Celebrating Debutantes 2016: The May Queen Murders by Sarah Jude (Author Interview + Giveaway)

Celebrating Debutantes 2016

If you are a follower of this blog, you know how much I love good mystery reads and stories with whoduntin themes. I enjoy formulating guesses or making calculated assumptions while reading. That’s why I’m super thrilled to have author Sarah Jude here on the blog today as part of Celebrating Debutantes 2016 event to feature her upcoming YA murder-mystery novel, The May Queen Murders. The title alone excite me and when I read the synopsis from goodreads, I know right away that I have to read the book. So when Sarah agreed to join our event I’m so excited to have her on board. I had so much fun asking Sarah few questions during the interview which I hope will push you to add the book to your TBR pile.

To know more about this upcoming release and Sarah Jude, check the author’s bio and book’s description that follows after the interview, as well as links where to find Sarah and where to pre-order copies of The May Queen Murders.

And don’t forget to check the fabulouse giveaway at the bottom of this feature for a chance to win a signed hardcover copy of the book and swags pack. Also, watch out for my review near the publication date.

Interview with Sarah Jude

Not every author grew up considering themselves as a writer. When and how did you discover your inner muse? Did you know what sort of stories you wanted to tell or did you just sort of feel your way? How did the inspiration for May Queen Murders come?

I was quite young, in elementary school, and even before I could read or write, I had pretty epic stories to go along with my toys. I got very sick during the summer when I was sick and spent several months in the dark because I couldn’t tolerate light. All I had then was the stories in my head. When I was thirteen, I wrote my first novel. It was terrible YA, but it also sealed for me that I wanted to be a YA author.

The inspiration for THE MAY QUEEN MURDERS is certainly rooted in the close female friendships I had as a teenager as well as coping with grief when I was quite young. Plus, the area of Missouri where I live is rich with story possibilities. It all kind of merged together as this Franken-story back in 2012, and after a few false starts, Ivy’s story revealed itself rather quickly.

Suppose you met someone in the elevator and had only 30 seconds to describe your novel, May Queen Murders. What would you say?

Two girls find love and loss in a cross of “The Wicker Man” and “Winter’s Bone.”

May Queen Murders is an intricate novel with all its mysteries and secrets. How much of a challenge was it to write the book? How did you figure out all the details for the plot or when to insert the big reveals (yes, plural, I’ve heard lots of things happened in the story)?

It was a pretty intense process. Piecing together together the mystery of the May Queen’s murder twenty-five years before the present day had to come first and then figure out what effect that history played in Ivy’s view of her commune and the situations she invests herself in. There is a lot going on, but I don’t think it’s overly complicated. Everything is connected because I personally believe that events in our family history certainly have their bearing on how we experience life even a generation or two later. As far as when to reveal the various secrets, I had them all at certain intervals, and my editor came in and guided me in the pacing. It’s a slow burn of the book that ramps up higher and higher as it moves toward the end.

You’ve mixed variety of things in May Queen Murders; gothic atmosphere, mental illness, trauma, sexuality, religion and others. Is that intentional or a byproduct of the writing process? How did you managed to include all those without making them overwhelming?

It’s never intentional, but because these things are important to me, they automatically tend to be themes in my writing. Many people experience all of these things and they create a whole person. It’s an internal layer that you live with daily, and at times, some aspects are more present than others but they’re all there. It’s just a matter of what is in the forefront. It seems natural to create characters who have a rich internal life as well. Granted, the Gothic atmosphere is just how I write, but even that stems from my childhood with my late mother who loved the Gothic and murder mysteries.

How was living by the woods in Missouri affected your writing? How true are you to the settings of your book?

Well, I can definitely say that it’s played its part. There are some very remote areas not all that far from where I live. There are woods as part of a nature conservation area in my backyard, but it doesn’t take very long before you’re driving along the foothills in the Ozarks and wondering what on earth is really going on in these tiny farming communities surrounded by woods. You pass through these quaint towns with antiques and wineries, then the trailer parks, and then…there’s nothing but farmland or woods. I go on writing retreats at a turn-of-the-20th-Century farm with some of my local friends, and I got horrendously lost while driving Zac Brewer and Heather Reid. It was foggy and the road literally disappeared as a song with banjos came on my radio. Initially, it was kind of funny, but then the more we tried to find our way out, the more lost we became until our phones went dead . . . We made it but it was a really unnerving experience. Missouri is a much prettier state than a lot of people imagine, but it’s not without its problems–drug trafficking and meth and poverty are huge issues both in the rural and urban areas. It’s challenging and unique, I think, to this part of the Midwest.

Which authors, mystery or otherwise, have inspired you?

Undoubtedly, I am inspired by my critique partners. Hillary Monahan (MARY: THE SUMMONING) has taught me a lot about the economy of words whereas Heather Reid (PRETTY DARK NOTHING) teaches me about world building and Cole Gibsen (LIFE UNAWARE) shows me how to give stories heart. Other YA authors whose work I will ALWAYS reach for include April Tucholke, Cat Winters, Kate Karyus Quinn, and Dawn Kurtagich. Outside of the YA world, I read a lot of Shirley Jackson, Daphne du Maurier, and Neil Gaiman.

Where do you see your writing going after the release of May Queen Murders? Do you think you’ll stick writing murder mystery or branch out into something else?

It’s a hard question. I will always write books that have an element of grief in them, whether from a murder or other events, because it’s been a huge part of my life. I lost both of my parents at a young age and have lost too many friends to tragic circumstances. Also, a person doesn’t have to die for you to grieve them. Each story peels back another layer in coping with those losses. My head naturally goes to the dark and mysterious, so I can pretty much guarantee that anything I write will have that undertone of something nefarious going on behind closed doors.

Thank you so much Sarah for stopping by today and for taking the time to answer all my questions above. Looking forward to the released of The May Queen Murders.


Sarah Jude AuthorSarah 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 when passing a graveyard. Now she writes about cemeteries, murder, and folklore. She resides in Missouri with her husband, three children, and two dogs. When she’s not writing, she can be found volunteering at a stable for disabled riders.

Find Sarah

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest | Goodreads


The May Queen MurdersBook Details:

Title: The May Queen Murders
Author: Sarah Jude
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Reader
Publication Date: May 3, 2016
Pages: 304
Format: 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.

Book Links:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | IndieBound | Goodreads



What’s up for Grab?

  • swag pack (bookmarks, pins, a handmade floral crown, & an ivy leaf necklace) and
  • signed hardback of THE MAY QUEEN MURDERS once it is published in May


May Queen Murders giveaway prizes

The Rules:

  • Open to US addresses only
  • There will be one (1) winner
  • Winner will be chosen and announced by rafflecopter
  • Winner will be contacted thru email & should response within 48 hours
  • Ends April 18, 2016
  • Prizes will be sent by the author

To enter fill out the rafflecopter form

Good Luck!!!

Treat yourself to a complete #CelebratingDebutantes2016 experience. Click the image below for the full list of schedule and links to each feature post!

celebrating debutantes 2016 collage