To woo hoo the upcoming release of my romantic comedy, Driving in Neutral —a love story about claustrophobia—(now available for pre-order!) I am running the 75 Days of Phobia series. Author Susanne Bellamy dips a toe into the ocean of fear.
Fear sells. You only have to read the newspaper or watch television to see this is true. Movies dealing with adrenalin-inducing fears have been popular since the silent film era and thrillers still gross big box-office bucks. Why do we persist in scaring ourselves silly when there is enough real-life ‘stuff’ to scare the bejeezers out of ourselves?
I think the answer lies in degree of control. Even lost in the plot of a good book or film, subconsciously, we know it isn’t real. But it could be. When we make that tacit agreement to suspend disbelief and choose to scare ourselves, there is a satisfaction in ‘surviving’ the situation.
Why, then, do I still bear psychological scars from two very specific films?
The first is to do with Selachophobia. I grew up in an inland city high on the Great Dividing Range of Queensland. Holidays at the beach happened once a year, in August, which used to be our winter school holiday and too cold for swimming. I loved walking on the beach though and thought longingly of being able to jump in the sea. And when I finally did, I couldn’t enjoy it because I just knew there was a shark out there with me in its beady sight.
That’s right. In water with dozens of other swimmers, most of them further out than me, that shark had zeroed in and was coming for me. Constant, frantic searching of each incoming wave, ridiculous attempts to keep my body horizontal rather then temptingly vertical leached the pleasure from my swimming in the sea. In the end I gave up and paddled in the shallows.
So why did I see Jaws? Peer pressure. My group of friends was going and how could I say no? But for months afterwards, I didn’t even want to step in a puddle. That’s irrational. And that’s a phobia.
The other stupid choice I made was while at uni. I lived in a college on campus and walked to the Schonell Theatre for a midnight showing of “Nosferatu”, again at the behest of friends. Call it an overactive imagination if you will and damn Starsky and Hutch for showing a vampire episode around the same time but I reckon I set new records for running alone at night along the road back to college and along the walkways between blocks. Late-night tutorials were the worst because nobody else lived in my direction. I was it. Live bait.
I survived—somehow. Maybe they preferred brunettes. Or males.
Nowadays my phobias are quite subdued; hey, I’ve even managed to watch the “Twilight” films without freaking out. And True Blood! Although I still can’t watch films with sharks and loathe pictures showing their horrible mouths and maws.
Part of my attempt to deal with my selachophobia was to give my first heroine, Amelie in White Ginger, the same phobia. She had to overcome her fear to help Arne. I’m not sure how much that helped me with mine but I certainly understood where she was coming from! In my 1 August release, Engaging the Enemy (from Escape Publishing), there are no phobias per se but both Matt and Andie have fears to overcome as they move from being enemies to lovers.
One building, two would-be owners and a family feud that spans several generations: all relationships have their problems.
Andrea de Villiers can’t lie to save herself. But when developer, Matt Mahoney, buys the building she and a friend have established as a safe house in the Melbourne CBD, she decides that protecting The Shelter is more important than her aching heart. She will confront Mr Mahoney, and she will emerge victorious. There are no other options.
But Matt has other plans for Andie, and she soon finds herself ensnared in a web of well-meaning lies and benevolent deceit. To protect the building and the families that depend on her, Andie agrees to play the part of Matt’s fiancée, and play it convincingly.
But lies soon bleed into truth, and what was once a deception starts to feel all too real. Can Andie accomplish her goals and protect The Shelter, without losing her heart to the charming Irish developer?
Find out less irrational things about Susanne on her website: www.susannebellamy.com