Growing up, Michael J. Seidlinger—author of one of the scariest new horror books—was a self-described wimpy kid; afraid of Jurassic Park and Mortal Kombat.
But at some point, he decided he had to lean into his fears. “I was like, OK, I need to go towards this response. It formed my predilection to horror and anything remotely transgressive.”
Today, the Brookyn-based writer is the author of one of the best-reviewed new horror books, Anybody Home?. The book is about a serial home-invader who recounts his dark victories while also offering his experiences as a guide to new generations of home invaders.
The book has been enthusiastically reviewed so far, with reviewers calling it, “bone chilling,” “harrowing” and The Library Journal even offering that the book is “the most intense psychological horror you have ever read.”
Seidlinger said he wrote the book because home invasions are one of the few tropes that still scare him as an adult (after mastering his fear of dinosaurs).
“I really think it’s because it can actually happen to anyone,” he said. “And it’s happening in a space that’s as close to your own skin, your own body, as you can get. When you find a house that feels that comfortable too, and when someone comes and breaks into it and intentionally tries to muddy it, that’s frightening. That’s as scary as it gets for me.”
The spark for the book came from the author’s—initially uncomfortable—experience watching the 2007 thriller Funny Games, which is about a pair of psychopathic home invaders.
“I couldn’t finish it the first time,” Seidlinger said, but later he decided again to face the discomfort, and rewatched the film to work out what was making him recoil. “I still get shivers when I see the last shot,” he said.
Seidlinger started getting into reading and writing as an undergraduate, after reading the book House of Leaves, by Mark Z. Danielewski. He admits that, prior to that, he’d been the type to watch the movie, instead of reading the book, and would use Cliff Notes to help him furnish his literature assignments at school.
However, Seidlinger became a voracious reader after discovering House of Leaves and started reading more and more, often attracted to work from indie publishing houses.
The reading eventually led to writing, and Seidlinger found himself paving a path as a full-time freelance journalist and author.
For most of his adult life, Seidlinger has lived up and down the East Coast. He moved to New York in around 2016.
For most of his time in New York, he lived in Brooklyn’s Bed-Stuy, but he’s now based in Prospect Park South. He said a recent stint in Portland only made him realize that New York City is home.
Anybody Home? is the writer and journalist’s 14th book, and only his second book that has been marketed as a horror.
Despite only being released for review recently, the books’ reputation has spread by word of mouth, with authors even writing to Seidlinger to offer their personal praise.
For Seidlinger, the praise so far for Anybody Home? has been incredibly surprising. “I’m still trying to make sense of it,” he said.
“The book has started to pop, already we’ve had 3,000 copies sold, it’s moving and people are responding to it, it’s crazy.”
The book has had so much initial success that Seidlinger was invited to do an appearance and book signing at the iconic New York City bookstore The Strand. The bookstore was organized with a timed run-sheet for the event, 90 books ready to be signed, and the event was held in a room lined with rare books.
For the writer who grew up in Florida dreaming of being a frontman in a hardcore band, it was pretty close to the feeling of being a successful musician. “It was everything I dreamed of.”