Exclusive: Author Christina Henry dishes on chilling new book The House That Horror Built

New York, New York - Bestselling author Christina Henry delves into the world of horror movies in her latest novel, The House That Horror Built, and she spoke exclusively with TAG24 about her new chilling tale.

Christina Henry's The House That Horror Built hits bookstores on May 14.
Christina Henry's The House That Horror Built hits bookstores on May 14.  © Courtesy of Yazmine Hassan

Henry, known for her acclaimed works Alice and Good Girls Don't Die, drew inspiration from real-life film directors for The House That Horror Built, which arrives on May 14.

"There are all these really well-known directors like John Landis and Peter Jackson and Guillermo del Toro that collect," she told TAG24.

"They're sort of well-known for their collections of movie memorabilia, and I just started thinking about a guy who was isolated in his house, who had collected all of these objects."

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The House That Horror Built embodies this idea in fictional director Javier Castillo, who has retreated to his foreboding, secluded mansion in the aftermath of a family tragedy.

The novel follows Harry, a single mom and film buff who takes a job as a cleaner in the mansion. As she spends more time at the house, the director's many horror movie props aren't the only thing sending a chill down her spine, and a series of suspicious events soon leads Harry to question what she knows about Javier.

With a teenage son depending on her and few other job prospects, Harry isn't able to walk away without putting her family at risk – an element that gives the story an extra bite of terror.

"Can't she just up and leave this haunted house, which is what a normal person would do, right? No, she really can't because there's not a lot of options for her; having her in that situation, I think, creates an extra layer of friction for the character."

The horror genre acts as almost a character in and of itself in the novel, and Harry's early experience of being ostracized by her family for her love of such movies sets the stage for a contemplation on why the genre evokes such strong reactions.

Christina Henry reveals the inspirations behind The House That Horror Built

Author Christina Henry drew inspiration from older horror films and classic gothic novels like Daphne Du Maurier's Rebecca.
Author Christina Henry drew inspiration from older horror films and classic gothic novels like Daphne Du Maurier's Rebecca.  © Courtesy of Yazmine Hassan

"Horror has always held up a mirror to society, and anything that holds up a mirror makes people uncomfortable," Henry said. "And once it makes people uncomfortable, there's going to be a moral panic about it."

When writing The House That Horror Built, Henry was particularly inspired by older flicks from filmmakers like Val Lewton and Vincent Price.

"It's more about atmospherics and about setting a mood and less about jump scares or things popping out," she said. "The type of film that I was really thinking about was something that was more where the dread sort of settles on you, rather than like being in an active state of terror throughout."

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Along with the world of horror movies, Henry also pulled inspiration from the gothic classic Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier, which is famously set in another eerie, sprawling mansion. While the novel is nearly a century old, similar gothics are experiencing a bit of a renaissance now, Henry says, largely due to an influx of female writers.

"A lot of women like myself were raised on gothics," she explained. "We read gothics when we were teenagers. This was a very formative genre for us."

Gothics also reflect what Henry loves most about horror, proving that it's more than "just a genre where bodies pop up," as she likes to say.

"There's so much territory; there's so many ways to do horror," Henry said. "You can do horror comedically. You can do horror very seriously. You can kind of do things in between. You can have just atmospherics, or you can be super gory."

A love letter to all that horror has been and can be, The House That Horror Built continues to expand the genre's eclectic legacy in a tale perfect for bookworms and cinephiles alike.

For more on this month's buzziest releases, check out TAG24's interviews with authors Emiko Jean and Jessie Rosen.

Cover photo: Collage: Courtesy of Yazmine Hassan

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