Bestselling Thriller Authors Confess Their Biggest Fears
Ever wonder what the authors of the creepiest, scariest and most suspenseful stories are most frightened of? Mystery Writers of America has published a new book called "The Mystery Box," edited by Brad Meltzer, which collects locked-box stories--a strongbox, an empty coffin, an underground prison cell and more--by some of today's top writers of suspense. We got four of "The Mystery Box" contributors--Meltzer, "Goosebumps" author R.L. Stine, Laura Lippman and Charles Todd--to open up about the fears that keep them up at night.
My worst fear used to be that I would die in a plane crash while working at the Waco Tribune-Herald and that my own paper would describe me in the headline as "Waco woman, 118 others, dead in crash." But I left Waco, the setting for my story, in 1983, albeit under very different circumstances. Now, although not particularly claustrophobic, I am scared of submarines. I am so scared of submarines that I cannot watch submarine films, with the exception of "Fantastic Voyage." I did manage to suck it up and tour a dry-docked one while in the company of my then-11-year-old stepson, but that's about as far as I can go. If the result of climate change is that we have to live/travel underwater--well, then I am truly sunk.
I’m afraid of heights, snakes, normalcy, mediocrity, Hollywood, the initial silence of an empty house, the enduring darkness of a poorly-lit street, evil clowns, professional failure, the intellectual impact of Barbie dolls, letting my father down, being paralyzed, hospitals, doctors, the cancer that killed my mother, dying unexpectedly, dying for a stupid reason, dying painfully, and worst of all, dying alone. But I’m not afraid of power--which is why I work in the White House. (Okay, that's actually the opening line of my novel, "The First Counsel"). When I was little, this was the nightmare that haunted me: I was shrunk down, barely six inches tall, and a giant hand would scoop me up. It was the hand of my babysitter. And as I stood there, shrunken down, in her open palm, she'd be saying something that I couldn't hear. So she'd bring me closer to her mouth…and closer… Eventually, she'd start YELLING. Her voice was booming, blowing me back! Still terrifies me to this day, even when I'm bigger than the babysitter. Hmm. I need therapy.
I’m claustrophobic. I hate MRIs, small rooms, small seats on planes, especially in the middle, small elevators, caves—any space that’s confining. Ian Rutledge inherited that, for a very different reason. On the other hand, Caroline [my mother and co-author] has trouble with heights, looking down from anything that’s three feet off the floor. "Vertigo" was her least favorite movie. We decided Bess Crawford didn’t need to share that phobia.
When I was a kid, we had a big freezer in our basement. It was white with a heavy black lid on top, rectangular, shaped almost like a coffin. We mostly kept meat in it and popsicles and frozen candy bars.
Often, my mom or dad would say something like, "Go downstairs and bring up a package of lamb chops." And a heavy feeling of dread would instantly descend over me. Why? Because (1) the basement was dark and damp and creepy. And (2) every time I gripped the freezer lid with both hands and began to raise it--every time--I knew there would be a frozen human corpse lying inside, staring up at me. (Sometimes having a wild imagination isn't helpful to a kid.) I never found a body stretched out in that freezer, but I have to admit, I've been wary of freezers ever since.
Brad Meltzer is the author of the #1 New York Times bestsellers "The Inner Circle," "The Book of Fate," and six other bestselling thrillers. He is also the host of the History Channel series Brad Meltzer’s Decoded and the Eisner Award-winning writer of Justice League of America. You can find much more about him at www.BradMeltzer.com. You can also see what he’s doing right now at Facebook.com/bradmeltzer and Twitter.com/bradmeltzer.
R.L. Stine, author of the multimillion-selling "Goosebumps" and "Fear Street" series, lives in New York City with his wife, Jane, an editor and publisher, and their dog, Minnie. He recently published his first horror novel for adults, "Red Rain." Visit RLStine.com.
New York Times bestselling author Laura Lippman has been awarded every major prize in crime fiction. Her novel, "Every Secret Thing," is being turned into a major motion picture directed by Amy Berg and starring Dakota Fanning and Elizabeth Banks. A recent recipient of the first-ever Mayor’s Prize, she lives in Baltimore, Md., and New Orleans with her husband, David Simon, and their daughter.
Charles Todd is a mother and son writing team. Caroline Todd’s MA in international relations led to a lifetime of adventure around the world. Her background in history and her enthusiasm for suspense films led to creating a detective who had to make his own decisions and live with his own conscience. Charles Todd has been a board member of Mystery Writers of America and National Secretary, as well as President of the Southeast Chapter. His experiences as a corporate troubleshooter shaped his interest in writing psychological suspense set in post-World War I Britain where the detective is still master of the crime scene. Find them on Facebook here.
Mystery Writers of America, the premier organization for established and aspiring mystery writers, is dedicated to promoting higher regard for crime writing, and recognition and respect for those who write within the genre. For more information, visit www.mysterywriters.org