Announcing Maeve, a Debut Novel from CJ Leede

CJ Leede’s Maeve, a provocative blend of transgressive horror, upmarket thriller, and slasher romance, will be published by Nightfire in Summer 2023, with two more novels to follow!

Maeve Fly works as an amusement park princess by day, but by night, this young female serial killer stalks the Sunset Strip–until her nihilistic worldview gets shattered when she falls in love.

A new and bold voice in horror, CJ Leede brings together the deviant terror of Joe Hill’s Heart-Shaped Box and the page-turning tension of Oyinkan Braithwaite’s My Sister, the Serial Killer. With unflinching honesty and blood-soaked glee, Leede deftly explores our fear of loneliness and obsessive impulse to seek mirrors in other people. At the extreme end of that pursuit there is often suffering, disappointment, heartache… but for Maeve there is also desire in the darkness, liberation in the kink, and empowerment in the kill.


Here’s what CJ Leede has to say:

“I recently reread George Bataille’s Story of the Eye and a question formed in my mind: What if a woman wrote a version of this book that holds such a particular and loud place in literary history? Had a woman ever written such a thing? The 1928 novella is a debaucherous and violent tale filled with blood, excrement, and bicycles, following the pornographic exploits of a young teenage couple. It is equally surreal as it is philosophical; it is shocking and completely original. 

I had first come across the novella years before when someone handed me an old battered and dog-eared copy late one night at a party in Morningside Heights, saying, You want to read something crazy? It turned out that every writer I knew had read it, and yet nobody (to my knowledge) has ever tried to replicate it. As if this type of immoral and depraved pandemonium was only permitted in hindsight, destined to exist exclusively in literary lore.

It was not, at first, too serious a thought. But as I was reading Bataille’s novella in October 2020, I was simultaneously driving across America – from LA and back – during a pandemic to visit my sick mother in New York. The whole of the vitriolic pre-election nation I passed through was rearing angry and insistent in my thoughts. Additionally, before the pandemic, I lost my first loved one, and three more swiftly followed. My first intimate brush with death, and then the world exploded with it. Like so many, my mind was plagued with fear for our future. Everything felt more dire and fragile than ever before. And a new emotion I hadn’t experienced much in my life, if ever, emerged inside me too. I kept coming back to Story of the Eye, and I eventually came to understand that what I was feeling had a name. It was Rage. Irrational and feral rage. Juvenile, even. The same rage that anyone who has grieved knows intimately, the very same that most of us have felt at one point or other in the pandemic year.

In writing Maeve, my rage was transmuted into something pleasurable, celebratory, even, of the darkness in the world and inside us. Reminders, both, that we are here experiencing life. My hope is that the reader will find the same catharsis in Maeve that I found in the work of others before me. It is meant to be joyful in its camp and gratuitousness. The world will likely fill us with fear, so why not allow ourselves the means to indulge and escape into literature? Why not cloak ourselves in hedonism and blood-soaked princess gowns? 

It is, at least, what Maeve would do.”

And from Kelly Lonesome, senior editor at Nightfire:

“It’s undeniable that we’re thirsty for blood right now, and Maeve is here to prove that slashers never die. The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix and Stephen Graham Jones’ My Heart is a Chainsaw are both love letters to the genre. Not to mention the resurrection of R.L. Stine’s Fear Street series on Netflix, and this year’s installments of Halloween and Candyman

With Maeve, CJ asks, “Why should boys have all the fun?” and gleefully proceeds to shower our anti-heroine in the blood and viscera of her undeserving victims. I especially love how unflinching CJ is in her examination of our fear of loneliness, and how she empowered Maeve to explore and test her own developing boundaries – her sexuality, her moral code, her limits. It’s so exciting to see, and I can’t wait for readers to discover it for themselves!

Campy, wicked, and irreverent, the novel is full of nods and send-ups to the very horror canon it’s taking to task. So move over, Patrick Bateman – it’s Maeve Fly’s turn with the knife.”

Early praise for Maeve:

“An apocalyptic Anaheim Psycho, a guidebook to the dead spaces of Los Angeles, a Hollywood black mass, an occult ritual that cracks the earth, Maeve oozes enough anguish, alienation, and angst to drown the world.”

Grady Hendrix, New York Times bestselling author of The Final Girl Support Group

“If you’re looking for glamour and gore, there is that to be sure, but what makes Leede’s debut truly remarkable is her determination in digging beneath the sparkly exterior—whether it be Hollywood or human nature itself. Brutal and brilliant, this genre-rejecting debut is unlike any I’ve ever read.”

Jean Kyoung Frazier, Lambda Literary Award Finalist and author of Pizza Girl


CJ LEEDE is a horror writer, distance hiker, and Trekkie. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from Columbia University, and a BA from NYU’s Gallatin School, where she studied Mythology and the Middle Ages. When she is not driving around the country, she can be found in LA with her boyfriend and three rescue dogs. Alongside Maeve, CJ has two more horror novels coming from Nightfire.

Photo: Kyle Kouri


And a bonus: The “Music of Maeve Fly” is a definitive Halloween playlist compiled by CJ Leede that highlights Maeve’s favorite songs of the season, many of which appear in the novel. The essential soundtrack for your reading/dancing/deviant pleasure. Check it out here, or listen below. [Editor’s note: The Nightfire coven has had this playlist on repeat for weeks! We’re obsessed!]

Maeve will hit shelves in Summer 2023!



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