And… BOOM! Look at that gorgeous cover! It’s like Lana Del Rey’s art director mated with the first season of True Detective at a street art convention. This one’s going on my shelf where I keep the books with covers I can’t stop looking at. (Special thanks to YA Book Central for letting The Society in on the fun, you can find their original reveal here (Oh hey, its a giveaway too)).
It gets even better! Here’s the book description:
Two girls: one with a secret, one with a promise that she’d uncover it.
Welcome to Rowan’s Glen—a place full of old fashioned superstition and secrets. Twenty-five years back, a teenage girl was murdered after being crowned queen at the Glen’s May Day celebration, and outsiders have regarded the isolated farming community with suspicion ever since.
But that was before Ivy Templeton was even born. She’s lived in Rowan’s Glen for all of her sixteen years, and feels safe there with the company of her free-spirited cousin Heather, and their friend, Rook, son of the sheriff.
Until . . . animals start showing up dead, clearly from unnatural means. Dark omens seem to appear everywhere Ivy goes. And Heather, who used to tell Ivy everything, is sneaking off after dark with a mysterious lover.
Ivy worries her cousin could be in danger—especially after Heather is elected queen of the May Day celebration. When Heather goes missing, Ivy must come to terms with the fact that she never knew her beloved cousin—or Rowan’s Glen—as well as she thought she did.
Readers looking for horror, romance, and suspense will find it all in this chilling tale that resonates with dark beauty.
(Coming May 3, 2016 from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
In the little time I’ve been involved in the YA horror scene, Sarah Jude has quickly become one of my favorite people. She’s incredibly smart and thoughtful, deeply kind, always has an encouraging word for everyone, and she’s one hell of a writer. So it’s with no small amount of glee I give you an exclusive interview with Sarah Jude!
Timon: What do you hope to give readers with THE MAY QUEEN MURDERS that they can’t get anywhere else?
Sarah: Hello, Midnight Society! I’m excited to be here today, and to share news about my upcoming YA horror THE MAY QUEEN MURDERS with you!
It’s difficult because it’s like asking what makes this hamburger different from every other hamburger when there are a lot of amazing burgers out there. The Missouri Ozarks, where THE MAY QUEEN MURDERS is set, is a place rich in atmosphere and superstition. It’s physically beautiful with the wooded foothills, rivers, and lakes, but they are also quite dangerous. A lot of poverty and drugs and ways to get lost. I remember taking a boat ride with my husband and children on one of the rivers. It was steered by an old Ozarks plant man, and he told stories about the trees and what lay in the water, how people drown easily. He wasn’t trying to scare anybody and was just talking. Another time, I was lost driving through a remote area with Zac Brewer and Heather Reid in my car and Heather giving that nervous laugh , saying, “We’re all gonna die.” THAT, right there, is the books–it’s unsettled. I swear we saw a backwoods killin’ shed. THE MAY QUEEN MURDERS juxtaposes the simplicity of life on a commune with the reality that nothing beautiful remains untouched; a thread of darkness will always weave itself in.
Timon: Your work deals a lot with mental illness, sexuality, religion, and anxiety, how do those elements come into play in THE MAY QUEEN MURDERS?
Sarah: They definitely factor into the book, maybe not all in the main character, Ivy, but it’s certainly around her and makes her consider what it means to face these issues. They aren’t presented as a linear state or belief but rather something that’s fluid. For example, there are times in one’s life where faith is strong but later wavers, or when you don’t have faith but develop it. Similarly, your sexuality can be a huge part of establishing your identity or maybe you don’t care about it. Perhaps you aren’t heterosexual or homosexual but somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. Maybe you think you are ready for sex. Maybe you want nothing to do with it. Sexuality isn’t an ABCD line but more like AGCF–everyone has their own development and exploration.
To me, because I live with anxiety and panic attacks, mental illness is a struggle like few others. I know what it is to want to sleep away the sadness or fear, to want to numb myself just so I can get by. Trauma comes in all forms, and Ivy certainly contends with trauma. The thing is, mental illness is not something that can be ignored or conquered but something people live with, and the severity of its impact on a person changes from day to day. You can think there’s no hope and find there is. You can be okay then backslide. And it’s all completely valid.
All of these things are okay because there are no absolutes, and Ivy is working through a lot of questions in her mind about what it simply means to be a friend with all these other things swarming around her.
Timon: In some of your work, there’s a sense of ordinary magic, something between the casualness of urban fantasy and the distant magic of magical realism. Something that’s shocking and unique, but isn’t casually played with either. Will we see more of this in THE MAY QUEEN MURDERS?
Sarah: Sneaky, Timon…you’ve just gotten to read some of my other projects. Ivy’s beliefs are so rooted in folklore and superstition, there is a sense of something “beyond the veil” going on. It was one of the things my agent loved about the book–it felt supernatural even if it wasn’t in your face with ghosts or monsters. Ivy is particularly tuned into stories that her grandmother passed down to her, and she’s wary of death omens. You can be horribly haunted not necessarily by spirits but by events as well, and when you are in a state of mental fatigue like Ivy is, what you see and hear can become incredibly surreal and almost hallucinatory.
Timon: What was your favorite part of writing THE MAY QUEEN MURDERS?
Sarah: My favorite part was exploring the intensity of friendships, especially sisterly friendships. Ivy and Heather are cousins, but they are closer than many sisters. Writing that relationship was challenging because I hold my relationship with my sister sacred. I always avoided writing sisters or close female friends because I didn’t want to expose too much of myself. Once I got past that mental barrier and squeamishness about feeling so bare, it became a cathartic experience because I had to look at all the Ivys and Heathers in my life, and I consider myself very blessed to have the relationships I do with some other authors as well as with friends I’ve had for 20-30 years. It’s a rare thing, but I think I took it for granted until I wrote this book.
Timon: You have a really strong record with diversity in your work, and since I know you wouldn’t point this out yourself, please dish on the diversity in MAY QUEEN MURDERS.
Sarah: I grew up as the very light child of a darker mother of Romani heritage. She was a superstitious person. The whole family had its own mythology in a way. Stories about pets or great-aunts were just as fantastical as Paul Bunyan. My aunt (my mom’s brother’s wife) is Mexican, so my family was this mix of cultures and appearance. My cousins called my mother ‘Tia.’ While not in MQM, I have written about the Romani culture and hope to do it again someday because it plays a role in who I am. When my mother died eleven years ago, my cousins attended the funeral, and friends who came were genuinely surprised that we were related. Mind you, I grew up in a very Swedish and German part of northern Illinois. Not a whole lot of diversity at that time. It has since changed some, but I drew on that experience when writing Ivy. She’s half-white and half-Mexican and sometimes feels as though she’s on the outskirts. Yet the people who matter to her accept her. When you truly love a friend, you don’t see their outward appearance, their sexuality, their faith–you see their soul.
Timon: You have a voice like Lauren Oliver filtered through Raymond Chandler. Oh wait, this is a compliment, not a question. My mistake.
Sarah: That’s a hell of a blend, but I’ll take it! Thank you!
A big, big thank to Sarah for the interview. Its taken all my self-control not to throw in editors notes willy-nilly saying ‘YES! YES! All of this!’ The May Queen Murders doesn’t release until next year but you can add it on Goodreads here and preorder it on Amazon here (which I’ve already done).