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Women In Horror Month 2024 : An Interview with Kate Maruyama


What inspired you to start writing?

I was telling stories, and acting out plays with friends before I could write. Then when I could write, my mom started paying me $2 a page to egg me on. I haven’t been paid so well since! Once I got to about four pages, she stopped paying. I never stopped writing.


What was it about the horror genre that drew you to it?

I guess I always had a dark sensibility—I’d say the first horror I consumed was L. Frank Baum’s Oz Books (grislier than you remember) and The Blue, Red, and Green Fairy Books. I thought I was writing a love story with my first novel. Turns out it was horror. And how lucky I was it turned out that way! It’s brought me many dear friends. Horror writers are awesome. I have never met a group of more loving, inclusive, supportive, kinder people. I guess we get the bad stuff out of our work. Being weird has its advantages.


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 write all characters, but I am always trying to get inside women characters in a complex way that blows out the walls of archetypes. The old woman who is complex and funny and real (and swears! All the older women I admire swear), the ingenue aged woman who is brilliant, unpredictable, problem solving, and forward moving, the mother whose entire existence is not mothering, but is a whole person who happens to have kids, the little girl who is smart and weird and does not give a crap about boys.


What has writing horror taught you about the world and yourself?

We all have darkness in us, and if we can get inside it and open up our fears and where they come from, it can help people manage their very real lives.


How have you seen the horror genre change over the years? And how do you think it will continue to evolve?

Horror has, since its inception, been reflecting our fears of the world around us, so it is changing much as our world does. I hope to see a shift in narratives from the rugged individualist slaying demons to communities of people working together against evil; creating some hope and change. I think that narrative is necessary at this juncture in this country and in the world.


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 am tired of archetypes, particularly around older women and mothers. It reduces some really fabulous humans to two dimensions. I am tired of the archetype of the spooky Alzheimer’s oldster (that’s of any gender). It would be nice if the world of books could contain as diverse an array of personalities, wants, needs, and interests as I have in the femme-identifying friends in my life. Most women in middle age are brilliant, loyal, complex problem-solving badasses and I’m surprised they aren’t at the forefront of zombie/vampire/werewolf/ghoul fighting teams. They will save your ass in real life, so there’s no reason to believe they wouldn’t do it in the supernatural.


Who are some of your favorite female characters in horror?

Lauren Olamina, Kathy Bates, Mrs. Danvers, Dana Franklin, Eve from Little Eve, Noemi Taboada from Mexican Gothic, the Narrator of Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke, Alex Stern of Ninth House, Cat in Nothing But Blackened Teeth.


Who are some women who write horror you recommend our audience check out?

I highly recommend reading Nicole D. Sconiers, Lisa Morton, Geneve Flynn, L. Marie Wood, Kate Jonez, J. Lincoln Fenn, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Isabel Can͂a, Cassandra Khaw (they identify as nonbinary), and overall follow the Seers Table on the HWA site monthly where we profile and include excerpts from writers you haven’t heard of yet!


What is one piece of advice you would give horror authors today?

You know that thing you’ve been avoiding writing about you because it’s too scary or weird? That is precisely the thing that will make you make a splash in the horror world. Stop trying to be the writers you admire and step into your own voice.


And to the women who write horror out there who are just getting started, what advice would you give them?

Never let anyone dictate the kind of writer you want to be—you will find people everywhere trying to calm down your voice or take away its edge. You will find people tell you things you as a femme-identifying writer are meant to write about or people who tell you what a mother is allowed to write. Keep writing like you. Befriend the women around you, they are not your competition, they are your compatriots. Give them support and you will find your own good work more supported than you can imagine.


Kate Maruyama is the author of Harrowgate (47North), Family Solstice (Omnium Gatherum, named the Best Fiction Book of 2021 by Rue Morgue Magazine,) Halloween Beyond: A Gentleman’s Suit (Crystal Lake,) and Bleak Houses (Raw Dog Screaming Press, 2023). Her brand new horror novel The Collective drops from Writ Large Press this April. Her short work has appeared in numerous journals including Asimov’s and Analogue Science Fiction and Fact and anthologies including Halloween Carnival Three, Winter Horror Days, and December Tales I & II.  She is a member of the SFWA and the HWA where she serves on the Diverse Works Inclusion Committee. She has served as a juror for the Bram Stoker Awards and twice for the Shirley Jackson Awards. She writes, teaches, cooks, and eats in Los Angeles where she lives.


Photo by Rachael Warecki

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