Cutthroat Queens podcast is a monthly podcast working to shine a spotlight on indie horror. Hosts Brett Mitchell Kent, Chelsea Pumpkins, and Elton Skelter engage in honest and relaxed conversation about the indie publishing market with some of the most talented voices in the indie horror space, both established and up and coming. As authors, editors, and artists themselves, they hope to introduce readers to quality indie horror books and help provide useful insight to authors, editors, and designers to get their books out into the world.
Whether published through a large independent publisher, a small press run by a dedicated team, or self-published through the sole efforts of the author, there is a place for all horror books on our shelves. Self-publishing comes with its own challenges, one being promotion and reach. Tapping into the incredible indie horror community, the Cutthroat Queens have compiled a list of self-published horror you may not have heard of but must check out.
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These Self-Published Horror Novels are Must-Reads
Before there was The Backrooms, there was The Downstairs of Aaron A. Reed’s Subcutanean. Staying true to its theme of parallel worlds, this is a permutation novel with unique “seeds” for each copy purchased. The seeds pull together dozens of prewritten options to create the same book with subtle and not-so-subtle differences, meaning that everyone receives a wholly different experience.
This LGBTQ horror follows two best friends into the basement of their off-campus housing and their discovery of a never-ending labyrinth of hallways, rooms, and pathways with danger lurking around every corner. Saturated with mystery, this book unveils like a finely planned puzzle.
“But something's wrong: the basement doesn't end. Blandly decorated halls stretch on for miles past peeling wallpaper, empty bedrooms, and countless stairwells always leading down. Soon they realize Downstairs is a snarled tangle of possibilities. Something down there multiplies everything: architecture, emotions, even people.”
The Wild Dark
Being able to reconnect with your deceased loved ones sounds like a dream. When their return brings along a world-ending apocalypse, it isn’t quite the picturesque reunion you may have imagined. Former police officer Liz Raleigh is in disbelief when the ghost of her partner shows up one night, along with millions of others visiting from beyond the grave. Very soon after their return, a terrifying forest begins to take over the world, and beasts of the afterworld inhabiting it are starving for souls. Katherine Silva has created a hauntingly real portrayal of love and loss set in a vividly realized apocalyptic world in The Wild Dark. Grim and primal, this is a must-read.
“Ghosts. Soul-eating wolves. World-consuming woods. A friendship that defies death.”
It Waits on the Top Floor
When a 60-foot skyscraper appears in the middle of a residential neighborhood literally overnight, it’s a pretty clear sign that something is about to go down. Or, in the case of the characters in this cosmic horror novel, go up. All the way to the top floor. We tag along with a little boy searching the mysterious building for treasure and his father frantically looking for him. Filled with innovative architecture and shadowy monsters, the building draws them further and further up just as intensely as the book draws you in. The first in a series with a sequel that hits just as hard.
“Thursday night, it was a dirt lot. Friday morning, it was a 60-story skyscraper.”
Risen: A Horror Thriller Novella
In a market where zombie stories lurk around every corner, a unique take on the popular genre is like finding a needle in a graveyard. Presenting: Risen! After an ER nurse finds herself dead, then less dead, then no longer dead but also no longer in control of her body, she must fight to regain control. Bringing together a strong and easily-rooted-for lead and voodoo magic, Tonia Ransom’s intelligent writing and attention to detail make this thrilling undead novella stand out for all the best reasons.
“Alexandra Toussaint is an ER doctor and staunch atheist, but when she's murdered, she finds that not only is death not the end, but the undead exist too.”
It’s not great for a new logging business to have workers come up missing in the woods. It’s even worse for business when you finally find them...in pieces. Pete eagerly accepts a job with Levins Lumber Company upon release from prison, sticking it out despite feeling like an unwanted outsider and the strange happenings in the woods and with the trees. Told in multiple timelines and from several perspectives, Breanna Leslie constructs an Appalachian folk tale that reads just like a story your granny might’ve told you.
“…It was almost too good to be true when he received that letter from Henry Levin just before his sentence was up, but as this town—and its woods—reveals their secrets, Pete wonders if receiving that letter was truly too good to be true after all...because life in the stix isn’t for the faint of heart.”
The Rules of the Road
We’ve all heard the myth about holding your breath when you drive past a cemetery or picking up your feet when you travel over railroad tracks, but have we considered the consequences for ignoring the rituals? C.B. Jones puts us in the passenger seat on a thrill ride through these very consequences. A mosaic novel that slowly pieces together the tale of a journalist following the path of a mysterious radio host whose “Rules of the Road” are leaving a trail of dead in their wake. This book doesn’t let up for a single second, and you won’t forget to hold your breath or lift your feet again after reading.
“So settle down and buckle up. Stay alert for the signs to survive. Do not adjust that dial. Prepare to be a lucky—or unlucky—listener to "The Rules of The Road." What will the static settle on for you?”
Ask for Andrea
When the victims of a serial killer come together to make sure he never kills again, what follows is a thrill ride the likes you’ve never experienced. Told from the perspective of three victims of the same killer after their murders, Ask for Andrea is a nail-biter from the first page to the last. Noelle W. Ihli is cementing herself as a talented voice in the thriller/horror genre. This is one read that will stick with you.
“Meghan, Brecia, and Skye might be dead, but they’re not gone. They’ve found each other. And they won’t rest until they find a way to stop him. The haunt is on.”
The Last Weekend
Some of us live to work and others work to live. For the ten colleagues in Jim Ody’s newest novel, they are just hoping to live at all. When they gather for a team-building exercise at a commune in the countryside, it seems idyllic until the whispers start of children snatched from their beds at night and a killer witch prowling the area. A cult novel in the tone of Midsommar, this atmospheric and ominous tale will draw you in and keep you guessing from the first page to the last.
“What starts out as a great break away from corporate bedlam, soon has them admitting that being a Financial Analyst isn’t as boring as they first thought, in fact, they’re dying to get back to it! Everyone lives for the weekend. Unless, of course, it’s their last…”
Being the last of your kind is rough, especially when the rest of the world wants your kind eradicated completely. Unfortunately for necromantic Deadbringer Kira, this is where his tale begins. Following both Kira and the Sanctifiers hunting him, the first of E.M. Markoff’s amazing series, The Deadbringers is a horror/dark fantasy steeped in Mexican lore and rich world-building. With flawed characters, multiple races, and a richly realized history, you’ll want to read the sequel immediately upon finishing.
“The Deadbringer…is a story of damaged heroes and imperfect villains, of a land scarred by ancient wounds that never truly healed. As Kira and the Sanctifiers approach their final confrontation, hunter and hunted alike must confront dark forces that threaten to overwhelm them all…”
The Cursed Among Us
You aren’t supposed to steal from the dead, particularly if you find that dead person buried ritualistically in the woods. A coming-of-age story in the vein of The Goonies and Stand By Me, The Cursed Among Us is equally heartfelt and terrifying. Mixing the classic 80s/90s storytelling with black magic, serial killers, curses, and puberty, John Durgin takes us on an unexpected exploration of friendship and dread. The perfect read if you like your fear with a spoonful of heartache.
“It has been twenty years since the serial killer known as The Black Heart Killer terrorized the town of Newport in 1979. All the townspeople have to do is stay out of the woods where the bodies were abandoned—their chests ripped open, and their hearts torn out...”
Ruth Anna Evans needed few words to make a big splash with this novella. Marilee is traveling on a cargo container packed with other refugees…and they’ve just run out of air. A gripping tale that proves that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side and sometimes the suffering of the many is the only reason for the prosperity of the few. Pick this book up and follow Marilee through and intense rollercoaster of almost-highs and dreadful lows. But be warned, you won’t be able to put it down once you begin.
“This quick-hit coming-of-age tale follows Marilee as she bravely navigates a series of terrifying events that just won't let up. With a stunning twist and a surprising ending, Cargo shows a dystopian future that is ‘terrifyingly possible.’”
Coming Out of the Coffin
Coming out is never easy, particularly if you are an undead vampire with “old-fashioned” parents hundreds of years old. In D.A. Holmes's campy comedic horror, Vladimir struggles to balance his own identity with the expectations of family and tradition while being hunted by slayers and tokenized by occultists. A heartfelt romp with tender, humorous, and gritty moments by a new voice on the scene.
“In the shadows of a double life, Vladimir Radu attempts to hold on to his many secrets. A vampire working the night shift as a store clerk, hiding away from the unrelenting sunlight and his insatiable bloodthirst, he also grapples with his own personal demons of sexuality and insecurity.”