Holly Jackson | 'I find that the readers who pick up YA books are incredibly engaged'

Holly Jackson | 'I find that the readers who pick up YA books are incredibly engaged'

Holly Jackson answers our questions about her second novel, Good Girl, Bad Blood (Electric Monkey), which is the sequel to A Good Girl's Guide to Muder and has been shortlisted for the YA Book Prize 2021

1. Can you sum up your book in one sentence?

Pip is no longer a detective after the events of book one, but she will have to go back on her word when someone she knows goes missing and the police won’t do anything about it. 

2. What inspired the book?

In a lot of ways, the small, unexplained gaps I’d left in A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder were the main "inspiration" for this book, as I had to work out a plot that neatly fit into these gaps, so that there are clues to Good Girl Bad Blood buried back in book one. But beyond that, my main inspiration – as with A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder – was the world of true crime. There is a particular British criminal case that sparked the idea at the heart of the mystery in this sequel.    

3. Which character in the book is your favourite, and why?

Of course I spend a lot of time in Pip’s head, as it were, so I feel like I understand her most. In this middle book of the series, her character undergoes significant changes and that was a really fun writing challenge for me. To take a character who began the series as squeaky clean, and slowly watch her morph away from these restrictive ideas of "good" and "bad" and really dive into her "unlikeable" sides. The more "unlikeable" a character is, the more I like them, it seems! But also, it’s always fun and a bit of comic relief when Ravi is in a scene, as he balances out Pip so well. 

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

I am thrilled and so honoured to be on this year’s shortlist, particularly after A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder made the shortlist last year! And, actually, quite surprised if I’m being honest, because this is the middle book of a trilogy and I feel like these are often overlooked, or looked at through "second-book syndrome" goggles, so I’m ecstatic to see such positive reactions to Good Girl, Bad Blood, and to know that the book isn’t just living in its prequel’s shadow! 

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

I love writing for the age category YA – whether its for older teen readers or adults who are in their 80s, I’m not going to put a limit on what young adult means! But I find that the readers who pick up YA books are incredibly engaged with what they are reading, and also incredibly smart! I think the social media age has raised a generation of armchair detectives, which certainly makes my job harder in a genre where it is all about tricking/manipulating the reader. But I love the challenge and it allows me to do some really fun and creative things with modern technology, reframing them as crime-solving tools!  

6. What was your favourite book as a teenager?

As a teenager, I was already a bit of a crime / mystery obsessive, so I remember devouring a lot of Harlan Coben books when I was potentially a little too young for them. And also Stephen King books, because I loved a good scary / horror story – and still do today!

7. What is your top writing tip?

My top writing tip is slightly off the rails, in that I’m going to slightly betray books. Of course reading widely is a fantastic way to learn how to write and hone your skills, but I find there is a huge amount of benefit in surrounding yourself with other story-media too! I’m talking podcasts (fictional and true crime in my case), films, TV shows (yes, I am legitimising your Netflix binges), video games. I feel most "inspired" to write or create stories after coming out of the cinema (pre-pandemic days) or finishing a really good PlayStation game. For example, last year I played "The Last Of Us 2" and it got me super fired up to start writing the final book in my series, As Good As Dead.  

8. What songs would be on a playlist for your book?

I think one that is too perfect to not include would be "All the Good Girls Go to Hell" by Billie Eilish. And for Good Girl, Bad Blood specifically, how could I not mention "Bad Blood" by Taylor Swift? 

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

For Pip, my go-to answer for this is that Millie Bobby Brown would be awesome at the role – I’m sure she’s not too busy and could squeeze it into her rammed Hollywood schedule. But also I was recently watching "His Dark Materials", and the actress who plays Lyra – Dafne Keen – was giving me some serious Pip vibes.  

10. Which book, film or TV show would you recommend to someone who enjoyed your book?

For books, anything by Karen McManus or Courtney Summers is sure to keep you turning the pages. I also recently loved The Girls I’ve Been by Tess Sharpe. For an incredibly fun, mystery film, I always recommend "Knives Out", which is just genius!

You can find out more about Good Girl, Bad Blood and Holly Jackson, and read the first chapter of the book for free, on the YA Book Prize website.