On fearing bananas, indoor plants and fringe moccasins: A chat with best-selling author Julianna Baggott

When I was a magazine editor, one of my go-to writers was Julianna Baggott. And here’s why: She is a bottomless fount of ideas and energy. Get this: She has written 19 books in 12 years. She also cofounded a literary nonprofit with her husband. She also teaches college, and boosts the work of her students on social media. And has four kids. And she can fly. OK, not the last one. But I think that’s only because she hasn’t tried.
     And yet, it’s hard to be too intimidated because Julianna is also really, really nice. Case in point: She was willing to take time out of what must be the world’s busiest schedule to answer a few questions about fear.
My Fearless Year: Name one thing you are afraid of. Do you tend to face it, or flee it?
Julianna Baggott: I’m afraid of death. I flee it. I drive cautiously. I bombard my doctor with questions. I want to know exactly how other people have died so I can take notes and avoid it. Of course, not forever. That’s the thing with death. Super tenacious.
MFY: When I was at Real Simple, you contributed an essay about your mother’s tendency to tell lies—a habit you once emulated. Have you ever pretended you weren’t fearful about something that terrified you? 
JB: I shake people’s hands and pretend that I don’t want to Purell right there in front of them. Sometimes, with great bravado in a full elevator, I’ll touch the button with my bare finger instead of using my elbow. You know… tough guy stuff.
MFY: How did your experience growing up shape your relationship to fear?
JB: I was taught to fear bananas, mugs made in Mexico, indoor plants, the entire outdoors, ticks, germs, chipped paint, bus drivers in fringe moccasins, idling cars, etc.
MFY: Is there a common fear (fear of heights, etc.) that doesn’t faze you at all?
JB: Public embarrassment. I’ll do shitty karaoke. I’ll make bad dance videos at the drop of a hat as gifts … My partner and I really enjoy this kind of thing — in others and ourselves.
UnknownJulianna’s new book HARRIET WOLF’S 7TH BOOK OF WONDERS, out in August includes the story of a woman, a hermit, raised to live in abject fear. Pre-order it here.