Horror Writers Association Blog

Interview with Horror University instructor Kate Maruyama


Here’s the third installment in our series of interviews with StokerCon 2017’s Horror University instructors. Thank you, Kate Maruyama!

Kate Maruyama: Tension & Scene: The Basics of a Uniquely Terrifying Screenplay

Crash course in two hours: How to up the ante for your screenplay to get it noticed. The gatekeepers of Hollywood, the ones who decide if your script meets the eyes of a producer or executive or an actor, all read thousands of scripts for a living. And they are tired and they have seen it all. This two hour class will focus on the elements of scene, character, and tension and those ever important First Ten Pages. Using examples and in class exercises, you will come up with something new, different and engaging that will get your screenplay noticed.

After 20 years in the film industry working for William Morris, Peters Entertainment, Sylvester Stallone’s White Eagle Productions, Village Roadshow and Demarest Entertainment, Kate Maruyama turned to fiction. Her novel Harrowgate was published by 47North and her short work has been published in numerous journals and anthologies. She teaches for Antioch University Los Angeles’s MFA and BA Programs, for inspiration2publication.com and for Writing Workshops Los Angeles.

What skills or achievements make you ideally suited to lead this workshop?

I worked for years in development in Hollywood, read thousands of scripts and heard numerous pitches from the production company level up to studio meetings. Knowing what makes executives’ eyes roll is as useful as what gets production company and studio readers excited enough to buy your screenplay. When I stepped into screenwriting, I was well armed with some tools that exist outside the usual writing classes and I want to pass some of those tools on.

Why do you feel that your workshop subject is especially important?

I have read so many screenplays that were good, but took a while to get into. I know the gatekeepers in film have very little patience for reading a script all the way through, so those early pages are crucial for setting up mood, tension and characters. If you can pull them in early, you’ll have enough room to get the rest across.

If you could participate in one other Horror University workshop, which one would you choose and why?

I love stepping outside my comfort zone, so definitely Linda Addison’s class: SCARY FORMS: The World of Structured Poetry for All Writers. I find that I learn a great deal writing in forms I feel a bit wobbly in.

Do you approach the craft of writing horror differently from other genres?

I write both genre and non-genre and all of my stories start with the characters. I get to know them, put them in hot water and see where they lead me. Whether it skews toward horror or toward non-genre is usually up to those characters and where they take me. When I wrote HARROWGATE, it began as a love story. Things just got creepy.

Apart from teaching your workshop, what are you most looking forward to at StokerCon?

I’m looking forward to seeing old friends and to my conversation with Tananarive Due. We always have a lot to talk about.

What do you most hope that those attending your workshop take away from it?

I hope they’ll go away re-energized about their own screenplays and will have concrete starting points to execute a script that’ll suck its readers in from its early pages.

StokerCon 2017 will take place April 27th to April 30th aboard the historic Queen Mary in Long Beach, California. To get your tickets, please click here.

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