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L.J. Sellers | The Fear Factor
Tell us Yours and Win DYING FOR JUSTICE

In my personal life I try to be optimistic, but in my fiction I write about my fears. It's been true since I sat down to write my first novel. At the time, Jeffrey Dahmer was in the news and my greatest fear was that a sexual predator would kidnap and kill one of my three young boys. So I wrote a story about a woman who tracks down her son's killer. The experience was cathartic, and I continued the practice in future novels, because as it turns out, many readers share the same fears.

Being kidnapped and held against my will is another dominant fear for me and millions of other women as well—because it happens!—so the theme occurs often in crime fiction novels, including two of mine (THE BABY THIEF,  SECRETS TO DIE FOR). Most of my stories though have elements of fears that are very personal to me. For example, when I wrote THE SEX CLUB, the first book in the Detective Jackson series, my son was in Iraq and I worried constantly that he would die. My sister had just succumbed to cancer and I grieved for her and worried for other members of my family. So Kera, my main female protagonist, was dealing with those elements. Right or wrong, I couldn't separate those emotions from my writing and they ended up on the page.

Soon after that, my husband was diagnosed with retroperitoneal fibrosis, which triggered all kinds of fears for me. He faced a life of pain, multiple surgeries, and likely an early death. Without being consciously aware that I was doing it at first, my Jackson character started having pain and health issues. Eventually, he was diagnosed with RF, and in THRILLED TO DEATH, he underwent a surgery, very similar to the one my husband experienced. Readers tell me they enjoy characters who are realistic, yet unique, so incorporating true-to-life, frightening details adds richness to my stories while helping me work through emotional challenges.

In late 2009 when I was writing PASSIONS OF THE DEAD, I was dealing with unemployment: mine, my husband's, my brother's, and dozens of other people I knew. I witnessed the devastating effect it can have on families. That theme became dominant when I outlined the story. My Jackson novels of course are always about crime, murder in particular, and my main goal is tell a great story. But every fictitious crime needs a unique, complex, and compelling motive, and I look for those motives in the fear I'm experiencing.

Some of my fears are more social and universal. I fear that as a society we have wrongfully imprisoned hundreds, if not thousands, of innocent people. Dozens of news stories about the release of prisoners wrongfully convicted continue to feed this fear, so the issue is part of the plot in DYING FOR JUSTICE, the fifth Detective Jackson novel.

Right now I fear for the future of our county if the economy doesn't improve. I also fear for our comfort and safety if the extreme weather patterns continue and grow worse. So I'm writing a futuristic thriller in which those fears come into play. Guilt and redemption are also prominent themes in THE ARRANGER, which will release in early September.

Soon I'll start work on the next Jackson book. I have a list of ideas, many culled from true crime cases found in the news. Regardless of what I decide in the beginning though, you can bet that as the plot develops, whatever fear is most prevalent on my mind will surface in the story.

What are your greatest fears? What fears do you like to read about?




46 comments posted.

Re: L.J. Sellers | The Fear Factor
Tell us Yours and Win DYING FOR JUSTICE

I fear losing loved ones.
(Robin Daily 12:15pm June 28, 2011)

My greatest fear is being angry at someone and not able to say "I'm sorry" or be able to make things right between that person and me before something bad happens.
(Kai Wong 12:47pm June 28, 2011)

I fear settling, I fear abuse, I fear being unable to right any wrong I might
have caused or it being too late to say I love you or sorry. I fear a life
without meaning, without gratefulness, without love, compassion, or
When I read of fearful things, I prefer to have the end work out..
afterall,it is much harder in life for it to happen that way.
(Carla Carlson 5:50am June 28, 2011)

My greatest fear is one of my children dying. I hope and pray I never have to feel that kind of pain. I would be absolutely inconsolable.
(Patti Paonessa 7:50am June 28, 2011)

My greatest fear is dying alone or getting seriously ill and not having anyone there for me who has my best interest at heart...being a burdan to someone who has to care for me!
(Holly Caulfield 7:57am June 28, 2011)

(Silvana Moscato 8:00am June 28, 2011)

I don't dwell on worst case scenarios in my life. I'd rather focus on the positives. So no great fears that concern me. In fiction, personal safety would factor in to what I like to read.
(Mary Preston 8:06am June 28, 2011)

My fear is what this world will have in store for my Grandchildren!
(Dawn Staniszeski 9:04am June 28, 2011)

It used to be being lost or something bad happening to me... But now it's all about my daughter... Worry that something bad will happen to her....
(May Pau 9:08am June 28, 2011)

I certainly agree with your fear of being kidnapped and confined, not able to move around.
(Marjorie Carmony 9:24am June 28, 2011)

I fear something awful happening to my grandkids and illness
or death of my sons.
(Leanna Morris 9:38am June 28, 2011)

I have a fear of flying so bad that I haven't flown in 25 years. I also fear for our government where the art of compromise seems to have died and everything is "my way or the highway".
(Sue Farrell 11:31am June 28, 2011)

My greatest fears are losing a loved one and having to live after the volcano at Yellowstone blows and covers the US in ash.
(Kelli Jo Calvert 11:50am June 28, 2011)

ps - or having Sarah Palin as a President.
(Kelli Jo Calvert 11:50am June 28, 2011)

(Leisa Prater 12:13pm June 28, 2011)

well that going to hard for me i am afraid of snake and spider and every time i go out i am scared my dog will get bite by the snake i been bite by brown recluse and black widow and then copper head rattle snake
(Desiree Reilly 12:20pm June 28, 2011)

I fear having weak politicians who are putting greed before the safety of we American Citizens.....I fear that when the time comes for our politicians to take drastic measures to protect us, they will fail.........
(Joanne Bozik 1:08pm June 28, 2011)

When I was a teen, my biggest concerns were the atom bomb and possible wars with the USSR.

Just about a year ago, I was so thankful that, other than my parents, I had lost nobody in my immediate family, nor among my cousins and their families. In November came the news that they suspected cancer in my brother next in age to me. At Christmas we learned that he had 6-12 mos. to live, more if he was treated. He died March 5 of this year; cancer had invaded 8 different parts of his body.

Now I hope I'll not lose anyone else. They all have families and I don't and I'm also the eldest of all my cousins. I'd definitely prefer to go myself, rather than lose any of the others. I also fear the climate change with the increased dangers of weather disasters from wildfires, flooding, earthquakes, volcanoes, etc., not so much for myself, but for the world in general. And I loathe the constant wars dictators fight against their own countrymen. After the Communist countries changed, I believed everyone would have a better life. I shouldn't forget those people who think they have a right to rule their countries and the world. And having Palin or Bachmann as president--uh-uh.
(Sigrun Schulz 1:18pm June 28, 2011)

I fear going insane and disconnecting, drowning, burning and
never getting out of this limbo stage of my life....
(Michele Powell 1:29pm June 28, 2011)

Oooops. Forgot to add that I like to read about people who
overcome the limbo stage and their struggle through it (as
long as they have a sense of humor!).
(Michele Powell 1:30pm June 28, 2011)

Greatest fear. has to be death.
(Pam Howell 1:52pm June 28, 2011)

I'm afraid of riding airplanes...because i'm kinda afraid of
heights and i'm afraid of the plane suddenly falling or
(Kaylie Burgos 1:53pm June 28, 2011)

i fear being alone
(Barbara Corbitt 3:58pm June 28, 2011)

I have a fear of having alzheimer's disease and anything that would cause me to be a burden to my family.
(Anna Speed 4:52pm June 28, 2011)

My life has been so full of ups and downs I am not quite sure of what I fear. Guess I am just happy that I still have the ability to get myself in and out of both kinds of situations!
(Janice Milliken 6:45pm June 28, 2011)

Wow--I see lots of fear inspiring issues listed here, but I'm almost never fearful. When I am, it's usually due to a short term crisis of some sort that always works out some way or another, and even negative outcomes tend to have a workthrough. I don't particularly fear death--it will come to each of us, and I chose to spend my emotional strength facing the present with cheerfullness and fortitude.
(Janet Martin 7:06pm June 28, 2011)

My greatest fear is my children giving up too early and not accomplishing all that they are capable of. I love reading everything and anything that I can put my hands on. I can't really say that I like reading about any particular fear but I sure do like when it has a happy ending.
Good luck and happy writing!
(Tracie Travis 7:49pm June 28, 2011)

My fear is where our country is headed right now. Things are really bad no jobs and every thing is going up. Where are we going to be in ten years if things keep going the way they are.
(Gail Hurt 8:51pm June 28, 2011)

Enjoyed your blog. My greatest fear is alheimer's disease. I like to read most anything except fanasty.
(Sheila True 8:54pm June 28, 2011)

I fear growing old and losing loved ones.
(Lisa Garrett 9:06pm June 28, 2011)

Never finding love again.
(Diane Chenier 9:17pm June 28, 2011)

I try not to live with fears. In the past few years, I have been thinking about my own death. Not a fear really. In books I love the suspense, the fear of not knowing where the bad stuff is coming from and worrying who you can trust.
(Jennifer Beyer 9:54pm June 28, 2011)

My biggest fear besides losing anyone I love is losing my sight and being unable to read. I fear evil in books; such as someone doing harm to a child or innocent person.
(Jody Hollenbeck 10:03pm June 28, 2011)

Small fear - spiders!! It's not logical but I can't help myself. More important would be sickness and pain - losing the capability of taking care of oneself or loved ones. Being alone has always been scary for me. Then there's global concerns that are endless.
(Jeanne Sheats 10:08pm June 28, 2011)

I suffer from PTSD, and after reading your post, you've touched down on a topic or two that have personally touched my life and caused my condition. Unfortunately, I don't feel at liberty to reveal what triggered it. Let's just say I replay the traumas daily in my head. It's a daily struggle, and takes time to get over. I hope to conquer these demons someday, but it's not easy. I would love to read your book. Perhaps it might be a form of therapy for me.
(Peggy Roberson 10:09pm June 28, 2011)

Ok, it's going to sound stupid... but my biggest fear is of seagulls. It's horrible because they're everywhere too. I have severe OCD and consider them dirty birds. (Irrational fear I know, but they freak me out.) People laugh at me because I flinch everytime I see one.
(Joelle Beebe 5:50am June 29, 2011)

Bugs are one of my fears, especially the fear of them being on me.
(Maureen Emmons 7:01am June 29, 2011)

My greatest fear is that my husband's diagnosis of lymphoma
goes from watching it and waiting to actually dealing with
it. Every little ache, pain, or extra tiredness on his part
has me bracing for this blow. My hubby is a big strong
athletic guy and as his father lived to be 92, I've always
expected him to out live me.
(Lisa Richards 9:13am June 29, 2011)

My greatest fear is definitely loosing someone dear to me. Other than that ... hmmm, I don't do heights very well and I'm not all too fond of spiders in my vicinity either.
(Birgit Lehner 1:19pm June 29, 2011)

My greatest fear is being alone with no close family members.
I have already experienced the loss of my only son and that is
one of the hardest things I've ever experienced in life.
(Renee Howell 3:15pm June 29, 2011)

My greatest fear is being homeless, and I enjoy reading about all fears as that humanizes the characters.
(Stephanie Bondlow 3:19pm June 29, 2011)

For myself, I am very afraid of drowning (I have had 3 near drowning experiences). A fear for society I have is that we will have another pandemic worse than the spanish flu. I have been involved in goverment planning, and we are really not prepared for it as a nation.
(Debbie Penny 8:28pm June 29, 2011)

I fear losing loved ones also. Also am deathly afraid of snakes. Like reading about the fear of falling in love - it always makes for a great story.
(Pat Lieberman 11:10pm June 29, 2011)

I think since my boys were born that I fear not being able to provide or that I am doing well in balancing work / home. Bugs, dark, blood none of that effects me. But thinking I didn't do the best for my sons can keep me up at night.
(Marcelle Cole 2:34pm June 30, 2011)

Sounds like an interesting book. I've heard that Stephen King writes about things that scare him most.
(Shirley Nienkark 2:59pm June 30, 2011)

My greatest fear is my dear ones getting hurt. I like reading about people
forced to overcome their fears for the greater good.
(Mona Garg 6:36pm June 30, 2011)

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