To celebrate Women in Horror Month, the Squid is delighted to showcase some phenomenal horror-writing talent. From chilling, magical realist fairy tales to gritty procedurals and haunting sci-fi, our picks represent a broad range of styles and voices, each unique and fascinating. If you are currently unfamiliar with any of these authors, we highly recommend making their literary acquaintance.
T. Kingfisher is the nom de plume of award-winning children’s author Ursula Vernon, best known for her graphic novel series Digger. In her Kingfisher guise, she writes more adult-oriented fantasy and horror.
Her 2019 novel The Twisted Ones was a modern take on folk horror tropes, complete with Arthur Machen references (it can be read as an indirect sequel to The White People). In the story, Melissa and her faithful dog return to her deceased grandmother’s house to clear out her belongings. It’s a monumental task, as her grandmother was a hoarder – and may have had contact with some kind of malevolent entities in the woods of North Carolina.
Her recent novel The Hollow Places takes us on a darkly fantastical ride through alternate realities populated with creatures who feed on fear. Kingfisher’s prose is witty and subversive, with a keen eye for the uncanny.
Darcy Coates is a prolific horror author with a host of bestsellers under her belt. Many of her most popular works feature new takes on the haunted house trope. Her novel The Carrow Haunt is a firm favourite amongst her fans, telling the story of a tour guide for a famously haunted building, who is hosting a group for a week-long stay. When the visitations become violent, the group faces the terrifying possibility that the deceased serial killer said to haunt the property is up to his old tricks.
Hunted is something of a departure, a more realistic and grounded reading experience that combines the action, adventure and police procedural genres with its horror. Frustrated by the police who seem to have given up on searching for his missing sister, Chris and his friends head into the woods to track her down. It doesn’t take long before they begin to suspect that something is tracking them.
British author Helen Oyeyemi‘s books are always deft blends of the magical and the mundane. She interweaves myth and folklore with the everyday, often peppering in sociopolitical commentary. Her work deals with ideas of race, gender and identity, always with a twist of magical realism and an emphasis on strong and believable characters.
Her novel White is for Witching (published in Britain as Pie-kah) tells the tale of the Silver family, who are mourning the loss of their matriarch. Their house is a character in and of itself, one that capriciously aims to keep women who live within it close, even beyond their deaths. The novel keeps the reader constantly on their toes, jumping between points of view and styles of prose. With shades of The Yellow Wallpaper and Toni Morrison‘s Beloved, it’s an enchanted gothic feast.
Speaking of The Yellow Wallpaper, combine that gothic tale with Du Maurier‘s Rebecca, set the whole thing in Mexico, and you might end up with something like Silvia Moreno-Garcia‘s breakout hit Mexican Gothic. Flighty socialite Noemi receives a concerning letter from a cousin who has married into a venerable family and moved to their remote, crumbling house New Place. Built on a legacy of cruelty and exploitation, having been paid for by the success of a deadly silver mine, the house is grim and foreboding and the people in it scarcely more welcoming. It is no wonder that her cousin appears to be losing her mind, but are her strange new fixations simply signs of mental distress, or is there something to the rumour of a familial curse that haunts New Place?
With all of the trappings of a classic gothic tale, Moreno-Garcia crafts a story that also features the unique stamp of Mexican folklore and history. Mexican Gothic is a stunning debut that will leave readers anxious for her follow-up.
Winner of the Ladies of Horror Fiction Award for Best Debut Novel, The Luminous Dead is claustrophobic tale of terror set in the near future. Gyre Price is in a jam. Having falsified her credentials to get onto a well-paying caving expedition on a distant planet, she is now at the mercy of her malicious overseer, Em. Em is determined to find her missing parents who disappeared deep in the planet’s core. She doesn’t have any qualms about using chemicals, coercion and blackmail to get Gyre to help her out. She will stop at nothing to get what she wants and she’s got a host of dead cavers to prove it. But is there something sinister lurking in the alien deep? With some extremely strong characterisation throughout, this enthralling debut is a must-read for fans of books like Jeff Vandermeer‘s Annihilation and Andy Weir‘s The Martian.
Starling’s upcoming novel The Death of Jane Lawrence promises to be a gothic thriller with occult overtones. A woman with an analytical mind marries a reclusive doctor with a dark secret. She is forbidden from visiting his family home outside of town, but fate draws her towards the crumbling ruin and finds her in an unfamiliar world of ritual magic, secret societies and murder.
It’s a macabre fantasy with a nail-biting finale and a feminist bent, full of rage and fury. Henderson weaves in themes of race, identity, gender and religious persecution into this dark, fantastic landscape. The book reads like a cross between The Handmaid’s Tale and The Crucible, with a touch of feral folk horror mixed in.