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20 Horror Novels About Writers


I love reading about writers. It's self indulgent, I'm sure, but there is something immensely satisfying about investing in a character with the same writerly inclinations as yourself. And there has to be something fascinating there, because we as writers keep writing about writers. This list alone covers books from six different decades. From journalists to novelists to non-fiction writers, these titles have a wide range of overthinkers set across spooky, dynamic, and often isolated settings!



A Haunting on the Hill by Elizabeth Hand (Mulholland Books, 2023)


From the publisher:


"From award-winning writer Elizabeth Hand comes the first novel authorized to return to the world of Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House—a "scary and beautifully written" new story of isolation and longing perfect for our present time (Neil Gaiman).


Open the door . . . .


Holly Sherwin has been a struggling playwright for years, but now, after receiving a grant to develop her play The Witch of Edmonton, she may finally be close to her big break. All she needs is time and space to bring her vision to life. When she stumbles across Hill House on a weekend getaway upstate, she is immediately taken in by the ornate, if crumbling, gothic mansion, nearly hidden outside a remote village. It’s enormous, old, and ever-so eerie—the perfect place to develop and rehearse her play.


Despite her own hesitations, Holly’s girlfriend, Nisa, agrees to join Holly in renting the house out for a month, and soon a troupe of actors, each with ghosts of their own, arrive. Yet as they settle in, the house’s peculiarities are made known: strange creatures stalk the grounds, disturbing sounds echo throughout the halls, and time itself seems to shift. All too soon, Holly and her friends find themselves at odds not just with one another, but with the house itself. It seems something has been waiting in Hill House all these years, and it no longer intends to walk alone . . ."


The Writing Retreat by Julia Bartz (Atria/Emily Bestler Books, 2023)


From the publisher:


"A young author is invited to an exclusive writer’s retreat that soon descends into a pulse-pounding nightmare—in the vein of The Plot and Please Join Us.


Alex has all but given up on her dreams of becoming a published author when she receives a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: attend an exclusive, month-long writing retreat at the estate of feminist horror writer Roza Vallo. Even the knowledge that Wren, her former best friend and current rival, is attending doesn’t dampen her excitement.


But when the attendees arrive, Roza drops a bombshell—they must all complete an entire novel from scratch during the next month, and the author of the best one will receive a life-changing seven-figure publishing deal. Determined to win this seemingly impossible contest, Alex buckles down and tries to ignore the strange happenings at the estate, including Roza’s erratic behavior, Wren’s cruel mind games, and the alleged haunting of the mansion itself. But when one of the writers vanishes during a snowstorm, Alex realizes that something very sinister is afoot. With the clock running out, she must discover the truth—or suffer the same fate.


A claustrophobic and propulsive thriller that “will keep you up all night with its intriguing premise and gasp-worthy twists” (Kirthana Ramisette, author of Dava Shastri’s Last Day), The Writing Retreat expertly explores the dark side of female relationships, fame, and the desire to have our stories told."


Looking Glass Sound by Catriona Ward (Tor Nightfire, 2023)


From the publisher:


"In a lonely cottage overlooking the windswept Maine coast, Wilder Harlow begins the last book he will ever write. It is the story of a sun-drenched summer of his youth, and of the killer that stalked the small New England town. And of the terrible tragedy that forever bonded him with his friends Nat and Harper in unknowable ways.


Decades later, Wilder returns to the town in an attempt to recount that summer’s events in his memoirs. But as he writes, Wilder begins to fear his grip on the truth is fading … and that the book may be writing itself.


Looking Glass Sound is a book about the stories that shape us, and how easily they can escape us, in the vein of Stephen King’s Stand By Me."


The Pallbearers Club by Paul Tremblay (William Morrow, 2022)


From the publisher:


"What if the coolest girl you’ve ever met decided to be your friend?


Art Barbara was so not cool. He was a seventeen-year-old high school loner in the late 1980s who listened to hair metal, had to wear a monstrous back-brace at night for his scoliosis, and started an extracurricular club for volunteer pallbearers at poorly attended funerals. But his new friend thought the Pallbearers Club was cool. And she brought along her Polaroid camera to take pictures of the corpses.


Okay, that part was a little weird.


So was her obsessive knowledge of a notorious bit of New England folklore that involved digging up the dead. And there were other strange things – terrifying things – that happened when she was around, usually at night. But she was his friend, so it was okay, right?

Decades later, Art tries to make sense of it all by writing The Pallbearers Club: A Memoir. But somehow this friend got her hands on the manuscript and, well, she has some issues with it. And now she’s making cuts.


Seamlessly blurring the lines between fiction and memory, the supernatural and the mundane, The Pallbearers Club is an immersive, suspenseful portrait of an unusual and disconcerting relationship."


Devil House by John Darnielle (Picador, 2022)


From the publisher:


"Gage Chandler is descended from kings. That’s what his mother always told him. Years later, he is a true crime writer, with one grisly success—and a movie adaptation—to his name, along with a series of subsequent less notable efforts. But now he is being offered the chance for the big break: to move into the house where a pair of briefly notorious murders occurred, apparently the work of disaffected teens during the Satanic Panic of the 1980s. Chandler finds himself in Milpitas, California, a small town whose name rings a bell––his closest childhood friend lived there, once upon a time. He begins his research with diligence and enthusiasm, but soon the story leads him into a puzzle he never expected—back into his own work and what it means, back to the very core of what he does and who he is.


Devil House is John Darnielle’s most ambitious work yet, a book that blurs the line between fact and fiction, that combines daring formal experimentation with a spellbinding tale of crime, writing, memory, and artistic obsession."


Dream Girl by Laura Lippman (William Morrow, 2021)


From the publisher:


"Aubrey, the title character of Gerry Andersen’s most successful novel, Dream Girl, is so captivating that Gerry’s readers insist she’s real. Gerry knows she exists only in his imagination. So how can Aubrey be calling Gerry, bed-bound since a freak fall? A virtual prisoner in his penthouse, Gerry is dependent on two women he barely knows: his incurious young assistant, and a dull, slow-witted night nurse.


Could the cryptic caller be one of his three ex-wives playing a vindictive trick after all these years? Or is she Margot, an ex-girlfriend who keeps trying to insinuate her way back into Gerry’s life?


And why does no one believe that the call even happened?


Isolated from the world, drowsy from medication, Gerry slips between reality and dreamlike memories: his faithless father, his devoted mother; the women who loved him, the women he loved.


Now here is Aubrey, threatening to visit him, suggesting that Gerry owes her something. Is the threat real or a sign of dementia? Which scenario would he prefer? Gerry has never been so alone, so confused – and so terrified.


And then he wakes up to another nightmare—a woman’s dead body next to his bed—and the terrifying uncertainty of whether he is responsible."


The Other Emily by Dean Koontz (Thomas & Mercer, 2021)


From the publisher:


"A decade ago, Emily Carlino vanished after her car broke down on a California highway. She was presumed to be one of serial killer Ronny Lee Jessup’s victims whose remains were never found.


Writer David Thorne still hasn’t recovered from losing the love of his life, or from the guilt of not being there to save her. Since then, he’s sought closure any way he can. He even visits regularly with Jessup in prison, desperate for answers about Emily’s final hours so he may finally lay her body to rest. Then David meets Maddison Sutton, beguiling, playful, and keenly aware of all David has lost. But what really takes his breath away is that everything about Maddison, down to her kisses, is just like Emily. As the fantastic becomes credible, David’s obsession grows, Maddison’s mysterious past deepens―and terror escalates.


Is she Emily? Or an irresistible dead ringer? Either way, the ultimate question is the same: What game is she playing? Whatever the risk in finding out, David’s willing to take it for this precious second chance. It’s been ten years since he’s felt this inspired, this hopeful, this much in love…and he’s afraid."


Home Before Dark by Riley Sager (Dutton Books, 2020)


From the publisher:


"Every house has a story to tell and a secret to share. Twenty-five years ago, Maggie Holt and her parents moved into Baneberry Hall, a rambling Victorian estate in the Vermont woods. Three weeks later they fled in the dead of night, an ordeal her father recounted in a memoir called House of Horrors. His story of supernatural happenings and malevolent spirits became a worldwide phenomenon, rivaling The Amityville Horror in popularity—and skepticism. Maggie was too young to remember any of the horrific events that supposedly took place, and as an adult she doesn’t believe a word of her father’s claims. Ghosts, after all, don’t exist. When she inherits Baneberry Hall after his death and returns to renovate the place and sell it, her homecoming is anything but warm. The locals aren’t thrilled that their small town has been made infamous, and human characters with starring roles in House of Horrors are waiting in the shadows. Even more unnerving is Baneberry Hall itself—a place where unsettling whispers of the past lurk around every corner. And as Maggie starts to experience strange occurrences ripped from the pages of her father’s book, the truth she uncovers about the house’s dark history will challenge everything she believes."


The Dark Game by Jonathan Janz (Flame Tree Press, 2019)


From the publisher:


"Ten writers are selected for a summer-long writing retreat with the most celebrated and reclusive author in the world. Their host is the legendary Roderick Wells. Handsome, enigmatic, and fiendishly talented, Wells promises to teach his pupils about writing, about magic, about the untapped potential that each of them possesses. Most of all, he plans to teach them about the darkness in their hearts.


The writers think they are signing up for a chance at riches and literary prestige. But they are really entering the twisted imagination of a deranged genius, a lethal contest pitting them against one another in a struggle for their sanity and their lives. They have entered into Roderick Wells’s most brilliant and horrible creation.


The Dark Game."


Kill Creek by Scott Thomas (Inkshares, 2017)


From the publisher:


"At the end of a dark prairie road, nearly forgotten in the Kansas countryside, is the Finch House. For years it has remained empty, overgrown, abandoned. Soon the door will be opened for the first time in decades. But something is waiting, lurking in the shadows, anxious to meet its new guests…


When best-selling horror author Sam McGarver is invited to spend Halloween night in one of the country’s most infamous haunted houses, he reluctantly agrees. At least he won’t be alone; joining him are three other masters of the macabre, writers who have helped shape modern horror. But what begins as a simple publicity stunt will become a fight for survival. The entity they have awakened will follow them, torment them, threatening to make them a part of the bloody legacy of Kill Creek."


The Trap by Melanie Raabe with a translation by Imogen Taylor (Grand Central Publishing, 2017)


From the publisher:


"The renowned author Linda Conrads is famous for more than just her bestselling novels. For over eleven years, she has mystified fans by never setting foot outside her home. Far-fetched, sometimes sinister rumors surround the shut-in writer, but they pale in comparison to the chilling truth: Linda is haunted by the unsolved murder of her younger sister, whom she discovered in a pool of blood twelve years ago, and by the face of the man she saw fleeing the scene.


Now plagued by panic attacks, Linda copes with debilitating anxiety by secluding herself in her house, her last safe haven. But the sanctity of this refuge is shattered when her sister's murderer appears again–this time on her television screen. Empowered with sudden knowledge but hobbled by years of isolation, Linda resolves to use her only means of communication with the outside world–the plot of her next novel–to lay an irresistible trap for the man.


But as the plan is set in motion and the past comes rushing back, Linda's memories of that traumatic night–and her very sanity–are called into question. Is this man really a heartless killer or merely a helpless victim?"


Under a Watchful Eye by Adam Nevill (Pan MacMillan, 2017)


From the publisher:


"Seb Logan is being watched. He just doesn't know by whom.


When the sudden appearance of a dark figure shatters his idyllic coastal life, he soon realizes that the murky past he thought he'd left behind has far from forgotten him. What's more unsettling is the strange atmosphere that engulfs him at every sighting, plunging his mind into a terrifying paranoia.


To be a victim without knowing the tormentor. To be despised without knowing the offence caused. To be seen by what nobody else can see. These are the thoughts which plague his every waking moment.


Imprisoned by despair, Seb fears his stalker is not working alone, but rather is involved in a wider conspiracy that threatens everything he has worked for. For there are doors in this world that open into unknown places. Places used by the worst kind of people to achieve their own ends. And once his investigation leads him to stray across the line and into mortal danger, he risks becoming another fatality in a long line of victims..."


Within These Walls by Ania Ahlborn (Gallery Books, 2015)


From the publisher:


"With his marriage on the rocks and his life in shambles, washed-up true-crime writer Lucas Graham is desperate for a comeback, one more shot at the bestselling success he once enjoyed. His chance comes when he’s promised exclusive access to death row inmate Jeffrey Halcomb, the notorious cult leader and mass murderer who’s ready to break his silence after thirty years, and who contacted Lucas personally from his maximum-security cell. With nothing left to lose, Lucas leaves New York to live and work from the scene of the crime: a split-level farmhouse on a gray-sanded beach in Washington State whose foundation is steeped in the blood of Halcomb’s diviners—runaways who were drawn to his message of family, unity, and unconditional love. There, Lucas sets out to capture the real story of the departed faithful. Except that he’s not alone. For Jeffrey Halcomb promised his devout eternal life…and within these walls, they’re far from dead."


The Vanishing by Wendy Webb (Hachette, 2014)


From the publisher:


"Recently widowed and rendered penniless by her Ponzi-scheming husband, Julia Bishop is eager to start anew. So when a stranger appears on her doorstep with a job offer, she finds herself accepting the mysterious yet unique position: caretaker to his mother, Amaris Sinclair, the famous and rather eccentric horror novelist whom Julia has always admired . . . and who the world believes is dead.


When she arrives at the Sinclairs’ enormous estate on Lake Superior, Julia begins to suspect that there may be sinister undercurrents to her “too-good-to-be-true” position. As Julia delves into the reasons of why Amaris chose to abandon her successful writing career and withdraw from the public eye, her search leads to unsettling connections to her own family tree, making her wonder why she really was invited to Havenwood in the first place, and what monstrous secrets are still held prisoner within its walls."


Night Film by Marisha Pessl (Random House, 2013)


From the publisher:


"On a damp October night, beautiful young Ashley Cordova is found dead in an abandoned warehouse in lower Manhattan. Though her death is ruled a suicide, veteran investigative journalist Scott McGrath suspects otherwise. As he probes the strange circumstances surrounding Ashley’s life and death, McGrath comes face-to-face with the legacy of her father: the legendary, reclusive cult-horror-film director Stanislas Cordova—a man who hasn’t been seen in public for more than thirty years.


For McGrath, another death connected to this seemingly cursed family dynasty seems more than just a coincidence. Though much has been written about Cordova’s dark and unsettling films, very little is known about the man himself.


Driven by revenge, curiosity, and a need for the truth, McGrath, with the aid of two strangers, is drawn deeper and deeper into Cordova’s eerie, hypnotic world.


The last time he got close to exposing the director, McGrath lost his marriage and his career. This time he might lose even more.


Night Film, the gorgeously written, spellbinding new novel by the dazzlingly inventive Marisha Pessl, will hold you in suspense until you turn the final page."


In the Night Room by Peter Straub (Penguin Random House, 2004)


From the publisher:


"Willy Patrick, the respected author of the award-winning young-adult novel In the Night Room, thinks she is losing her mind–again. One day, she is drawn helplessly into the parking lot of a warehouse. She knows somehow that her daughter, Holly, is being held in the building, and she has an overwhelming need to rescue her. But what Willy knows is impossible, for her daughter is dead.

On the same day, author Timothy Underhill, who has been struggling with a new book about a troubled young woman, is confronted with the ghost of his nine-year-old sister, April. Soon after, he begins to receive eerie, fragmented e-mails that he finally realizes are from people he knew in his youth–people now dead. Like his sister, they want urgently to tell him something. When Willy and Timothy meet, the frightening parallels between Willy’s tragic loss and the story in Tim’s manuscript suggest that they must join forces to confront the evils surrounding them."


Ring by Kōji Suzuki with a translation by Glynne Walley (Vertical, 2004)


From the publisher:


"A mysterious videotape warns that the viewer will die in one week unless a certain, unspecified act is performed. Exactly one week after watching the tape, four teenagers die one after another of heart failure.


Asakawa, a hardworking journalist, is intrigued by his niece’s inexplicable death. His investigation leads him from a metropolitan Tokyo teeming with modern society’s fears to a rural Japan—a mountain resort, a volcanic island, and a countryside clinic—haunted by the past. His attempt to solve the tape’s mystery before it’s too late—for everyone—assumes an increasingly deadly urgency. Ring is a chillingly told horror story, a masterfully suspenseful mystery, and post-modern trip."


Misery by Stephen King (Scribner Books, 1987)


From the publisher:


"Paul Sheldon is a bestselling novelist who has finally met his number one fan. Her name is Annie Wilkes, and she is more than a rabid reader—she is Paul’s nurse, tending his shattered body after an automobile accident. But she is also furious that the author has killed off her favorite character in his latest book. Annie becomes his captor, keeping him prisoner in her isolated house.


Annie wants Paul to write a book that brings Misery back to life—just for her. She has a lot of ways to spur him on. One is a needle. Another is an axe. And if they don’t work, she can get really nasty."


The Shining by Stephen King (Anchor, 1977)


From the publisher:


"Jack Torrance’s new job at the Overlook Hotel is the perfect chance for a fresh start. As the off-season caretaker at the atmospheric old hotel, he’ll have plenty of time to spend reconnecting with his family and working on his writing. But as the harsh winter weather sets in, the idyllic location feels ever more remote...and more sinister. And the only one to notice the strange and terrible forces gathering around the Overlook is Danny Torrance, a uniquely gifted five-year-old."






Our Lady of Darkness by Fritz Leiber (Ace, 1977)


From the publisher:


"Our Lady of Darkness introduces San Francisco horror writer Franz Westen. While studying his beloved city through binoculars from his apartment window, he is astonished to see a mysterious figure waving at him from a hilltop two miles away. He walks to Corona Heights and looks back at his building to discover the figure waving at him from his apartment window—and to find himself caught in a century-spanning curse that may have destroyed Clark Ashton Smith and Jack London."






Do you have a favorite? Share it in the comments!







[Image Credit: photo by cottonbro studio via Pexels]

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