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Talking Scared

Author: Neil McRobert

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Conversations with the biggest names in horror fiction. A podcast for horror readers who want to know where their favourite stories came from . . . and what frightens the people who wrote them.
128 Episodes
It’s not even the end of January and we’re already dealing with the second apocalypse of the year.This one is written by CJ Tudor, whose new novel, The Drift, moves her out of the crime chillers she is best-known for, into a whole other world of horror.It’s a series of locked room mysteries, occurring in the hideous aftermath of global pandemic. And if you are a little sick of global pandemics (who isn’t?) then at least this one has rage zombies and lots of murder.CJ and I talk about many things, from genre expectations, to failed novels, grief to TV adaptation – but the pandemic is a dominant theme. We talk about about some personal loss, so if that would be a trigger for you, go in pre-warned.But mostly, it’s a lovely chat with “Britain’s answer to Stephen King.”Enjoy!The Drift was published by Penguin on Jan 19th in the UK and Jan 31st in the US. Other books mentioned in this episode:The Burning Girls (2021), by C.J. TudorThe Chalk Man (2018), by C.J. TudorSign Here (2022), by Claudia LuxTo contribute to Laird Barron’s GoFundMe, visit Talking Scared on PatreonCome talk books on Twitter @talkscaredpod, on Instagram, or email direct to Support the show
When it comes to stress, they say selling a house is up there with divorce and death. Now imagine that house is haunted… by demonic puppets. Yeah – that’s the premise of Grady Hendrix’s brand-new horror novel, How to Sell a Haunted House. It combines Grady’s trademark humour, genre-knowledge and playfulness, with a genuinely frightening story about homes, and all the things they contain, both comforting and downright nasty.Grady and I dive into the economics of haunting, the value of earnestness in a world of irony, and we discover the difference between marionettes and hand puppets … which is more frightening that you would expect.It’s a fun conversation, about a joyfully creepy book.  Enjoy!How To Sell A Haunted House was published by Berkley on Jan 17th 2003. Other books mentioned in this episode: The Final Girl Support Group (2020), by Grady HendrixHorrorstör (2014), by Grady HendrixWe Sold Our Souls (2018), by Grady HendrixMy Heart is a Chainsaw (2020), by Stephen Graham JonesThe Pallbearer’s Club (2022), by Paul TremblayMoth Manor (1978), by Martha Sherman BaconTo donate to the fundraiser for Laird Barron, visit, and thanks SO much.Support Talking Scared on PatreonCome talk books on Twitter @talkscaredpod, on Instagram, or email direct to Support the show
…AAAND WE’RE BACK! I hope you’re slipping into 2023 like it’s a warm bath, but either way this week’s episode will be a cold, sharp system shock. The guest is Stephen Markley; the book is The Deluge – a 900-page beast of ecological and societal disintegration, and the best book I have read in decades. Imagine The Stand was based on rigorous scientific research and was, y’know, about to happen to us all for real. Yeah! This is a scary one, even if it would never be listed in the horror part of the bookshop.Stephen and I talk about (re)considering apocalyptic fiction, choosing characters, how real events outpaced the writing of the book, and how the climate crisis forces us to ask some uncomfortable questions about social issues.  Like the book I question, this episode is heavy and challenging and frightening, but maybe… just maybe… it will give you some hope.Enjoy!The Deluge was published by Simon & Schuster on Jan 10th 2003.Other books mentioned in this episode:The Big Fix: Seven Practical Steps to Save Our Planet (2022) by Hal Harvey and Justin GillisWorld War Z (2006), by Max BrooksZen and the Art of Saving the Planet (2021), by Thich Nhat HanhThe Stand (1990), by Stephen KingSupport Talking Scared on PatreonCome talk books on Twitter @talkscaredpod, on Instagram, or email direct to Support the show
The year is almost over. What is left to do except offer you my last-minute ranking of the best books I’ve read and enjoyed in 2022.I will warn you – I am poorly and my voice sounds like ten miles of bad gravel. This sounds like the Reba McIntyre book club. I am HUSKY!!Hang around for the afterword when my voice finally gives out as I labour over a long and elaborate thank-you for listening and supporting the show this year. At times 2022 has felt like a waking nightmare, but here in Spookybooklandia, we’ve kept things ironically nice.  Love to you all.Happy New Year. Here’s to the next.Books mentioned: A Child Alone With Strangers (2022), by Philip FracassiAll the White Spaces (2022), by Ally Wilkes Mary: An Awakening of Terror (2022), by Nat Cassidy Burn the Plans (2022), by Tyler Jones The Hollow Kind (2022), by Andy DavidsonScreams from the Dark (2022), ed. Ellen DatlowHouse of Hunger (2022), by Alexis HendersonReluctant Immortals (2022), by Gwendolyne KisteThen I Woke Up (2022), by Malcolm DevlinThe Clackity (2022), by Lora Senf Support Talking Scared on PatreonCome talk books on Twitter @talkscaredpod, on Instagram, or email direct to Support the show
It’s that time of year again. A time to reflect, to look back over a tumultuous twelve months, and to talk about the horror books that helped us survive them.2022 has been a helluva year for the good kind of horror. Far too much for one man to cover. So I’ve drafted in some highly qualified friends – Emily Hughes and Janelle Janson. They have their fingers right on the arterial spurt of the genre – and they have each read far more than me.Together we deliver this year's State of the Horror Nation – talking about big issues in horror, the key books we’ve adored…and the dozens and dozens of titles we’re looking forward to in 2023.We raise a glass to a late and beloved horror icon, we make some new year’s resolutions, and Janelle and Emily get a bit squeaky about their big horror crush. Bet you can guess who (it’s not me!)Thanks for all your support this year.Books picked:Ghost Eaters (2022), by Clay McLeod Chapman – ep. 110A Child Alone With Strangers (2022), by Philip Fracassi – ep. 120Echo (2022), by Thomas Olde Heuvelt – ep. 78Our Share of Night (2022), by Mariana EnriquezAll the White Spaces (2022), by Ally Wilkes – ep. 76We Are Here to Hurt Each Other (2022), by Paula D. AsheMary: An Awakening of Terror (2022), by Nat Cassidy – ep. 101Burn the Plans (2022), by Tyler Jones – ep. 81Just Like Home (2022), by Sarah Gailey Books anticipated: Don’t Fear the Reaper (2023), by Stephen Graham Jones Silver Nitrate (2023), by Silvia Moreno GarciaVampires of el Norte (2023), by Isabel CañasPinata (2023), by Leopoldo GoutTell Me I’m Worthless (2023), by Alison Rumfitt (already out in UK)Spite House (2023), by Jonny ComptonLone Women (2023), by Victor LavelleEverything Darkness Eats (2023), by Eric LaRoccaEpisode 13 (2023), by Craig DilouieHouse of Good Bones (2023), by T. KingfisherNights Edge (2023), by Liz KerinThe Edge of Sleep (2023), by Jake EmmanuelThe Drift (2023), by C. J. TudorBad Cree (2023), by Jessica JohnsMaeve Fly (2023), by C.J. LeadeA Light Most Hateful (2023), by Hailey PiperLooking Glass Sound (2023), by Catriona WardThe Beast You Are (2023), by Paul TremblayThe Salt Grows Heavy (2023), by Cassandra KhawBurn the Negative (2023), by Josh WinningHow to Sell a Haunted House (2023), by Grady HendrixAbnormal Statistics (2023), by Max Booth IIIThe Insatiable Volt Sisters (2023), by Rachel Eve MoultonCamp Damascus (2023), by Chuck TingleExtended Stay (2023), by Juan MartinezHouse of Cotton (2023), by Monica Brashears Support Talking Scared on Patreon Come talk books on Twitter @talkscaredpod, on Instagram, or email direct to Support the show
It’s the Christmas Special and with the obligatory requirement to do something different – we’re turning the tables.Yes, I’m the one being interviewed this week.To make that a palatable offering for listeners, the guest interviewers are none other than Rachel Harrison and Josh Malerman. Friends of the show and horror superstars who, out of the goodness of their hearts, devoted an evening to asking me questions. Don’t listen for me; listen for them. Amongst other parts of my odd life, we cover my early gorilla terrors, my unhealthy relationship with running, and my time as an alpaca farmer. Oh and of course, Stephen King comes up a time or two.What have we learned in this self-important project – 1) the hubris of the male podcaster knows no bounds and 2) I become a lot less articulate when talking aboiut myself.Oh …  and also, I have an idea that you may, or may not like. Enjoy, and merry Christmas. Support Talking Scared on PatreonCome talk books on Twitter @talkscaredpod, on Instagram, or email direct to Support the show
Are you ready for some learnin’?This week rather than focusing on any single book, or any single author – I thought we’d have a little look at … y’know … the entire friggin’ history of Horror and Gothic across the centuries. After all, what’s a Christmas break from podcasting if you aren’t doubling the length of your episodes and making the scope infinite? Thankfully, I’m joined by a bona fide expert. Professor Roger Luckhurst, from Birkbeck College, London comes with me to talk about the history of dark culture. We use his great new book, Gothic: An Illustrated History as a guide. We cover everything we can in a couple of hours – from the birth of the genre in the 1700s, through Shelley and Stoker and all the way across the Atlantic to pick up with Poe and Lovecraft and Jackson. And as we get into the modern era we see the genre split and fracture in fascinating ways. I hope you enjoy this immensely. Prof Rog is the best guide an eager Goth or horror nerd could hope for.**Note – this episode was originally released on Talking Scared Patreon as a series of 3 shorter episodes. Gothic: An Illustrated is out now from Palgrave.Support Talking Scared on PatreonCome talk books on Twitter @talkscaredpod, on Instagram, or email direct to Support the show
This week I’m beginning my supposed ‘break’ from reading.There is still an episode, however, and it’s a doozy. You may be glad to hear I’ve put down the books for a short while, ‘cos my guest is a huge name from the cinematic aisle of the horror world – Craig Engler, GM of Shudder is in the house!!He joined me for a conversation back in October, when we were both in the throes of the Halloween build up. Now, listening to this weeks later, you can hardly hear the strain in our voices at all. We talk about Craig’s creative life and work – from his role in the show, Z-nation, to the helm of Shudder. We debate dream book-to-movie adaptations and, of course, I ask him which films he thinks are the scariest on Shudder. Most of them I’m too afraid to watch.Oh, and I may use this interview to apply for a non-existent job.Enjoy – this will have your Christmas TV binge covered.Other books mentioned in this episode include:The Library at Mount Char (2015), by Scott Hawkins (episode 94)House of Leaves (2000), by Mark Z. DanielewskiNight Film (2013), by Marisha PesslThe String Diaries (2013), by Stephen Lloyd GeorgeSupport Talking Scared on PatreonCome talk books on Twitter @talkscaredpod, on Instagram, or email direct to Support the show
Get ready to be sickened by my praise.My guest this week is Philip Fracassi. Last year his historical horror, The Boys in the Valley got the Stephen King endorsement. He’s already following up with A Child Alone With Strangers - his second novel (or is it his first, or his third – as you’ll hear it’s complicated).This book is an all-timer. It blends the relaxed, character driven storytelling of the best 80s horror, with a contemporary cross-genre style that keeps you shocked …  and shook. I tell you now, this book will take your heart, put it in a velvet box – and then stamp on that box until it’s mush.We talk about a lot of things in this 70-minute conversation. Writing believable children, creating great villains, and conceiving original monsters and true otherness. We explore insectile horror, empathy overloads and setcking to your guns on word-length.This is my last author-interview of the year and I couldn’t have hoped for a better book to discuss.Enjoy! A Child Alone With Strangers was released on October 25th by Talos Press Other books mentioned in this episode include:The Boys in the Valley (2021), by Philip FracassiGothic (2023), by Philip FracassiThe Stand (1990), by Stephen KingThe Magus (1965/1977), by John FowlesLet it Come Down (1952), by Paul BowlesThe Delicate Prey and Other Stories (1950), by Paul BowlesSupport Talking Scared on Patreon Come talk books on Twitter @talkscaredpod, on Instagram, or email direct to Support the show
Are you a city mouse or a country mouse? That’s the question at the heart of my conversation with Charlotte Northedge. Her new novel, The People Before argues that though the city may be a hassle, it’s a lot less scary than what waits out there in the fields and farmhouses of this pleasant land. Charlotte is very much a city mouse. She’s also the Head of Books for The Guardian Newspaper, which makes her superbly well-euipped to talk about fiction in general, and this is an episode that really gets into the Gothic tradition of which The People Before is part. We talk about the unique nature of the female gothic, domestic loads and mortgage terror, the economics of haunted houses, and I stand by my argument that rural axe-murders are fairly rare.Enjoy! The People Before was released on November 10th by HarperCollinsOther books mentioned in this episode include:The House Guests (2021), by Charlotte NorthedgeThe Last House on Needless Street (2021), by Catriona Ward Sundial (2022), by Catriona Ward The Fell (2021), by Sarah MossThe Haunting of Hill House (1959), by Shirley JacksonRebecca (1938), by Daphne Du MaurierThe Turn of the Screw (1898), by Henry James Support Talking Scared on PatreonCome talk books on Twitter @talkscaredpod, on Instagram, or email direct to Support the show
It’s coming home, it’s coming … horror’s coming home!Alright, no one panic – this isn’t about football. We’ll avoid that particular nightmare of human corruption and talk about something much more nourishing – the delights of British Folk Horror.Our guest is Fiona Barnett, and these days it’s seems like a mini-celebration everytime I have a fellow Brit on the show. Her debut novel The Dark Between the Trees is also quintessentially British, mired in the myth and lore and landscape of these sceptic isles. Her novel follows two groups into the cursed Moresby Woods. One is a group of soldiers from the 16th Century; the other is a research group in the present day. Neither expedition goes at all well…Amongst many things, Fiona and I talk about writing female groups, about propelling the plot in the face of paralysis weirdness, we discuss the nature of folktale and truth, and we look into the abyss of Deep Time.And in case that all sounds awfully hifalutin – I make sure to talk about monsters as much as I can. Though this week, I promise, there is no Bigfoot. Enjoy! The Dark Between the Trees was released on October 11th by SolarisOther books mentioned in this episode include:Annihilation (2014), by Jeff VanderMeerMythago Wood (1984), by Robert HoldstockPicnic at Hanging Rock (1967), by Joan LindseyDeep Time: A Literary History (2023), by Noah HeringmanBegars Abbey (2022), by V.L. ValentineLolly Willowes, or the Loving Huntsman (1926), by Sylvia Townsend WarnerSupport Talking Scared on PatreonCome talk books on Twitter @talkscaredpod, on Instagram, or email direct to Support the show
I don’t always talk about Bigfoot … but when I do it’s with the BEST people.Our guest this week is Erika T. Wurth, author, narrative artist and creative writing guru. She is of Apache/Chickasaw/Cherokee descent and she pours all of that skill and heritage into her new novel White Horse. It’s a tale of haunting, hard-living and violence, with a certain hairy indigenous monster that pops up in your dreams.This is NOT the Bigfoot that you expect, or want to meet. As well as that brief foray into hairy hominid lore (I restrained myself; you’re welcome), Erika and I also talk about the dreaded dream sequence, the German phenomenon of Sonder, the real Overlook hotel and Jack Kerouac, of all people.Enjoy!White Horse was released on November 1st by Flatiron BooksOther books mentioned in this episode include:Buckskin Cocaine (2017), by Erika T. WurthBlack Sun (2021), by Rebecca Roanhorse Ghost Eaters (2022), by Clay McLeod ChapmanSupport Talking Scared on PatreonCome talk books on Twitter @talkscaredpod, on Instagram, or email direct to Support the show
Halloween may be over but I trust you aren’t tired of horror? No? Good. ‘Cos this week’s guest packs a double-whammy – horror novels and horror movies all in one. Brian McAuley is a screenwriter and debut novelist. His first book, Curse of the Reaper is a behind-the-scenes look at how the horror movie sausage gets made, featuring the greatest slasher icon never to actually exist, and some of the best ‘bad’ scriptwriting you’ll ever read.Brian and I talk about Hollywood as a place of both cinematic and spiritual horror. We compare our favourite franchises and our love for Robert Englund. We discuss why the genre needs to remember to be fun, and how you can judge a lot from someone’s reaction to the latest Texas Chainsaw Massacre.  All in all, it’s the perfect book for the day after Halloween – when we just need to keep the horror train rollin’Enjoy!Curse of the Reaper was released on October 4th by Talos Press.Other books mentioned in this episode include: Rootwork (2022), by Tracy CrossHollywood Monster: A Walk Down Elm Street With the Man of Your Dreams (2009), by Robert Englund and Alan GoldsherThe Dark Half (1989), by Stephen King Support Talking Scared on PatreonCome talk books on Twitter @talkscaredpod, on Instagram, or email direct to Support the show
The last episode before Halloween and it’s suitably about my favourite book of the year: Andy Davidson’s The Hollow KindAndy is the Stoker-nominated author of In the Valley of the Sun and The Boatman’s Daughter. The Hollow Kind is his third book and it packs a lot into its 400 pages. It’s as dense and weighty as an imploding paper star. It’s a haunted house story (of sorts), a creature feature (of sorts) and a whole lot of Southern Gothic of many kinds. The prose is lush and wow, does Andy know a lot about the history of Georgia both human and natural.We talk about that, as well as the link between industry and horror, the allure of extreme violence, and the sheer delight of finding a map at the front of a book. Plus, we go a little deeper than usual into the nature and origins of the evil at the heart of the story.Enjoy and have a happy Halloween my horror-loving siblings!The Hollow Kind was released on October 11th by MCD Other books mentioned in this episode include:The Boatman’s Daughter (2020), by Andy DavidsonConvulsive (2022), by Joe KochAbsalom, Absalom! (1936), by William FaulknerPoachers (1999), by Tom FranklinKnockemstiff (2008), by Donald Ray PollockJo Koch interview with Andy at Southwest Review Support Talking Scared on PatreonCome talk books on Twitter @talkscaredpod, on Instagram, or email direct to Support the show
It was Thomas Wolfe who wrote “you can never go home again.” Huh, what did he know? (yes, I understand the metaphor – move on!)This week’s guest proves that whilst you can go home, you may not want to. Erin E. Adams is an actor, playwright and now the debut author of JACKAL, a novel of homecomings horrid and awful. Each year, in the small Pennsylvania town of Johnstown, a young Black girl goes missing, taken by whatever lurks in the woods surrounding the town. Helluva premise!!Erin takes us on a tour of Johnstown, both the real and the sorta fictional version. We talk about justification and paranoia, about anger as a superpower and the notion that horror is a genre for white people. She explores the epochal moments from her town’s history and goes deep on her feelings about Black horror’s handling of trauma. Then we compare our memories of small-town adolescence – finding that some sh*t is the same all around the world. Enjoy!Jackal was released on October 4th by Bantam.Other books mentioned in this episode include:How to Recognize a Demon has Become Your Friend (2011), by Linda AddisonCome With Me (2021), by Ronald Malfi – episode 49 Support Talking Scared on PatreonCome talk books on Twitter @talkscaredpod, on Instagram, or email direct to Support the show
Do you know anyone with hairy palms? Weird question, but as this week’s novel-in-question will convince you, it’s best to be careful around the hirsute.Our guest is Rachel Harrison, returning to Talking Scared with her brand new SUCH SHARP TEETH. It’s a tale of small-town relationships, female transformation, love and … werewolves.Anyone who has read either of Rachel’s previous novels, The Return or Cackle, will know that she has a knack for reinventing horror tropes within snarky satire. Such Sharp Teeth is no different in that regard. Rachel and I talk about messy characters, beastly metaphors, and rage filled rooms. We get into the unexpected earnestness of romance, and we wonder if      horror comedy may well be the best genre to represent contemporary existence.And stick around because Rachel also has the best ever answer to the question, what truly scares you… Enjoy!Such Sharp Teeth is released on October 4th by Berkley.Other books mentioned in this episode include: Build Your House Around My Body (2021), by Violet KupersmithThe Return (2020), by Rachel Harrison – episode 17Cackle (2021), by Rachel Harrison Support Talking Scared on PatreonCome talk books on Twitter @talkscaredpod, on Instagram, or email direct to Support the show
The best and spookiest season starts in earnest, this year on Talking Scared. Our guest is Jamie Flanagan, actor, screenwriter, and part of the team who delivered such televisual delights as The Haunting of Bly Manor, Midnight Mass and now, The Midnight Club.With The Midnight Club due to land on Netflix worldwide this Friday – I rejigged the schedule to sneak in a chat with Jamie about his work on the show, his relationship with horror-maestro director, Mike Flanagan, and some of the magic that bubbled to the surface in Midnight Mass. Jamie pulls back the veil on the mythical ‘writers room’. He talks about the difficulty of getting anything to screen. And we talk, of course, about the influence of Stephen King.It’s a pleasant detour this week, away from books, without leaving the literary entirely behind.Enjoy!The Midnight Club is released worldwide on Netflix, October 7th.  Other books mentioned in this episode include:The Midnight Club (1994), by Christopher Pike The Mist (1980), by Stephen KingHouse of Leaves (2000), by Mark Z. DanielewskiSupport Talking Scared on Patreon Come talk books on Twitter @talkscaredpod, on Instagram, or email direct to Support the show
It’s not only vampires that drink blood. That’s what we find out on this week’s episode. Our guest is Alexis Henderson – author of The Year of the Witching and now, her sophomore novel, House of Hunger. It’s a luscious, lurid tale of dark fantasy, blood and sex. Y’know … all the good stuff.Oh, and it’s one of my favourite books of the year.Alexis and I discuss the collision of horror and fantasy, the erotics and politics of blood, and the double standards when it comes to female perversion. We also talk a little about a certain Bloody Countess, who plays a big part in the background of House of Hunger. Enjoy!House of Hunger is released September 27th by Ace Books   Other books mentioned in this episode include:A Dowry of Blood  (2022), by S.T. Gibson The Year of the Witching (2021), by Alexis HendersonSupport Talking Scared on Patreon Come talk books on Twitter @talkscaredpod, on Instagram, or email direct to Support the show
Wanna get haunted?That’s the delightful proposition offered by Clay McLeod Chapman’s Ghost Eaters – a novel of ghosts, grief and ghastly narcotics. Just take one pill and you can sell all the phantoms that surround you. What a premise! It’s Clay’s second time on Talking Scared and he’s always welcome. There are few more honest, open, and thoughtful writers out there. This time around we go deep, into the real emotional core of Ghost Eaters, talking about lost friends and long-ago dreams. We discuss 90s indie art, postmodernism’s pains-in-the-ass, and our drug experiences (turns out we’re lame).Oh, and there are Machine Elves. What are Machine Elves, you ask? Listen to find out. Enjoy!Ghost Eaters is released September 20th by Quirk Books  Other books mentioned in this episode include: Between Two Fires (2012), by Christopher Buehlman Whisper Down the Lane (2021), by Clay McLeod Chapman – (episode 32)The Secret History (1992), by Donna TarttInfinite Jest (19960, by David Foster WallaceSupport Talking Scared on PatreonCome talk books on Twitter @talkscaredpod, on Instagram, or email direct to Support the show
The time has finally come to go to the scariest place imaginable – the inside of the human mind. Thankfully, we have a friend to accompany us on this most hideous of trips. I’m joined this week by Gemma Amor, author of the brand-new techno-horror FULL IMMERSION. It’s a book that deals with trauma, psychosis and experimental treatment, and it’s the perfect springboard for an epic conversation about mental health in horror.Gemma and I cover the autobiographical elements of her novel and how it helped her recovery. I lay bare my own neurosis and explain why this genre is not necessarily a safe space. And Gemma explains the dangerous reality of being a woman in the horror game. If that all sounds a tad sombre, don’t worry – there is also chat about the Uncanny Valley, Men in Black, Creepypasta and Black Mirror. As well as the pros and cons of pushing over racist statues.It’s a long episode this one. You won’t get this level of self-indulgence every week. But it was just too good a conversation to cut short.Let’s head into my head, it’s scary there!!Enjoy!Full Immersion is released September 13th by Angry Robot Read Gemma’s essay - The Female Experience of FearSupport Talking Scared on PatreonCome talk books on Twitter @talkscaredpod, on Instagram, or email direct to Support the show
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