Happy Thursday and welcome to my stop on the blog tour for PRETTY DEAD QUEENS! I’m so excited because today I have an interview with Alexa Donne to share with you! This book is truly amazing and I’m so excited to for you to find out more about it!
Published on October 4, 2022 by Crown
Genres: Contemporary, Mystery, Thriller, YA
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Seaview High's homecoming queen is dead . . . and she's not the first. From the critically acclaimed author of The Ivies comes a nonstop thriller about a decades-old mystery, a copycat killing, and the teen who won't stop until she discovers the truth.
After the death of her mom (screw cancer), seventeen-year-old Cecelia Ellis goes to live with her estranged grandmother, a celebrated author whose Victorian mansion is as creepy as the murder mysteries she writes. On the surface, life is utterly ordinary in the California coastal town . . . until the homecoming queen is murdered. And she’s not Seaview’s first pretty dead queen.
With a copycat killer on the loose, Cecelia throws herself into the investigation, determined to crack the case like the heroines in her grandmother’s books. But the more Cecelia digs into the town’s secrets, the more she worries that her own mystery might not have a storybook ending.
What would you do if you spent the day with Cecelia? Where would you go to eat, hang out, relax, etc.?
I love this question! We’d 100% hit up Quinn’s for brunch, and then pop into Grabel’s Books before going on Luke’s murder tour. Cecelia would totally roll her eyes at me (since she didn’t enjoy the tour very much herself), but like I need to go on this walking tour. Small town vibes! Murder facts! We’d wend our way back to town and check out Hotel Seaview—I love Victorian architecture and historical vibes. Similarly, I’d totally drag her to the town hall for the historical society exhibit. I’d ask her what case she was investigating and totally butt my nose in to try and help, of course.
If Cecelia were to hang out with other fictional characters, who would they be and why?
I love how scrappy and grounded Kara Thomas’s heroines are, and feel they come out of their traumas fairly grounded, so imagine a YA thriller survivor support group—Cecelia could join, and I’d definitely want all of Kara’s heroines in attendance. And of course Pip from Good Girl’s Guide to Murder… I think she and Cecelia would find a lot of common ground. Cecelia could really use a mentor, and Nancy Drew is the OG girl investigator, who also lost her mother.
If there was one fictional place you could travel to for a day, where would it be and why?
I miss weather and trees and vibes so bad, I wrote a whole small town secrets book with weather and trees and vibes, so I have to go with the inspiration for Pretty Dead Queens—Cabot Cove, Maine! Hopefully classic-era Cabot Cove, with Jessica Fletcher still kicking around solving mysteries. There’s a lot to love about sunny Southern California, but 100% I want to go to a place with trees, rain, salty sea air, and old houses.
If you buried a time capsule with three items inside, what three items would you choose and why?
I’m going to answer as my teenage self, as I think that’s really when you bury a time capsule… and having recently unearthed my high school yearbooks, looking through them was exactly the kind of trip I expect one gets digging one up!
So firstly: definitely my high school yearbook! It’s a fascinating snapshot of both the late 90s as well as the suburban Atlanta experience. Then, Fiona Apple’s When the Pawn CD. I was obsessed with it, and it still holds up, start to finish, as a perfect album (I am eagerly awaiting the Gen Z TikTok journey of discovery from Kate Bush to 90s-era Tori Amos and Fiona Apple). Also just that it’s a CD! Time warp.
Lastly, I’m a movie girly so I’d want to include one… there are so many to choose from. I’ll cheat a little, because actual teenage me would have picked something different from adult hindsight me. Adult hindsight me would include Contact, The Joy Luck Club, or Muriel’s Wedding (I can’t choose!). Teen me would have probably picked Moulin Rouge… which is also a fine choice! It’s the first movie I bought on DVD, in fact, because DVD was a new format back then (and was really expensive until around 2000/2001). So I’ll just crawl into a hole now and weep haha.
What was your favorite bit of research you ended up not using?
In the original draft, Ben and Cecelia’s first date was at a city council meeting, and this is where she learned about his tragic backstory and the political machinations of the town. I watched actual coastal Californian city council meetings on YouTube where they discussed the topic of managed retreat, since I knew I wanted to include it in the book. I was super bummed to drop the chapter/scene itself (but it was the right choice!) because the research was so fun and I was able to infuse the scene with so much local color and accurate lingo. The context is now elsewhere in the book as backstory, but I’ll always miss that side journey into a small town city council meeting! And I encourage readers to look up coastal erosion, managed retreat, and how towns are handling it—it’s fascinating stuff if you’re an ecological/sociopolitical nerd!
What is your favorite quote, scene, or moment from Pretty Dead Queens?
My absolute favorite is a spoiler, so for those who read the book, it’s the first lines of Chapter Thirty-Five. Beyond that, there are a few lines scattered throughout relating to grief that I’m particularly proud of, in that I was able to articulate feelings I’ve had about losing a parent in the book, which I hope resonate.
But I’ll share something a bit more fun here. I love this description of Hotel Seaview from Chapter Twelve:
Hotel Seaview bridges the gap between town square and beach, looming on the edge of the boardwalk like a Victorian mirage. It towers in gleaming white wood, with a spray of windows, like freckles on a face, and a warm cherry-brown roof sitting on top of the main spire. Inside, dark beams hold up a soaring ceiling. A wraparound rail reveals the second floor. But beyond all that architectural class, the décor is decidedly… kitsch. As though a sea shanty threw up, then collected dust for twenty years.
What do you think about Pretty Dead Queens? Have you added it to your tbr yet? Let me know in the comments and have a splendiferous day!