3 Women Horror Writers Making Waves in the Literary Community – Despite the success and popularity of Mary Shelley in the early 19th century, Shirley Jackson in the mid 20th century, and Ann Rice in the later part of the 20th century, horror has long been a male-dominated field in literature.
Today, publishers are placing a greater emphasis on diversity, and this is especially noticeable in the horror genre, where women writers are topping the best-seller lists and winning awards for their work.
It would be a near-impossible task to list all the great women horror writers working today. Instead, in this short article, we’ll look at 3 writers who are making waves and that every fan of horror – regardless of gender – should be aware of.
Born in Poland, raised in the US, Ania Ahlborn began her publishing career in 2011 with the self-published eBook Seed. Shortly thereafter, she would sign with publishing giants Thomas & Mercer and release her next book The Neighbors.
Her career really took an ascension in 2015 with the release of Brother (Gallery Books). In this gritty tale set in Appalachia, Ania Ahlborn showcases both a disturbing and terrifying realism as well as an impressive ability to elicit sympathy for the antagonist, a sadistic killer of young girls.
This book is not for the squeamish, but rather for those who prefer their horror grounded in present-day reality as opposed to exploring the supernatural (which she has done in many of her other books).
She has been nominated for the Goodreads Readers’ Choice Award, the This Is Horror award, as well as making the Horror Writers Association coveted Bram Stoker Award recommendations list. She is currently published by Simon & Shuster.
Born in the US, Catriona Ward spent much of her childhood moving from country to country, notably throughout Africa but also in England. She began penning her first novel while in London working for a human rights foundation.
Her strong work ethic paid off quickly as her first novel, Rawblood, was a big success. It won the prestigious August Derleth Award – a recognition of excellence in horror writing bestowed by the British Fantasy Society. (She would later go on to win the award a second time with her follow-up novel, Little Eve, making her the only woman author, to date, to have won the coveted award twice.) Little Eve would also win her the prestigious Shirley Jackson Award for best novel in 2018.
She has stated that she finds the deep ocean and endless space terrifying, as is ambiguity.
“The power of horror resides in ambiguity. A world where ghosts exist isn’t frightening – they would become normalised, every day. A world where ghosts don’t exist is definitely not scary. But a world where they might… might is terrifying.”
Stephen King has praised her work, saying he was “blown away”. An endorsement from Stephen King usually translates to further commercial and critical success. And it’s more than likely that this will prove to be no exception.
Lauren Beukes combines supernatural horror with urban fantasy, grounding her stories in superbly developed worlds inhabited by rich characters with a diversity of backgrounds and motivations.
Lauren Beukes has also worked extensively in television. She was head writer and part of a team that created URBO: The Adventures of Pax Afrika, South Africa’s first-ever half-hour animated series, which chronicles a group of teenagers living in a futuristic Cape Town where they battle the evil overlord Maximillian Malice.
Several of her short stories and novels have been optioned for movies. And The Shining Girls is currently in development to be made into a TV series by the production company MRC (the same company that has developed hit shows and movies such as House of Cards and Baby Driver, to name but a few).
A Drop in the Ocean
The three authors mentioned in this short article are but a metaphoric drop in the ocean when it comes to talented women finding success in the horror genre. I’m tempted to create a list – Caitlin R; Kiernan, Mercedes M. Yardley, Tananarive Due – but I know in advance that my list would end up incomplete.
As more women are finding success sharing their stories, this encourages and inspires more women to explore their voices and share their own stories. And thus, a beautiful cycle of creativity is being fostered.
These talented writers are a product of their hard work. But they are also a result of readers buying their books, leaving reviews, and encouraging publishers to keep publishing diverse voices in horror. We can all do our part to make sure this trend continues. Let’s, each one of us, pick up a book and leave a review. Why not start with some of the authors suggested in this article?