What, if Anything, Terrifies You?

On the weekly Dark Wispers podcast I like to ask my featured guest “What, if anything, terrifies you?” I’m not just throwing some arbitrary question at them. It’s research.

There are some pretty disturbing scenes in my novel OOBERS. The one that has garnered the most visceral response is when a Demon possessed man breaks into a home and kills a young boy and his mother. I’m not going to go into the details, because if you’ve read it already you won’t need the visual being dredged up from the bowels of your psyche again, and if you haven’t read it you should. But let’s just say it’s not very pleasant. This scene reaches into every parent’s worst nightmare and smears it into their face. As horrible and disturbing and wrong as it is, my job as a writer is to give you your money’s worth in horror, to actually heap it on your plate until it spills over and oozes onto the floor. When I get emails from readers saying they were completely and utterly freaked out, mortified and sickened, it warms the cockles of my heart. So when I ask you what, if anything, terrifies you, I’m mining for gold, panning for diamonds and peering into the darkest corner of your soul. Anybody can write a boogey man sneaking up behind you with a knife in his hand. I want him to have the severed head of your baby in his hand, the steaming entrails of your lover around his neck, the brain matter of your best friend spattered on his butcher’s apron. I want you to have to put the book down and run gagging to the toilet, and then drag you helplessly back to the scene because you just have to know what happens next. I want you to finish the book completely drained emotionally, while at the same time overflowing with nightmares just waiting for you to close your eyes. When you read my horror novels you’ll be diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. That’s why they come with warning labels.

So I ask again: What, if anything, terrifies you? Notice that I always include the words ‘if anything’. You would be surprised how many people claim to have no fear in their heart. There’s even an ad campaign for a line of products that among other things promote extreme sports that says “No Fear“. What a load of horse shit. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I like the phrase because it gives the impression that you’re spitting in the face of your own mortality. You may have moments when you’re so confident that fear doesn’t rear its ugly head. You may even have the extraordinary ability to actually enjoy the thrill (thrill is fear with a smile) of paragliding or base jumping or motocross or cliff diving or repelling or what have you. That is a healthy exploitation of your adrenalin. Having no fear is good for certain things, but it is not a permanent state. I’m telling you that if you are hiking along a mountain trail and stumble into a mother bear and her cubs, you’re going to have fear. I’m telling you that if you hit an icy patch on a bridge and crash through the guard rail and hurtle toward the river below, you’re going to pretty much crap your pants with fear. I’m telling you that if you are in the heat of battle and you’re stuck out in the open with nothing between you and a barrage of fifty caliber bullets but an old rotten log, fear is going to clamp onto your scrotum and squeeze. I’m telling you that if you’ve been injected with a paralytic drug and all you can do is move your eyeballs and somebody is about ready to do open heart surgery on you with a box cutter and a curling iron, you’re going to be on intimate terms with fear. I’m telling you that if you wake up with smoke in the house so thick it squeezes your throat shut and you can’t get to your kids because of a raging inferno in the hallway, you’re going to be scared, I promise you. I don’t care how macho you think you are, my friend, you are at any given moment just a few seconds away from sheer terror. You can take your “No Fear” bumper sticker and try to stop that mother grizzly bear with it. You’ll probably need it to wipe your ass, if you still have one to wipe by the time she’s done with you.

One last time: What, if anything, terrifies you? Think long and hard about it and then let me know. I may incorporate it into my next horror novel. Hell, I may even name it after you. Wouldn’t that be scary?

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