From self-publishing her first horror e-book seven years ago to publishing seventeen titles in America during the same year, Darcy Coates is a steadily growing and fan inspiring name for the horror genre.
After self-publishing her first e-book, Once Returned, (a novella about a woman who’s husband returns from being lost in the forest, though he no longer seems himself) Coates went on to self-publish twenty two other titles through Amazon Kindle’s Direct Publishing. That alone is an impressive show of determination and work-ethic, but her success became uncanny in 2015 when her books started to fly off the virtual shelves. When Coates added The Haunting of Gillespie House to her list of self-published novels, “people started to read it,” she says. “And each book I released after that sold more.”
Not only did her book sales pick up steam as though propelled by strange magic, but her fanbase did as well. As her works are anything but ordinary horror, but rather an amalgamation of genre-blending paranormal, gothic, psychological, and sci-fi elements, Coates’ novels have caught on fast and hard as “atmospheric horror.” This means that the locations in which her novels are set, old aging towns and mysterious mansions, have just as much sway over the fright instilled in the reader as the events of the story themselves.
“The building or house can grow into a personality of its own,” she says. “A looming presence that watches—or perhaps adds to—the protagonist’s struggles.” This is not unlike other famous horror novels that have paved the way of the genre with their attention, not only to the stories twist and turns but to a sentient building. A presence just as potent as a living being, and even more disturbing as such.
This is seen in The Overlook Hotel in Stephen King’s The Shining, or Hill House in Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hillhouse (which interesting enough was an inspiration for Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot, another trauma stained house on a hill). Coates continues the tradition of these prolific writers in her novels, building the concept of a home having been so bogged down by negativity, loss, pain and malevolency that its very walls carry on the tangible and terrifying memories for all who enter it. Her protagonists are generally in their twenties as well, which may also have a hand in developing a keen readership.
“There’s a bit of magic in writing early-20s characters,” she says. “It’s a point of change in life. You’re trying to plan for your future, live on your own for the first time, and establish the friendships you’ll have as an adult. It’s full of awkwardness and self-doubt and fear, and what better time to put that person in an impossible situation, such as a house with a sinister history, or to tell them that their best friend has gone missing while hiking in a remote forest?”
Apparently, at a Barnes and Noble in New Jersey, enough Coates fans were requesting copies of her bone-chilling books to justify an employee reaching out to her about carrying physical copies in their store. And as an author always working hard at progressing in her craft, Coates sent paperback copies from an print-on-demand company that she’d recently begun working with in Australia. From then on, her horror novels were selling like hot cakes in the United States.
This relatively rapid slide into literary success, and not for want of hard work, turned the eye of Sourcebooks, an independent book publisher, and their subsidiary, Poisoned Pen Press. Poisoned Pen Press is dedicated to mystery fiction and, recognizing the rising star in horror, they quickly acquired the paperback rights to twenty five of Coates’ novels in 2019. In just 2020 alone, they have published seventeen of her horror novels!
“I’ve always preferred books that build dread and leave me warily watching the darkest corners of my room,” she says. “When I write, any gore is a byproduct of the story, not the reason for it. I’ve always wanted to capture the feeling you have when you’re outdoors at night and someone starts to tell eerie campfire stories. A special kind of dread rises up, the kind that’s both addictive and consuming.”
With a dedicated readership, ravenous for more books like Craven Manor, Hunted, The Haunting of Ashburn House, and the Black Winter series, Coates has become a USA Today best-selling author. And now, you have the chance to win her novels for your own, as well as other bookish prizes, when you join the free Creeping it Real contest! Enter here today!
feature image via darcycoates.com