Happy Trick or Treat Tuesday! Today I am so excited to invite one of my favorite authors and good friends, Krissi Dallas to join us here on Fuzzy.Coffee.Books! If you've been following FCB for any amount of time, you've seen that I've read and reviewed the first four books of Krissi's Phantom Island series here on FCB, the most recent of which is Watermark! Watermark will hit shelves next week, on October 29th, but feel free to check out my review in the mean time! Being that it's getting closer to Halloween and all, Krissi is here to talk to us about what scares us! Or, specifically what scares her. It might not be what you're expecting...
How To Give Someone A Phobia
It’s Halloween season, which means it becomes culturally acceptable to both expose and exploit the human condition common to us all—FEAR. Almost everyone I meet will admit to having some kind of phobia—most commonly ones like spiders, snakes, small spaces, heights, etc.
I happen to suffer from a crippling fish phobia.
And I made the mistake of going public with this weirdness when I gave my main character, Whitnee (in the Phantom Island series) the same fish phobia. Ever since, I have become the victim of fish pranks ALL. THE. TIME. And you might think pranking would be hard to do when fish require water/oceans/lakes in order to survive. But, oh, my students have found ways. “Let’s decorate Mrs. D’s classroom like an underwater nightmare and put a REAL FISH in the center of the room.” “Oh, let’s leave a fish in a plastic bag hanging from her sideview mirror when she goes out to the car.” “It’s her birthday, we should get her a fish-themed present.” (This actually turned out well since it comprised of candy and goldfish snacks.) Or more recently, from a friend of mine, “How funny would it be to transpose Krissi’s face on a gigantic catfish and post in on Facebook for all the world to enjoy?!”
ERMAHGERD!! So. Not. Funny.
Once readers find out that Whitnee’s fish plight is based on my own, I almost always get the question of “Why FISH?”… Well, if you have a phobia, you know it’s not always easy to explain and it’s especially not fun to talk about. But it’s Halloween. And whether you have your own phobia and can relate, or you want to help create a phobia for someone else, we’re going to do a case study here…using the life of yours truly.
The cold, hard truth is that phobias don’t always develop after one teeny-tiny incident. It can take several psychologically damaging incidents that both hinder a person socially, physically, and emotionally. For me, it started small and got worse over time. The following incidents occurred between the ages of four and fifteen. (WARNING: Fellow fish phobia friends should stop reading now.)
Incident #1 – I was four. Being born into a fishing, camping family, I was not afraid to touch fish, look at fish, even hold minnows and hook them onto a fishing rod. (GASP.) One day, at my grandparents’ lakehouse, I watched my two-year-old brother squeeze a minnow so hard, its eyeballs exploded and guts oozed out between his grubby little boy fingers—right before my sensitive gray eyes. Disgusting, but not enough to make me frightened of fish the rest of my life. Just grossed out. A little.
Incident #2 – I was five and fishing with my grandparents again. My grandpa caught a catfish and demonstrated how to identify him by his whiskers. While holding the live, squirmy catfish in his hands (its ugly mouth gaping open), one catfish whisker sliced across the palm of his hand. Blood, water, and mud mixed in with the fish’s glittering, putrid, scaly skin. Suddenly a catfish appeared dangerous and gruesome. After all, it had made my Papa bleed—a lot. (SIDE NOTE: This was also the same day that my fishing rod came unwound and hooked my little brother in the rear. More blood. Whoops.)
Incident #3 – Same day as the catfish incident, my grandmother was frying up the fish from that day’s catch. She offered me a little piece straight out of the frying pan. “It tastes like chicken,” she promised. With one bite, I was the one out of the frying pan and into the fire, because my throat closed up in a dangerous allergic reaction. The last thing I remembered that day was being rushed to the hospital in the back of a green station wagon—NOT BREATHING. Apparently, fish were not only dangerous alive, but they had the power to kill me when all dead and fried up too.
Incident #4 – I was eight. My grandma was skinning fish for the family dinner (Of course, there was an alternative allergy-free meal made just for me). I walked through the kitchen just in time to see Nanny slice a pregnant fish in half. Didn’t know it was pregnant until we saw inside and, yeah, I most definitely cannot go into detail on this one. Use your imagination—it was THAT horrible. I’m sick just remembering right now.
Incident #5 – I was thirteen. I had learned to just avoid fish as much as possible. But my family still went camping on the Frio River for family vacations and the river made me skittish. In fact, the only way my aging grandma could get me to snorkel with her was by allowing me to swim on her back and look at the fish over her shoulder. Pathetic. One afternoon, my brother and I were loading up the van with our friends. The boys had, of course, been fishing and had a bucket of minnows in the back. As the family videographer, I was graciously filming the boys while they talked about their experiences on the river that day. Kevin, my devilish little brother, decided to use a minnow for a demonstration. After removing the little pest from its bucket, he brought the fish too close to the camera and “accidentally” dropped the minnow into my lap with video rolling! I freaked out and jumped frantically around the back of the van to flick the foul creature from my lap. The stupid thing got caught, squirming and writhing, within the creases of my jean shorts. The incident ended in ruined video footage, panic, lots of tears, and cries of “MOOOOM!! Kevin did it on PURPOSE!”
Incident #6 – I was fourteen and at a family reunion in Minnesota with my stepmom, Dawn. Some of the cousins were fishing out on the dock—I knew by now to steer clear of this scenario. So I was lounging comfortably up at the cabin playing cards with Dawn when her teenage niece came running in screaming that she had caught a big bullfish. And yes, she was holding the monstrosity in both hands. Oh, and you know exactly who she ran to first—Dawn and me! Red flags were definitely going up in my head, but I tried not to overreact at first. She was standing a couple of feet away, I might be safe. But, no, just like destiny (or Satan) would have it, that dang fish slipped out of the girl’s hands and launched itself right at me. It slithered down my arm, leaving tracks of muddy water and a murky red substance that is still unidentified to this day. (Fish poop or urine? Dear God, please don’t let it be so.) I screamed and knocked the fish away—right into my stepmom’s lap. More screaming. The girl desperately scrambled to pick up the flip-flopping fish from the floor, and I ran to the bathroom to hide my tears and wash my arm off. I still remember the panic attack that commenced as I tried to calm down all alone in that bathroom. The phobia was definitely getting worse.
Incident #7 – I was a freshman in high school when I went on a beach trip with my youth group. I had my reservations about getting in the ocean, so instead I had tons of fun on the beach. When I did finally decide to brave the water, two of my “big brothers” in the youth group—seniors who liked to tease me mercilessly—thought it would be funny to dunk me and then steal the shorts I had been wearing over my swimsuit. The guys played Keep-Away with the shorts and I, of course, refused to get out of the water without them. Finally I stood up, hands on hips, and demanded they give me the shorts back. At that exact same moment, a demon-possessed jumping fish flew right out of the water, brushed my arm, and flopped around in my hair. I was so horrified that I screamed the entire clumsy dash to the shore and didn’t even care that I was shorts-less. The guys felt so bad that they gave me the shorts back, but not until after they nearly drowned laughing at me. (NOTE: Now that we’re adults, one of them has officially apologized for causing me “mental harm” but still refuses to accept responsibility for the rogue fish. Ugh, boys.)
There are so many more incidents I could detail out for you—the fish that kept nipping at my butt while tubing down the river, the fish that attacked and ate another fish right in front of me—and just in the “growing up” years. I won’t discuss the recurring fish nightmares that haunt me every six months or so and only perpetuate the feeling of being victimized by these monsters. As an adult, the phobia is way worse. I don’t want to look at them. I don’t like them in the lake, the river, the ocean, and definitely not in aquariums (because aquariums are just glass-casings that can explode). I hate the way they smell, the way they move, the way their eyes stare sightlessly at me. I. Don’t. Like. Fish.
Oh, and just because my life needed the irony, guess what’s on the cover of my 3rd book, Watercrossing? A lovely little fish. RIGHT UNDER MY NAME. And he appears on Watermark, my 4th book, too…which releases exactly one week from today. Happy Halloween to me!
So I’m pretty sure I know how a phobia develops. But I have no idea how you get rid of it. If it has anything to do with more exposure to the offensive creatures, then COUNT. ME. OUT. Fish are my mortal enemies, the villains to my happy story. Take me to a haunted house with monsters and staged murders, and I can dig it. But stick me in a public aquarium and you’ll get to watch me pee my pants and rock in a corner. That’s REAL fear, people. And I will not be exploiting it this Halloween.
Now it’s your turn. Do YOU suffer from a phobia? What caused it and how do you deal? Maybe we all need some support group therapy. If so, share it below and stay SAFE this Halloween!
It still cracks me up that there is a fish on the cover of book 3, Watercrossing. I call him Gus. Krissi cracks me up, and if you haven't had the time to check out her Phantom Island series, make sure you do! I don't have any phobias that are as interesting as Krissi's. I used to have a recurring dream about spiders being in my bed that had to be killed with blueberry yogurt, heh. Do y'all have any phobias to share?
I have another treat for you my friends, a copy of Alethea Kontis's Hero. I know it isn't really a "Halloweenish book," but it's a great series that bring together a bunch of fairy tales. So enter in the form below!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Good luck, and thanks for stopping by!