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. Yes, I know seventy-fives days, that’s a lot. A hell of a lot. But you know what? As Olivia, the heroine in Driving in Neutral says to Maxwell the claustrophobe, “Everyone’s afraid of something.” Just ask author Laura Greaves…
While promoting my first novel, Be My Baby, I was recently asked a really interesting question: what’s one thing you would never do in the name of research? I answered that I would never jump off something. I’m the opposite of an adrenaline junkie; I prefer to have both feet firmly on the ground at all times, thank you very much.
But I have a confession to make: I lied.
While leaping from a tall building or hurling myself out of a perfectly good aircraft would never be my first choice of research experience, I’d do either of those things a hundred times – no, a million times – before I would touch, look at or willingly be in the same room as a lizard.
My name is Laura, and I’m lizard-phobic. Or herpetophobic, to give the blood-curdling, bone-chilling, paralysing horror I feel towards reptiles its proper name. Just typing the word ‘lizard’ makes me shudder. Even thinking about lizards makes me feel like they’re on me.
Are they on me? Are you sure? ARE YOU SURE?!
I can’t quite recall when or why this gripping fear of lizards developed. I do remember feeling quite blase when, around the age of seven, I went to retrieve a ball from a jungly part of my backyard and found myself face to face with two beady eyes and flicking cobalt tongue. It was no biggie then. In my ‘tween’ years I even asked for a pet lizard every birthday and Christmas.
But by the age of 14, the fear had set in. On a family holiday in Bali, I was thoroughly repulsed by the sight of geckos crawling all over the walls of restaurants. What had happened to turn me against these prehistoric critters? I honestly have no idea, but I do know that it’s harder to live a lizard free life than you might imagine.
I live in a part of Sydney that’s surrounded by water and dense bushland. It’s beautiful, but it is crawling with lizards. From huge bluetongues in the garden to tiny skinks in the cracks in the brickwork, those cold-blooded little buggers are everywhere. Sometimes I’ll be sitting in my living room, just minding my own business, and one will pop out of the fireplace or saunter casually across the floor. It’s like they think they own the joint! Twice I’ve called my husband at work and insisted he come home immediately to evict a scaly intruder. (And he’s done it, too. Forget flowers and chocolates – that’s romance right there, ladies.)
On a girls’ trip to Darwin a few years ago, I discovered that my fear is not limited to your garden-variety geckos. At the fascinating Crocosaurus Cove crocodile park in the heart of the city, a genial staffer holding a juvenile croc asked my friend and I if we’d like to pat it. My mate eagerly gave it a stroke, and urged me to do the same. I extended a trembling hand toward the young snapper as every cell in my body screamed ‘nnnnnooooooo!’ And then I froze. I just couldn’t do it. If it walks like a lizard and talks like a lizard, we’re just not going to be friends.
You know what freaks me out the most? The fact that many lizard species can jettison their tails and then the tail keeps wriggling. I know that this is actually a very clever evolutionary trick, but aaaarrghhhhh! It’s just SO GROSS!
Is it any wonder I wrote a novel set in London, a refreshingly lizard-free part of the world?! The rational part of me knows that lizards are perfectly harmless, and indeed a vital part of our ecosystem. But the hysterical, terrified, standing-on-a-chair-clutching-my-skirts part of me would really prefer it if they’d never darken my doorstep again. Or my fireplace. Or my living room carpet.
Laura Greaves is the wearer of many hats: author, journalist, screenwriter, runner, frock hoarder. She is also a wearer of actual hats. People should wear hats more, don’t you think? Laura’s first novel, Be My Baby, is published by Penguin’s Destiny Romance (destinyromance.com). Pop by and say hello to Laura at www.lauragreaves.com or Facebook.