Anyone who knows me knows that I am all about horror. Whether it be books, movies, or podcasts, I'm always looking for great new horror stories.  

When I came across Sadie Hartmann's Instagram account, I loved her posts. I’ve been following her work ever since. Recently, she posted a Reel all about NoveList Plus, and the NoveList team knew we wanted to chat with her.  

Sadie Hartmann is a two-time Bram Stoker Award-nominated editor (Dark Matter Presents Human Monsters: A Horror Anthology) and author (101 Horror Books to Read Before You're Murdered). With over 40,000 followers, she's an established presence in Instagram's Bookstagram, where you'll find her beautifully designed posts and wide-ranging horror recommendations. Along with Ashley Sawyers, she owns and runs Night Worms, a curated monthly horror subscription box.  

I first became familiar with you through Instagram. Would you mind sharing a bit about how you got into the worlds of Bookstagram and horror?   

About eight years ago, I discovered that there were people who had dedicated Bookstagram accounts on Instagram and were just posting what they were reading, their libraries, and all these books.  

When I first stumbled upon it, almost everyone that I was following was advocating for YA (young adult) books. I love YA too, but I just didn't see a lot of people reading the same books that I was reading. I just fell in line and checked out books at the library, all these YA books that people were reading. I started sneaking in some of the horror books I was reading like, "Does anybody read Stephen King?"  

My first ever Bookstagram post that I hash-tagged was about Joe Hill's NOS4A2. I said, "This book is scary. Has anybody else read this book?" And then I started drawing that crowd to me, and I started following them. And that's how my relationship with horror online began.  

I met Ashley, who is my business partner at Night Worms through Bookstagram. Cemetery Dance contacted me, and Scream [Magazine] contacted me to start writing reviews for them. It just snowballed from there. 

Readers and library workers seem to either love or hate the horror genre. I know you're on the "love" side. What is it that you love about horror? 

I would say that I'm a very timid person who has a lot of phobias, fears, and anxieties. I'm afraid of heights, I'm afraid of spiders. I'm afraid of sharks.  I really like to preserve my body and my life. I don't jump out of airplanes. I'm not super adventurous. So, horror is the way that I get to live adventurously. Horror takes me outside of my comfort zone and exposes me to all sorts of horrific things that people are doing and experiencing, safely.   

It even appeals to the cozy side of me. People think, "Oh, horror people, are they running around dressed like vampires and all punk rock and listening to heavy metal?" Some do! I'm very cozy and into pink things and soft blankets and drinking tea. I've been really into Gothic Horror lately. So, all winter, I've been curled up on the couch reading about women becoming nannies in some spooky house.   

For those who aren't familiar with your book, 101 Horror Books to Read Before You're Murdered, how would you describe it?  

101 Horror Books to Read Before You're Murdered is a list of horror books that I read, loved, and think would be a great place to dive into the current modern-day conversation of horror. I didn't include a lot of things that people already know about, like Dracula, Stephen King, and very well-known horror books. I wanted to dive into what's happening right now and in the past 20 years that horror has been evolving, stepping up, and making this current scene. 

I appreciated that you made an intentional effort to highlight indie titles and books that are different than the big names we always see.  

The access that we have to the internet -- it's just beyond. If you Google "the top 100 horror books you should read," that's going to bring up everything from Dracula by Bram Stoker to The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. You have access to that at your fingertips. So, I didn't want to make a book that was just going to be a regurgitation of a list you can find online. 

I wanted it to be a love letter to my discovery of a lot of these books. Because growing up, I was only exposed to popular stuff, like Anne Rice and Peter Straub. But when I got on Bookstagram, that community started exposing me to a lot of indie fiction. So, there are a lot of books that you just wouldn't find at Barnes and Noble. And NoveList Plus helped a lot.  

When I picked up my copy of 101 Horror Books to Read Before You're Murdered, I was so excited to see NoveList Plus get a shout-out. How did you discover NoveList Plus and what role did it play in the writing of your book? 

I use it every day. I'm obsessed with NoveList Plus. Becky Spratford is a horror librarian advocate, and she has also been a mentor. I love her.  She turned me on to it. She said, “You really ought to use your library card, sign in to NoveList Plus, and just check out everything available to you in terms of resources or finding other books.” 

It's pretty intuitive once you get the hang of it. I am a person who adores a rabbit hole, and NoveList Plus is this rabbit hole of clicks. You sign in through your library, and it will pull up the front page and there's a bunch of librarian recommendations. 

Then you can go up to the little search bar, you can put in a book that you are researching, learning about, or want to have more books like. So, I'll put in The Pallbearers Club by Paul Tremblay, and it will pull up a description, the date, the tone, the writing style, all the different subcategories, all the tropes. And everything is clickable! So, if you decide that you want more horror set in Maine, and you want it to be paranormal, you can click on all those things and go.  

I was so inspired to make the book this way because it's also the way that I recommend, so it was in tandem. People will say, "What should I read?" Well, that's so generic, you need to boil it down to what you specifically really enjoy like, do you like small-town horror? Do you like Halloween? I can drill it down using NoveList Plus and the database in my brain. 

Recently you posted a long video on Reels talking in detail about NoveList Plus and what a valuable resource it was for you. What inspired you to spend that time and effort?  

I am a 47-year-old who uses TikTok, and there are a lot of new readers on TikTok, who are discovering things for the first time. I thought it would be important to make a video about NoveList Plus. I didn't know what I wanted to say, or the direction I wanted. But a librarian here in Seattle asked me if I would make a video that they use for a class that they were teaching. It's 10 minutes and super casual.  

I made that and then I just decided, I have this 10-minute footage to use, I might as well just pop it on a [Instagram] Reel. And so many young readers commented, "I had no idea about NoveList Plus and I don't even have a library card." It came from wanting to help new readers understand what the library has to offer, and also my personal experience with NoveList Plus. 

What is your favorite thing about using NoveList Plus? 

It is an invaluable resource. I have librarians that I'm a fan of because of their recommendations. Librarians will do those recs and you can hover over the book, and they put notes as to why they recommended it. It opened the door to so many new authors that I had never heard of before and then became an instant fan. For instance, after I read The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell, I read every single one of the librarian recommendations on the sidebar. One of them was An Unthinkable Thing by Nicole Lundrigan, who is a British author. I've never heard of her. I read the book and it completely blew my mind. Now I am a total fan of this author and will read everything this author puts out. 

A few days ago, I finished an Alexis Henderson book, House of Hunger. I looked it up on NoveList Plus and then there were all these recommendations. I've been going through all of those.  

I found Gilda Stories by Jewelle Gomez. I've been reading it all morning. I'm completely obsessed with it. Now, I'm going to recommend it to everyone. You never know when you’ll find your next favorite book or your next favorite author, and then you can snowball from there on NoveList Plus. 

Not only do you find these books in the list recommending similar titles, but it tells you at the bottom if it's available at your library, and you can get it with one click. It's the coolest thing ever.  A lot of times, it's a book that's not even available yet. It will say if it's forthcoming, and you can request it. If you're requesting a brand-new book, you might be first in line, which is almost impossible. At my library, for brand new titles, the waitlist is super aggressive. I somehow got The Berry Pickers

Are there any books or authors (horror or otherwise) that you've been loving recently?  

  • The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell is scary.  I don't care who you are. There are just parts of that book where I just wanted to have the light on. 

  • Dark Matter by Michelle Paver is great. It’s Arctic horror. These four men go out to the Arctic to do geological studies. They’ve been warned it’s haunted, but they had to find out for themselves, and they do. It’s perfect for wintertime. 

  • This Wretched Valley by Jenny Kiefer is good. It’s also a geographical location that is a little bit off-putting. The characters ignored the red flags; they probably shouldn't have gone. There were a lot of warnings, but of course, to our delight, they went and had a horrible time. 

  • House of Hunger is cool because Alexis Henderson has a new book coming out this year. 

  • Also, I read The Weight of Blood, which was a retelling of Stephen King's Carrie.  It surprised me. This is one of those books where adults might see that it's a YA book and pass on it. I'm telling you what, Tiffany D. Jackson added to Stephen King's baseline story and elevated it for a relevant modern audience. It was so good. That one makes your blood boil. You read stories where people are being bullied and having a hard time, and you just want to jump into the pages and rescue them.

  • Jackal by Erin E. Adams. She has a book coming out this year, too.  

Jump in now with all these authors because there's new stuff out! You can find your representation you can find and see yourself in any book that you want to in horror. There [are] so many queer authors and people of color. There's horror coming out from every voice, and it's an awesome time. 

I saw that you've got a second book coming out. Would you mind telling us a little bit about what we can look forward to?   

We're still working on the title, but hopefully, it's going to come out in the fall of 2025. It is focused on women in horror. I'm gathering books that are all told by women, and I'm curating it like we were talking about, in little reading lists. It's going to be an explosion of recommendations. 

NoveList Plus allows your library to stand out by helping readers find books that perfectly match their reading preferences and moods.  

Yaika Sabat is the Manager of Reader Services at NoveList. She's currently reading Black Sheep by Rachel Harrison.