Yesterday I reviewed Alison Littlewood’s excellent The Unquiet House. A deliciously creepy story that has made me want to read her previous books asap. So I’m delighted to be able to share this guest post from Alison with you today. I asked Alison about what she loves about writing horror and who some of her favourite female horror writers are. You can find her response below. Get ready to add books to your wish list, I know I did!
Writing horror and some of my favourite female horror writers
My love of writing horror came as a surprise to myself. I’d always loved books, but I read everything I could lay my hands on, rather than sticking to a particular genre. But as soon as I tried to pen a horror tale – it was in response to a BBC writing competition, End of Story, way back when – I got the tingle. It’s been like that ever since. I like to make my characters face their fears, to pull the rug from under their feet, to challenge them. I tend to think writing horror is at its best when it fills me with sheer glee! But it’s true to say that there are deeper things at work, because what horror fiction does is address the big ideas: the inevitability of death, which is tied up with love and loss, and with the ultimate mystery of the universe; the questions we cannot answer. It’s about facing down the dark and coming back to tell the tale. It’s also about possibilities, the sense that something inexplicable could be taking place, that there’s a little bit of magic abroad in the world, even if it has turned into something perilous and strange.
Some of my favourite female horror writers are:
Sarah Langan – an American writer of uncompromising, gritty horror that evokes a genuine sense of fear. The Missing and The Keeper reflect her concerns about mankind’s impact on the world; it comes as no surprise that the author has studied Environmental Health Science and Toxicology. Her characters are never less than vivid in all their human flaws, and her sense of place is beautifully realised.
Sarah Pinborough – Sarah is well known on the genre scene, not only for her talent but her joyfully outspoken presence on Twitter. She also has great range, having written novels ranging from pure horror fare like Breeding Ground to the historical crime/horror crossover Mayhem to her contemporary takes on fairy tales. Her award winning novella, The Language of Dying, unflinchingly faces the real-life horror of losing a loved one to cancer and demonstrates the honesty and sincerity that underpins her work.
Thana Niveau – a wonderful up-and-coming writer, with a short story collection, From Hell to Eternity, under her belt. She’s a mistress of the atmospheric and macabre, effortlessly transporting the reader into an underwater world in ‘The Curtain’, conveying childhood fears in ‘The Coal-Man’ and exploring the mysteries of rural mythology in ‘The Scouring’. She is, in short, a fantastic new talent. Attendees at genre conventions may also know Thana from the stage, where she is an adept presenter and actress. She held the audience spellbound at last year’s World Fantasy Convention, with a short story reading that was accompanied by a suitably howling Halloween wind.
Joanne Harris – it may seem odd to include Joanne in a list of horror writers, but her leaning towards the darkly fantastical even led her to publish an early vampire novel, The Evil Seed. She made a return to such grounds recently in her contribution to Fearie Tales, an anthology of frightening fairy tales for adults. Her story ‘The Silken People’ is on one level a simple foray into a child’s search for the magical folk, and yet it packs an incredibly visceral punch; a fitting showcase for the author’s talent.
Angela Slatter – an Australian writer who also draws on fairy tales in her work. Her darkly beautiful, often interlocking short stories, have been gathered in the collections Sourdough and Other Stories and The Girl With No Hands. I hear that a novel is also in the pipeline, and am very much looking forward to reading it.
Hilary Mantel – again, it may seem odd to purloin the author of Wolf Hall for this list, but bear with me! Mantel has some wonderfully dark and mysterious novels in her back catalogue. Beyond Black is an utterly brilliant story of a performing psychic, saddled with a none-too-pleasant spirit guide. I also loved Fludd, the tale of a new curate sent to an isolated moorland village. Father Fludd is there to support the community and church – or is he? The hints are that he is something else entirely. It’s a short novel, but one that makes me glad that Mantel has taken a walk (or two) on the dark side.
Bio: Alison Littlewood’s latest novel is The Unquiet House. Mire House is dreary, cold and isolated, but when Emma Dean inherits it from a distant relation, she immediately feels a sense of belonging – until she begins seeing ghostly figures. Is someone trying to scare her away, or are there darker secrets lurking in the corners of Mire House?
Alison is the author of A Cold Season, described by the Richard and Judy Book Club as “perfect reading for a dark winter’s night.” Her short stories have been picked for the Best Horror of the Year and Mammoth Book of Best New Horror anthologies, as well as The Best British Fantasy 2013 and The Mammoth Book of Best British Crime 10. Visit her at www.alisonlittlewood.co.uk.