Question: I always love reading recommendations, so I have to ask, who are some contemporary women in horror who we should be reading? Any favorite books by women in horror that you hope other people will check out if they haven’t yet?
Frances Lu-Pai Ippolito: I’ve loved reading the Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women. Growing up, I didn’t see myself represented in that much American horror. Things are changing and I’m really enjoying reading horror from diverse storytelling perspectives.
And, I love Wendy Wagner. Nightmare Magazine is such an awesome labor of love. I slush read for them. And her new book, The Deer Kings, is great.
Jeanne E. Bush: I have been happy to see so many published novels, poems, and short stories written by women. It’s a special time for women in this genre and I can’t wait to see where it goes. The latest books I’ve read by women have been amazing. Recent authors include Gwendolyn Kiste, Sarah Pinborough, Elizabeth Massie, Alma Katsu, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Sarah Waters, Toni Morrison, and Cynthia Pelayo, to name a few. I like them because they write strong women characters who figure out how to survive.
I also started reading more horror poetry by authors such as Linda Addison, Stephanie Wytovich, and Strangehouse’s very own Sara Tantlinger. The poems these women write make me want to read even more horror poetry! I recently read The Handmaid’s Tale and The Testaments by Margaret Atwood. These aren’t considered horror novels necessarily, but the ideas in these books, set in a dystopian time, are so frightening! They are quite a lesson in unfolding the story slowly and with tension. If you haven’t read these, I strongly recommend them!
Christa Wojciechowski: Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia is a treat for classic gothic lit fans. My favorite books may not be purebred horror, but they have dark psychological themes.
Tampa by Alyssa Nutting is a wild ride. Nutting commits to her depraved character with the same relentlessness as Brett Easton Ellis wrote Patrick Bateman. Delightful and appalling.
Lost Girls and Love Hotels by Catherine Hanrahan. A witty female protag, and existential crisis, debauchery in a foreign land, and doomed lovers. All my favorite elements!
My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell is about a young girl who becomes her professor’s Lolita. Vanessa’s teenage and adult points of view show how her perspective has changed as their affair comes to light amid the #metoo movement. Russell walks the razor’s edge in this story. I loved the psychological depth and complexity of the relationship. Just brilliant character work.
Bindia Persaud: Recently, I’ve enjoyed two short story collections: Carmen Maria Machado’s Her Body and Other Parties and Julia Armfield’s Salt Slow.
Red Lagoe: All of them! There are so many.
Laurel Hightower’s Whispers in the Dark and Crossroads were fantastic, and her short fiction packs a punch. Hailey Piper is basically the queen of indie horror right now, so go pick up anything by Piper if you haven’t yet. Jessica Guess knocked it out of the haunted amusement park with Cirque Berserk, and I’ve loved her short fiction too. Looking forward to seeing what she’s got for us next. Short or long fiction, check out anything by V. Castro. Her novel Queen of the Cicadas was beautifully written. Dark, grisly, and gorgeous. I could go on and on.
But my favorite contemporary story by a woman in horror goes to the editor of this anthology, Sara Tantlinger with her book To Be Devoured. I adore everything about it. The insanity, the intensity, the gut-twisting gruesomeness, the heart, imagery, symbolism… Seriously, I think everyone needs to read it.
Kathryn E. McGee:
I highly recommend Sara Gran’s novel, Come Closer, which is an enthralling demon possession story. Sarah Langan’s novels, Good Neighbors and Audrey’s Door are two of my absolute favorites. Mackenzie Kiera’s novella, All You Need is Love and a Strong Electric Current is wonderfully clever, touching, and funny. Tananarive Due’s novel, The Good House is a terrifying and gorgeous haunted house story. Lisa Quigley’s novel, The Forest, is a fabulous survival story about a mother and her infant son.
Sonora Taylor: I adore V. Castro. I’ve read almost everything she’s written. She creates amazing characters and just slices through you with a sentence or an observation. My favorites from her are Sed de Sangre, Hairspray and Switchblades, and Goddess of Filth.
Other women authors and the books I recommend: Eve Harms (Transmuted), Laurel Hightower (Crossroads), Jessica Guess (Cirque Berserk), Gemma Amor (Six Rooms), Alexis Henderson (The Year of the Witching), and Red Lagoe (Lucid Screams).
I have so many favorites and I want to apologize in advance for anyone I inadvertently left out! I’m always recommending authors on Twitter and on Goodreads if you want ongoing recommendations.
Nu Yang: I’m currently reading Anatomy: A Love Story by Dana Schwartz . I think the title says it all!
Christine Makepeace: I’ve been reading a lot of Tananarive Due’s work and can’t recommend it highly enough. Her writing is so immersive, and I always find myself heavily invested in her characters. The Good House is one of my favorites.
K.P. Kulski: I’m always singing the praises of Nuzo Onoh, Unhallowed Graves and The Sleepless are among my favorites. Aliya Whiteley’s The Beauty ranks up there as one of the greatest mind-bending works I’ve read. Marjorie Liu, who writes the Monstress graphic novels, also has a short story collection out called The Tangleroot Palace and there’s a few stories in there that lean horror. I particularly recommend “Sympathy for the Bones” *chef’s kiss*. The work that Lee Murray and Geneve Flynn are doing with their anthology Black Cranes as well as the addition of Christina Sng and Angela Yuriko Smith for their poetry collection Tortured Willows, just dark, gorgeous, and cuts so deep. I can’t recommend them enough.
EV Knight: Women in horror are so amazingly talented. There are so many it’s tough to pick a few, but I’ll go with some recent favorites: Fairest Flesh by K.P. Kulski, Queen of Teeth by Hailey Piper, Tidepool by Nicole Willson, and The Death of Jane Lawrence by Caitlin Starling.
Jess Koch: A few great contemporary horror writers are Carmen Maria Machado, Mariana Enríquez, and Kelly Link. I would recommend picking up anything they’ve written but if I had to choose one to start with it would be Get in Trouble: Stories by Kelly Link.
Geneve Flynn: Oh my gosh. How much space can I have? Here goes:
All of the Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women contributors—Alma Katsu, Lee Murray, Angela Yuriko Smith, Rena Mason, Christina Sng, Elaine Cuyegkeng, Nadia Bulkin, Gabriela Lee, Grace Chan, and Rin Chupeco. I’d also recommend the following authors: Alp Beck, Angela Slatter, Carlie St. George, Carol Gyzander, Cassandra Khaw, Cindy O’Quinn, Crystal O’Leary Donaldson, Deborah Sheldon, Doungjai Gam, E. Lily Yu, E.V. Knight, G.G. Silverman, Gwendolyn Kiste, Isabel Yap, Jess Landry, Jill Girardi, K.P. Kulski, Lauren Elise Daniels, Linda D. Addison, Lindy Ryan, L. Marie Wood, Lisa Morton, Lucy A. Snyder, Rebecca Campbell, Rebecca Fraser, Sarah Read, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Stephanie Ellis, Stephanie M. Wytovich, and Yangsze Choo.
I could go on and on. There are so many talented women writers producing interesting, powerful stories today.
As for books, I’d recommend anthologies by women editors, which center or simply feature women writers, such as Not All Monsters (I know, I know, total suck-up move, but this one blew my mind), and Paula Guran’s and Ellen Datlow’s Year’s Best series. Generation X-ed, edited by Rebecca Rowland, is terrific too. Anthologies are always a great place to find new authors.
KC Grifant: Dead Souls by J. Lincoln Fenn utterly blew me away with its fascinating and disturbing prose and plot. I could not put the book down, which is rare for me.
The Worm and His Kings by Hailey Piper was another one that was completely absorbing and a cosmic tale unlike any others I have read.
Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado is a brilliant horror collection that stayed with me long after I read it.
Other modern women authors of novels and short stories I have really enjoyed include Gwendolyn Kiste, EV Knight, Donna J.W. Munroe, Nicolle Wilson, Alex Woodroe, Victoria Nations, Cynthia Pelayo, Kathryn McGee, Kate Maruyama and so many more!
Jo Kaplan: A couple of recent favorites include Soon by Lois Murphy, The Poison Thread by Laura Purcell, The Hollow Places by T. Kingfisher, The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon, and Good Neighbors by Sarah Langan.
Tiffany Morris: Obviously, there’s a lot of great work out there from authors in this anthology, as well as from our editor! Aside from that (which is a good start), everyone needs to read the story collection We Are Here To Hurt Each Other by Paula Ashe. It’s a brutal and astonishing journey through the inhumanly human.
Ali Seay: There are so many which is a good thing for readers! The first that spring to mind are Hailey Piper, C.V. Hunt, T.C. Parker, Lisa Quigley, Laurel Hightower, Samantha Kolesnik, and J.A.W. McCarthy. I could go on but I’ll behave.
Chelsea Pumpkins: You must read The Good House by Tananarive Due. Not only is it my favorite horror book, or favorite women writing horror book—it’s my favorite book, period! Due builds tension that permeates and lingers, and she neatly ties together an intricate web of details. It’s equal parts creepy and satisfying. Her collection Ghost Summer is fantastic too.
I’ve likewise been haunted by Tender is the Flesh by Agustina Bazterrica. I’ve never read anything so bleak and gruesome, yet strangely sterile. I’ve found that the world she created is transferable to a lot of corners of our own world, which is a frightening realization.
I’ll also pick up anything with Caroline Kepnes or Samantha Kolesnik on the byline, and most recently I’ve enjoyed V. Castro’s Goddess of Filth, LaTanya McQueen’s When the Reckoning Comes, and Tiffany Jackson’s White Smoke. My TBR can’t get enough women in horror!
Pippa Bailey: One thing that makes my heart sing is knowing that I am sharing pages in Chromophobia with some of the many incredible, unsung women of horror. I love that many of the names I list here will also appear on other people’s lists; it only goes to show that through our determination to promote women in horror, our voices are being heard. Please go seek out Laura Mauro’s Sing Your Sadness Deep, Penny Jones’ Matryoshka, Marie O’Regan’s Celeste, Priya Sharma’s All the Fabulous Beasts, and Sue York’s On the Cusp of Sleep.
G.G. Silverman: There are so many great authors and books—it’s an exciting time! One of my favorite contemporary horror novels by a female author is Mona Awad’s Bunny. It’s trippy and weird and terrifying but also darkly hilarious. A modern masterpiece. I gobbled it in one sitting.
J. B. Lamping: I recently read The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward. It was wild and weird, and I didn’t expect it to go where it went. I also read The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes. It was so interesting and at times a little gross but I couldn’t stop reading it. I loved Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. Perfect gothic novel.
Lauren C. Teffeau: I don’t think I’ve ever fully recovered from reading Wait Till Helen Comes and The Doll in the Garden by Mary Dowling Hahn in middle school. As a result, I have to be in the right mindset to approach horror media and don’t actively seek it out unless it’s filtered through the speculative fiction umbrella. That said, I’ve found the horror short fiction from A. C. Wise, Rebecca Roanhorse, and Silvia Moreno-Garcia to all be top quality.
Lillah Lawson: I love thrillers written by women. I’ve read so many great ones in the past few years, but one that stands out in particular is A Peculiar Curiosity by my friend and Regal House Publishing sister Melanie Cossey. It’s a Victorian-era horror novel that is genuinely scary. It has all the best elements: the mad scientist, the quiet dread of an unreliable narrator, the slow descent into madness, the frenzied, bloodied conclusion – plus rats!
Jacqueline West: If anyone hasn’t already read Carmen Maria Machado’s short story collection HER BODY AND OTHER PARTIES or her memoir IN THE DREAM HOUSE, I can’t rave about them enough. I also loved, loved, loved Shirley Jackson’s collected letters, which were just published last year. They’re such an incredible window into her process and thoughts and daily life. And there’s so much fantastic middle grade horror being written right now, by authors like Justina Ireland, Daka Hermon, Lorien Lawrence, and Ellen Oh.