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:
- What Scares Brenna Yovanoff?—Interview and Giveaway (closes Oct. 25)
- Daniel Marks Screams Like a Girl—Guest Post and Giveaway (closes Oct. 26)
- Top TEN Things That Scare Gretchen McNeil—Guest Post
- What Scares Adele Griffin? A True Story—Guest Post and Giveaway (closes Oct. 29)
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.