Elle Marr graduated from UC San Diego before moving to France where she earned a Master’s Degree from the Sorbonne. Her debut thriller, The Missing Sister, set in Paris, became an Amazon Charts Best Seller, was named one of PopSugar’s Highly Anticipated Thrillers for 2020 and was featured in Woman’s World magazine. Called a "chilling read" and a "gritty debut" by the critics, Marr is clearly off and running on a successful writing career.

Stay Thirsty Magazine was pleased to visit with Elle Marr at her home in Oregon for these Five Questions to learn more about her writing and her life.

STAY THIRSTY: Your debut novel, The Missing Sister, spins a story of twists and turns with Paris as the backdrop. What made you fall in love with Paris and the French culture?

ELLE MARR: It was the language, at first. I’ve always been intrigued by languages and other cultures, but when I began learning French in middle school it felt like a whole world cracked open before me. The history, the food, and the sound of French itself were all so exciting in ways that I had never encountered before as a teenager. Then when I moved to France and first visited Paris, I fell deep in love with the city’s many bakeries and its picturesque skyline. As I walked along the same streets that were once frequented by storied philosophers and ex-pat American authors, I knew I was hooked.

STAY THIRSTY: How many years did it take you from first conceiving the storyline of The Missing Sister to publication? Were you always clear on the arc of the story or did it evolve as you wrote the novel?

ELLE MARR: From writing the first sentence to seeing my book available for purchase, it took five years. I began writing the novel without knowing where it would end, so it took me a lot longer than my second novel. In fact, I could probably write a whole sequel to The Missing Sister with content that didn’t make it into the final draft. Although the story did evolve as I was writing, the themes of grief, sisterhood and sibling relationships, and the question of otherness were present in each iteration.

Elle Marr

STAY THIRSTY: What is there in your personal background that informed you about writing a breakneck-paced thriller? And, are you a twin?

ELLE MARR: While there are no M.F.A.s on my resume, I am a reader at heart. As a kid, I consumed a ton of mystery and suspense, a habit that I think informed the way I write thrillers. I try to create stories that I’d want to read, with themes that resonate with me and which, I hope, land for other people, too. And, though I am not a twin, twins do run on both sides of my family. The Missing Sister tries to highlight that close bond between sisters, and siblings in general.

STAY THIRSTY: What did you learn about writing from The Missing Sister and how has it affected you as a writer going forward?

ELLE MARR: The value of plotting! I wrote the very first draft of The Missing Sister entirely as it came to me, with only the question What would make me turn the page? to serve as a guide. The result was a disjointed—but fun—read, that caused a big headache when I was ready to cull back the sub-plots. Moving forward, when I begin a new story, I always have an outline in hand. However, whether or not the outline stays in its original form is debatable. No matter what I intend for my characters, they always have a way of surprising me mid-draft.

STAY THIRSTY: In your personal life, how did you go from studying at the Sorbonne to living outside of Portland, Oregon? What is the one thing you miss most about Paris?

ELLE MARR: Everything—or nearly! I never actually lived in Paris city limits, however. Instead, I spent my time in France about a half-hour away in the suburbs. But I went to the city every chance I got, to see the most well-known tourist attractions and also to explore the lesser known neighborhoods and monuments. My favorite thing, and probably what I miss most, is walking around the city and randomly looking up. Chances were I would spy some bronze plaque explaining the significance of that exact corner, the battle that occurred there three hundred years ago or the Renaissance artist that was born at that location. I was getting my Master's at the Sorbonne when I decided, after three years abroad, I was ready to return home to the United States. After a stopover in L.A. for two years, I was ready for another change and set my sights on Portland. The time I spent in France absolutely gave me the inspiration and the headspace to cultivate a skill for writing.


All opinions expressed are solely those of its author and do not reflect the opinions of Stay Thirsty Media, Inc.