I absolutely loved A Good Girl’s Guide To Murder last year, so of course I was super excited for the sequel. Luckily for me, the awesome people at Egmont not only sent me a review copy, they also invited me onto the blog tour and allowed me to conduct a Q & A with Holly Jackson herself!
Q & A:
Emily: Hi Holly, thank you so much for joining me on my blog today to celebrate Good Girl, Bad Blood. Could you possibly start by telling me a little bit about yourself?
Holly: Thank you so much for having me! Um… let me think. Three essential things you need to know about me are: I love smooth peanut butter, my favourite possession is probably my PlayStation 4, and I am running out of space to store all my books.
If you only had five words to describe Good Girl, Bad Blood, what would they be?
Bigger (although technically shorter)
Where do you draw your inspiration for these amazing mysteries from?
I do love to read / watch crime and mystery thrillers, so I’m sure inspiration from my favourites creeps in here and there. But my main source of inspiration for these books is the world of True Crime. Almost 90% of my phone’s memory is taken up by various true crime podcasts, and I listen to at least one a day. I also spend several weeks researching true crime cases and the criminal justice system before I start plotting the books.
Could you possibly talk about the feminist themes across the series, particularly that of rape culture?
Of course! I love that a lot of YA fiction is about exploring the strength of young women in all of their complexity, without being reductive (as the real world often is to teenage girls). In particular, for me, it was really important to have a main character who had no ‘superhuman’ ability, or an unnatural intelligence (aka like the Sherlock TV show). Pip is smart and resourceful and that is plenty to take on the complacency of certain adults around her. And she is unafraid of being ‘unlikeable’ or unethical and straying from the ironic ‘good girl’ of the title. The book contains some very dark topics – like rape culture, as you mentioned – and in particular I wanted to explore how misogyny still very much intersects with the criminal justice system in a lot of ways, and how damaging this can be for those who come up against it.
With the intricacy of the plots you weave, do you have a particular writing process?
I spend quite lot of time initially researching true crime cases and surrounding myself with all things murder and crime. At the start, I work with a notebook and pen, scribbling down any random scene or plot ideas I have. A lot of these end up scrapped. Then I sort of ‘shortlist’ these ideas when I have the majority of the plot sorted in my head, and I write out every scene on a revision card. I lay these cards (usually 40+) out on the floor, so I can reshuffle certain scenes until I have the exact order of the story right. And only then do I write the very first sentence of the book.
Pip is an amazing protagonist and feels so real and relatable. Could you elaborate on your journey in creating her?
Pip was originally partly inspired by someone I know IRL who, when she was about 16, used to love homework so much. Her self-motivation was on overdrive, and I thought that I needed a main character with qualities like that; someone that could become so obsessive about completing her project that she would risk endangering herself to find the answers. In the second book, we find a very different Pip, one who has been affected by the dramatic events of book 1. As the series progresses, she moves further and further away from the image of the ‘good girl’ in the title, and I love bringing out this darker side to her after everything she had been through.
Pip’s EPQ forms a core part of the plot in A Good Girl’s Guide To Murder and having recently competed my own, I’d love to know whether you did one and what your ideal EPQ would be about?
I actually didn’t do an EPQ – I think they brought them in the year after me. But my little sister did one (which she did not try hard on, unlike Pip haha) and not long after that, I was thinking about book ideas and an EPQ seemed the perfect device for a YA Crime Thriller. If I had to do an EPQ…who are we kidding, I’d probably also try to solve a cold murder case (from the safety of behind my laptop screen).
What was your biggest struggle in writing Good Girl, Bad Blood and what was your favourite part?
The biggest struggle was actually the amount of time I had to get this book done. My publishers and I only officially decided we were going to do a sequel early summer 2019, which at the time meant there were only 9 months until this non-existent book would be published. I had to write the book in about 12 weeks between August and October and that was quite literally a struggle! I had a practice run for the upcoming lockdown as I essentially had to quarantine myself then to get the book written on time. No weekends or fun for me during that time! But because it was such an intense period of working so hard, it meant that the amazing feeling I had when I wrote those two little words – The End – was all the better for it.
What’s a piece of advice you’d like to give to any aspiring authors reading this?
My top advice is to actually look to the world of screenwriting. Screenwriters have to be a lot more succinct in hitting their story beats, and so the structures they use can be really helpful for those wanting to write books. For an introduction into this discipline, I recommend the YouTube channels JustWrite and Lessons From the Screenplay.
Who would be your ideal cast for a film or TV adaptation of A Good Girl’s Guide To Murder/Good Girl, Bad Blood?
Ooh, a great question. I think Millie Bobby Brown would make an excellent Pip, and I love her. For Ravi, I think a magically younger Dev Patel would be amazing in that part. So we also need a time machine for this to work.
Which books inspire you as a writer?
I do read quite a lot of crime / mystery thrillers, but I actually also really love horror / supernatural books and fantasy and dystopian books. Sometimes when I’m reading a really good book in a completely different genre to the one I write, it can be just as inspiring, and I find myself bursting with ideas for new projects, even though they have nothing to do with the book I’m reading. I remember this happened when I was reading The Passage by Justin Cronin a couple of years ago. So, read widely – creativity is catching!
Without giving anything away, podcasts play a huge role in this book. What are your favourite podcasts and do you listen to any in particular while writing?
I can’t listen to anything like that while actually writing – has to be instrumental only for me, and I usually turn to soundtracks from video games. But when I’m in the research stage – absolutely! I INHALE true crime podcasts as those are where I get my ideas from. Some great true crime podcasts to try out are: Crime Junkie, They Walk Among Us, and My Favorite Murder. For Good Girl, Bad Blood, I got an idea for the mystery at the centre of the book from an episode of They Walk Among Us, which presents a new UK-based criminal case each episode.
Finally, what are you currently working on and can you tell us anything about what Pip will be getting up to next?
I cannot say too much about my next book, only that it will be another crime / mystery thriller book, and it will be the darkest one I’ve written yet!
Trigger warnings: arson, murder, death, grief, sexual assault, catfishing
Pip Fitz-Amobi is not a detective any more.
With the help of Ravi Singh, she released a true-crime podcast about the murder case they solved together last year. The podcast has gone viral, yet Pip insists her investigating days are behind her.
But she will have to break that promise when someone she knows goes missing. Jamie Reynolds has disappeared but the police won’t do anything about it. And if they won’t look for Jamie then Pip will, uncovering more of her town’s dark secrets along the way… and this time everyone is listening. But will she find him before it’s too late?
Jackson has a razor-sharp focus and immense skill for crafting meticulously plotted, overwhelmingly engaging mysteries. This particular one kept me up until the early hours of the morning, nervously racing through the pages to reach that brilliant conclusion.
The writing in this series is stellar. From an incredible opening line, to a cleverly worked deft summary of the events of the previous book, Jackson instantly drew me back into Pip’s story. Little Kilton has such a brilliant atmosphere for these types of stories, mixing a classic Christie setting with layers and layers of secrets to interrogate how easily mob mentality changes and the importance of reputation.
Pip is an excellent protagonist, snarky, smart and fiercely determined. Here, she battles her own insecurities and the mounting pressure of the public gaze on her every move. I really liked how she is conflicted about returning to the dark, twisted path of investigating and is aware of the potential consequences of her actions. It just makes her feel that much more real, though I could’ve easily picked most of the characters out of my own sixth form. Jackson really just gets how teenagers take and act, never patronising her audience.
In terms of the mystery, I love how Jackson deftly wraps up each particular mystery in her books, but leaves the door wide enough for another book with tantalising crumbs and of course, an open ending that left me unsettled and on edge. The twists and turns are spectacular and take a seemingly simple story on a much darker, thought-provoking path. The intersection between this mystery and an ongoing part of the original case from the first book comes through the exploration of guilt and revenge. Jackson really plays on these themes across the story, creating a complex and incredible interesting narrative that doesn’t shy away from intense, dark topics. I felt Pip’s anger and resentment at the system she holds so dear alongside her, as unfortunately so many other people have done so before and continue to do so sadly in today’s society.
Thank you again to Siobhan McDermott, Hilary Bell and Egmont for including me and sending me an early copy of this amazing book in exchange for an honest review and please check out the other amazing posts on this blog tour!