When people think of contemporary horror fiction, the name Stephen King frequently comes to mind (as well it should: King has been publishing novels since 1974’s Carrie and is so prolific he wrote under a pseudonym so he could publish books more frequently). But the range of impressive writers in this field extends far and wide beyond his work. Here are 11 notable authors of contemporary horror whose novels you might want to add to your TBR.
1. Agustina Bazterrica
The Argentine writer Agustina Bazterrica has said that a turning point in her life came when she decided to give up eating meat. Seeing animals hanging in the window of a butcher shop partially spurred the idea for her 2020 novel Tender is the Flesh, which explores a dystopian world in which cannibalism is allowed because animal meat has become tainted by a virus. But that wasn’t the only inspiration: “Although my book contains clear criticism of the meat industry,” Bazterrica wrote in The Irish Times, “I also wrote the novel because I have always believed that in our capitalist, consumerist society, we devour each other.”
2. Tananarive Due
Tananarive Due’s interest in horror is inherited: Her mother, civil rights activist Patricia Stephens Due, was “a huge horror fan,” Due said in a 2021 interview with Roxane Gay. Beyond that, “I’ve always been a scaredy-cat,” Due told Gay. “Around the age of 8, I was sharing a bedroom with my great-grandmother who had emphysema and was on an oxygen machine. I listened to that hissing all night terrified she was going to stop breathing and had that first confrontation with, ‘Oh, life is finite.’ I could project myself to that future and see myself in that bed. That’s where my stories come from—whatever direction that terror is.”
In addition to writing horror, Due also publishes works of Afrofuturism, which connects African diaspora culture with explorations of technology, science fiction, and fantasy. Her notable works include the novels in the African Immortals series, as well as The Between (1995), The Good House (2003), and the forthcoming The Reformatory. She has also taught courses on Black horror and Afrofuturism at UCLA (which you can check out online, too).
3. Mariana Enriquez
Mariana Enriquez’s writing has been praised by Kazuo Ishiguro as “the most exciting discovery I’ve made in fiction for some time.” The author engages deeply with her native Argentina in her work: Her 2019 novel Our Share of Night (translated into English by Megan McDowell) takes place during the 1980s at a time when the country was under military dictatorship; it tells the story of a medium and his son, who are enmeshed in a cult known as The Order. The Order worships an entity called “The Darkness,” which they hope will grant them immortality.
“I think what happened to people like me who grew up in the ’80s and ’90s is that slasher movies, Stephen King and Twin Peaks all got mixed with our reality, which was already full of the language of horror: the disappeared, the children of the dead, children of the lost generation,” Enriquez said in a 2022 interview with The Guardian. “Maybe I turn up the volume to 11 because of the genre I like to work in, but the genre puts a light on the real horror that gets lost in [a phrase like] political violence.”
4. Grady Hendrix
American author Grady Hendrix’s writing has been influenced by both fairy tales—“Little Red Riding Hood is the ur-slasher,” he told Mental Floss in 2021—and cinema: His 2021 book The Final Girl Support Group was inspired by the “final girl,” a horror trope which refers to the last woman (or women) left alive to face down the killer in slasher films like Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street. Support Group helped him unseat Stephen King as the Goodreads Choice Award for best horror writer. Hendrix, who once worked for a paranormal institute, has also received acclaim for his other books, including The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires (2020) and How to Sell a Haunted House (2023).
5. Stephen Graham Jones
Stephen Graham Jones is a Blackfoot Native American writer who published more than 20 books before 2020’s terrifying horror novel The Only Good Indians. In the story, a group of Blackfoot men hunt in a restricted area reserved for elders of their tribe—then have a chilling confrontation with the supernatural. Jones followed that book up with 2021’s My Heart is a Chainsaw, whose protagonist, Jade, is a Native American girl. “It means everything to me,” the author told Esquire, “because we’ve never had a Native final girl.” The latter novel—which has a sequel, Don’t Fear the Reaper—showcases Jones’s love of slasher movies (Esquire calls him “a walking encyclopedia of the sub-genre”) and draws a lot of inspiration from them.
6. Alma Katsu
Alma Katsu has used real-life historical events as the basis for a number of her novels, including 2018’s The Hunger, which was inspired by the true story of the Donner Party, and The Deep (2020), which takes on the sinkings of the RMS Titanic and the HMHS Britannic. “They say that art is the mirror that you hold up to life, right? It helps you understand the truth,” Katsu told Mental Floss in 2022. “Like a good professor will explain to you and pull the threads together and show you the bigger picture and really make it resonate with you, I think that’s what fiction can do.”
Katsu’s roots—her mother is Japanese, her father American—affected her 2022 novel, The Fervor, which takes place during World War II and fuses Japanese folklore with the experiences of the Japanese and Japanese-American people imprisoned in incarceration camps. A real-life historical incident that Katsu incorporated into the novel involves the use of fu-go (fire balloons). More than 250 fu-go were released from Japan and drifted on the jet stream to America and Canada; Katsu’s novel opens with the detonation of a fire balloon in May 1945 that—in both real life and the novel—resulted in the deaths of six people. Katsu, a former intelligence officer, has also written the spy novels Red Widow (2021) and Red London (2023).
7. T. Kingfisher
Using the pen name T. Kingfisher, children’s author Ursula Vernon publishes books for older readers, including 2020’s The Hollow Places and 2023’s A House with Good Bones. Her 2022 novella What Moves the Dead is a take on Edgar Allan Poe’s Fall of the House of Usher with a creepy fungal twist: “I read Fall of the House of Usher and it’s obsessed with rotting vegetation and fungus,” Kingfisher said on Lithub’s podcast Voyage into Genre. “And it’s really short. And they don’t explain hardly anything … I wanted to get in and get the details.”
8. Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s bio describes her as “Mexican by birth, Canadian by inclination,” and a number of her novels have been set in her birth country: Mexican Gothic (2020), for example, takes place in the 1950s and focuses on a woman’s quest to discover the secret of a mysterious mansion—and the horrors that lie within—in the mountains near El Triunfo, Mexico. Moreno-Garcia wove her love of film into her recently published novel Silver Nitrate, which is set in Mexico City in the 1990s. She wanted to write a book about sound-editing and ended up weaving a tale of magic and the occult, with plenty of cinematic references to boot. “I don’t really care if people don’t get the film references,” the author told USA Today. “[Silver Nitrate] is not just a story about a supernatural element, it’s also about the film industry in general and the passion that somebody can have for it.”
9. Paul Tremblay
Paul Tremblay’s 2015 novel A Head Full of Ghosts—a spooky tale of potential possession—gained attention quickly after Stephen King described it as having “scared the living hell out of me.” After that, Tremblay published books like A Cabin at the End of the World (2018), about a home invasion and the threat of an impending apocalypse. For one scene in the novel, Tremblay drew on his own experience visiting the ruins of the collapsed St. Francis Dam in Valencia, California. “I’ll never forget sort of the feeling of walking through there,” he told Entertainment Weekly. “I think it’s why people read end-of-the-world stories because there is that weird thrill of, ‘What would this actually be like to experience?’ Even though it’s the most horrific thing that could possibly happen.” The book was adapted into the movie Knock at the Cabin by M. Night Shyamalan in 2023.
10. Catriona Ward
Author Catriona Ward was born in the U.S., grew up in countries around the world, and was university-educated in the UK. She has hypnagogic hallucinations (sensations that occur as a person falls asleep), which influenced her feelings about fear, something enhanced further after reading the W. W. Jacobs short story “The Monkey’s Paw.” Her novels Rawblood (known in the U.S. as The Girl from Rawblood), Little Eve, and The Last House on Needless Street have won the August Derleth Award for the best horror novel.
“I love horror,” Ward told The Guardian in 2022. “I think it’s one of the most expressive, most empathetic genres you can work in. Everyone feels afraid at some point in their life. Reading is a sustained act of telepathy or empathy, and reading horror is even more profound than that: it’s asking people to share real vulnerabilities of yours and open themselves up to their own. It is like going down a tunnel, and hopefully the writer is leading the way with a torch, taking the reader’s hand.”
11. Kiersten White
Kiersten White first began writing as a YA author (her Paranormalcy series features a young woman working as a supernatural investigator), and has recently moved into fiction for adults. Her first horror novel for an older audience, Hide, was published in 2022. In it, 14 people compete to win $50,000 by hiding in an abandoned theme park for seven days without getting caught. “Most ideas are several ideas that suddenly, gloriously combine,” White told the LA Public Library of Hide. “In this case, it was an interest in Greek mythology and how we keep telling ourselves the same stories because we keep repeating the same cycles of violence over and over through the ages, plus an article on an actual hide-and-seek competition set in an abandoned Italian resort town that made me think, ‘gosh that sounds murdery.’ (It wasn’t. So I made my own.)”