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WOMEN IN HORROR MONTH 2024: AN INTERVIEW WITH CHRIS MARRS

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What inspired you to start writing?
The magic of getting lost in a story. For a moment in time, whether two hours in a movie or days in a book, you are immersed in another life, experiencing their triumphs and losses, joy and sadness, courage and fear. As a kid, I wanted to live in stories forever, but I didn’t want them to end so I began to create stories of my own.

What was it about the horror genre that drew you to it?
Fun fact about me, horror wasn’t my first chosen genre, it was escapist fantasy. I watched and rewatched The Last Unicorn, Labyrinth, The Dark Crystal, and The Golden Child. My favorite book at the time was Howl’s Moving Castle, I think I read it dozens of times, with Dragon’s Blood a close second. At eleven I wrote a novel, or what I thought was a novel because at eleven I didn’t know ten thousand words wasn’t even close, about a disfigured farm girl, who was a chosen one, and her fairy companion Peaches. Very Labyrinth/Golden Child-esque. But then one magical day, my dad brought home a Stephen King novel. (I’m Gen-X so that might be no surprise to anyone familiar with the funny Gen-X/Stephen King meme) I was twelve. And I fell in love with being scared vicariously. Why? Because for a little girl whose school days were fear-filled, it was a way to experience and process fearful situations in a safe environment, to control the fear instead of it controlling me. Also, horror novels and stories to me contained hope. No matter how bad things got for our protagonists, there was always the hope they would defeat the big nasty thing. Even if they died at the end like Carrie, who, incidentally, still ended up defeating her monsters, there was still the note of hope that things would be better for the next set of characters or for the world in general from their sacrifice.

Do you make a conscious effort to include female characters and themes in your writing and if so, what do you want to portray?
I didn’t when I was in my twenties practicing my craft since writing from the male perspective is what I thought I was supposed to do in a male-dominated field. But somewhere in my thirties I realized I was telling the same stories over and over and wasn’t saying what I really wanted to say.

What has writing horror taught you about the world and yourself?
The monsters in my head are never as scary as the ones in real life.

How have you seen the horror genre change over the years? And how do you think it will continue to evolve?
I have seen the genre become more inclusive and diverse over the years and I really hope it continues to grow in this direction. I have read a plethora of excellent stories by authors I might never have heard of had the genre not evolved. Many of whose names are now automatic purchases for me.

How do you feel women have been represented thus far in the genre and what hopes do you have for representation in the genre going forward?
I started seriously writing horror for publication a little over ten years ago. In 2012, Angel McCoy, E.S Magill, and I edited an anthology to honor women in horror called Deep Cuts. Anyone could submit, man or woman, the only stipulation was you had to include a short essay on a woman horror writer, you recommend and/or admire. During the submission window, we received 300 stories along with their essays. Many of the essays contained the same names suggested over and over. In the end, we chose 19 (nine from women and ten from men) and an additional forty-one short essays. Under one hundred different women were recommended, doesn’t seem like a whole lot, does it? But today I look at the WIH lists, like the one Roxie Voorhees has put together on Facebook, and there are hundreds of names. While we have come a long way, we still have a way to go.

Who are some of your favorite female characters in horror?
I’m horrible at picking just a few favorites, it gives me decision paralysis. So, if I had to give just one, it would be Carrie White as mentioned above.

Who are some women who write horror you recommend our audience check out?
One writer I haven’t seen mentioned on WIH lists is Sarah Pratt. Her writing style ranges from literary to humorous to blood-soaked. I’d suggest her short story collection, Suicide Stitch (published under Sarah Johnson). Others I recommend are Rena Mason, Erin Kemper, Premee Mohamed, Lucy Snyder, Hailey Piper, Eugen Bacon, R.J. Joseph, and Sarah Read.

What is one piece of advice you would give horror authors today?
Read widely—not only horror—hone your craft, learn the business side, and never give up. Okay, that’s more than one piece…

And to the women who write horror out there who are just getting started, what advice would you give them?
Write from your heart but never pull your punches. What I mean by that is write the type of horror—splatter-punk, extreme, quiet/cozy, gothic, etc.—your heart tells you the story calls for and stay true to that story. Try not to let the doubting voices in your head convince you it’s too much or not enough or that you are too much or not enough.


Chris Marrs lives with her partner, Craig DiLouie, in Calgary, Alberta where it’s a lot colder and drier than the West Coast she’s used to. She’s published novellas and has had short stories appear in various anthologies, most notably the Bram Stoker award-winning The Library of the Dead (edited by Michael Bailey 2015) and the Bram Stoker award-nominated A Darke Fantastique (edited by Jason Brock 2014). More recently, her story, “To you I Offer Myself”, appeared in Solstice in Purgatory (Seventh Terrace Press 2023) and “Pieces of Prue”, in Terrace V: Penitent’s Gold (Seventh Terrace Press 2022).

She’s an active member of the Horror Writers Association. You can find her lurking on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/chris.marrs.14 or Instagram as @hauntedmarrs.

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