For some of us—trapped in our homes while an unseen threat lurks outside—2020 has felt a bit like a horror story already. But as Halloween and the long nights of late fall and winter approach, perhaps the fiction writers in this session can provide some appropriately spooky fare to distract us from our real-world terrors. Readers may recognize Stephen Chbosky’s name from his cult classic The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Now, in Imaginary Friend, Chbosky brings readers an haunting story of literary horror, as a mother flees an abusive relationship and resettles with her young son in a small town—where malevolent forces lurk everywhere. Jen Waite’s new thriller, Survival Instincts, also centers on a survivor of domestic abuse, whose weekend White Mountains getaway with her mother and preteen daughter goes horrifically wrong when they encounter an armed stranger. Joe Hill takes on short-form supernatural horror in Full Throttle, whose thirteen stories (including two co-written with his father, Stephen King) have been called “miniature masterworks of modern horror” by Kirkus in a starred review. And in Survivor Song, a novel that might seem all-too-relevant in 2020, Paul Tremblay imagines a terrifying epidemic of a rabies-like virus—and a woman determined to obtain a vaccine for her best friend before it’s too late. Marcella Haddad, who teaches GrubStreet courses on writing horror fiction, will bravely lead our foray into the literary darkness.
Fiction: Don't Look Behind You
Stephen Chbosky is a New York Times–bestselling novelist, screenwriter, and film director. His wildly popular 1999 novel The Perks of Being a Wallflower, referred to as “the right combination of realism and uplift” by Kirkus Reviews, attracted a cult following and placed number 16 on NPR’s “100 Best Ever Teen Novels.” Chbosky later wrote the screenplay and directed the movie adaptation, earning several awards including the Critic’s Choice Movie Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. Chbosky also wrote the screenplays for Rent, Beauty and the Beast (2017), and Wonder, and he is in talks to direct the movie adaptation of the award-winning Broadway musical Dear Evan Hanson. His latest novel, Imaginary Friend, was an instant New York Times bestseller and called “an all-out, not-for-the-fainthearted horror novel, one of the most effective and ambitious of recent years” by the Washington Post.
Joe Hill is a New York Times–bestselling fantasy and horror novelist, comic book and short story writer, and recipient of the Ray Bradbury Fellowship. His published works include Heart-Shaped Box, the winner of the Bram Stoker and International Thriller Writers Awards for Best First Novel; The Fireman, winner of the Locus Award for Best Horror Novel; the Locke and Key series, two time winner of the British Fantasy Award for Comic/Graphic Novel and winner of the Eisner Award for Best Writer; Horns, which was made into a feature film featuring Daniel Radcliffe; and NOS4A2, which has been adapted into an AMC mini-series and called, “fascinating and utterly engaging” by Library Journal. His latest work, Full Throttle, is a collection of short stories cowritten with Stephen King, which left critic Zachary Houle saying, “Joe Hill is a name to be reckoned with, and may very well be the new 'king' of horror and speculative fiction."
Paul Tremblay is an acclaimed crime and speculative fiction writer whose bibliography includes A Head Full of Ghosts, The Cabin at the End of the World, and Disappearance at Devil’s Rock. He has won the Bram Stoker Award, the British Fantasy Award, and the Massachusetts Book Award, among other honors. His essays and short fiction have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Entertainment Weekly online, and many “year’s best” anthologies, and he’s the co-editor of four anthologies. His latest novel, Survivor Song, is a “prescient, insidious horror novel” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review) with “an uncommon emotional intensity” (Publishers Weekly, starred review) that “probes themes of friendship, family, and social commentary amidst chillingly realistic horror” (Booklist, starred review). Tremblay is on the board of directors for the Shirley Jackson Awards, has a master’s degree in mathematics, and lives outside of Boston, Massachusetts.
Jen Waite has worked in finance and as an actor and model. She is the author of the international bestselling memoir A Beautiful, Terrible Thing, which details the discovery that her ex-husband was a psychopath and leading a double life. She has since worked with many women and men who have experienced similar betrayals. Her newest work is the psychological thriller Survival Instincts, which Booklist has called “[an] affecting look at familial and maternal bonds.”
Marcella Haddad is a poet, writer, and teacher working in the writing program at UMass Amherst, where she’s an MFA candidate in prose. She is the recipient of the Summer Literary Seminar Poetry Fellowship and an honorable mention for the 2016 Dell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing. Her work has appeared in Every Day Fiction, Moonchild Magazine, Rag Queen Periodical, and many others.