Holly Jackson: 'I wanted to write a book that feels like a true crime podcast'

Holly Jackson: 'I wanted to write a book that feels like a true crime podcast'

Holly Jackson answers our questions about her debut novel, A Good Girl's Guide to Murder (Egmont), which has been shortlisted for the YA Book Prize 2020.

1. Can you sum up A Good Girl's Guide to Murder in one sentence?

For her EPQ project at school, Pip decides to look into a closed local murder case, but not everyone in town wants her digging in the past.

2. What inspired the book?

A Good Girl's Guide to Murder was largely inspired by the world of true crime, both podcasts and documentaries. I wanted to write a book that would feel like a true crime podcast investigation, and hopefully suck readers in, in the same way as those podcasts do to me. 

3. Which character in the book is your favourite?

As the lead, Pip is the character I spent the most time with, inside her head. And though she isn’t always the ‘Good Girl’ the title would have you believe, that’s the exact quality that makes me like her more. Through her, I can vicariously live out my wannabe detective life, without having to get out of my pyjamas.

4. What does being on this year’s YA Book Prize shortlist mean to you?

I am so incredibly excited and grateful that A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder is on this year’s shortlist. So many amazing YA books were released last year and I feel incredibly lucky that my little murdery book has made the shortlist of just 10 books.

5. What's the best thing about writing for young adults?

I think one of the best things about writing for teens and young adults is that these are the generations that have grown up in the technological age. One of my favourite parts about planning and writing these murder mystery type books is that I can use the now everyday technological aspects of our lives – social media, new gadgets, the interconnectivity of living on the internet – and somehow turn them into crime-solving tools that Pip uses. And hopefully this helps the books to feel accessible and almost more ‘real’ to YA readers who use these tools every day.   

6. What was your favourite book as a teenager?

I started on Stephen King books quite young and I LOVED them. The more inappropriate, the better! I also think I had a phase, in my teens, where I just read all the Harlan Coben mysteries at once, and there were LOTS of them.

7. What is your top writing tip?

My top writing tip is actually to study the craft of screenwriting, as they have to hit certain beats in a much more succinct manner than novels, and I really think that can help with structuring a story to make it as fast-paced and effective as possible. Watching video essays on YouTube discussing the structure of your favourite movies is a great way to get started. 
8. What song would be on a playlist for A Good Girl's Guide to Murder?

Billie Eilish’s All the Good Girls Go to Hell, of course. And one that I used to play when first drafting this book was Sail by Awolnation.

9. Who would you cast in a film version of the book?

My dream cast I think would be Millie Bobby Brown to play Pip, and for a magically younger Dev Patel to play Ravi.

10. Which book, film, or TV show would you recommend to someone who enjoyed A Good Girl's Guide to Murder?

Night Film by Marisha Pessl is a book I think readers who enjoyed A Good Girl's Guide to Murder might like, as well as anything by Karen McManus. And then I’m going to break the rules slightly by recommending some true crime podcasts too: Serial (season 1), Crime Junkie and They Walk Among Us.

Find out more about A Good Girl's Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson and read the first chapter of the book on the YA Book Prize website.