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Hill, Susan

On 5th February 1942, against the backdrop of a cold winter’s day and the ongoing World War II, Susan Hill was born in the seaside town of Scarborough, North Yorkshire. She attended Scarborough Convent Grammar School before moving to Coventry, where she completed her A Levels. From there Susan moved to London to attend King’s College London, a well-respected institution that has produced a number of distinguished names in literature – John Keats, Thomas Hardy and Virginia Woolf, to name but a few. Though she enjoyed the mix of culture that life in London offered, Hill felt, by her own admission, ‘like a fish out of water’ while at university and ‘shrank from much student life’. She graduated in 1963 with a degree in English.

Her literary career began in 1961 during her first year as a student, when Hutchinson & Co. published The Enclosure, a novel she had written when she was just 15. Two years later Hutchinson published her second novel, Do Me a Favour. Susan describes her first two published novels as ‘both very bad books’ but appreciates the virtue that ‘at least they put me on the ladder’. Since then, Susan has been a prolific writer, publishing dozens of novels, children’s books and short stories, as well as several non-fiction books. Thematically, she is mostly associated with the horror genre, with many of her novels featuring Gothic and supernatural elements. More recently Hill has primarily focused on crime novels, releasing many books based on the character of Detective Simon Serrailler.

Susan’s most famous novel is The Woman in Black, published in 1983, which tells the story of a spectral haunting of a small English town. The novel was adapted for the stage by Stephen Mallatratt in 1987 and was first performed in London’s famous theatre district, the West End, in 1989. The play proved to be a huge success and is still running today, making it the second longest-running non-musical play in the West End. The novel has also been adapted for radio, television and film – the most recent being the 2012 film adaptation starring Daniel Radcliffe as Arthur Kipps.

Though Hill’s other novels may not have achieved the runaway success of The Woman in Black, she is a respected writer who often receives high literary praise for her works. She has won numerous awards, including the Whitbread, the W Somerset Maugham Award and the John Llewellyn Prize, as well as receiving a nomination for the Booker Prize. Aside from writing, Susan is a regular reviewer of fiction for radio and print, and also has her own publishing company, Long Barn Books, which publishes a quarterly literary journal.

In 1975 Susan married another literary figure, Stanley Wells, the famous Shakespeare scholar. Together they have two adult daughters, one of whom, Jessica, is a novelist like her mother. Hill has lived in numerous small towns and cities throughout England, like those used as settings for her novels – Leamington Spa, Stratford-upon-Avon and Oxford, among others. In 2013 she moved to north Norfolk, where she continues to write.
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Hill was born on 5th February 1942 in Scarborough, North Yorkshire.


She attended Scarborough Convent School from the age of three until the age of 16.

Left Scarborough

Her family left Scarborough and moved to Coventry.

University education

Hill studied for a degree in English at King’s College London and also published her first novel, The Enclosure (1961), followed by Do Me A Favour (1963).

Critical reception of her first novel


I’m the King of the Castle published

The novel is a study of the complexities and cruelties of childhood. It was awarded the Somerset Maugham Award the following year.

Read a review of I'm the King of the Castle


The Bird of Night published

The novel recounts a 20-year friendship between Francis, a mentally ill poet, and Harvey, who cares for him. It received the Whitbread Novel Award in the same year.

Married Stanley Wells

Hill married the Shakespeare scholar Stanley Wells and moved to live in Stratford upon Avon.

Daughter, Jessica, born

Her first daughter, Jessica Ruston, was born.

Second daughter born

Hill’s second daughter, Clemency, was born.

Theatrical success

The Woman in Black was turned into a play and continues to run in the West End to the present day.

Television success

A television film of The Woman in Black was made.

Watch the trailer


Founded her own publishing company

Hill’s own publishing company, Long Barn Books, was founded.

The Mist in the Mirror published

This is a terrifying ghost story that uses many of the conventions of the Gothic genre.

Mrs De Winter published

This is a sequel to Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca.

Began the Serrailler series

Hill published the first book featuring the detective Simon Serrailler. Entitled The Various Haunts of Men, it was the first of 10 novels in the series so far (2019).

See all the Serrailler titles


Film success

A film of The Woman in Black was made, starring Daniel Radcliffe, Janet McTeer and Ciarán Hinds.

Watch the official UK trailer


Hill was awarded a CBE

She was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for services to literature.

Serrailler series continues

The ninth book in the Serrailler series, The Comforts of Home was published, with the tenth published the following year.

See all the Serrailler titles