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TEAM ZOELLA MARCH 2, 2021

13 Questions with Holly Jackson

In celebration of World Book Day on the 4th March, we caught up with one of this years £1 authors Holly Jackson to chat about her best-selling series A Good Girls Guide to Murder, her prequel Kill Joy and life as an author in lockdown.

First off, how are you and how is your 2021 going?

Hello and thank you so much for having me! I am well – ish! The well is qualified with an ‘ish’ because on top of all the pandemic related stuff of 2021, I am also having one of the craziest, busiest times in work and personal life. This week alone I have three massive work-related things going on. It’s World Book Day and I’m one of the authors who wrote a £1 book for the event, called Kill Joy.

It’s World Book Day and I’m one of the authors who wrote a £1 book for the event, called Kill Joy. Holly Jackson

It is also the publication of my sequel in the United States AND I have an encroaching deadline for the edits on the third and final book in my YA Crime Thriller series A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder. So it is all go go go on the work front. And in my personal life, I’ve literally just moved house so I am also on a very steep DIY learning curve, and don’t currently have any furniture! So lots of exciting things going on, but I am looking forward to a time when life has calmed down a tad and I can chill (and own a sofa on which to do said chilling).

This week we’re celebrating World Book Day, how are you getting involved this year?

Yes – very exciting! I love that there is a day dedicated to the love of books and reading. To be honest, almost every day of my life is a World Book Day, as books and stories occupy about 300% of my time. This year I will be getting involved by shouting about my WBD title, Kill Joy, which is a small prequel story set just before my first book, A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder. I think the £1 book scheme is such an incredible idea, and I remember when I was a kid at school being SO EXCITED when the book tokens were handed around. I remember dragging my poor mother to Waterstones IMMEDIATELY after school ended. I am incredibly honoured – and honestly still quite surprised – that I am playing a part in that this year: little Holly would never have believed she’d grow up to be one of those World Book Day authors! I am also incredibly impressed that WBD is managing to power on through a pandemic and school closures. If ever we all needed a time to celebrate and be distracted by books, now is the time!

A lot of our audience will know you from your series A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder, and your prequel Kill Joy is part of the World Book Day £1 book list, what can we expect from it?

Kill Joy can be very neatly summed up by its tagline: Six suspects. Three house. One murder . . .  I had a lot of fun writing Kill Joy over a few weeks last summer. And honestly, it was quite tricky for me to write such a small book. My full-size books run from around 93,000 words – 130,000 words, so fitting an entire mystery plot into just 25,000 words was a really fun challenge.

essentially set out to create the most fun murder mystery / escape room type party imaginable, because I love a good murder mystery dinner party – one of those post-pandemic things I am very much looking forward to!Holly Jackson

In Kill Joy, we join Pip before the events of A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder, as she attends a murder mystery party hosted by her friend Connor. The game is set in the roaring twenties at a remote manor on a private island – but really just in Connor’s dining room – and the larger-than-life characters have to work out who murdered the patriarch of the family, Reginald Remy. I essentially set out to create the most fun murder mystery / escape room type party imaginable, because I love a good murder mystery dinner party – one of those post-pandemic things I am very much looking forward to! I hope readers love the story and feel like they are attending this mysterious, jam-packed evening alongside Pip, and will be forming their own theories as to WHODUNNIT, as well as spotting all the easter eggs and nods to events from A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder and the sequel Good Girl, Bad Blood.

Why is World Book Day so important and what do they do?

World Book Day changes lives by encouraging a love of books and shared reading. Their mission is to promote reading for pleasure, offering every child and young person the opportunity to have a book of their own. They say that reading for pleasure is the single biggest indicator of a child’s future success – more than their family circumstances, parents’ educational background or their income. WBD want to see more children develop a life-long habit of reading for pleasure and the improved life chances this brings them. And I am thrilled to be a part of that this year!

How can our audience get involved with World Book Day and help raise awareness for their cause?

This year, World Book Day are looking into teen and young adult reading habits by running a nationwide research project. Anyone wanting to help raise awareness can go to www.worldbookdaysocial.com and look at their mission statement. Also, just talking about reading and the power it can hold is so important! Books are as magical as films, podcasts, YouTube, video games, and there are corners of the internet dedicated to a love of reading – find yourself at home with other book lovers on #Bookstagram.

Why do you think reading at a young age is so important?

I think that encouraging a love of reading is so important because books are, quite honestly, powerful and magical items. They can transport you to other times and places, both real and not, allowing you to explore history or hypothetical futures. They can teach you an incredible array of skills; there are so many random facts I know now that I learned from a book.

Books can transport you to other times and places, both real and not, allowing you to explore history or hypothetical futures. Holly Jackson

I learned that you should eat charcoal after ingesting poisonous berries from a fantasy series – I hope to never need that knowledge, but you never know! But even more importantly, books can teach you about yourself, and provide a safe space when the real world is a bit scary – something I think we have all needed this past year. I think the pandemic has proven – certainly in my eyes – that when times are tough, people turn to the things that bring them comfort, whether its re-reading your favourite books series, or binge-watching a new show on Netflix. Stories, in whatever format they come in, are always there for us when we need to escape.

What are some of the other £1 books you think our audience would love?

Alongside my £1 book, Kill Joy, the brilliant Derek Landy has written a teen title for World Book Day this year, Skulduggery Pleasant: Apocalypse Kings. Older readers might also enjoy Skysteppers by Katherine Rundell and The River Whale by Sita Brahmachari.

We know you started writing from a young age, what would your advice be to anyone who would like to start writing?

My biggest piece of writing advice might sound a little contradictory. Of course books and reading are a major part of writing, but those aren’t the only places where you can learn to hone your writing and storytelling skills. I think that watching films and TV shows and playing narrative games can be incredible resources in learning how to craft a plot, or perfect your characterisation. Screenwriting can be especially handy for anyone looking to write something pacey and fast-moving. Storytelling doesn’t only happen in books, and I think that there are incredibly valuable lessons to be learned in exploring other story formats, and then cherry-picking the best parts of them all! Beyond that, I would say not to be alarmed by other writing advice that tells you: You must write everyday to be an author. It just isn’t true. I do not write every day. I think, actually, in a single year, there are more days when I am not writing than when I am. That’s not to say I’m not working – there are a lot of jobs involved in being an author, but part of my process is taking a lot of time to research, and plot and plan the story, before I ever put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard as it were).

What are your top tips for getting into reading?

Find a genre that excites you! There are so many books out there, your perfect read is just waiting for you to find it. If this is your first foray into reading, try finding something that is similar to a TV show or film series you enjoy. Buzzfeed often make fun listicles in the form of ‘If you enjoyed – insert show – then you’ll love – insert book.’ A huge number of shows and movies are actually adaptations from books, and if you want to get ahead of what is looking like the next big Netflix hit, then I recommend reading the fantasy series Shadow and Bone and Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, which I loved.YA is a great place to start for reluctant readers, because even if the books are long, they tend to be very pacey and page-turning to keep your interest.

What does your perfect weekend look like?

Great question! I’m actually about to pick up a puppy in a few weeks – so excited!!!! – so I’m going to cheat slightly and design my perfect weekend for a few months in the future.

And in a perfect weekend after the pandemic, I cannot wait for drinks outside in a sunny pub garden and to be able to see friends and family again.Holly Jackson

It will involve a huuuuuuge breakfast and then going on a muddy dog walk (I just got new wellies so the muddier the better). Followed by more playing with the puppy, and then lying on the best place on the sofa and playing PlayStation or Nintendo Switch, or binge-watching a show on Netflix, saying ‘just one more’ when we’ve already said that three times. And in a perfect weekend after the pandemic, I cannot wait for drinks outside in a sunny pub garden and to be able to see friends and family again.

What do you always carry with you?

Lip balm! I literally cannot be without it. My body has developed some kind of dependence to it now so if I go for more than say 5 hours without applying it, my lips shrivel up like a skeleton. This is not helped by the fact that I am consistently losing my current lip balm. When I moved house, we found a Lip-balm Graveyard under my old bedside table!

12.What would your last ever meal be?

This is a tough choice between either Nutella pancakes (English kind) or a cheese board spread with camembert and port salut and great chutney and crackers. Great . . . now I want cheese. BRB.

13.What is one positive piece of advice you could give to our audience?

This is a slightly strange one, but – get enough sleep! I only worked out recently that when I am in the actual writing stage of writing a book, I need around 9 and a half hours of sleep for my brain to be functioning properly and cope with the output and the constant working out of tricky plot problems. I feel like I have uncovered a true life hack here, and I am unashamed of my 9 ½ hours – although recently with my house move it has been more like 5 or 6 hours sleep a night, so I need to heed my own advice.

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Beth

Ooooh, I love a good girls guide to murder! I loved this interview!

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