When I think of horror novels, such a pretty image doesn't come to mind. However, The May Queen Murders is a beauty! Its cover is imbued with a romanticized backwoods feel and is ever so YA -- a heady combination that is going to attract its readers from the moment they first lay eyes on it. The May Queen Murders focuses on friendships, what happens when you grow apart, while bringing in May Queen mythology and the folksy superstitions of the Ozarks all wrapped up in first love, betrayal of friendship and mystery which is why I couldn't resist picking Sarah's brain about the cover and what readers could expect on the inside.
What is the favorite part of your book cover? Does anything stand out as particularly metaphoric for the story inside?
The overall tone and creepiness of the image is my favorite part--it's haunting and has a strange cast to it, like it looks as if it's a much older photo when in actuality, the image is fairly recent. Marcin Nagraba is a very talented Polish artist, and I'm thrilled that his work fit so seamlessly with my book.
As to whether it's metaphorical...it is in that sense of rising up from the depths and feeling isolated and bare. While I won't give away much of the story, I'll say there are woods, a river, and girls wearing floral head wreaths.
Friendships are hard. What do you think makes maintaining friendships difficult in this day and age when technology allows us to keep in touch so much easier?
People's attention spans are short, and it's easy to misinterpret tone in a text message or email. Technology is in itself isolating. You don't have to leave the house or speak with anyone to have pretty much anything you want. Pizza delivery, groceries delivery, tons of e-books...it's all right at your fingertips. And it's fine up to a point--I'm an introvert!--but humans also need some vocal and visual cues to know that what they put out there is properly received. I prefer phone calls to texts because I like hearing people's voices and I have several friends still that I've known since I was a small child, so it is possible to maintain friendships for 20, 30 years, but it takes effort from both people.
The characters in Rowan's Glen have pretty much sworn off technology. They don't think it's bad or anything--but they choose to live simply and sustainably. Such a tight-knit community where you have to talk to your neighbors lends itself to physically present friendships and face-to-face interaction.
What inspired your interest in the May Day celebrations? How did that myth play into Missouri folklore?
I was young when I saw the original version of the film The Wicker Man, which is delightfully trippy and creepy. It features a May Queen and a missing girl and is completely chilling. And of course, I'm a huge fan of Led Zeppelin, and there's a reference to the May Queen in "Stairway to Heaven," which I was determined to master playing on guitar as a teen. May is my second favorite month after October because it is when nature seems to fully wake up from winter's slumber. May Day itself is an interesting holiday born of a pagan rite of spring but, in some places, also took on Christian influences during the religion's spread to the British Isles. They kept the old ways to connect with people. A good many of the old Ozarks backwoods settlements were formed by people coming out of Appalachia, who in turn can trace their ancestry back to England and Scotland. The Ozarks breeds curious customs and superstitions. People looked hard at their natural environment for explanations, deciding what might be coincidence is fact. So why not write about those backwoods and people who not only believe those old wives' tales but actually live them? It's an area ripe with story and mystery.
What a blend of American history, music and religious studies, yeah? It is amazing how much research goes into a novels. Such intriguing topics to bring together a YA murder mystery, I think.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.
AUTHOR LINKS & CREDITS:
Marcin Nagraba: photographer credit