Women in Horror Month is right around the corner, so now is the perfect time to catch up on reading some female-penned scary stories. And while Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House are staples on every literary horror lover’s bookshelf, let’s delve into a few authors that maybe you aren’t quite as familiar with. These are five female horror authors who are bending the rules and creating fresh nightmares all their own. Check your expectations at the door; these superbly talented ladies are sure to terrify even the most jaded horror fans.
100 Nightmares by K.Z. Morano
K.Z. Morano is a visionary writer who blends elements of Japanese folklore, fairy tales, and other bizarre horrors into enthralling worlds that are at once captivating and grotesque in all the best ways. In her most well-received and accomplished publication to date, 100 Nightmares lives up to its name: this monstrous tome includes 100 nightmares told in exactly 100 words each. Add in a series of gorgeously strange illustrations, and you have the perfect bedtime stories. For the creepy at heart, of course.
Dark Flash by Maria Haskins
A relatively new voice in the speculative fiction scene, Maria Haskins is already carving out a place with her strange and haunting tales. In particular, her flash fiction is some of the very best being published right now, and fortunately, last year, Maria released Dark Flash, a collection of her bite-sized tales. Featuring a variety of creatures, including cats, pirates, and demons, Dark Flash is a fantastic introduction into Maria’s wondrous world of dreams and nightmares. Although not strictly horror, this collection will definitely appeal to many genre fans’ offbeat sensibilities. And come on, weird stories of cats and pirates and demons? Sign me up, any day.
Mr. Suicide by Nicole Cushing
There are novels that focus on easy-to-digest, drawn-out explorations of human psychology, and those are all well and good. But for the more hardcore horror fan, there are novels like Mr. Suicide, which hit you hard and fast, leaving you turned around and inside out and not knowing quite what happened. The 2015 winner of the Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a First Novel, this disturbing book from the supremely talented Nicole Cushing is one of the darkest forays into the human psyche you’ll find. And while the subject matter and characters alone could have landed it on this list, the brilliantly written prose puts this unforgettable book completely over the top. Not for the faint of heart, Mr. Suicide will leave you changed. Precisely like a great work of horror should.
Spook Lights by Eden Royce
With its haunted architecture and haunted history, there’s something about the American South that makes it an ideal setting for horror. A South Carolina native, author Eden Royce knows these landscapes well, and her dazzling collection, Spook Lights, is Southern Gothic at its most vivid and terrifying. She takes the traditional horror settings of cemeteries and marshes, and crafts them into worlds both wholly familiar and entirely alien and chilling. Her prose is intoxicating, making these twelve tales an easy and highly enjoyable read. And with Spook Lights II recently released, horror fans can rest assured that Eden will be entertaining us with her incredible stories for many years to come.
Sing Me Your Scars by Damien Angelica Walters
Since breaking onto the horror scene a few years ago, Damien Angelica Walters has become the preeminent modern voice of horror. Her writing has consistently been some of the very best fiction out there, and nowhere is her genius on display quite like in her debut fiction collection, Sing Me Your Scars. From the Frankenstein-inspired title piece to stories about immolation, ghosts, and masochistic girls who feel no pain, these lyrical tales are by turns terrifying and heartbreaking. Every word will lodge itself under your skin like a thorn and stay there long after you’ve finished the final page. This is twenty-first-century horror at its best and most unnerving. You’ve been warned.
Who’s your favorite modern female author? Let me know in the comments below!