Who Is Your Favourite Contemporary Writer Of Gothic Novels And Bone-Chilling Dark Tales? by S. A. Harris – Guest Post

S. A. Harris is the author of Haverscroft, long listed for the 2019 Not the Booker Prize, which was published by Salt on 15 May 2019.

In a rather fitting Halloween post, Sally discusses gothic novels and dark tales.

Who Is Your Favourite Contemporary Writer Of Gothic Novels And Bone-Chilling Dark Tales?

This is the question I sent out on Twitter when struggling to compile a top ten of today’s gothic fiction writers. I had a list on the go and a fairly clear idea of who would feature on it. How difficult could it be to narrow things down to ten authors in the genre? I decided to check in with the bloggers and lovely bookish Twitter folks to see what they thought, it would be dreadful to overlook someone entirely obvious after all.

I sent a tweet out just before going to bed on a Sunday night. On Monday morning there were a lot of replies, and more coming in. Like many writers, I have another very time consuming career which demands my attention from 9am till 5:30pm Monday to Friday. I answered a few tweets over breakfast and would usually have time over lunch but I was meeting a friend. Not possible to eat, chat and tweet simultaneously if you want to retain the friendship, which I did. So everything had to wait until after we had done with dinner. By then, the authors were many and the list, long. Now what to do, where to start? Who makes it onto the list and who doesn’t?

After much deliberation, excellent procrastination from writing my second novel which has recently been horribly neglected, I ended up with three lists. Rather than try to include the great and the good of the gothic I’ve gone for what I personally love. This naturally limits the list as I have many, many books still to read. So, if your favourite author or book isn’t below don’t take offence, instead, tweet to me what I’m missing out on. The tottering TBR pile can surely take another book or two.

List One

Those I have read and loved and in no particular order

  Jonathan Aycliffe – Naomi’s Room

A good friend urged me to read this book. A chilling psychological story which I would strongly recommend taking a look at if you have not read it yet.

Katherine Clements – The Coffin Path

Described as ‘The perfect ghost story’ on Amazon, it kept me gripped and turning the pages. An enjoyable, atmospheric read.

Sarah Waters – The Little Stranger

I read this book in 2010 when it was first published and loved the old crumbling hall, the family with all their secrets and the claustrophobic atmosphere. The cover here is the original, there is a new one available now showing the cast of the 2018 film adaptation in which the amazing Ruth Wilson plays the lead role. I’ll be watching the film this winter!

Susan Hill – The Small Hand

I’ve read all of Susan Hills ghost stories, The Woman in Black more than once, but The Small Hand is the creepiest for me.

Michelle Paver – Dark Matter

I read Wakenhyrst earlier this year and enjoyed it but I find Dark Matter a far more chilling story. The isolation and harshness of the Arctic winter is the perfect location for a terrifying tale.

List Two

Writers on my TBR pile following trusted recommendations from the Twitter writing community.

Hester Fox – The Witch of Willow Hall

This is on my Christmas list. Hester Fox has a new title due out on the 17th October, The Widow of Pale Harbour. I am sure there will be plenty of chatter on Twitter about that one to.

Diane Setterfield – Once Upon A River

This book was published in January 2019 just as things were beginning to get busy in the run-up to Haverscroft’s publication so it slipped under my radar. Time to catch-up with some reading now the book is properly out there.

Anna Mazzola – The Story Keeper

I heard Anna read from what was then a draft of her first novel, The Unseeing, in December 2013. I need to catch-up with both her books.

Bridget Collins – The Binding

I would be tempted by this book for the cover alone but there have been so many recommendations on Twitter and from trusted readers, that I need to take a look for myself. Another one for Santa if he’s feeling generous.

List Three

More than worthy of a mention.

Andrew Michael Hurley – The Loney

I read and enjoyed this atmospheric tale last year.

Neil Spring – The Lost Village

Imber is an abandoned village with dark secrets that must be discovered. Do I need to say much more? I enjoyed this novel last winter.

Sarah Moss – Ghost Wall

I read this earlier in the year and so enjoyed it. I have not read anything else by Sarah Moss but will be doing so soon.

Currently Reading

(Two titles don’t make a list!)

Laura Purcell – The Silent Companions

I started this when I shouldn’t have as I have other reading and writing which is screaming for attention but the cover drew me in for a sneaky look, and well, you know how it goes from there. I’m enjoying the story immensely.

Sarah Perry – Melmoth

I’m currently reading this as I am in conversation with Sarah Perry at Norwich Waterstones on the 23rd October 2019. After all, it would be incredibly rude not to have read her book before we meet. If you have not yet met Melmoth you really should do so soon!

What is clear from all my deliberations is that the gothic novel and a bone-chilling dark tale are alive and well in 2019. There are doubtless many more writers in this genre worthy of mention and in addition there are the classics to enjoy such as Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, and Dickens. For all the Twitter people who tweeted, I thank you, as always, for your enthusiastic support.

About the book

Kate Keeling leaves all she knows and moves to Haverscroft House in an attempt to salvage her marriage. Little does she realise, Haverscroft’s dark secrets will drive her to question her sanity, her husband and fatally engulf her family unless she can stop the past repeating itself. Can Kate keep her children safe and escape Haverscroft in time, even if it will end her marriage?

Haverscroft is a gripping and chilling dark tale, a modern ghost story that will keep you turning its pages late into the night.

About the author

S. A. Harris won The Retreat West Crime Writer Competition in 2017, and was shortlisted for Shortlisted for The Fresher Prize in 2018. Haverscroft is her debut novel, she is now writing her second, a supernatural tale set on the Suffolk coast. She is a family law solicitor and lives in Norwich with her husband and three children.

6 Comments Add yours

  1. Amber says:

    I have not read fiction for a very long time. The books mentioned here looks really creepy and dark (aka good for the season). Wondering which one to pick first though.


    1. janetemson says:

      I’ve read Anna Mazzola’s books and really enjoyed them. I hope you find something you like 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for this list! I adore this genre and have been searching for more books of this nature to add to my tbr list.


    1. janetemson says:

      There are lots of great sounding books on here. I hope you find something you like 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I don’t read much gothic fiction (Sarah Waters is the only one I’ve read) but many of these do sound tempting! I have The Loney in the TBR, maybe now is a good time to start as the nights draw in…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. janetemson says:

      I don’t read much either. I have The Loney on my TBR. I have read Anna Mazzola’s books and enjoyed them very much.

      Liked by 1 person

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