distraction no.99

Nova Ren Suma | On Writing & Writing Distractions

Not an Author Newsletter… something else.

What Scares Andrew Smith? (+Giveaway)

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: 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


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.

9 responses to “What Scares Andrew Smith? (+Giveaway)”

  1. When I was a four or five years old, I used leave my bed at night to find my parents because I was afraid of a big hairy monster that lived in my closet. That is, until my dad told me that the monster had moved out into the hallway right outside my door. Sometimes, I would see or hear it moving around under the crack at the bottom of the door. I remember sitting by the door in the darkness of my room and watching that shadow move back and forth like it was pacing, waiting for me to come out of the room. I never again left my room late at night to wake up my parents.

  2. I do not know when I last actively feared something. Even though I may be chased by serial killers, zombies, or other dark creatures, I haven’t had a truly frightening dream in years. However, one thing that truly scared the living daylights out of me was a dream I had when I was about 10 or so. It was a nightmare with a giant lemur. I do not remember what actually happened, but I remember being frightened even after I woke up. I thought that there might actually be a 10 foot tall lemur in the room with me. That was the last nightmare that I have had, so I guess it must have been so frightening that my other dreams seem tame.

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