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Q&A with Lauren Muñoz - Suddenly a Murder


Suddenly a Murder

By Eva Frederiksen


We are thrilled to welcome Lauren Muñoz to The Reading Corner to talk about her new release Suddenly a Murder released on the 5th of September 2023.


Someone brought a knife to the party. To celebrate the end of high school, Izzy Morales joins her ride-or-die Kassidy and five friends on a 1920s–themed getaway at the glamorous Ashwood Manor. There, Izzy and her friends party in vintage dresses and expensive diamonds—until Kassidy’s boyfriend turns up dead. Murdered, investigators declare when they arrive at the scene, and now every party guest is a suspect. There’s the girlfriend, in love. The other girl, in despair. The old friend, forlorn. The new friend, distressed. The brooding enigma. And then, there’s Izzy—the girl who brought the knife. To find the killer, everyone must undergo a grueling interrogation, all while locked in an estate where, suddenly, the greatest luxury is innocence.


Suddenly a Murder

Hi Lauren! Thank you so much for speaking to The Reading Corner about your fabulous debut novel, Suddenly a Murder.


Thank you so much for having me!


The mystery genre demands exceptional storytelling finesse to avoid giving the game away while keeping the reader engaged in their efforts to unravel the intrigue. Reading Suddenly a Murder, I found myself gripped with ever-shifting suspicions and wide-eyed with each impeccably timed reveal. How did you go about judging the pacing of clues, twists and misdirection to keep us guessing?


Suddenly a Murder is inspired by the Golden Age of detective fiction—mysteries from the 1920s and 1930s—so I made the pacing reminiscent of those books: misdirection throughout, with smaller twists preceding the larger twists at the end. The most important thing for me was knowing every character’s story ahead of time: the secrets they were hiding, their motives for killing Blaine, their relationships with the other characters, and their movements on the day Blaine died. Knowing those elements allowed me to come up with dramatic narratives crafted around their secrets, which kept things suspenseful as the mystery unfolded.


Suddenly a Murder is rich with cinematic prose; much like the 1920s silent movies and Jazz Age aesthetic so loved by Izzy and Kassidy in the novel, every scene is a strikingly visual experience. Would you say that this is characteristic of your writing in general or a stylistic choice developed for this novel in particular?


It’s characteristic of how I want to write, and I was really happy this story lent itself to that style. Setting the novel at a restored 1920s manor let me focus on visual details in a way that might not make sense for a more recognizable place, like a suburban high school, and my love of nature and beautiful objects made describing the architecture, the period dresses, and the grounds of the estate a real joy.


Complex themes of youth and friendship are handled with real nuance in Suddenly a Murder. What drew you to explore the messy depths of human nature, morality and guilt within a coming-of-age setting?


Close and messy friendships are a particular interest of mine, both when I read and when I write. Some of my favorite stories—The Virgin Suicides, Picnic at Hanging Rock, and Little Women—are about intense relationships between girls that develop in oppressive environments, like religious families, strict schools, and wartime. I’m drawn to writing closed circle mysteries because the pressure of an investigation forces the characters’ secrets into the open and lets me explore the gap between how society tells us we should behave and how we actually behave.


Your knowledge as a lawyer must have been an asset in penning a murder mystery, but my favourite quality of Suddenly a Murder is how your storytelling spills over the edges of that genre. The mystery bleeds into drama and romance plots that, while key to the whodunnit, are also fully engaging in their own right. I’d love to see what you do next! Do you plan to write further mysteries, or might you apply your skills to another genre?


My next book is another young adult mystery! It will still be full of drama and will dig even further into messy friendships and romances. Even when I dream of writing in my other favorite genres (scifi & horror), I still imagine a mystery at the center of those stories, so I think I landed in the right genre.


In your acknowledgements, you speak highly of your agent, Jodi Reamer, and your editor, Polo Orozco, and the guidance they offered throughout the publishing process. With this experience in mind, what advice would you give to another debut author taking their first steps towards becoming a published novelist?


They’re both wonderful, and I’m grateful to be working with them. I’d written several manuscripts before Jodi picked up Suddenly a Murder, and that practice was essential to learning how to build scenes that weren’t indulgent. It’s so easy to fall in love with your characters and let them have interactions that serve your sense of delight but don’t serve the story. Of course, luck and timing are huge parts of getting published. One reason Suddenly a Murder landed representation is that my love of Golden Age detective fiction coincided with its current popularity in the wider culture, thanks to Knives Out, making it a marketable premise. Authors have different paths to publication, but if I had one piece of advice, it would be: lean deep into your interests; one of them might prove lucky.


On your website, you mention a number of favourite authors whose works span a range of genres. What books in particular would you recommend to fans of Suddenly a Murder?


There’s been a wave of wonderful young adult mysteries over the past six years, thanks to the success of One of Us is Lying. In addition to Karen McManus, I’d recommend Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson, The Agathas by Kathleen Glasgow & Liz Lawson, and Threads That Bind by Kika Hatzopoulou.


The cover art for Suddenly a Murder – on both the UK and US editions – is stunning; I can’t wait to pick up a paperback version. Where can readers find a copy of Suddenly a Murder?


I’m so lucky to be debuting with two beautiful covers! Readers can find a copy at any major retailer online and at brick-and-mortar stores like Waterstones.


Eva, Thank you for the interview! These are such wonderful and generous questions, and I’m so glad you enjoyed the book!


Suddenly a Murder

Lauren Muñoz is a writer, lawyer, and former teacher living in Southern California. She received her J.D. from Northwestern University in Chicago, where she frequently skipped class to commune with her sun lamp. When she's not reading, she can be found knitting, crocheting, and collecting recipes for things she'll never bake. Suddenly a Murder is her debut novel.


Lauren's Instagram: @laurenmunozbooks


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