10 Female Horror Novelists You Definitely Need To Be Reading
It seems that recently women writers who tackle terror, violence and gore are pushing further into mainstream literary discussions. Check out these 10 female horror novelists you definitely need to be reading — because Stephen King isn't the only writer penning books that make us sleep with the lights on.
So what defines a book as a work of "horror"? In a 1986 interview in Twilight Zone Magazine, Robert McCammon, one of the founders of the Horror Writers Association, said, "Horror fiction can be a guide through a nightmare world, entered freely and by the reader's own will. And since horror can be many, many things and go in many, many directions, that guided nightmare ride can shock, educate, illuminate, threaten, shriek, and whisper before it lets the readers loose."
Many fans of horror argue that rather than a checklist of defining elements, their favorite genre is instead an emotion. Do you close the cover of a book and feel goosebumps rise up? Do you run to lock the doors? Are you scared as heck? Then yeah, it's a horror story.
Because of it evocative nature, a work of horror often embodies the greater cultural fears of whatever era birthed it. And one of the most enduring horror themes is a woman out of control - or, alternatively, in control. And it's that continuing fear, of women and their bodies and their power, that makes so many female writers so adept at penning horror stories. Because they've lived them.
Daphne Du Maurier
Master of paranormal suspense, Tananarive Due often draws comparisons to Stephen King — but she's her own writer (duh), crafting stories often intertwined with generational trauma. In The Good House, Angela Toussaint returns to her grandmother's house, where several years earlier an unspeakable tragedy transformed the house itself, from a space of love to a horrifying maze of secrets.
Han Kang, a literary star in her home of Korea and a rising one in the United States, gets gruesome in her writing, cutting through gristle and bone to the bloody heart of a story. In the award-winning The Vegetarian, a woman plagued by nightmares tries increasingly grotesque ways of asserting autonomy over her own body — as those around her struggle to maintain their hold over her.
One of the most popular contemporary writers in Japan, Mariko Koike writes genre-bending novels and short stories that marry horror, suspense and romance - the perfect storm, honestly. In the best-selling novel The Graveyard Apartment, a young couple desperate for a fresh start move into an apartment building next to a graveyard. But as horrifying occurrences pile up, the couple's neighbors begin moving out, leaving them alone with whatever evil lurks behind the walls.
Read a Gillian Flynn book (probably in one sitting) and you will walk away feeling deeply shaken and probably a little nauseated. Champion of the "unreliable narrator" tool, Flynn, who has published three books — Sharp Objects, Dark Places, and Gone Girl — gets us in close with her troubled protagonists. And when their stability is called into question, we turn, nervously, to our own minds, and wonder what lies buried there, too.
A relative newcomer to the publishing world, Jac Jemc — whose first novel, My Only Wife, was nominated for the PEN/ Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction in 2012 — investigates the little catastrophes that set up on us each day. In The Grip of It, a couple in urgent need of a fresh start move into a home with an agenda - and an evil - of its own.
Lauren Beukes melds crime, suspense, sci-fi/fantasy and horror to produce darkly captivating worlds. In The Shining Girls, a time-traveling serial killer — yes, really — is thrown for a loop when one of his victims survives. Joining forces with the Chicago Sun-Times, his victim, Kirby, begins hunting for a killer who seems to be perfectly untraceable.
A best-selling horror and crime writer in Japan, Asa Nonami's works are macabre and slow-burning and suffocating, often getting at the dark corner of tradition and culture. In Now You're One Of Us, a woman marries into a family that, she soon realizes, keeps more skeletons in their closet than the average clan.
Carmen Maria Machado
Carmen Maria Machado's debut short story collection Her Body and Other Parties swept through the literary scene in 2017 and set bookshelves on fire. From a woman who insists her husband never remove the green ribbon tied around her neck, to a creepy reimagining of every episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Machado's writing gets at the horror of being a woman in today's culture.