Authors Like Stephen King
If you're a fan of Stephen King, these horror authors should be on your radar.
January 11, 2021
Across a career that spans nearly 50 years, best-selling author Stephen King has published a staggering amount of work, from gripping crime thrillers to epic fantasy series, winning prestigious awards. Yet King’s varied writing is united by common themes, styles, characters, and settings. King fans will recognize a book by him for elements ranging from child characters to atmospheric settings, from eerie psychological horror to New England locations.
Undeniably, King’s influence is evident in many of the horror genre’s leading and emerging authors. This article spotlights 11 authors like Stephen King who build on King’s work to create equally sinister and pause-resistant tales, melding their own unique point of view with King’s trademark qualities.
South African novelist Lauren Beukes writes high-concept literary horror novels that deal with major themes like time, violence, and ambition. Like Stephen King, Beukes also frequently incorporates a mystery element into her writing, as in Broken Monsters, which features a detective who gets pulled into the case of a frightful killer who thrives on city streets.
Why King fans will love their work: Beukes’s work is thoroughly atmospheric and uses elements of both alternate history and psychological horror.
Why King fans will love their work: Cantero wields child characters, atmospheric small-town settings, and supernatural creatures to craft unforgettable tales.
Must listen: Add a nostalgic story with a campy spirit to your feed with Cantero’s Meddling Kids, about kid detectives turned dysfunctional adults who must join forces to defeat an evil foe from their past once and for all, which recalls King's It.
Accomplished novelist Tananarive Due blends elements of Afrofuturism, horror, and the supernatural in her stories, especially her four-part African Immortals series, which kicks off with My Soul to Keep. Similar to Stephen King, Due writes of the past affecting the present in otherworldly ways, as with her novel Joplin’s Ghost about a young woman who seems to be a channel for Ragtime-age musician Scott Joplin.
Why King fans will love their work: Due’s writing features family stories, atmospheric settings, elements of psychological horror, and supernatural creatures.
Must listen: Like King, Due pens frightful tales of evil that families can’t seem to shake, a theme Due engages in The Good House with its echoes of The Shining. Narrator Robin Miles wrests each and every twist and turn in this gripping listen.
Mira Grant, the pen name of author Seanan McGuire, follows King’s lead and experiments with a range of horror tropes as a genre-bending novelist. Over the course of her career, Grant has written horror novels about King-like creatures like hungry zombies, murderous mermaids, and killer parasites.
Why King fans will love their work: Grant nails the atmospheric tone with the chills of psychological horror and a cast of terrifying supernatural creatures.
A list of writers like Stephen King would be incomplete without the horror master’s son, Joe Hill, who draws on his father’s influence while distinguishing himself as a leading horror author in his own right. Already a prolific writer, Hill has tackled everything from short stories to novella collections to full-length novels after his breakout hit, Heart-Shaped Box, which won the Bram Stoker Award for Best First Novel.
Why King fans will love their work: Like his father, Hill’s work is packed with atmospheric storytelling, small-town settings (New England included!), psychological horror, and a multitude of supernatural creatures.
Must listen: Hill’s writing features characters who are relatable, average people who get caught into confrontations with a wicked antagonist, as in Hill's NOS4A2, a blood-curdling listen that builds minute-by-minute with staggering suspense.
Blackfeet Native American author Stephen Graham Jones draws several comparisons to King, including a prolific output of more than 20 books. Like King, Jones conjures stories that pursue big themes intricately connected to America’s spirit and soul. Jones’s fiction confronts the country’s complicated past with stories that engage with Native history, tradition, and culture. Similar to King, Jones has dabbled in stories about supernatural creatures like werewolves in Mongrels and zombies in Zombie Bake-Off.
Why King fans will love their work: Jones uses small-town settings, the shiver-inducing thrills of psychological horror, and spooky supernatural creatures to craft stories that you won’t want to listen to with the lights off.
Must listen: King fans who love his stories about the past catching up with the present will want to listen to The Only Good Indians. This novel about a group of friends stalked by a sinister force is enhanced by Shaun Taylor-Corbett's performance that captures every breathtaking moment of dread.
Fans who embrace Stephen King's experiments with different genres will find much to love about Caitlín R. Kiernan’s writing. Kiernan’s work represents a wide range of formats and subgenres, including dark fantasy, weird fiction, and cosmic horror. Across short stories, comics, novels, and more, Kiernan explores King-like worlds where humanity confronts the darkest evil.
Why King fans will love their work: Atmospheric setting? Check. Psychological horrors? Check. Supernatural creatures? Check. Kiernan’s work has it all.
Must listen: Listeners who want Kiernan’s most King-influenced work should begin with the Bram Stoker Award-winning The Drowning Girl whose unreliable narrator bends reality — perfectly captured in Suzy Jackson's suspenseful performance.
With 11/22/63, Stephen King imagined an alternate history where the assassination of John F. Kennedy could have possibly been thwarted with a little help from time travel. Similarly, author Alma Katsu pens bold fiction that twists major historical events with a taste of terror. In The Deep, for instance, Katsu imagines that the Titanic could have been haunted by a supernatural force.
Why King fans will love their work: Katsu’s storytelling is atmospheric, with elements of alternate history, psychological horror, and the supernatural woven throughout.
Must listen: King readers won’t be able to pause a listen like Katsu’s The Hunger, which supposes that the doomed Donner Party of westward-bound settlers was cursed and plagued by doom into starvation and the horrors of cannibalism.
Victor LaValle’s work shares many traits with Stephen King's. Like King, LaValle builds worlds so intricate they feel fully alive and real, such as in The Changeling. And like King, LaValle isn’t afraid to break new ground and challenge the horror genre’s problematic past, such as in The Ballad of Black Tom.
Why King fans will love their work: LaValle’s writing expertly balances the atmospheric with psychological horror and supernatural creatures.
Must listen: King fans should listen to The Devil in Silver, narrated by LaValle himself, a diabolical novel of psychological horror set in a mental institution where the devil himself walks the halls, tormenting patients—until they decide to fight back.
Author Jennifer McMahon infuses her horror novels with the palpable dread of Stephen King. McMahon also sets many of her novels, like The Night Sister and Burntown, in the small New England towns that King fans will recognize. While King favors Maine, McMahon’s books often find a home in Vermont settings. McMahon’s novels are often concerned with ghosts and hauntings that she brings vividly to life in stories that inspire up-all-night marathon listening sessions.
Why King fans will love their work: McMahon knows how to mix family tales with atmospheric small-town settings in New England to create the perfect scary story.
Must listen: Start with McMahon’s The Winter People for a spine-tingling tale. Dually narrated, this slow-build audio experience brings its characters—alive and dead—to life.
In just a little more than a decade, Paul Tremblay has fast become one of the leading authors in the horror genre. Through short story collections like Growing Things and full-length novels, such as The Cabin at the End of the World, Tremblay has racked up awards and honors.
Why King fans will love their work: Tremblay has many similarities to Stephen King. Most notably, he often includes child characters, and his books also often take place in New England settings.
Must listen: Narrator Joy Osmanski reads Tremblay's Bram Stoker Award-winning A Head Full of Ghosts with a quiet intimacy that perfectly captures the heroine's ambiguity and childlike wonder.
A freelance librarian, Sarah S. Davis, MLIS, writes about books on Book Riot, Electric Literature, PsychCentral, and others. She has published the bestselling quote collections Brave Brain and A Reader’s Library of Book Quotes. Currently, she is an MFA candidate at VCFA.