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EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Karen M. McManus Talks You’ll Be The Death Of Me, Her Characters, Upcoming Projects, And More!

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Karen M. McManus Talks You’ll Be The Death Of Me, Her Characters, Upcoming Projects, And More!

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The “Queen of Teen Crime,” Karen M. McManus is back with an all-new book called You’ll Be the Death of Me. As we’re sure you’ve heard, Karen M. McManus is well known for her New York Times best-selling debut book One of Us is Lying. Since her first book, the YA bookish community has been on even more thrilling adventures, piecing together her mysteries along with her teenage protagonists.

Her newest book had us on the edge of our seats. Picture Ferris Bueller’s Day Off… but with murder. In You’ll Be the Death of Me, we follow three ex-best friends, Ivy, Mateo, and Cal, who are all having a horrible morning. And on a whim, they decide to skip school together and take a road trip down to the city. Unfortunately, once they pull out of the parking lot, they realize they have nothing to say to each other. That is until they see a fellow student skipping and unintentionally following him to the site of his murder. It also turns out that all three of them have a connection to the dead kid, and it seems like everyone’s got a secret to hide. Of course, we were immediately hooked. You can order You’ll Be The Death Of Me here!

We sat down with Karen M. McManus to talk about her writing process, donuts, and one of her upcoming books that you definitely won’t want to miss.

The cover of You'll Be the Death of Me by Karen M. McManus.
Image Source: Courtesy of Penguin Random House

Welcome to The Honey POP! We’re so excited and thankful for the opportunity to talk to you today. To get things started we’d love to get to know you a little better. Could you give us three fun facts about yourself?

I wrote my first book—about a witch who couldn’t cast spells—when I was eight years old, my go-to comfort show is Schitt’s Creek, and I spent a good chunk of the past year teaching my rescue dog, Sammy, to be less terrified of bikes, scooters, skateboards, and onewheels (still working on that last one).

Gif of Johnny Rose from "Schitt's Creek" dancing.
Image Source: GIPHY

In You’ll Be the Death of Me, there’s a specialty donut place that Cal frequents often. Did a certain restaurant inspire this setting? Do you have a favorite over-the-top donut flavor? That Cheeto donut sounded really interesting.

Crave Doughnuts was inspired by Voodoo Doughnut in Portland, Oregon, which is known for adventurous flavor combinations. When I worked in marketing, I often traveled to Portland for business, and somebody would always bring a box full of surprising donuts to meetings. I believe the Cheeto-dusted Bavarian cream doughnut is my own invention, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it exists somewhere in the world.

Between your five novels, there’s a wide variety of unique and intriguing characters. How do you make each of your characters stand out?

I spend a lot of time on characters, both as individuals and as part of the ensemble. I want them to be flawed but still relatable and to feel like real people. They need to have personal stakes that feed into the plot, and that help them connect with one another. So I’ll do character worksheets that delve into big-picture aspects—their hopes, their fears, and their secrets—as well as the small details of their lives. I also create playlists for each character filled with songs that reflect their personalities, and I’ll listen to that when I write their POV.

You’ve been referred to as “The Queen of Teen Crime.” What advice would you give to young writers hoping to delve into that genre?

Read widely so that you understand what works, but don’t be afraid to put your own spin on things. The YA thriller genre has expanded a lot in recent years, and there is room for a lot of different types of stories.

Your first book, One Of Us is Lying, has similarities to The Breakfast Club ,and You’ll Be the Death of Me has similarities to Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. With that being said, what is your favorite 80’s movie?

It’s a tie between those two! I love The Breakfast Club for the way it brings together characters who seem as though they have nothing in common and then forges connections between them. And Ferris’s confidence, and the way it helps him navigate difficult situations without ever losing sight of his goals, is inspiring to watch.

Gif of Ferris Bueller from "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" winking in bed.
Image Source: GIPHY

One of Us is Lying was recently adapted as a tv show. Which we thought was amazing! What was the experience like seeing your story come to life?

In a word: surreal! I remember arriving at the pilot shoot in Vancouver and seeing half a street shut down for production—sets being built, scenes being staged, cast and crew everywhere—and it struck me that all of these very talented people had come together on that particular day because I wrote a book. It’s been a lot of fun to watch the cast bond with one another in a way that feels very similar to my characters.

Out of all of your characters so far, which one would your high school self identify with the most and why?

Probably a combination of Bronwyn and Ivy: driven, ambitious students who are never one hundred percent sure they’re on the right track. They both have a fear of failure, which is something I definitely experienced in high school, but they address it in different ways. Bronwyn gives herself an unfair advantage with disastrous results, and Ivy allows herself to be consumed by jealousy—also with disastrous results!

You’ve recently announced a new book Nothing More to Tell, set to release in August 2022, which is about a teen journalist who is investigating a cold case murder. Are you a true crime fan? Are there any books, tv shows, podcasts, or YouTube channels you’d recommend?

I’m interested in true crime, but there’s no particular content that I consume regularly. It’s more likely that I’ll hear about a story that fascinates me and then track down all the details about it from various sources.

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In all of your books, you look at the idea of friendship. The formation of friendship, the troubles people face, and even the rekindling of old ones like in You’ll Be the Death of Me. What would you say is the most important aspect of friendship, and do you have any tips on how to make new friends?

For my characters, the bedrock of friendship is often acceptance—both of themselves, and of the people they care about. Characters need to learn to appreciate who they are and then extend that grace to others. In terms of making friends, openness and a genuine interest in others can go a long way in building connections.

Writing a book takes a lot of time, planning, and effort. How do you celebrate after you finish writing a book?

I collapse with relief, binge-watch my favorite shows for a couple of weeks, and then start another one.

Gif of Rachel and Phoebe from Friends jumping up and down and clapping.
Image Source: GIPHY

We are so excited about You’ll Be the Death of Me by Karen M. McManus, it’s a book we’re sure to be gifting our reader friends this holiday season! Have you read this book yet? What did you think of it? Let us know in the comments below or by tweeting us @TheHoneyPOP! You can also visit us on  Facebook and Instagram!

Looking for more bookish interviews? We got you!

TO LEARN MORE ABOUT KAREN M. MCMANUS:

INSTAGRAM | TWITTER | WEBSITE

Featured Image Source: Edited By Caroline Wang For The Honey POP

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