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Title: The May Queen Murders
Author: Sarah Jude
Release Date: May 3, 2016
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Formats: Hardcover, eBook
Stay on the roads. Don’t enter the woods. Never go out at night.
Those are the rules in Rowan’s Glen, a remote farming community in the Missouri Ozarks where Ivy Templeton’s family has lived for centuries. It’s an old-fashioned way of life, full of superstition and traditions, and sixteen-year-old Ivy loves it. The other kids at school may think the Glen kids are weird, but Ivy doesn’t care—she has her cousin Heather as her best friend. The two girls share everything with each other—or so Ivy thinks. When Heather goes missing after a May Day celebration, Ivy discovers that both her best friend and her beloved hometown are as full of secrets as the woods that surround them.
I had the wonderful pleasure of interviewing Sarah Jude in anticipation of her upcoming debut novel, The May Queen Murders! I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I did!
What was your initial inspiration for The May Queen Murders?
The story came from several places. I wanted to set a book in the Ozarks near where I live because I love the old folklore, and in figuring out what people might still subscribe to those superstitions. I met Ivy and Heather who brought with them a lot of memories of friendships I had (and still have) while growing up. I’ve known my best friend Dorothy for close to thirty years, and we had many times where she was Ivy and I was Heather or vice versa. Some years ago, her cousin—who I’d known as long as I’d known Dorothy—was murdered, and there’s a big part of MQM that is still me trying to cope with what happened. It’s very much a book about remembrance in that regard.
I love the fact that your book is titled The May Queen Murders and is actually being published in May…is there a May Day celebration where you’re from? If not, how did you come up with that idea?
Oh, no, there’s no May Queen here. At least not in the very springtime maiden, Led Zeppelin way that’s in the book. Many early Ozarks families came out of Appalachia, where immigrants from the British Isles put down their roots. The May Day type of spring festival is more common in the UK, and there have been unfounded stories of dark rituals taking place during the celebration. I saw the original film of “The Wicker Man” years ago, which depicts a rather dark interpretation of a May Day festival, and it must’ve been an influence as my editor noted it as part of her pitch to her team when she acquired it.
What is your favorite quote from the book?
“In nature, ivy and heather never grew together. They couldn’t because ivy liked shades, whereas heather required sun. They did better apart because, side by side, one withered.”
If The May Queen Murders was going to become a movie, who would you want as your main characters?
Oh, that’s tricky because I don’t really keep up with current actors and actresses. I’ll notice if someone has striking features or gives enchanting performances, but I don’t go out of my way to watch anybody’s films except maybe Helena Bonham-Carter. Maybe if you dye Landon Liboiron’s hair black and throw some thick glasses on him, he could pass for Rook. For both Ivy and Heather, I’d go back in time and snatch a young Hope Sandoval from the band Mazzy Star (she’s Mexican-American like Ivy and seems to be a shy person) and a young Melissa Auf der Maur, who played with Courtney Love. Melissa is this free-spirited redhead, and it just seems like the bands she’s been in couldn’t contain her energy. I’m showing my age here, aren’t I…
If you could date one character in your book, who would it be and why?
Well, I’m married to Dr. Timothy. No, Husband isn’t a vet, but he’s a patient and caring person, but I would hate to see what he’d do if his family were at risk. I couldn’t date Heather. She’s far too flighty, and given that I am the flighty person in my relationship, I need to be with someone who is grounded, so I’m more apt to be with Ivy or Rook.
When did you realize that you wanted to be a writer?
I had a horrendous head injury when I was six, and I spent a summer in the dark with toy figurines to keep me company. I made up epic stories about them, and it wasn’t long before I wrote them down. As I became a teen, I wrote my first YA novel and was hooked. I had a few detours along the way, but the stories were always there.
Are you currently working on anything that we readers should know about?
I’m working on a few projects. Writing is catharsis for me, so there are always intensely personal elements in what I write. I’m not ready to give details, but I can say that there’s murder. And nice people in the Midwest doing very bad things.
What particular things have you done that have improved your writing?
Honestly, what has helped me grow the most as a writer is working with my critique partners. Having other eyes on my work has made me more aware of what I need to work on. I always hope to challenge myself. Tackling the stories that scare me pushes my writing to a different level.
What do you like to read in your free time?
I’m a literary omnivore. Books on folklore, horticulture, and homeopathic remedies. A LOT of Gothics. I also read a huge amount of YA because I truly like the category and find the voices who are willing to take the greatest risks are the ones who write for teens.
What are five random facts that most people don’t know about you?
I’m truly ambidextrous.
Despite that there are attacks on animals in THE MAY QUEEN MURDERS, I’m an animal rights activist, which made those scenes very hard to write. My dogs come from rescues, and I work with horses at a stable that does equine therapy for the disabled.
I’ve had a skull fracture and four concussions, suffered hairline fractures in my neck, torn every ligament in my left ankle, and broke my right ankle while picking up after my dog while I was pregnant. My friend John claims I’m not a walking bad luck charm but definitely a weird luck charm. I am the human Murphy’s Law.
I’m only 4’10” and make good use of tongs to grab items off high shelves.
Believe it or not, in spite of writing murder mysteries, I’m a Sunday school teacher.
Meet The Author
Sarah Jude lives by the woods and has an owl that lands on her chimney every night. She grew up believing you had to hold your breath whenever you passed a graveyard or a bridge spanning water. Now she writes about cemeteries, murder, and ghostly apparitions. She resides in Missouri with her husband, three children, and three dogs.
3 winners will receive a finished copy of The May Queen Murders