“There is one movie that scares the hell out of me.”
For so much of the time, our lives progress in predictable ways. We have our routines and expectations, and we have people close to us – especially our families – whom we think we know. What could be more unnerving, then, than the sudden realisation that perhaps we don’t? Because all families have secrets. M. T. (Mattias) Edvardsson’s bestselling thriller A Nearly Normal Family gives us the story of one of them from three different perspectives: the father, a pastor; the mother, a criminal lawyer; and their eighteen year old daughter, accused of murder. I was very intrigued to hear what scares Mattias. Over to him.
- Were you scared of the dark as a child? If not, was there anything else you were frightened of?
As a child I always slept with the lights on and the door open. I was never afraid of ghosts or monsters or other supernatural powers. What scared me was reality. After watching the news I’d often lay awake in bed trembling with fear of kidnappers and murderers. When I was eight the prime minister of Sweden Olof Palme was killed and I think that scarred me for life.
- What scares you as an adult – if anything? Do you notice any lingering fears from childhood?
The thing that scares me more than anything else is the fear of losing someone close to me. Every week I have nightmares about losing someone from my family. I think this despair runs throughout my writing as well.
- What’s the most frightening thing that’s ever happened to you?
I can still recall a situation when I was about three years old and I lost sight of my father in a big supermarket. The fear when I ran down the corridors with shelves and couldn’t find him anywhere still lingers back in my head. As an adult something very similar happened when I lost my own little daughter in a supermarket. The horror!
- Do you use writing to help deal with your fears and concerns about yourself or the world?
Not knowingly. I don’t set out to process anything when I start writing a new book. But obviously, when I look back at the things I have written, it must be an unconscious way to deal with my biggest fears and issues. And that’s great! I can do what I love the most and have therapy at the same time.
- Why do you think readers enjoy being frightened?
It offers a possibility to get away from our poor and dull everyday lives. Through fiction we can experience primal emotions that many of us are blessed not to have to deal with in real life. Maybe it’s a way to prepare ourselves in case the worst should really happen.
- Do you enjoy frightening fiction? If so, what’s your favourite scary book or film, and why?
I’m not easily frightened at all, but there is one movie that scares the hell out of me. As a kid I stayed up late and watched it without my parents’ knowledge and it made such an impact that I still get goosebumps just thinking about it. The movie is The Dead Zone with Christopher Walken, based on the novel by Stephen King. I have goosebumps right now!
I’m with Mattias on the last question here – not specifically in terms of The Dead Zone (although I think it’s one of King’s finest novels, the film adaptation of it among of the best from his work, and the horror in it sadly ever more relevant), but in the sense that I’m not easily frightened by fiction these days. In fact, I find it hard to think of a film or book that’s had much of an effect on me on that level at all.
I wonder why that is. I remember, as a child, being terrified by certain movies. My friends and I watched The Texas Chain Saw Massacre when we were in our early teens, and I found it incredibly disturbing. Perhaps it was the circumstances: the film was banned in the UK at the time, and so this was a scratchy pirate copy we had acquired illicitly on VHS, and which we were watching in secret. The situation, with its multiple elements of the forbidden, undoubtably added an edge to the experience. But I think it was mainly a matter of my age.
(As an aside, my parents would never have let me watch The Texas Chain Saw Massacre at that age, just as I would never let my own son now. And yet there is a part of me that thinks that was exactly the right way to discover the film.)
Regardless, as an adult I’ve really struggled to recreate the feelings of terror that certain works of fiction used to engender so easily when I was young. Every year, I hear rumours of some upcoming horror film that’s inevitably being feted as “the real deal”, and my sense of anticipation will build. I’m always let down, usually because of my own expectations rather than any lack of quality in the films themselves. Maybe the simple truth is that I’m searching for something that’s impossible now I’m (at least allegedly) a grown-up. But I continue to live in hope.
Thanks to Mattias for answering my questions! Next post, I talk to C.J. Tudor.