Today I’m pleased to welcome Sarah Jude to the site to talk about five books every author should read and why in celebration of the upcoming release of her latest book, The May Queen Murders. The May Queen Murders easily fits into the overlapping worlds of horror, suspense and romance. More freaky than gore, it’s not the usual fright-fest and instead pulls from Ozark lore that builds in tension as the secrets of traditions are unearthed. Satisfyingly spooky, The May Queen Murders pulls readers into a maze of what ifs and whodunit while developing a diverse lot of suspicious characters. An ALAN January pick along with a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly, this novel should please fans of multiple genres and ages.
Kate: What are five books you would recommend to aspiring authors? Why and how have they helped you find your voice on the page?
Sarah: Every aspiring writer needs ON WRITING by Stephen King and THE EMOTION THESAURUS. They help with figuring out your voice, technical aspects of writing, and how to convey a lot with few words. I really like THE EMOTION THESAURUS because it helps to get you away from the overused physical expressions of feelings like lip biting, raising an eyebrow, etc. It’s not to say your characters can’t do these things, but all good things in moderation, you know? Also, it’s equally important to have story, character, and imagery. To learn some beautiful imagery, I suggest reading the poems of Amy Lowell, particularly her collection SWORD BLADE AND POPPY SEED. She was an imagist poet around the 1910s and is vastly underrated. For characters, I lean toward writing very flawed, almost grotesque characters. WE HAVE ALWAYS LIVED IN THE CASTLE by Shirley Jackson is a fantastic little punch of voice and character. Lastly, for sheer storytelling, look at the works of Neil Gaiman. I think NEVERWHERE is probably his most accessible book, but for layering and depth and a lot of “How on earth did he do that,” AMERICAN GODS is stunning.
More than anything though, I really kind of loathe “how to” guides for writing because there is no set formula for how to be a good or successful writer. The biggest thing you need is passion. Next, you need a good grasp of the technical parts of writing—grammar, spelling, sentence structure. Lastly, if you want a career in writing, you need persistence. Put those three things in your pocket and then tell the story only you can tell.
About the book:
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.
About 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.