By Tracy Hoagland
It’s official, autumn is here. Some people can’t wait to get lost in a corn maze. Others want to soak in the last rays of October sun before the long—and wet—winter to come. But if you’re like me, Halloween is what you’re really looking forward to.
Recently I got a chance to chat with a group of local writers at a Willamette Writers mystery and horror author meet and greet at Jan’s in Beaverton. I picked their brains on what makes a great villain, what they’re looking forward to this fall, and what they’re reading now. Here are my top spooky tropes along with some book recommendations to get you in the Halloween spirit!
Haunted Houses, Abandoned Asylums, Bizarre Bookstores
A creepy setting can make or break a story, and the Pacific Northwest has plenty of moody locations.
Fall is the perfect time to take a drive up to Timberline Lodge and bask in the views. Best of all, it’s where Steven King’s The Shining was filmed, so be sure to keep on the lookout for ghosts.
Or maybe you’re in the mood for wine? Head south to take advantage of Willamette Valley wine country with a copy of Gallows Hill by Darcy Coates.
But if you’re like me, nothing is better than curling up at home with my cat on my lap, and Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward is the perfect heart-pounding read for a rainy October day.
Zombies, Witches, Vampires, Oh my!
It wouldn’t be Halloween without some good old fashioned monsters!
The Fervor by Alma Katsu was the most recommended book after my chat with some local authors. Inspired by Japanese folklore, it takes on the horror (real and supernatural) of WWII Japanese internment camps.
Maybe you’re on the lookout for something lighter this fall? Not the Witch You Wed is the first in April Asher’s Supernatural Singles series and hits all the right tropes.
For more monster love—and costume inspiration—look for Eternally Yours, a short story collection edited by Patrice Caldwell.
Or are humans the real monsters?
From stories that explore what it means to be human to old fashioned murder-mysteries, often the mysterious neighbor is scarier than any Halloween monster.
For another short story collection, there’s Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women. This unique anthology centered on Southeast Asian women uses horror to explore themes of otherness and being a perpetual outsider.
Another collection of short stories that digs into ‘otherness’ is Other Terrors: An Inclusive Anthology. Reconsider what it means to be ‘normal’ with these short stories by horror writers from underrepresented backgrounds.
Want a trick or trope this Halloween that is a little closer to home? Emmeline Duncan’s cozy mystery Fresh Brewed Murder, is set in Portland and hits the spot with just the right amount of rain and coffee to set the mood for fall. Best thing? It’s the first in Duncan’s Ground Rules Mystery series so you’ll never run out of coffee or murder.
One Last Trick or Trope this Halloween
Or how about my favorite trope? You think you’re safe. You think you’ve defeated the masked madmen. But everyone knows it’s not that easy. If you’re looking for one more scare, check out the local writers I chatted with for even more scary stories to keep you up at night!
Frances Lu-Pai Ippolito is a writer, judge, mother and lover of dumplings. She’s also a chapter chair for Young Willamette Writers. When she’s not spending time with her family outdoors in the Pacific Northwest, she’s crafting short stories in horror, sci-fi, fantasy, or whatever genre-bending she can get away with. You can find her short story “Hei Xian (The Black Thread)” in Chromophobia: A Strangehouse Anthology by Women in Horror.
Roni Stinger is a speculative and dark fiction writer. Find her short story “Camp Salvation: Khil or be Killed” in Bloodless: An Anthology of Blood Free Horror this month.
Eric Shanower is an award-winning and New York Times bestselling cartoonist, author, and illustrator. Check out his latest work Age of Bronze, the–historically accurate–story of the Trojan War.
David Maxine is the founder of Hungry Tiger Press, a publisher specializing in Oz and L. Frank Baum. He’s currently working on a nonfiction book about the 1903 Broadway production of The Wizard of Oz.
Jessie Kwak is a scifi and supernatural thriller author as well as a ghostwriter. Check out her novel From Earth and Bone, set in Seattle about a resurrection gone awry (my favorite kind of resurrection).
Pick up a Trick or Trope this Halloween
Lastly, stop by Jan’s in Beaverton and Lori Carroll will help you find all these recommendations! The bookstore and local artisan shop has events every Saturday.
I hope you find your own Trick or Trope this Halloween!