17 of the Best Horror Authors to Inspire Your Writing

by | Oct 24, 2022

There’s nothing quite like the feeling of reading an author whose writing is so good you can’t help but feel a little envious. The writers capable of making us fall in love with a genre as a reader are often the very same ones we look to for inspiration when we wish to try our hand at writing in that style. 

From my perspective, one which I imagine many people reading this will share, Stephen King is the perfect example of an inspirational author who not only made me fall in love with reading the horror genre but made me want to write like him as well. Of course, the role Stephen King has played in my writing journey has been fulfilled by different authors for other writers.

If you’re interested in writing horror fiction of your own, read on. We’ve rounded up a list of the best horror authors out there to inspire your work. Are you ready to discover your next favorite spooky scribe?

Stephen King

Maybe his name meant being the king of horror was always his destiny, but it’s impossible to talk about scary authors without mentioning my personal favorite, Stephen King. Readers of different generations fall in love with King’s work, whether it happens to be his classic works of fiction such as The Shining, or more contemporary, fantasy, and sci-fi-influenced offerings such as Under The Dome

Dean Koontz

Along with King, Dean Koontz is one of the major names you’ll encounter should you check out the horror section in your local library or bookstore. Although he doesn’t label himself as a horror author, there’s no denying his skill at writing spine-chilling stories. If you’re new to Koontz and looking for some inspiration, check out The Eyes of Darkness for a creepy tale that many say predicted the Coronavirus pandemic. 

Edgar Allen Poe

As you’ll see, this list of horror authors is a mixture of contemporary favorites and all-time legends, and Edgar Allen Poe very much falls into the latter category. Considered by many the father of horror fiction, Poe’s ability to conjure up terrifying scenarios is almost unparalleled. Tributes as diverse as The Simpsons and the Insane Clown Posse have been paid to Poe’s mastery of horror fiction. Don’t miss out. If you’re new to Poe, pick up an anthology and dive right in to see how he can inspire your tales of terror.

Anne Rice 

Some authors are almost synonymous with an entire genre. For Anne Rice, that’s the case with vampire fiction. Before Twilight caught the attention of a younger generation of readers, Anne Rice was the only real show in town for epic stories of vampire horror and romance. Her books have been adapted into major Hollywood films as well as beloved roleplaying games. If you want to make your contribution to the vampire fiction genre, be sure to study the work of its true master, Anne Rice. 

R.L Stine

It would be a huge oversight to ignore the contributions of authors writing horror for a younger audience. After all, our schooldays are often the time of our lives we fall in love with horror fiction for life. For many of us, R.L Stine is the reason we love horror to this day. His prolific output and endless imagination mean many newcomers are still discovering the spooky brilliance of his Goosebumps books for the first time today. 

Ray Bradbury

Although Ray Bradbury is perhaps usually categorized as a writer of sci-fi or speculative fiction, there’s no denying his ability to conjure up a chilling tale. Something Wicked This Way Comes and the concept of the Dark Carnival lives on in the minds of horror lovers far after the final page has finished. If you want to learn how to generate terror and unease from the most mundane of regular situations, you could do a lot worse than looking at Bradbury. 

Clive Barker

Clive Barker is another true heavyweight of the horror world. While a lot of people will know him for the adaptions of his work, such as Candyman and Hellraiser, you’d be amiss to overlook the source material. Barker not only got respect and admiration from the top horror authors of the era, but he’s also a true creative powerhouse, also producing visual art that sends chills up the spine. Check out Barker’s books for inspiration on how to create immersive, conceptual works of horror. 

William Peter Blatty

Although William Petter Blatty’s books don’t always fall under the horror genre, the ones which do are so significant they can’t be overlooked. The Exorcist is, of course, the most prominent of these. The horror genre as a whole has been immeasurably influenced by The Exorcist. It’s hard to imagine the current crop of possession movies would ever have taken place without Blatty’s work. If you’re a fan of that style of supernatural horror, take the time to check out sequels such as Legion which are lesser known. 

Bram Stoker

We promised we’d pay tribute to the classics in this article, so you just know we had to give Bram Stoker his due recognition. Without Stoker’s Dracula, there would never have been Anne Rice or any of the more contemporary works of vampire fiction. Although Stoker wrote far more than just gothic and supernatural fiction, it’s impossible to write well in those genres without a solid appreciation of Dracula and other eerie tales like The Mystery of the Sea

Peter Straub

At the time of writing, Peter Straub recently passed away. However, there’s no doubt that his work will outlast him for generations to come. While many know Straub for his collaborations with Stephen King, his solo output is more than worthy of recognition. Straub’s strength was crafting works of chilling supernatural fiction, reflected by his large haul of Bram Stoker awards. Newcomers to Straub could check out one of his classic novels like Mr. X or start with a short story collection such as 5 Stories

Shirley Jackson

Shirley Jackson not only impacted the world of horror fiction during the time she was active but has continued to influence today’s authors as well as the media landscape in general through adaptations of her work. Her mystery fiction was just as well-received as her horror, and the influence of one on the other can be seen in the chilling atmosphere of surprise present in her work. Check out The Haunting of Hill House or We Have Always Lived in The Castle for classic fiction from Jackson. 

Jonathan Maberry

Fans of contemporary horror shows on Netflix might be familiar with V Wars, but perhaps less show with the man behind the source material, Jonathan Maberry. If you want to learn how to create rich series of books full of worldbuilding and detail, you could do a lot worse than checking out Maberry. He’s also capable of crafting superb standalone stories, such as Ghostwalkers

Mylo Carbia 

As promised, we want to celebrate contemporary powerhouses of the horror genre as well as their classic forefathers. When it comes to major names that might still be under the radar for a lot of readers, there are few better than Mylo Carbia. Carbia was originally a screenwriter and her fiction reflects that ability to create gripping storylines that loom vividly in the mind of the reader. Check out Violets are Red for a fantastic blurring of the horror and thriller genres. 

Ramsey Campbell 

You might have noticed by now that the UK tends to punch above its weight when producing incredible horror authors relative to its population size. For one of the best of recent years, check out Ramsey Campbell. Campbell is quite prolific, having produced well over 30 books. However, he’s somewhat lesser known due to only having a few adapted for the screen. Ancient Images is a great starting point for his work, or try The Wise Friend for something newer. 

Ania Ahlborn 

If you’re looking for proof that self-published horror authors can go toe to toe with traditionally published authors, look no further than Ania Ahlborn. Ahlborn self-published her earliest novels and became the bestselling horror author on Amazon in the process. She’s since been adapted for the screen and has gone on to achieve bestseller status countless times. Check out her career for a blueprint of how to achieve horror success as a self-published writer. 

Mary Shelley 

Although we’re coming to the end of our list of the best horror authors to inspire your work, we’d be amiss to finish without taking a look at Mary Shelley. Shelley will always be associated with Frankenstein, but her influence on what later became science fiction shouldn’t be overlooked. Although you probably wouldn’t write in the same style as Shelley these days, you’d be a fool not to look at her mastery of mood, character, and scary storytelling. 

Robert Bloch

Robert Bloch is a name that a lot of people may not be familiar with, even if they know some of his most famous works. The movie Psycho is inexorably tied in with Hitchcock, but it was Bloch who provided the source material that would later be adapted. Bloch was a master at crafting psychologically disturbing tales that lingered for a long time in the mind of the reader. Study his work for clues on how to craft your disturbing works of fiction. 

Are you ready to write your own horror?

Now that you have plenty of inspiration for crafting your own spooky story, it’s time to take action!

By all means, choose a few authors or books to read as research, but set yourself a deadline for getting started with the process of creating something for yourself. You might start with an outline or jump into working on a full first draft.

Whichever route you choose, we wish you every success in your horror genre. Who knows, maybe one day you’ll be the inspiration for the next generation of horror authors!

fiction writer's handbook