Written by Jason White
For years I've heard about Women in Horror month while listening to horror writing podcasts, and I always wondered why there is a need for it. And every year I'm reminded that there are still assholes out there who would belittle other writers simply because of their sex.
In my mind, all year we should celebrate women in horror. Why? Because they're just as good as any other minority. They are also just as good, if not sometimes better, than the privileged straight white man. So yeah, a month dedicated to women who write horror is indeed needed to remind those who would be fools and forget. The idea came to me to utilize Darkness Dwells and WiH month after reading a Facebook post from a friend of mine who was upset about another post where some jerk suggested that a female writer was only lucky to be where they were within the publishing industry, suggesting that their pretty face is what got them there.
Now, let's get something clear. Yes, luck is needed, in my opinion, for anyone to succeed. But guess what, folks. Luck will get you nowhere without any talent and, much more importantly, the drive and work ethic to bust your ass. It takes a lot of time and a lot of work. So to get so far only to have someone say that you only got there because you're a woman, and a lucky one at that, is demeaning and insulting. We need to change this. We're all people. We should be defined by what we do, not the package we come in.
Hence the need for a month to celebrate the things women have done in our beloved genre. Below is a list of some fantastic women horror writers working today, and you'd do yourself a big favor checking them out if you haven't already. To help you out, each author comes with a book recommendation. I'm certain that I'm missing some of my favorites. It's easy to do because there are so many. This list isn't in any specific order. Not really. Okay, maybe a little bit... but very loosely. I wanted to scatter some of the bigger names along with the smaller ones. Enjoy!
Mercedes is probably one of my favorite horror writers of all time. Her stories are always either whimsical or just plain beautiful. I'd recommend you check out all of her work, but I'm going to suggest Pretty Little Dead Girls: A Novel of Murder and Whimsy.
Synopsis: “Run, Star Girl.” Bryony Adams is destined to be murdered, but fortunately Fate has terrible marksmanship. In order to survive, she must run as far and as fast as she can. After arriving in Seattle, Bryony befriends a tortured musician, a market fish-thrower, and a starry-eyed hero who is secretly a serial killer bent on fulfilling Bryony’s dark destiny. Mercedes M. Yardley’s Pretty Little Dead Girls: A Novel of Murder and Whimsy is a dark, lovely fairy tale with lyrical language and a high body count, and features a cover by Hugo award-winner Galen Dara. Includes “Oliver Bloom” by Ryan Johnson, a short story featuring characters from Pretty Little Dead Girls.
2. Lucy Taylor
I've had the privilege to talk with Lucy twice. Once for The Great Lakes Horror Company Podcast and once for Darkness Dwells. The first time she beckoned me to read her novella, Sweetlings, released during the summer of 2017 by Tor.com. I said I would and promptly forgot. She messaged me a few weeks later, wondering if I'd read it yet. I told her that I hadn't, but promised to fix it. And thank god I did! Reading Sweetlings made me an instant fan. Her prose and storytelling capability remind me of Margaret Atwood a little, while her voice remains completely her own. Sweetlings has the same atmosphere as some of her works. Highly recommended sci-fi horror.
Synopsis: "Sweetlings" by Lucy Taylor is about a small enclave of people living on the shrunken east coast of the United States, surviving and evolving as Earth’s seas rise.
3. Amber Fallon
I've heard of Amber's work for a little while now. She and I are friends on Facebook and I see a lot of her posts. Recently I got curious and decided to check out some of her work. I'm glad I did. I can see her becoming a new favorite. The Warblers is a fantastic and fun read, and I envy her ability to slip into the skin of another person and remain there in order to tell the story. Although Warblers was the first, it definitely won't be the last.
Synopsis: After the sun would go down, I’d hear them out there, back by the shed, shrieking their twisted warbling cries out there in the night, followed by squeals of whatever prey they’d managed to hunt down.
When his rural farm becomes overrun with terrifying beasts called Warblers capable of eating livestock, dogs, and even people, 14-year-old Dell McDale’s life is torn asunder. He watches through the eyes of a boy on the verge of becoming a man as his father is forced to go to awful lengths to rid the family home of the infestation, culminating in a confrontation between Dell and a local bully-turned-soldier on a night that will change everyone involved, forever.
The Warblers is a mysterious tale of a young man learning what fear can do to people and what happens when in order to fight monsters, one must side with another monster.
Michelle and Melissa are a ton of fun to not only read but to talk to, as Michael and I did in episode 66. I read Those Who Follow and was completely blown away by the darkness, the violence, the bleak and dreadful atmosphere. Another thing that I love about this book is how interesting it is. It's a fantastic read and I can't recommend it enough.
A WAYFARING STRANGER
Tormented by visions of women imprisoned in the middle of a barren wasteland and an old man with a yellow-toothed grin, Casey has been wandering this country’s highways following a song that she believes will lead her to her other self.
A CHURCH IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE
Held captive in a desecrated shrine, Celia would have given up long ago if not for a song that keeps her hope burning. Someday she will escape from the shadowy creatures that claw at the windows of the church, the monstrous dog with a taste for human flesh, and the old preacher with inhuman powers.
A BOND THAT CROSSES WORLDS
Two women divided by fate but connected by blood. Will the song help them lead the way to each other and defeat the forces aligned against them? Or will they suffer the dreadful fate of…
THOSE WHO FOLLOW
I might be biased here as I've known Sephera since 2006 or 2007. I took an online horror writing course and Sephera was my teacher. I had no idea she was from Toronto until she invited me out to an HWA dinner the Ontario Chapter holds once a month. She's been nothing but good to me, and I love her writing. Captured Souls is a fast and fun read and I recommend it along with her entire catalog of releases.
Synopsis: Dr. Miriam Frederick is brilliant but lonely.
She is an award-winning scientist and professor at a local University. She uses her grant money to build a secret lab in her basement where she conducts mysterious experiments.
Her subjects are the most perfect of humans. An intelligent author, an athlete with great stamina, and a beauty queen.
Her dream is to combine all their qualities to create a family that will satisfy her deepest desires.
However, the specimens aren't always willing.
And sometimes, secrets are discovered.
Will the doctor be successful in her quest for companionship?
Find out in the thrilling horror story, Captured Souls.
I have yet to read a novel by Lisa Morton. It's just one of those things. I do, however, love her short fiction and am blown away every time I read her. Cemetery Dance Select is a collection of some of her best work.
Synopsis: The Cemetery Dance Select series invites some of our favorite authors to spotlight a sampling of their own short fiction: award-winners, stories they consider their best or that had the most impact on their career—or neglected favorites they feel deserve a second look.
Long-time fans will enjoy revisiting some classic tales. New readers will find this series a handy introduction to each author’s best work.
Each CD Select mini-collection includes an exclusive Afterword where the author explains the reasoning behind each selection, and provides insights into the writing of each story.
The stories Lisa Morton has chosen for this collection are:
Black Mill Cove
Joe and Abel in the Field of Rest
Pound Rots in Fragrant Harbour
One thing that I love about Kindra Sowder's work is how she often uses classic horror elements and characters to create urban fantasy that is dark and sometimes twisted. Chasing Shadows, for example, stars a descendant of Van Helsing.
Synopsis: Isabelle Van Helsing comes from a long and proud lineage, descended from the same man that went face-to-face with Dracula himself. Now that the world knows the supernatural exists, she is tasked with arresting and exterminating them, working for a government entity called The Initiative. And there are shadows lurking just waiting for the opportune moment to take it all down. After the death of a fellow Exterminator, Izzy and her snarky cohort and boyfriend Jonas McGrady, go to work investigating her death, finding that things aren't as black and white as they seemed.
I've been reading Fiona's work for a few years now and had the opportunity to talk with her for the podcast way back in episode 36. She has a new book out, and it is a fantastic read. The Given is a novel about grief, despair, and the desperate need to heal.
Synopsis: Madison Walter thought she had everything.
A good job. A perfect husband. A baby on the way.
When a terrible tragedy turns her life upside down, Madison knows things will never be the same again.
Intent on saving her marriage, she joins her husband on a luxury trip abroad. However, a week in the sun turns into an abyss of despair and horror.
Can Madison save her life, her sanity and her family before it's too late?
Gemma Files is a fantastic and multi-award winning author. I had the chance to talk to her on episode 55 of the podcast. She's always great to talk to but she's even better to read. Experimental Film won the Shirley Jackson Award, and there's a good reason for it. It's a fantastic book, and one of my favorites.
Synopsis: Fired at almost the same time as her son Clark’s Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis, former film critic turned teacher Lois Cairns is caught in a depressive downward spiral, convinced she’s a failure who’s spent half her adult life writing about other people’s dreams without ever seeing any of her own come true. One night Lois attends a program of experimental film and emerges convinced she’s seen something no one else has—a sampled piece of silver nitrate silent film footage whose existence might prove that an eccentric early 20th-century socialite who disappeared under mysterious circumstances was also one of Canada’s first female movie-makers. Though it raises her spirits and revitalizes her creatively, Lois’s headlong quest to discover the truth about Mrs. A. Macalla Whitcomb almost immediately begins to send her much further than she ever wanted to go, revealing increasingly troubling links between her subject’s life and her own. Slowly but surely, the malign influence of Mrs Whitcomb’s muse begins to creep into every aspect of Lois’s life, even placing her son in danger. But how can one increasingly ill and unstable woman possibly hope to defeat a threat that’s half long-lost folklore, half cinematically framed hallucination—an existential nightmare made physical, projected off the screen and into real life?
Mary SanGiovanni first blew me away and hooked me on her fiction with her novel Thrall. I l really can't get enough of her fiction. She tends to write about all the things that I love most in horror: the supernatural and monsters. Savage Woods is her latest and is probably her best yet. You need to check this out!
Synopsis: Nilhollow—six-hundred-plus acres of haunted woods in New Jersey’s Pine Barrens—is the stuff of urban legend. Amid tales of tree spirits and all-powerful forest gods are frightening accounts of hikers who went insane right before taking their own lives. It is here that Julia Russo flees when her violent ex-boyfriend runs her off the road . . . here that she vanishes without a trace.
State Trooper Peter Grainger has witnessed unspeakable things that have broken other men. But he has to find Julia and can’t turn back now. Every step takes him closer to an ugliness that won’t be appeased—a centuries-old, devouring hatred rising up to eviscerate humankind. Waiting, feeding, surviving. It’s unstoppable. And its time has come.
Humanity’s war against the living dead has been lost. In the wake of the apocalypse, the living fight fiercely for what little they have.
In this hell-on-earth Casey, armed with a baseball bat, and joined by a mute boy named Alex, struggles to survive. When a man named Danny stumbles upon them, it’s mistrust at first sight – but times are desperate. Danny leads them to a thriving settlement where danger lurks beneath the guise of kindness.
It’s kill or be killed in a world where power is life, and the earth is overrun by walking dead.
Alessia is another fantastic writer from Toronto and she is a busy woman. A mother of two children and an educator, she is the author of the Zombie Girl Saga and is working on a book of poetry, a children's series, and a YA series.
Synopsis: Eve used to be an ordinary girl, from an ordinary town, with ordinary dreams, but her dreams rapidly turn into nightmares when one grave mistake leaves her a little less than human and a lot less average.
Eve’s not quite the same girl she used to be. She desperately clings to her humanity as new desires, new abilities, and new urges take over with each passing day.
Eve Brenner: Zombie Girl is a tale that takes you on an emotional and terrifying journey as Eve struggles to cope with her new life and find a cure for her strange illness before time runs out. She desperately clings to her humanity as she tries to control the monster she knows is lurking inside her.
Turns out living was the easy part.
Nancy hails from Montréal, Quebec, and is the author of 22 novels. Although she focuses primarily on vampire fiction, such as the Power of the Blood series and Thrones of Blood series, she has also written novels set in the Jason X universe. And THAT is very cool in my books.
The book I'm going to recommend from Nancy is the first in her new series, Thrones of Blood. I had the chance to discuss the book with her for The Great Lakes Horror Company Podcast. It's a fantastic erotic fantasy with mean ass vampires and comes highly recommended.
Synopsis: Vampires and humans are at war!
Moarte, King of the Vampirii, is a prisoner of his Sapiens enemy. The beautiful Sapiens Princess Valada, believing that Moarte killed her mother, tortures him, even to the point of breaking the bones in his wings so he cannot escape. She intends to incinerate him to ash in sunlight, but Moarte escapes.
Moarte hungers for revenge. When, through an act of betrayal, Valada is captured by the vampirii, his first instinct is to drain her blood and annihilate her. But he realizes he can get revenge in other ways, using her as a tool to gain the upper hand in this conflict. But who is manipulating whom? Both want revenge, and control of the other, and Moarte wants to drink Valada’s blood. Dark desires lead down a path neither had envisioned, a threatening spiral that can destroy empires.
Hunter and hunted change places again and again in this novel of twisted, violent passions. Seeds of deception are sown amidst love and hate, loyalty and betrayal, obsession and indifference, in an erotic tale of warring races, foes since the beginning of time, and two unlikely adversaries aligning to battle a common enemy.
I first discovered Sarah's work with her novel The Missing from 2007. I had discovered a new favorite writer. Her work is emotional and creepy with well-drawn characters. I gobbled up everything I could from her cannon. She hasn't written much in the last eight or nine years in order to, I assume (really, I have no idea), concentrate on her family. I really do hope that she returns, though. And soon. I miss her words and stories.
The novel I'm going to suggest is her latest, Audrey's Door from 2009. I loved the idea behind this masterpiece of a book. I love it so much I think I want to return for a revisit.
Synopsis: Rosemary’s Baby meets The Shining behind Audrey’s Door—a masterwork of psychological suspense and supernatural terror from the acclaimed author of The Keeper and The Missing. Ramsey Campbell, Matthew Pearl, and David Morrell are among the ever-growing legion of fans of this Bram Stoker Award-winning writer who Peter Straub says, “combines a genuinely poetic sensibility with a taste for horror’s most bravura excesses.” Reviewers across the country have already compared Sarah Langan to H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe, and Stephen King and her brilliantly, chillingly original Audrey’s Door solidifies her standing as one of America’s most exciting new masters of contemporary dark fantasy.
Tamara Thorne published her first novel in 1991 and hasn't looked back. She has since gone on to publish 20 novels.
Synopsis: Moonfall, the picturesque town nestled in the mountains of southern California, is a quaint hamlet of antique stores, cider mills, and pie shops, and Apple Heaven, run by the dedicated nuns of St. Gertrude's Home for Girls, is the most popular destination of all. As autumn fills the air, the townspeople prepare for the Halloween Haunt, Moonfall's most popular tourist attraction. Even a series of unsolved deaths over the years hasn't dimmed Moonfall's enthusiasm for the holiday.
Now, orphan Sara Hawthorne returns to teach in the hallowed halls of St. Gertrude's where, twelve years before, her best friend died a horrible death. In Sara's old room, distant voices echo in the dark and the tormented cries of children shatter the moon-kissed night.
But that's just the beginning. For Sara Hawthorne is about to uncover St. Gertrude's hellish secret...a secret she may well carry with her to the grave.
Sarah is the author of over 20 novels and several novellas. Her work is both fascinating, fun, and thrilling. Behind Her Eyes is a New York Times bestseller and her latest.
Synopsis: Louise is a single mom, a secretary, stuck in a modern-day rut. On a rare night out, she meets a man in a bar and sparks fly. Though he leaves after they kiss, she’s thrilled she finally connected with someone.
When Louise arrives at work on Monday, she meets her new boss, David. The man from the bar. The very married man from the bar…who says the kiss was a terrible mistake, but who still can’t keep his eyes off Louise.
And then Louise bumps into Adele, who’s new to town and in need of a friend. But she also just happens to be married to David. And if you think you know where this story is going, think again, because Behind Her Eyes is like no other book you’ve read before.
David and Adele look like the picture-perfect husband and wife. But then why is David so controlling? And why is Adele so scared of him?
As Louise is drawn into David and Adele’s orbit, she uncovers more puzzling questions than answers. The only thing that is crystal clear is that something in this marriage is very, very wrong. But Louise can’t guess how wrong―and how far a person might go to protect their marriage’s secrets.
In 2017 I had the chance to talk with Linda for the Great Lakes Horror Company Podcast. To prepare, I read How To Recognize A Demon Has Become Your Friend and learned why she has, in the course of her career, won the Bran Stoker four times. This year, 2018, Linda is set to receive the lifetime achievement award at the Stokers.
Synopsis: Who doesn’t need to know How To Recognize A Demon Has Become Your Friend? From the first African-American to receive the HWA Bram Stoker award, this award-winning collection of both horror and science fiction short stories and poetry reveals demons in the most likely people (like a jealous ghost across the street) or in unlikely places (like the dimension-shifting dreams of an American Indian). Recognition is the first step, what you do with your friends/demons after that is up to you.
I was introduced to Nicole's writing when DarkFuse published her novella, Children of No One. That one made one wonder about what they had just read. And wonder real hard. Mr. Suicide, her first novel released in 2015, won the Bram Stoker for achievement in a first novel.
Synopsis: Like everyone else in the world, you've wanted to do things people say you shouldn't do.
How many times in your life have you wanted to slap someone? Really, literally strike them? You can't even begin to count the times. Hundreds. Thousands. You're not exaggerating. You're not engaging in... whatchamacallit? Hyperbole? You're not engaging in hyperbole.
Maybe the impulse flashed through your brain for only a moment, like lightning, when someone tried to skip ahead of you in line at the cafeteria. Hell, at more than one point in your life you've wanted to kill someone; really, literally kill someone. That's not just an expression. Not hyperbole. Then it was gone and replaced by the civilized thought: You can't do that. Not out in public.
But you've had the thought...
From Shirley Jackson Award-nominated author Nicole Cushing comes Mr. Suicide, a novel of the Great Dark Mouth.
I had the opportunity to talk with Damien way back on episode 61. I've since gone on to read her work and am always taken aback by the beauty of her prose, the complexity of the stories, and the depth of the characters.
Paper Tigers Synopsis: n this haunting and hypnotizing novel, a young woman loses everything--half of her body, her fiancé, and possibly her unborn child--to a terrible apartment fire. While recovering from the trauma, she discovers a photo album inhabited by a predatory ghost who promises to make her whole again, all while slowly consuming her from the inside out.
Last, and only last to spread out the content, is Kelly Link. Her collection, Get In Trouble was nominated for a Pulitzer. Let that sink in. A mutha-fuckin' Pulitzer! For a horror collection! If that doesn't convince you, then nothing will and you can consider yourself hopeless.
Synopsis: Link has won an ardent following for her ability, with each new short story, to take readers deeply into an unforgettable, brilliantly constructed fictional universe. The nine exquisite examples in this collection show her in full command of her formidable powers. In “The Summer People,” a young girl in rural North Carolina serves as uneasy caretaker to the mysterious, never-quite-glimpsed visitors who inhabit the cottage behind her house. In “I Can See Right Through You,” a middle-aged movie star makes a disturbing trip to the Florida swamp where his former on- and off-screen love interest is shooting a ghost-hunting reality show. In “The New Boyfriend,” a suburban slumber party takes an unusual turn, and a teenage friendship is tested, when the spoiled birthday girl opens her big present: a life-size animated doll.
Hurricanes, astronauts, evil twins, bootleggers, Ouija boards, iguanas, The Wizard of Oz, superheroes, the Pyramids . . . These are just some of the talismans of an imagination as capacious and as full of wonder as that of any writer today. But as fantastical as these stories can be, they are always grounded by sly humor and an innate generosity of feeling for the frailty—and the hidden strengths—of human beings. In Get in Trouble, this one-of-a-kind talent expands the boundaries of what short fiction can do.