-very-important-ever-dies mystery novels, my father and I bonded weekly over Tales from the Crypt and traded jokes about axe-murdering Santas and the fury of a zombie scorned. This when I was about eleven years old. It was around this time that I discovered Stephen King, and—when I ran through the library’s collection of those and waited impatiently for him to write more—Dean Koontz, Peter Straub, Robin Cook, Christopher Pike. None of it scared me, not the vampires, not the killer carnies, not the homicidal toddlers or the carnivorous dogs. On the contrary: They comforted me. Books like It and The Stand were my security blanket, convincing me that if these characters could stare into the maw of pure evil and survive, even triumph, then surely I could face gym class or my angry French teacher.

For me, horror was never about being afraid—it was about being brave.

But that’s also subject for a different soul-searching essay (one that should probably be entitled “How Stephen King Saved My Sanity”), because this one’s about the one thing that finally leapt out of a dark shadow and scared the crap out of me.

I was twelve years old, eager to get the hell out of elementary school, afraid I was being ditched by my best friend, and, above all other concerns, determined to find out who killed Laura Palmer.

This is one of the greatest opening theme songs to one of the greatest shows ever on television.

I can’t listen to it for more than thirty seconds without starting to hyperventilate.

(Okay, that’s a writerly exaggeration, but one I believe is true in spirit, it’s just that I haven’t had the nerve to test it out—that’s right, I am 34 years old and literally too scared to listen to that song. Don’t even talk to me about red curtains. Or, as mentioned, ceiling fans.)

I was obsessed with Twin Peaks. I watched every episode and endlessly rehashed it the next morning with my one friend who was allowed to watch. I bought the Laura Palmer Diary (and if you’ve seen Twin Peaks, you’re shuddering now to imagine what might have been in there), listened to the Agent Cooper tapes to Diane, and spent a fair amount of time planning my future wedding to Kyle MacLachlan.

If you haven’t seen it, I could tell you that Twin Peaks was a murder mystery set in a small town, but that wouldn’t even begin to describe it. I could tell you that it was a twisted, Lynchian vision of modern American life, consumed with duality and darkness, that it was a meditation on evil and youth and the worms crawling beneath the surface of apparently bucolic life. But that wasn’t the show I saw when I was twelve years old. What I saw was a surreal, terrifying, anything-goes circus of horrors, normal people who acted just off enough to make you want to run for the hills and less normal people driven insane in ways simultaneously hilarious and horrific, a world where dwarves danced in your dreams and the owls were not what they seemed, where at any moment, even in the safety of your own living room, you could turn to see this coming right for you:

It’s something like what I imagine your first psychedelic drug experience might be like: a brain-shattering realization of what’s possible, a crack through the heart of how you see the world.

And after all that, even then I wasn’t scared.

But then, I saw the Twin Peaks movie. And then, I went home to my friend’s house for a Twin Peaks sleepover, and lay on her floor all night, sneezing and sweating through the first stages of the flu, drowning in a recurring fever dream of dead girls wrapped in cellophane and evil lodges in the forest and ceiling fans. When I woke up, it was all over.

“It” being my blissful life free and clear of worrying about things like evil. I spent the next year in a fit of fear that—at thirteen years old—I felt far too old not to be embarrassed by. But I couldn’t shake it. I stayed out of the woods. I said “I love you” to my parents every night before bed, in hopes it might ward off any evil spirits that might want to inhabit them. I never, ever turned on my ceiling fan.

I grew out of it, eventually—and I’ll never be sorry that it happened. (Well, I could have done without the fever-induced night terrors.) Something about that show shook me off my feet, and when you’re thirteen years old, living a reasonably uneventful, insulated, self-pitying suburban life, you can use the occasional internal earthquake to raise some questions you might still be too terrified to ask.

Because I’m afraid to risk re-watching the series as an adult (I like being able to go into the woods), I spend a lot of time wondering what it was about the Twin Peaks universe that had the power to scare me as nothing has before or sense. A couple years ago, in an essay that every David Lynch fan should read and possibly commit to memory, David Foster Wallace gave me a lead:

“Darkness, in David Lynch’s movies, always wears more than one face…Characters are not themselves evil in Lynch movies—evil wears them….Lynch’s movies are not about monsters (ie people whose intrinsic natures are evil) but about hauntings, about evil as environment, possibility, force….People can be good or bad, but forces simply are. And forces are—at least potentially—everywhere. Evil for Lynch thus moves and shifts, pervades; Darkness is in everything, all the time—not ‘lurking below’ or ‘lying in wait’ or ‘hovering on the horizon’: evil is here, right now….It’s not just that evil is ‘implied by’ good or Darkness by Light or whatever, but that the evil stuff is contained within the good stuff, encoded in it.”—DFW (emphasis his)

Evil as a force; evil as something that could inhabit anyone—and probably did. In my most beloved Stephen King books (notably this did not include The Shining, which may be his most Lynchian work), good and evil were neatly divided, and evil itself was something external to our heroes—something that could be challenged and killed. In my favorite King books, the bonds of love and friendship weren’t just clear, they were the beacon that guided you through the darkness. But in Twin Peaks, love was a weapon. The people you loved the most were as likely to turn on you as anyone else, maybe more so. Because evil wore many faces. Because you could never know anyone, not the truth beneath the surface, not the truth that they didn’t know themselves.

Because if evil is a force of nature, not an exception but a rule, not a bug but a feature, then it can be fought but not destroyed. If evil is a force of nature, not maliciously intentioned but mindlessly impersonal, then it can inhabit anyone. And if evil is a force of nature, then—at least in Lynch’s vision of the world—it seems a force most like entropy, a force that grows, that spreads, by immutable physical law, until it insinuates itself into everything. Which means a fictional world where it isn’t inevitable that good defeat evil—where, in fact, the opposite seems more likely.

I think, in the end, it was a world I couldn’t quite stand to live in when I was thirteen. I’m not sure I can stand to live in it now.

Which is all the more reason to write about it, because it turns out the only thing more satisfying and even occasionally comforting than reading about things that scare you is writing about them. This year I’m writing my first real horror novel, and what I desperately want is for someone to read it the way I once read Stephen King: as a book not just about being scared, but about being brave.

But I also want people to read it the way I read Laura Palmer’s diary, and the way I watched wide-eyed while David Lynch turned the world upside down and gave it a shake: unsteady on their own ground, uncertain about their own selves, and maybe, just a little bit, holy freaking crap terrified.

Thank you so much for sharing your fears, Robin! As a fellow Twin Peaks fan, I absolutely love this essay and understand it more than I can say. (Ceiling fans!)

Readers: Be sure to enter for a chance to win The Book of Blood and Shadow—(just scroll down for giveaway details).


Robin Wasserman is the author of the Cold Awakening trilogy, Hacking Harvard, and, most recently, The Book of Blood and Shadow.  She lives and writes in Brooklyn, where she only occasionally hides under the bed from things that go bump in the night.

Visit her online at www.robinwasserman.com.

Follow @robinwasserman on Twitter.


Want a chance to win The Book of Blood and Shadow?

This giveaway is now closed. Thank you to everyone who entered! The winner will be announced soon.


Here’s what you missed so far in the What Scares You? series:

And come back tomorrow—Halloween—for one last creepy piece from a surprise guest…

Series art by Robert Roxby. Email to contact the artist directly.

What Scares Kendare Blake? (+Giveaway)

What scares you? That’s the question I asked YA authors for this blog series. Stay tuned for interviews and guest posts as authors visit and reveal their frightening—even surprising—fears.

Today’s guest author is Kendare Blake, author of Anna Dressed in Blood and Girl of Nightmares(And be sure to enter the giveaway to win a signed copy of Girl of Nightmares!)

What scares Kendare? Read my interview to find out.


Q&A WITH KENDARE BLAKE


Q: What do you think draws you toward writing dark, disturbing, even frightening things? Do you have any idea how you got this twisted?

I have no idea. I like to think I’m naturally twisted. No artificial twisting necessary. I’ve always been drawn to the dark and the weird. Vanilla doesn’t do it for me.

When I was a kid I jumped from Stephen King to Anne Rice to Bret Easton Ellis and never looked back.

Q: If you were spending the night all alone in a creaky old cabin in the middle of the woods, what book or movie would you absolutely refuse to take with you because it would frighten you down to your bones? Why does it scare you so much?

See, I love being scared, so I’d probably take it with me. What I don’t enjoy is panic. So I wouldn’t take a movie that could give me a panic attack. Like Lars Von Triers’ Melancholia. Fucking freak out.

Q: What is the most terrifying place you’ve ever set foot in, in real life? Has it ever found its way—disguised or otherwise—into one of your novels?

I guess that would have to be the Catacombs in Paris. So many bones. Plague bones. Baby plague bones. Bones formed into weird, pretty patterns and pillars and doorways. So far, I haven’t put it in anything.

Q: If a scene from your deepest nightmares came to vivid life, where would you be transported, what would be crawling all over your body, and what disturbing sight would be staring at you when you opened your eyes? (Or is it even worse than I could prompt you here?)

I just had a nightmare where I saw a black lab walking backwards. That would seriously make me flip out. Especially if no one else seemed bothered by it.


Q: Back when you were five years old, what would have been the most mind-numbingly terrifying thing to discover hiding under your bed at night? Part two, same question, only how about now, under your bed… tonight?

Probably this little clown marionette someone gave me. I used to tie that thing to a chair before bed every night. I don’t think so, you fucking clown.

Now, it would be PeeWee Herman. Because how scary would he be, emerging from under your bed to climb up the foot, spiderlike? I know you are but what am I? Terrified.

Q: Your friends have convinced you to play the Ouija board with them. But as soon as your fingers touch the planchette, it whips away and moves on its own to spell out the scariest thing you could imagine, shooting you through with terror. What did the Ouija board just communicate to you?

You’re about to go bald. Right now.

Q: Have you ever scared yourself with something you’ve written?

A few scenes in the Anna series managed to give me the heebie jeebies. When the Obeahman emerges from the attic, and a little in the forest of Girl of Nightmares. I love it when that happens. I miss it.

Thank you so much for letting me interview you about your fears, Kendare! Readers: Be sure to enter for a chance to win a signed copy of Girl of Nightmares—(just scroll down for giveaway details).



Kendare Blake likes food of all kinds, and books of many kinds. She lives and writes in Lynnwood, WA, with her husband and two catsons. One of those catsons was recently diagnosed with liver cancer. It is a time of much cat spoiling around the house.

Visit her online at kendareblake.com.

Follow @kendareblake on Twitter.


Want a chance to win Girl of Nightmares?


This giveaway is now closed. Thank you to everyone who entered! The winner will be announced soon.


Here’s what you missed so far in the What Scares You? series:

And come back tomorrow for more… The next author to share fears with us is: Robin Wasserman, author of The Book of Blood and Shadow and more!

Series art by Robert Roxby. Email to contact the artist directly.

“Louis,” or The Scorpion and the Frog: What Scares Timothy Braun

What scares you? That’s the question I asked for this blog series. Stay tuned for interviews and guest posts as authors visit and reveal their frightening—even surprising—fears.

Today’s guest is writer and editor Timothy BraunWhat scares Tim? He’s written us a Halloween fable to tell us…


Guest post by Timothy Braun

Nova has been kind to me over the years. She allows me to write what I want for her blog (inside a theme), and I respect her and her audience. Recently, my past blogs on Distraction No. 99 have been republished on another site, but I’ve decided to write something only for Nova and her fans this time around. For the theme “What Scares Me,” I’ve written a short story with a monster, wild animals, poison, a bookstore, Thai food (I know Nova likes Thai), and a great deal of fear. This will not be reposted on any other websites. This one is just for you…

“I don’t like the way you are talking to me.”

It was Halloween and Louis didn’t appreciate much. He spoke down to his boss at the bookstore, because his boss wouldn’t let him read on the job and made him shelve the children’s stories. “Bitch” is what he called his boss. Louis was getting older, grumpier, and all he had in the world was a dog and a Thai takeout menu. He had worked at the bookstore for fifteen long years and saw it as a prison. He saw his life as a prison, the world as a prison, and he had days when he just wanted it all to go away. Louis could be mean to people, and thought he had every right to speak the way he did to them.

When Louis got home he had not eaten all day. He had no food in the fridge or the cupboard, just a bottle of clear alcohol in the freezer. He yelled at his dog, Monster, who wanted him to scratch his tail when Louis got home, but Louis drank from the bottle in the freezer instead to drown his sadness. He turned on the television and watched romantic comedies. Louis always watched romantic comedies on Halloween. Louis needed food, and he didn’t want to order pad thai for the third night in a row. The grocery store is only two blocks away, he thought. And I’m not drunk yet… But he was. Monster needed dinner too, but Louis would feed him when he got back.

Louis got into his car and swerved down the hill. He missed his turn and pulled over when he saw flashing lights in his rearview mirror. “Son, have you been drinking?” asked the police officer. “Dick” is what Louis said to the police officer—as if he was better. He took three sobriety tests and was placed in handcuffs and taken away.

Louis didn’t think he belonged in jail and thought it was a dream, but it all became real when he took off his clothes and put on the black and gray stripes the police gave him. Louis was put in a cell at the end of the hall, with a rubber bed and a metal toilet. “We’ll get you when your bond clears.” He was there for twelve hours. For the first three he slept, then he did push-ups, sit-ups, and sang to himself. He pretended his cell was the information desk at the bookstore, something he was familiar with, and then a great fear kicked in. Was he always so mean? Would he ever get out of jail? The room felt small, like it was shrinking. Louis had never been so scared.

Louis was called to a plastic box. On the other side was a lawyer. “Am I going to lose my job?” he asked. “No,” the lawyer said. “Will they take my dog?” Louis asked, scared. “No, this is a misdemeanor. Think of it as a warning. Stay calm. I’m doing my best to get you out.” And Louis was taken back to his cell.

Attempting to stay calm, and not knowing what else to do, Louis recited children’s stories to himself. He recited “The Scorpion and the Frog.” A scorpion said, “Hey, froggy, can you take me across the water?” The frog refused. He was afraid of being stung during the trip, but the scorpion argued that if he stung the frog, the frog would sink and the scorpion would drown. The frog agreed and began carrying the scorpion, for what reason Louis could not recall. Midway across the river, the scorpion did indeed sting the frog, dooming them both to a death of drowning. The frog asked why the scorpion would do such a thing and he said, “It’s in my nature, baby.” Some creatures are just irrepressible, no matter how they are treated and no matter what the consequences.

Louis thought about this while he was in jail, and wondered if animals could change. That is what jail is for. An hour later Louis was released on bond. The city moved fast and needed the cell for more souls. Louis took a cab home and found Monster waiting for him at the door, as is a dog’s nature. Where have you been? I’m hungry! Monster said without speaking, jumping on Louis and licking his face. Louis had never been so happy and never felt so loved. He fed Monster and took what was left of the bottle of clear alcohol and poured it down the kitchen drain. Louis kissed Monster on the nose, scratched his tail, and thought about the frog and the scorpion once again.

Louis wondered if the frog forgave the scorpion, and decided he did. He hugged Monster and turned on the TV so they could watch romantic comedies together. When Harry Met Sally was on. Louis liked this movie. He told Monster how inspiring Harry could be when he took responsibility for his actions. Louis called his boss at the bookstore. “I’m sorry for the way I spoke to you yesterday. I had no right. It will never happen again.”

And it never did.

__

Humans are social animals, and Halloween is a social night. This year appreciate what you have, kiss the thing you love most on the nose, and when no one is looking forgive that scorpion you come across, especially if that scorpion is looking at you in the mirror. And think when you drink—otherwise you might end up in a bookstore.

Thank you for writing us this Halloween story, Tim! (And for slipping in some Thai food, my favorite.)


Timothy Braun is a writer living in Austin, TX, with his dog, Dusty-Danger. He teaches at St. Edward’s University, the University of Texas at San Antonio, and is the Editor-In-Chief of New and Social Media for Fusebox. He is a fan of the Indianapolis Colts, and George is his favorite Beatle.

Visit him online at timothybraun.com.

Follow @timothybraun42 on Twitter.


Here’s what you missed so far in the What Scares You? series:

And come back tomorrow for more… The next writer to share fears with us is: Kendare Blake, author of Anna Dressed in Blood and Girl of Nightmares!

Series art by Robert Roxby. Email to contact the artist directly.

What Scares Sarah Rees Brennan? (+Giveaway)

What scares you? That’s the question I asked YA authors for this blog series. Stay tuned for interviews and guest posts as authors visit and reveal their frightening—even surprising—fears.

Today’s guest author is Sarah Rees Brennan, author of Unspoken and the Demon’s Lexicon trilogy. (And be sure to enter the giveaway to win a signed finished copy of Unspoken!)

What scares Sarah? Read on to find out.


Guest post by Sarah Rees Brennan


I live my life in a constant state of fear. Enemies are lurking all around me.

Let me list some of my greatest fears: seaweed, of course. And bed springs.

…You may be surprised by these fears. But they make perfect sense. I WILL EXPLAIN.

The seaweed is because I grew up by the sea, and once I was lying on my bed with the window open and a storm coming in, reading a book called The Hounds of the Morrigan by Pat O’Shea. I’m Irish, and people often ask me why I don’t write a book set in Ireland with Irish mythology. The answers to that are myriad, such as a) one day maybe I will b) loads of not-Irish people use that mythology a lot, that mythology is in no danger of being underused, c) the mystical faerie hill of Tara is covered in sheep poop and beer cans, but one of the truest answers is BECAUSE IRISH MYTHS ARE ABSOLUTELY FREAKING TERRIFYING.


So there were these plucky kids and the Morrigan was looking for them so her dread birds could rip out their eyes or somesuch. You know. Pleasant normal stuff. And then… there was this storm and… the seaweed crept out of the sea like a living blanket and just swallowed this dude, suffocating him but also tentacling him and slithering up him so it was like drowning and quicksanding and being slimy sea monster’d all at once and the storm outside my window just rose and rose and the air was thick and metallic-tasting and the sky was dark and I knew, I knew the seaweed was coming.

I no longer live by the sea. I remain a prey to my own imagination.

Bed springs, I can also explain. (Not so I sound any less deranged, you understand.) I had a dream once that I woke up and found myself impaled on a bed spring. Upon actually waking, I slept on the floor for a month before my parents relented and bought me a futon, which I then slept on for seven years. I am STUBBORN about being an irrational cowardy custard, is what I’m telling you here.

What are my other fears?

Rats, but lots of people are scared of rats, and their terrible scaly tails! …However, not many people take it further, and reject other animals on the basis of similarity to rats. Just say no to guinea pigs. Nevermore to hamsters. Don’t even get me started on squirrels. Rabbits? I know that ratty hearts lurk beneath those cute, floppy ears. I know! Rabbits have everybody fooled but me.

I saw an American possum on an episode of Hoarders, and that ratty face haunts my dreams. I had never previously seen a possum before, since I live in Ireland, a beautiful land untouched by snakes or possums. I was innocent, once. Those were happy days. What has been seen cannot be unseen.

I saw the movie Alien at the age of seven, and it’s possible that is the reason I’ve always been pretty against the idea of having kids. (Yes, I know they say most babies don’t have sharp teeth and tentacles. But that’s what they WOULD say to lure you in, isn’t it?)

I used to even be scared of babies. I think I had a strange lurking fear that if I liked them, someone would come along and make me have one. ‘Vague positivity shown to infants, madam! It is TIME for CHILDBED!’ (Well, I also had the completely reasonable fear I would damage one of their TINY, TINY FRAGILE HEADS.) These days, I have a little more confidence… not that I can definitely get what I want out of life, but that I can choose what paths to walk on and not to walk on, to some degree. And it’s meant that I’m like ‘Aw, baby’ and can hold them and also throw them up in the air and murmur nonsense to them. Babies! Adorable! Hate to give them back, love to watch them spit up on someone else.

I think it’s really interesting that the things we fear are such, well, not ostensibly scary, silly things. (I admit mine might be sillier than most.) They’re fears shaped by our own imagination, offered up by our minds: they’re about ourselves, really, and not the world. Nothing in the wide world is scarier than your own soul.

I mean, I always knew this, in a way. My two series are about the terror of being truly known, and the horror of finding out that you yourself are the monster:

Nora Ephron said, ‘Be the heroine of your own life.’ I want to be the heroine of my own life, so badly: the shining hero who took the reins, who made mistakes but learned from them, who was no sooner really seen but loved, who set the course to victory. But what if you were the villain? ‘Be the goofy sidekick of your own life’ doesn’t have such a ring to it. Even worse, being a bit player in your own life, fading to translucence in the background beside more vivid players, until you disappear to irrelevance.

We wake up in the night cold with sweat thinking about monsters, about dark shapes behind the curtains: but it’s a very, very similar feeling to wake up in the night cold with sweat thinking about something you’ve done, or failed, or what people must have thought of you, when. The dark shapes behind the curtains are our own thoughts and fears. We don’t really think they are material. They don’t need to be.

All fears, to me, are built on one fear: the fear of yourself, the fear of being less than you know, in some secret yet sure part of yourself, you can be. Fear comes hand in hand with inspiration and with love. What scares me most is the mirror of my soul, and the thought of seeing myself look out of it, disappointed.

George Eliot… actually didn’t, it was a misquote, but it’s good stuff!… say, ‘It is never too late to be what you might have been.’ And that is an enduring comfort, in the midst of a myriad fears, that today (not tomorrow, why put it off?) we can be braver, stronger, more able to face our own fears, look into the dreaded glass and be, for a moment at least, without fear.

Thank you for sharing your fears with us, Sarah! Readers: Be sure to enter for a chance to win Unspoken—(just scroll down for giveaway details).



Sarah Rees Brennan was born and raised in Ireland by the sea, where her teachers valiantly tried to make her fluent in Irish (she wants you to know it’s not called Gaelic), but she chose to read books under her desk in class instead. The books most often found under her desk were Jane Austen, Margaret Mahy, Anthony Trollope, Robin McKinley, and Diana Wynne Jones, and she still loves them all today.

After college she lived briefly in New York and somehow survived in spite of her habit of hitching lifts in fire engines. She began working on The Demon’s Lexicon while doing a Creative Writing MA and library work in Surrey, England. Since then she has returned to Ireland to write and use as a home base for future adventures. Her Irish is still woeful, but she feels the books under the desk were worth it.

Sarah’s newest book is Unspoken, a romantic Gothic mystery about a girl named Kami Glass, who discovers her imaginary friend is Jared Lynburn. He is one of the mysterious Lynburn family who have returned to the sinister manor on the hill that looms over her town, and who may or may not be involved in dark deeds in the woods. It’s lucky that she’s a sassy girl reporter determined to discover all the secrets that have been kept from her by the town, Jared, and her own family.

Visit her online at sarahreesbrennan.com.

Follow @sarahreesbrenna on Twitter.


Want an INTERNATIONAL chance to win a signed copy of Unspoken?

This giveaway is now closed. Thank you to everyone who entered! The winner will be announced soon.


Here’s what you missed so far in the What Scares You? series:

And come back tomorrow for more… The next writer to share fears is: Timothy Braun, with a Halloween fable for us!

Series art by Robert Roxby. Email to contact the artist directly.

What Scares Fiona Paul? (+Giveaway)

What scares you? That’s the question I asked YA authors for this blog series. Stay tuned for interviews and guest posts as authors visit and reveal their frightening—even surprising—fears.

Today’s guest author is Fiona Paul, author of Venom(And be sure to enter the giveaway to win a signed finished copy of Venom!)

What scares Fiona? Read on to find out.


Guest post by Fiona Paul

Do you remember that movie from about ten years ago where the entire thing was just two people bobbing alone in the ocean after their scuba tour boat mistakenly abandoned them? I watched it with my family. My mom was bored out of her mind. My brother said: “What is the point of this again?” I don’t even remember if I answered him. All I remember is watching the whole movie scrunched up into a ball with my heart pounding against my ribcage, positive that I would be abandoned in the middle of the ocean and left for shark bait the next time I went out on a tour boat.

Yes, it’s true. I suffer from selachophobia—the fear of sharks.

A great white shark. Yikes!

I probably don’t need to ramble on about exactly why I’m afraid of sharks. The dead eyes, the crazy teeth, the way they sometimes chomp people in half when they’re not even really trying. I mean, who isn’t totally freaked out by sharks, aside from the occasional delusional marine researcher who thinks he can wade right into a big tangle of lemon sharks and not get bitten? (Spoiler: he got bitten, but he’s fine.) However, it’s kind of a weird phobia for a landlubber like me to have—I live almost 700 miles away from the nearest ocean.

I think it all started during another family movie night. I was about five. I remember sitting cross-legged on the floor of the family room with my brother while my parents and sister sat on the sofas. We had that pleather furniture that you stick to if you sit on it for more than five seconds, so I preferred the floor whenever possible. It seems like I was coloring or something as my parents flipped through the channels deciding what to watch. They agreed on Jaws. I don’t think they meant to scar me for life or anything. Chances are they thought I wouldn’t really pay attention, but it’s kind of hard to tune out endless screaming and all that blood in the water.


And ever since then, I can’t go knee deep into the ocean without being on shark patrol. Don’t get me wrong. I do go in the water. I love the wind blowing off the waves, the feel of being tugged back and forth by the surf. I would never give that up. But at the same time, I can’t relax and enjoy myself because I am always on the lookout for sharks. (Okay, once I relaxed. I was in Jamaica, neck deep and scanning the clear turquoise water for dark shadows or dorsal fins when a man informed me there were “no sharks in Jamaica, mon.” I’m not sure why I believed him, since it seemed he was just at the beach trying to sell weed to college kids and never got in the water himself, but I did. For an entire half day I let down my guard, and it was great. I was “at one” with the sea.

You might think a fear of sharks would mean that I stay far away from aquariums, shark movies, Discovery Channel, etc. Actually, not so much. One thing I realized working in oncology is that most people are either ignorance is bliss people or knowledge is power people. I am the second kind.

Because of that, I have spent hours poring over the International Shark Attack File and other shark websites. I have watched tons of shark television and bought books about shark behavior. Do you know where most shark attacks in the US take place? The Florida panhandle. Do you know the most dangerous time of day to swim? Sunset. Do you know why surfers are attacked more than swimmers or divers? Because they look like turtles. Do you know where to hit a shark if it bites you? The snout, eyes, or gills. Do you know what the most dangerous color of swimwear is? Sharply contrasting colors or suits with shiny pieces. (Yeah, your black-and-white rhinestone-studded bikini? That’s for the sand only, okay?)

And here’s the funny thing: The more I learned about sharks and how not to get chomped by them, the more I started to fall in love. Yeah, sharks are scary as all get-out, but they are also kind of majestic and beautiful.

Click here to see how beautiful sharks can be.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m still super-duper afraid of them and will probably never learn to surf (even though I think it would be epically awesome). But I also feel respect and admiration toward them. Kinship, even. Do you know how many people sharks kill yearly? Somewhere between 5 and 25. Do you know how many sharks people kill yearly? Over a hundred million. And we don’t just kill them, we cut off their fins and throw them back in the ocean where they slowly bleed to death. And for what? Soup? That doesn’t seem right. Check out the amazing documentary Sharkwater if you want to know more. I cried watching this film—it is that good.

No sharks in the Mississippi River, mon.

And the next time something totally scares the crap out of you, think about embracing it. You just might fall in love.

Thank you for sharing your fears and how you’ve moved past them, Fiona! Readers: Be sure to enter for a chance to win Venom—(just scroll down for giveaway details).



Fiona Paul lives in St. Louis, MO, where she’s managed to persuade fancy universities to award her degrees in psychology and nursing. Between her studies, she traveled around five continents and spent time living in Thailand and South Korea (which is probably why she finds the idea of wearing shoes in the house a little weird).

In addition to writing, Fiona is somewhat obsessive about coffee, music, and adventure sports. Her future goals include swimming with great white sharks and writing a whole slew of novels, not necessarily in that order.

Visit her online at www.fionapaulbooks.com and read her blog at fionapaulbooks.blogspot.com.

Follow @fionawritesYA on Twitter.

And check out the book trailer for Venom:


Want an INTERNATIONAL chance to win a signed copy of Venom?

This giveaway is now closed. Thank you to everyone who entered! The winner will be announced soon.


Here’s what you missed so far in the What Scares You? series:

And come back tomorrow for more… The next author to share fears with us is: Sarah Rees Brennan, author of Unspoken, the Demon’s Lexicon trilogy, and more!

Series art by Robert Roxby. Email to contact the artist directly.

What Scares Andrew Smith? (+Giveaway)

What scares you? That’s the question I asked YA authors for this blog series. Stay tuned for interviews and guest posts as authors visit and reveal their frightening—even surprising—fears.

Today’s guest author is Andrew Smith, author of The Marbury Lens, Passenger, Winger, and more. (And be sure to enter the giveaway to win a signed paperback of The Marbury Lens!)

What scares Andrew? Read my interview to find out.


Q&A WITH ANDREW SMITH


Q: What do you think draws you toward writing dark, disturbing, even frightening things? Do you have any idea how you got this twisted?

I think there’s a certain eye-catching quality to dark and disturbing subjects. It’s one of the reasons why people will slow down and look at an accident scene, but are likely to be completely blind to a couple of kids playing catch in the grass on the side of a road. So when I write, I suppose I like to imagine those kids on the side of the road are nonchalantly playing catch with a severed hand or a dead bird—something like that—and I want to make readers pause and pay attention to it.

I can only guess how I got this way, but it doesn’t make for nice stories. I’ve seen and experienced a whole bunch of horrible stuff in my life. For example, just for the sake of a date with a very attractive girl, I once attended an Adam Ant concert, back in the 1980s.

Q: If you were spending the night all alone in a creaky old cabin in the middle of the woods, what book or movie would you absolutely refuse to take with you because it would frighten you down to your bones? Why does it scare you so much?

Well, you’re barking up the wrong tree if you think that situation makes me feel uncomfortable. I love being alone and isolated, and if the cabin were creaky and in the woods, the only thing that could make it better is if it had no electricity or indoor plumbing. No electricity would rule out a movie, but I honestly don’t watch them anyway—and that’s an entirely different story. And I’ve never read a book that’s scared me. Well… except maybe when I was a kid, I remember reading a book about true-life ghost stories. It scared the living daylights out of me, but then again, I also lived in an honest-to-God haunted house when I was a kid, too. Now, eh… not so much.


Q: What is the most terrifying place you’ve ever set foot in, in real life? Has it ever found its way—disguised or otherwise—into one of your novels?

Okay, as I mentioned above, when I was about 6 or 7 years old, I lived in a real haunted house. It was very old, and full of old creepy stuff that had been stored away in its attic for about 100 years. I also slept alone in the basement, while everyone else in the family got to live like real human beings in real rooms above the ground. The basement was unfinished—damp concrete, which made it seem especially like a dungeon. I wrote about that basement room in my novel Stick. But there was a little boy—a ghost of a little boy—who would sometimes appear standing, just watching me, in the middle of the floor. He used to scare me so bad I would hide from him—sometimes under my bed—all night long. I wrote about that story in my first novel, Ghost Medicine.

Q: If a scene from your deepest nightmares came to vivid life, where would you be transported, what would be crawling all over your body, and what disturbing sight would be staring at you when you opened your eyes? (Or is it even worse than I could prompt you here?)

That would have to be exactly the place called Marbury—a wasteland filled with disease and man-eating bugs—in my novels The Marbury Lens and Passenger. And as a matter of fact, the novel actually did come to me in a series of dreams about that particular place.

Q: Back when you were five years old, what would have been the most mind-numbingly terrifying thing to discover hiding under your bed at night? Part two, same question, only how about now, under your bed… tonight?

Well, when I was five, I suppose the most frightening thing that I could find beneath my bed would be the ghost of that little boy who’d show up in the basement in the middle of the night. Now, tonight, under my bed… all I could say is good luck fitting there. I have so much junk hidden under my bed you’d be hard pressed to get a contortionist parakeet down there. Which would be pretty frightening, I think.


Q: Your friends have convinced you to play the Ouija board with them. But as soon as your fingers touch the planchette, it whips away and moves on its own to spell out the scariest thing you could imagine, shooting you through with terror. What did the Ouija board just communicate to you?

The most frightening thing I can possibly imagine is finding myself in a place where one of my kids needs help and I can’t get to them. I’m pretty much not afraid of anything else that I can think of besides the horror of separation and the inability to do anything about it.

Q: Have you ever scared yourself with something you’ve written?

Yes. The answers to the previous six questions.

Thank you so much for letting me interview you about your fears, Andrew! Readers: Be sure to enter for a chance to win a signed paperback of The Marbury Lens—(just scroll down for giveaway details).



Andrew Smith

Novels:

Ghost Medicine (2008, Feiwel and Friends/Macmillan)

In the Path of Falling Objects (2009, Feiwel and Friends/Macmillan)

The Marbury Lens (2010, Feiwel and Friends/Macmillan)

Stick (2011, Feiwel and Friends/Macmillan)

Passenger (2012, Feiwel and Friends/Macmillan)

Winger (2013, Simon & Schuster)

Grasshopper Jungle (2014, Dutton/Penguin)

He has also published a number of short stories.

Besides writing, Andrew Smith is a runner. He has completed more than 30 marathons and off-road triathlons in his life. He enjoys the outdoors, and lives in a very remote area of California with his wife, Jocelyn, son, Trevin (18), and daughter Chiara (15), where they raise horses.

Visit him online at www.ghostmedicine.com.

Follow @marburyjack on Twitter.


Want a chance to win a paperback of The Marbury Lens?

This giveaway is now closed. Thank you to everyone who entered! The winner will be announced soon.


Here’s what you missed so far in the What Scares You? series:

And come back tomorrow for more… The next author to share fears with us is: Fiona Paul, author of Venom!

Series art by Robert Roxby. Email to contact the artist directly.

What Scares Tessa Gratton? (+Giveaway)

What scares you? That’s the question I asked YA authors for this blog series. Stay tuned for interviews and guest posts as authors visit and reveal their frightening—even surprising—fears.

Today’s guest author is Tessa Gratton, author of Blood Magic and The Blood Keeper(And be sure to enter the giveaway to win a signed paperback of Blood Magic!)

What scares Tessa? Read on to find out.


Guest post by Tessa Gratton

The simple answer is: everything.

I’m one of those people who gives herself over to the story she’s reading or watching. If it’s a crying movie, I cry. If it’s a thrilling movie, I’m on the seat of my chair. If it’s a scary movie, I’m terrified.

Fortunately, I’m an emotional junkie, and I keep going back to the crying movies and scary movies for that delicious catharsis. The first movie that terrified me was (don’t laugh) Critters, which I saw at the too-early age of 6, and refused to go into the basement for about 10 years. They were like evil teddy bears! But thanks to that I fell for the creature features (Oh, Gremlins, be still my heart) for the sheer fantasy of them. As an adult I came to prefer the subtle, slow ghost movies à la The Woman in Black and the crazy gory demon fests like Drag Me to Hell.

But the scary movies that I brought into my home to watch again and again are: The Others and Pan’s Labyrinth. I also have an addiction to the TV show Criminal Minds. What these stories have in common (besides brilliant writing and acting) are people who are monsters, despite or in addition to the supernatural surroundings. The mother in The Others may be a ghost, but what’s truly terrifying is that she murdered her own kids. The Captain in Pan’s Labyrinth doesn’t need creepy faeries or magic to be the worst kind of evil imaginable. Criminal Minds is about serial killers and how they think.

Because what actually scares me is the human mind. My own and everyone else’s. We’re capable of anything, and a lot of the time that means really, truly terrible things. It matters that we think about it, explore it, discuss it—that’s what makes Halloween my favorite holiday. We come together and look right at the scary things, and we try to own them. That’s the old point of the holiday: to dress up like the monsters so they’re afraid of us. To put lights into jack-o’-lanterns to frighten away the ghouls. To embrace scary things together, to understand them, so maybe they won’t be so scary anymore.

In my books, I like to push my characters far. I want to know what they’re willing to do. It doesn’t make the books very easy to read. The Blood Journals are about magic that isn’t inherently light or dark, but is tainted for good or evil depending on the user’s intentions. And everybody has good and evil inside. There are no supernatural creatures here, just young people facing themselves with this awesome power in hand. What will they do to themselves, or to others? What will they sacrifice, what will they protect? How do you choose who you want to be when you could be anything? Where’s the line between love and obsession? Power and temptation? Are we doomed by our history, or by our humanity?

Scary stuff.

Thank you so much for sharing your fears with us, Tessa! Readers: Be sure to enter for a chance to win a signed paperback of Blood Magic—(just scroll down for giveaway details).



Tessa Gratton has wanted to be a paleontologist or a wizard since she was seven. She was too impatient to hunt dinosaurs, but is still searching for someone to teach her magic. After traveling the world with her military family, she acquired a BA (and the important parts of an MA) in gender studies, and then settled down in Kansas with her partner, her cats, and her mutant dog. Visit her online at tessagratton.com.

Follow @tessagratton on Twitter.


Want a chance to win a paperback of Blood Magic?

This giveaway is now closed. Thank you to everyone who entered! The winner will be announced soon.


Here’s what you missed so far in the What Scares You? series:

And come back tomorrow for more… The next author to share fears with us is: Andrew Smith, author of The Marbury Lens, Ghost Medicine, and more!

Series art by Robert Roxby. Email to contact the artist directly.

What Scares Michelle Hodkin? (+Giveaway)

What scares you? That’s the question I asked YA authors for this blog series. Stay tuned for interviews and guest posts as authors visit and reveal their frightening—even surprising—fears.

Today’s guest author is Michelle Hodkin, author of The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer and The Evolution of Mara Dyer—which just came out in stores TODAY! (And be sure to enter the giveaway to win signed finished copies of both books in the Mara Dyer trilogy!)

What scares Michelle? Read my interview to find out.


Q&A WITH MICHELLE HODKIN


Q: What do you think draws you toward writing dark, disturbing, even frightening things? Do you have any idea how you got this twisted?

My mother has a theory that children become the opposite of what you expect; she loves everything happy and infused my early childhood with Disney and tea parties and patent leather Mary Janes. So naturally, as soon as I could, I abandoned the Thoroughbred series for RL Stine and moved on to Stephen King before I was even out of elementary school. I saw the first Nightmare on Elm Street when I was in fourth grade. I ended up as a Daria-ish, Marilyn Manson obsessed teenager with a goth soul at my Orthodox Jewish high school. Go figure.

(This theory was trashed when one of my two brothers, who was the absolute perfect, sunny, terrifically nerdy child, demonstrated that his mind is an even darker, more terrifying place than mine. He blames Kafka. I personally think we should both blame the illustrations in Alan Schwartz’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. That shit will fuck you up. Honorable mention: DJ Machale’s “Are You Afraid of the Dark?”)

Q: If you were spending the night all alone in a creaky old cabin in the middle of the woods, what book or movie would you absolutely refuse to take with you because it would frighten you down to your bones? Why does it scare you so much?

I love The Blair Witch Project on many levels; it’s one of the horror movies I watch again and again because it still holds up thirteen years after its release. Still, I probably wouldn’t want to bring it to a cabin in the woods because of obvious reasons. That movie is composed almost entirely of one of my favorite genre tropes (Nothing Is Scarier) and every shadow or crunch of a twig would prevent me from sleeping.

Side note: Because I love it so much, if I were in this theoretical cabin with friends, I would be sorely tempted to pile stones by their beds, hang little twig dolls on the porch, and cover their belongings in viscous, clear slime. But I’ve also watched enough meta horror to know that the prankster who doesn’t take the Force of Evil seriously will likely be the first person to die—particularly if that person is either a Token Minority or female and not a virgin (Death by Sex). So that said, I would not be bringing that film with me.

Honorable mention 1:

IT, the movie, which I still can’t watch to this day. Tim Curry as Pennywise. Just say no.

Honorable mention 2:

Anything featuring the uncanny. The old woman crawling on the ceiling in The Exorcist III. Dolls moving of their own volition. Ventriloquist dummies. Clowns. Human horror (aka torture porn) doesn’t bother me in the slightest; I can watch slasher films and gore-fests and laugh (Human Centipede was SO RIDICULOUS. That is not how the alimentary canal works). But the right combination of an uncanny image plus unnatural movement or sound will paralyze me with terror; think the child’s croak from The Grudge, or The Ring’s Samara crawling out of the television, hair over face. Those are the things that stick with me—I would be more frightened of a girl crawling out of the TV at said cabin than I would be of some deranged recluse knocking on the door to borrow a cup of sugar and then butchering my corpse (or expelling an alien parasite into the cabin toilet, a la Dreamcatchers).

Q: What is the most terrifying place you’ve ever set foot in, in real life? Has it ever found its way—disguised or otherwise—into one of your novels?

I worked in Israel on and off for about two years, and one day I got into the wrong cab; I was taken on a forty-five minute joyride into Palestinian territory against my will. Even though I was working on anti-terrorism cases on behalf of terror victims and was therefore very aware of the reality of terror attacks and hate crimes, that was the first and only time I’ve ever been frightened in Israel. For twenty long minutes, I was truly afraid that things were not going to end well—and there was very little I could do about it. The situation was entirely out of my control and the driver was saying some intensely disturbing stuff—if I hadn’t had my cell phone on me, it’s possible that the situation might have turned out differently.

Powerlessness, helplessness, and feeling out of control in general are themes that have crept into my books, particularly in The Evolution. Loss of control is one of the scariest things, I think, whether it’s losing physical control of your body (via sickness or, supernaturally, possession) or losing control of a situation (as in being kidnapped, stalked, or tortured). When I write, I tend to think of the things that terrify me the most and I try to infuse those feelings into the words. My hope is that if I feel something strongly, my readers will feel it too—and more than anything else, I want to make readers feel.


Q: If a scene from your deepest nightmares came to vivid life, where would you be transported, what would be crawling all over your body, and what disturbing sight would be staring at you when you opened your eyes? (Or is it even worse than I could prompt you here?)

I would be in bed. I would wake up to find a doll I didn’t recognize sitting on my dresser. I would turn around or blink and then find that the doll had changed positions. I’d leave the room, return, and find it sitting on my bed. The door would close; I’d be locked inside with the doll—and its expression would change. It would look angry.

Then cockroaches would start streaming through the crack beneath the door—so many that they would fly, so many that I could barely see. They would crawl into my ears and my mouth. The doll’s lips would part and I would hear the doll’s raspy, Exorcist-ish laughter before I passed out from terror and/or committed suicide because life would never be okay after that ever again.

(PS: This is a sick question, Nova! WTF is wrong with you?)

[Michelle: I don’t know, I don’t know! —Nova]

Q: Back when you were five years old, what would have been the most mind-numbingly terrifying thing to discover hiding under your bed at night? Part two, same question, only how about now, under your bed… tonight?

So when I was a kid, I was terrified that an animated knee-high boot (that’s correct) would nip off my fingers and toes if they draped over the edge of the bed and because of this, I basically slept beneath a hermetically sealed blanket that was tucked completely under my bed. I…can’t explain this. I grew up in Florida and there were no knee-high boots in my house and also, boots don’t have teeth? I don’t know, man, I just remember that the boot was legit scary.

Tonight? I would lose my mind if I looked under my bed and found a doll under there—a doll I don’t own. Because WHERE DID IT COME FROM and HOW DID IT GET THERE and and and JUST NO.

Q: Your friends have convinced you to play the Ouija board with them. But as soon as your fingers touch the planchette, it whips away and moves on its own to spell out the scariest thing you could imagine, shooting you through with terror. What did the Ouija board just communicate to you?

The date, time, and place of a living family member’s death. More than anything else, the idea of losing the people I love scares me the most.

Q: Have you ever scared yourself with something you’ve written?

Writing wouldn’t be nearly as much fun if I hadn’t :) Let’s just say there’s a doll in The Evolution.* I’m going to leave it at that.

 *There’s also kissing, in case you’re nervous.

Thank you so much for letting me interview you about your fears, Michelle! Readers: Be sure to enter for a chance to win signed finished copies of both books in the Mara Dyer trilogy—Evolution comes out today!—(just scroll down for giveaway details).



Michelle Hodkin is the author of The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer and The Evolution of Mara Dyer, the first two books in the Mara Dyer trilogy. She grew up in Florida, went to college in New York, and studied law in Michigan. When she isn’t writing, she can usually be found prying strange objects from the jaws of one of her three pets.

Visit her online at www.michellehodkin.com.

Follow @michellehodkin on Twitter.


Want a chance to win signed finished copies of both Mara Dyer Books?

This giveaway is now closed. Thank you to everyone who entered! The winner will be announced soon.


Here’s what you missed so far in the What Scares You? series:

And come back tomorrow for more… The next author to share fears with us is: Tessa Gratton, author of Blood Magic and The Blood Keeper!

Series art by Robert Roxby. Email to contact the artist directly.

What Scares Adele Griffin: A True Story (+Giveaway)

What scares you? That’s the question I asked YA authors for this blog series. Stay tuned for interviews and guest posts as authors visit and reveal their frightening—even surprising—fears.

Today’s guest author is Adele Griffin, author of Tighter and All You Never Wanted, just out this month, among many more acclaimed novels. (And be sure to enter the giveaway to win a signed finished copy of her latest, All You Never Wanted!)

What scares Adele? Read this chilling true story she stopped by to share with us…


Guest post by Adele Griffin


I was a college sophomore, nineteen years old, living in an off-campus sorority house. It was Saturday night and my boyfriend was out of town. I was out, too, at a campus party in a long black dress and motorcycle boots. I looked like a biker witch. In one sock, I’d stuck a ten-dollar bill folded around my college i.d. plus my house key. In the other sock, a tube of lipstick. I considered myself completely prepared for absolutely anything.

Back in my room on my desk was my unfinished paper of tepid opinions about Their Eyes Were Watching God. Nothing had happened to me. Tonight something would.

The party was terrible, but I didn’t want to return to my desk. It was too early. My roommate, Allison, wasn’t interested in hitting a downtown bar to see Pete, a bartender I liked to flirt with when my boyfriend wasn’t around.

We split off. She went back to the house, and I went to see Pete.

Only Pete wasn’t working that night. Luckily, I found a booth of my sorority sisters. It was enough reason to stay, although they were seniors and not exactly friends.

No Allison, no boyfriend, no Pete, no plan. This was not Saturday night as I knew it. I was feeling unanchored.

The man was watching me. He’d been watching me since I’d come in. He was unremarkable-looking, grown-up—maybe he was a Teaching Assistant? He sent over a gin-and-tonic, which seemed both gross and funny. Sending a drink was something old people did. The booth cracked up, but I grandly accepted it.

And after I finished it, I felt obligated, post my bathroom run, to talk to him. He told me his name, which I immediately forgot. I forgot his face, too. Why would I need to memorize him? Skinny with short hair? Square-ish with brown hair?

Five foot eight? Six foot one?

What did I care?

Except later, I’d have almost nothing to offer the police.

“You live in the Theta house,” he said. “That’s 39th and Walnut.”

“Hey, how’d you know that?”

“Because I see you every morning. You live near me. You ride your bike to class,” he said. “You must have a nine a.m. Right?”

“Yeah!” An observer, this guy. Who had a crush on me, maybe. How creepy, how sweet.

“I drove here. I can give you a ride home tonight, if you want.”

“Sure.” I didn’t mean it.

I went back to my booth. Another round. The others were going to South Street, to a club. Did I want to come? Not really. I wasn’t into clubs.

They left. He was still at the bar. I was buzzed and bored. I quizzed him. Yes he knew Pete, yeah he came here a lot, no he wasn’t a teaching assistant or a grad student, he didn’t even go to this school, though he was taking some classes at Temple.

“We’re neighbors is all,” he said, yawning. “But look, I gotta get up early. Sure you don’t want a lift back?”

That was all I needed. I was tired now, too. I didn’t want to walk home. Eleven blocks, ugh.

His car was white. Honda? Nissan? I wasn’t a cars person.

The music was on too loud, and he didn’t turn it down. Way too loud. Heavy metal. You don’t do that to a girl.

But he was doing that to me.

“Turn it down?”

He pulled out of the parking lot fast. He was singing along. It jarred me.

“Hey will you turn that down?” I asked again, but he didn’t hear me, he was singing and suddenly we were whipping down Spruce Street but not getting onto Walnut, now we were speeding too fast past 34th, 35th, 36th. Way too fast. My hand gripped the door handle—locked.

“Let me out!”

We’d passed 39th. My heart was pumping, my brain was pin-wheeling sparks of panic.

“Let me out! I want to get out!” My voice now so much louder than the music but he didn’t he wouldn’t he refused to hear me. The terror so sudden, the music so disturbing, my mind a chaos of all the stories, the top news stories of girls who are Taken who are Raped and Strangled and Tortured—was he this person, was I this headline? I could hardly breathe and then from a distant discordant underwater I could hear the sound of the bell.

dingdingdingding…

I did it all the time. My feeble shut of the car door was an endless annoyance for my boyfriend. He was forever leaning across my lap to give my door handle the extra yank that shut off that warning.

dingdingdingding…

And now this guy, this nondescript freakish monster, in a lurch of aggression was reaching over my lap to shut me in to lock me in.

Do it! My only non-silly action of the evening, with animal strength I gave a lug-heeled push of my boot along with a full-shoulder push on the door and I fell like a sack, spinning onto Spruce Street, then scrambling up, screaming and wild, my hand out to stop cars, as I tore across the road.

What scares me?

Not listening to the voice in my head.

Because I knew he was strange. I’d sipped on that gin-and-tonic knowing that the shadowy guy who sent it was inexplicably weird and wrong, and that no good would come of any interaction with him.

I knew he was all of those things, and still I had gotten into that car.

Later, in my sorority house, surrounded by the safety of clucking girls and the campus police, I couldn’t make sense of my own naiveté. So I put all the blame on him. On his good acting, his smooth disguise: “He seemed totally normal! He said he knew Pete! He said he was a student—a neighbor!” As if somehow I could justify my bad decision with all my good research.

But showing your work does not get you points. It will not let you live.

There were bruises all down the side of my body for nearly a month. I was glad to have them. Nobody and nothing else reproached me like those marks, black as tire skids.

I’ve recounted this story many times over the years. I used to tell it with youthful vigor and outrage. I was enthralled by my brush with a possible sociopath. And I liked to end it oh-so-offhandedly—“I could have totally died, right?” As if that outcome was never an option, as if I were entitled to my happy ending.

But the longer I live past that night, the more frightening this story—and all that didn’t happen—becomes to me. It is as if only by living my life that I can fully grasp its value.

Who knows what that guy’s plan had been? Who knows if that unsealed door was my only chance? And so now I tell this story differently, with humility, with knowledge that I’d been shockingly stupid and absurdly lucky, and finally, with a little advice. Which is this: When you’re out on the wire, trust your hunch. No drink is ever free. And if you have a choice, wear boots.

Oh, Adele. Thank you so much for sharing this story with us. I don’t have the words to say how terrifying this is. And to everyone reading: Be sure to enter for a chance to win All You Never Wanted (scroll down for giveaway details).



Adele Griffin is the acclaimed author of many books for young readers, including Sons of Liberty and Where I Want to Be, both National Book Award finalists. She is also the author of Tighter, Picture the Dead, The Julian Game, and the Witch Twins and Vampire Island middle-grade series. Adele lives with her family in Brooklyn, New York. Her newest novel, All You Never Wanted, came out this October.

Visit her online at www.adelegriffin.com.

Follow @adelegriffin on Twitter.


Want a chance to win a signed finished copy of Adele’s newest novel, All You Never Wanted, which just came out this month?

This giveaway is now closed. Thank you to everyone who entered! The winner will be announced soon.


Here’s what you missed so far in the What Scares You? series:

And come back tomorrow for more… The next author to share fears with us is: Michelle Hodkin, author of The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer and The Evolution of Mara Dyer!

Series art by Robert Roxby. Email to contact the artist directly.