Like most readers with a book-specific Instagram account, I find myself drawn to individuals whose reading tastes align with my own. One such person who has captivated my attention for years is Sadie Hartmann, affectionately known as "Mother Horror." Her photos consistently pop with creativity, and she remains attuned to the pulse of the horror industry.
With a passion for horror literature, she has made a significant impact on the industry through her various endeavors, including her social media presence, her horror fiction subscription service, Night Worms, and her new book 101 Horror Books to Read Before You're Murdered. She is a true pioneer in the horror community, and I consider myself fortunate to call her a friend.
I recently had a chance to chat with Sadie, and she shared insights into her personal life, her journey in the industry, and her unwavering dedication to promoting horror.
Sadie Hartmann is more than just a horror enthusiast. She is a Northern California native who relocated to the Pacific Northwest over five years ago. With three grown-up children and over 25 years of marriage under her belt, Sadie embraces the changes that come with different stages of life. While she admits to being a self-proclaimed anxious traveler, she finds grounding and security with her husband, who will accompany her on her upcoming book tour and other events. Sadie describes herself as a goofball, saying, "what people see online is an accurate representation of who I am in real life, except I'm more of a goofball than you'd expect."
Sadie's success in the horror industry was not achieved overnight. She emphasizes the hard work and dedication she has put into building her extraordinary horror brand. Starting with an account on Instagram, Sadie influenced others to read and buy books through her unique and spot-on recommendations. She explains, "what started out as a dedicated bookish account on Instagram grew into more as the industry began to take notice of what we were all doing on social media."
Her dedication and influence led to a number of opportunities, including professional reviewing, launching Night Worms with her best friend Ashley Saywers, editing their first anthology, Human Monsters, starting her own publishing imprint under Dark Matter Magazine, and writing her first book 101 Horror Books to Read Before You're Murdered. Sadie reflects on her journey, saying, "I get up every day at 4 AM and get to work promoting horror on multiple social media platforms and revenue-streaming websites like Substack and Patreon. I love it. I don't want to be doing anything else."
While Sadie excels in both fiction and nonfiction writing, she expresses her love and ease with nonfiction. “Nonfiction. A thousand times. Writing fiction is so hard. I’ve written a few short stories and I was anxious the whole time about how much it pulled me away from reading. I only want to spend that kind of time reading books. Writing 101 Horror Books to Read Before You’re Murdered was a big job, don’t get me wrong, but it felt easier than writing fiction because I could just say things in my own voice. I write about books all the time, every day, so it felt natural to do this project. But to imagine worlds, stories, and realistic characters, I just don’t know how horror authors manage it, and they are so good at what they do. They are wizards.”
101 Horror Books to Read Before You're Murdered was a collaboration between Sadie, the people at Page Street Books, and her editor, Alexandra Murphy. After following Sadie's work on social media, Alexandra approached her with the idea for the book. Sadie shares the journey behind its creation, saying, "From there, the team at Page Street communicated their vision for the book, and I was able to share my own thoughts. For most of 2022, I worked on the book starting with research, development, and compiling the list before I even wrote a single word. I loved the whole process...we all wanted the book to be fun, organized, accessible, interactive, and informational."
When holding the advanced reading copy of her book, Sadie describes the experience as surreal, saying, "When I finally got to hold an advanced reading copy of my book, it just didn't feel real. It's still so mind-blowing."
One significant moment in her journey creating this book was when Josh Malerman, a long-time friend and acclaimed horror author, agreed to write the introduction for her book. “I called him up, he was at the grocery store, and I asked him. We both laughed at how cool of a moment it was. It’s like this giant request but at the same time, it was such a no-brainer thing…like of course he would do this. It was a fun conversation and he went above and beyond with it. I can’t even read it without getting super emotional.”
An account that Mother Horror fans obsess over, and rightly so, is when Stephen King, the renowned master of horror himself, started following her on Twitter. While Sadie humbly states that she didn't employ any particular strategy to garner his attention, she describes the surreal experience of receiving a follow notification from the literary icon. "I was visiting my parents in 2021... I jumped up and snapped a photo of their bookshelves. I got back on the bed and tweeted something about stalking my parents' shelves... Then this happened. I got to freak out with my parents. It was a very special day."
Sadie's impact on the horror community extends beyond her own endeavors. As a co-founder of Night Worms, a horror book subscription service, she has created a platform for readers to discover and explore indie horror. Sadie emphasizes the importance of indie horror, recognizing the multitude of talented storytellers who often go unnoticed by the traditional market. She states, "There are so many talented storytellers out there the book industry can't possibly keep up... I love following other readers who are reading widely and diversely so I can pick up on their recommendations and try new authors for myself."
Through Night Worms, Sadie and her partner curate packages that bring joy and excitement to horror enthusiasts, introducing them to hidden gems in the genre.
While Sadie keeps her future plans under wraps, she hints at exciting developments on the horizon. Her active presence on social media platforms like Instagram and Goodreads keeps readers updated on her projects. Additionally, her engagement with like-minded individuals on Patreon and Substack offers exclusive insights into her work and the world of horror. Sadie shares, "I have a lot of fun ideas but not really ready to share them yet. If you tell your secrets and hidden wishes and dreams too soon, they don’t have time to come true.”
Sadie Hartmann's passion for horror fiction has driven her remarkable journey in the industry. With her influential presence on social media, her role in Night Worms, and her book 101 Horror Books to Read Before You're Murdered, Sadie continues to inspire and connect with fellow horror enthusiasts. Through her dedication and love for the genre, she has left an indelible mark on the horror community, promoting indie horror and fostering a sense of discovery among readers.
As Sadie embarks on new endeavors, readers eagerly await what she has in store for the future of horror literature. “I have a really smart friend that said to me once, 'Horror is where you find it.' I love that and I use it all the time now. Basically, horror is in the eye of the beholder.”