Seventy-Five Days of Phobias Day 28 Gravity Makes Sarah Mayberry Tremble

To celebrate the upcoming release of my third novel, Driving in Neutral—a love story about claustrophobia—I am running the 75 Days of Phobia series. Today, as Author Sarah Mayberry hums the Beatles, she tells us about claustrophobia and needing room to breathe.

sarahMWe all tremble in fear at the thought of a Yellow Submarine, Yellow Submarine, Yellow Submarine... When Sandra approached me to write about a phobia for her 75 days of fear festival of phobias, I have to admit I felt a little spoilt for choice. There’s my fear of public speaking. My fear of flying. My fear of enclosed spaces. My terror regarding spiders.

But my fear of running out of oxygen in a finite oxygen-type environment (think space ship or submarine) is by far my most interesting phobia. If there can be such a thing. So, here goes:

I’m not sure where it comes from, but I cannot watch movies set in space without feeling a little short of breath. Ditto for diving and submarine stories. The idea of being trapped in a tin can of some description with a limited supply of oxygen makes me want slip into an adult diaper and find a corner to hide in. Thumb in mouth optional.

Hollywood filmmakers are well aware of my phobia, I’m convinced, and they are a sadistic bunch of bastards. Find me the submarine or space station movie where massive oxygen loss is not a part of the action, and I will eat my coffee table. I’ll even throw in the magazines plied up on it.

Anyone see Gravity? Sandra Bullock spent almost the whole movie clawing her way through spacesspace trying to find a new tin can containing fresh oxygen. I have never been more tense in a movie in my life. I sat on the edge of my chair, taking small breaths in sympathy with Sandy, just in case my consumption might somehow cosmically influence or affect hers. I needed a session at the day spa afterward, I was so wrung out and tortured. And yet I continue to subject myself to these movies.

I think that’s the thing I find the most interesting about fear. So many aspects of it are primal and instinctive (although I have my fair share of learned fears, too, like my healthy respect for the cutlery drawer. Ever jammed your finger in one of those mothers?) and yet we’re also fascinated by it. We like to dabble around the edges of it, get our adrenalin pumping. Get the old fight or flight chemicals buzzing around. I’m not sure if that makes us (ie me) a little masochistic or simply curious.



The weird, very strange thing is that several years ago I had an opportunity to go scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef. My man and I were attending a conference, and it was one of the day trip activities. The organisers took us out to a pontoon on the Reef, and during the journey a scuba guru took us through the basics we’d need for a twenty minute dive. The idea of it terrified me (naturally!) but my man was interested, and as he was about to head overseas for several months on a work gig, I was not going to be the human wet blanket who killed the fun on our last few days together. So, I wriggled into a a wetsuit and donned the mask and tank. I was totally freaking out the whole time we were preparing to jump into the water. Then we did, and it was…amazing. The water was so clear. There was no sound except for my own breathing, which was actually oddly reassuring. And the coral and marine life were stunning. Absolutely stunning. For twenty minutes I swam around in awe of Mother Nature, not giving a toss that my oxygen supply was limited to the tank on my back. It still remains a highlight in my memory, all these years later.

And not once was I afraid. Go figure. My brain, it seems, refuses to be predictable. Which bodes well for the long-term relationship I have with it. Variety being the spice of life and all that.

This is the part where I get to plug my books, I think. This will be a huge surprise to you, but most of her heroines tend to think about stuff a bit. They worry about things they’ve said, things they’re about to say, things they want to say. But one of the great things about fiction is that as a writer I get to imbue my heroines with characteristics I’d love to have in real life. So my heroines tend to confront their fears. They take the leap of faith. They dare. And they usually have some pretty good times with the naked hero along the way. If you get where I’m going with that, nudge, nudge.

My latest, Satisfaction, features a heroine who has never had an orgasm, and a hero who is satsdetermined to be her first. I had a lot of fun writing this book, helping Maggie embark on the adventure of a lifetime and getting her to the point where she is ready to grab for what she wants (hint: the hero) with both hands. If you get a chance to read it, I’d love to hear what you think.

And if you share my fear of limited oxygen situations, please share the pain with me and make me feel normal. Whatever that is.

You can find out more about Sarah’s books at


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