Monday, January 5, 2009
Facing our darkest fears
HALLIE: At last, "Never Tell a Lie" is published. I labored over that sucker for nearly three years, so now when people tell me "I couldn't put it down! I finished it in three hours!!" I have distinctly mixed feelings.
The idea for the book came to me, innocuously enough, at a yard sale. Just like the yard sale that opens the novel, it was at a big Victorian house around the corner from me. New owners had painted the outside mauve and purple. I was dying to know what they'd done to the interior, so I peppered the poor woman throwing the yard sale with a million questions.
Finally, probably as much to get rid of me as anything else, she said, "Would you like to go inside and look around?" She pointed the side door. "Let yourself in."
I did. Inside, there was a brand new kitchen. Upstairs, the bedrooms were straight out of House Beautiful. As I started up to the third floor, the mystery writer in me kicked in and I thought: What if a woman goes to a yard sale and somehow she manages to talk her way into the house? She goes inside. . . and she never comes out.
Thoroughly spooked, I bolted down three flights and out the door.
Have you ever been spooked by a thought that turned an everyday situation sinister?
HANK: OH. Constantly. Daily. It's a sickness. Even that, you know? I'll cough, and then think--what if this is the beginnning of the plague, and I have it and... And suddenly, I'm in The Stand.
Jonathan goes out to get the paper. It's just at the end of the driveway. "Be careful!" I always tell him. "Of WHAT?" he says. It's potentially dangerous, in my mind. In his, it isn't. What if the people handing out free food samples at the mall are really terrorists, and the food is poisoned? (Actually, I may use that in a book so forget you read it.) And I completely got PTSD after seeing the movie "The Dark Knight." I was clutching Jonathan all the way to the car, terrifed someone/something was going to leap out of the darkness.
I may have seen too much TV news.
HALLIE: LOL. That's gotta be it.
Not sure why but that reminds me of once when I was walking with my daughter and we were playing "what's that thing" (pick up a small scrap of trash from the street and try to guess what it was part of)...and I picked up a red plastic tab that said "DO NOT REMOVE." Where's CSI when you need 'em.
HANK: I still have a little red ticket from a sweepstakes drawing that says "Keep this ticket." So hey, I kept it. Because what terrible thing might happen if I don't?
RHYS: Congrats on the new book, Hallie. As you say, this is one of the pitfalls of being a mystery writer. The brain switches so easily to "what if?" And we have trained ourselves to act on that what if. A snippet of overheard conversation becomes sinister, a stranger lurking on the corner becomes a potential ax murderer... And I've always been afraid of the dark. I grew up in a big spooky house that I was sure was haunted. The wind used to make the rug outside my bedroom door flap up and down and sometimes windows opened on their own. When I talked about this to my brother, years later, he replied, "of course it was haunted." So I'd never go up three flights of stairs in a purple-painted house.
RO: Oooh, as a diehard yard sale fan, I'll never be able to go to one again and walk up those stairs to where I've been assured "the good stuff" is. Even if the house isn't purple. That's my idea of something really scary, the everyday thing that turns into a nightmare. I mean, who's going to be fooled by a drooling 7-ft stranger with tattoos and an eyepatch? Just run...no story.
My sort-of-scary moments occur whenever I'm on a driving trip and I have to use the facilities - or buy a can of diet red bull- at a gas station. It's not the toilet that scares me (Dr. Roberta...you hear that?)Ever see The Vanishing or Breakdown? Yikes. It crosses my mind every time I stop in one of those remote service stations.
HANK: Oh. The Vanishing (the Dutch one) is the scariest movie I've ever seen. Ever. I almost wish I hadn't see it.
ROBERTA: Ro, I'm not worried about the toilet, I'm worried about the diet Red Bull!:) Hallie, big congratulations! So excited to see your book on the shelves! And what I've learned from the tag sale story is to never, ever, let a stranger into the house, even if she SEEMS like a nice, nosy middle-aged lady. Maybe especially that. I too see danger and plot twists everywhere. It's kind of exhausting, isn't it?
HALLIE: What about never ever GO INTO a house, no matter how hunky the man is who invites you in to "have a look around."
JAN: Wow, was it really three years, Hallie? It seemed like that book flew off your computer!! Congratulations on its release and the many terrific reviews.
When I was still dealing with my plane phobia (now conquered!!) I once had a cognitive behavioral therapist tell me that my problem was I had too much imagination and I applied it to EVERYTHING. That probably applies to all of us!
For me, it really was the toilet.... but not the germs. It all started as a small child, when I convinced myself there was a monster in it. I used to open the door, flush the toilet and run like hell. Sometimes when I go to lock the garage door at night, I'll let in the thought... what if someone was in the garage just waiting.... and I get that full body fear thrill people go to the movies for. But I've spent a lot of energy trying to NOT let those thoughts in my head, and I think it's net gain.
HALLIE: My daughter used to be afraid of squirrels, so I'd send her out with a can of Lysol (AKA magic squirrel repellant) to protect her on her Hot Wheels.
So, is your monster in the toilet? Or in your attic? Or up a tree and hopefully staying where it belongs? (Hopefully not in your bookstore where I hope you are ALL headed.)
Please join the conversation. We're dying to know.