British crime thriller writer Holly Jackson, whose bestselling A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder YA series has sold more than two million copies in North America alone since its 2019 launch, has two new books due from Delacorte in the coming months. Each represents a variation on the author’s offerings for teens to date.
Scheduled to pub on February 28, 2023, with a 200,000-copy first printing is Jackson’s first prequel, Kill Joy: A Girl’s Guide to Murder Novella, whose cover is revealed here. With this paperback edition, the novella (which Electric Monkey released digitally in the U.K. in 2021), will make its U.S. debut, and will be available in print for the first time.
Marking another milepost for Jackson is Five Survive, her inaugural standalone novel, a hardcover due on November 29 with a 500,000-copy first printing.
Though Kill Joy features the same protagonists who appear in the trilogy—comprising A Good Girl's Guide to Murder (2019), Good Girl, Bad Blood (2020), and As Good as Dead (2021)—the book was an unanticipated add-on to the series, due to its serendipitous raison d’être.
After Jackson wrapped up Good Girl, Bad Blood, she was tapped to write a story for World Book Day, a charity event in the U.K. and Ireland that is sponsored by National Book Token. The annual reading initiative offers all students a £1 voucher they can swap for one of a selection of books written just for the occasion, including Kill Joy.
Though Jackson said she was honored to contribute a book to World Book Day, the opportunity created a bit of a conundrum. “It was June of 2020, during those scary, early days of living with Covid and lockdowns,” she recalled. “I was between books in my series, and I didn’t have the headspace, or the time, to create a whole new cast of characters in an independent story. So, I thought it would be perfect to write a prequel to the events of A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder.”
Creating Kill Joy was an uplifting creative sojourn. “I enjoyed spending some time with ‘early-days’ versions of the characters, because I knew that after this I would be writing As Good as Dead, which is the very dark finale to the trilogy,” Jackson said. “It was nice, in Kill Joy, to go back to the start and allow Pip, the protagonist, to be a normal kid again, where her mistakes didn’t mean life or death. And hopefully it will be a fun addition for readers of the main series who aren’t ready to let go of Pip quite yet—I know the feeling!”
Finding a Fitting Creative Path
As she prepares to introduce her first standalone novel, Five Survive, later this month, Jackson reflected on that new challenge—as well as those that preceded it.
She took her first stab at fiction writing at the age of 15, on a whim. After becoming enamored of several fantasy series, she explained, “I thought I would give it a go!”
Jackson reported that her resulting fantasy novel, set in a hidden underground world during WWII, “was absolutely dreadful and derivative. But I had a lot of fun doing it and the story was over 100,000 words, which I think was an important test in endurance, and showed that I had what it took to commit to an idea and see it through to the end.”
Guided by her adult reading tastes, Jackson later discovered her fictional niche, which is—intentionally—not a mollifying one. “Mystery and thriller books are my favorite genres to read,” she said. “As a consumer of stories, I am not looking to be comforted—quite the opposite, in fact. I am looking specifically to be uncomfortable, to be tense, to be invested. The stories that I find most compelling pose lots of impossible-to-answer questions from the outset to keep me turning those pages, knowing that these characters will be in real peril. So, I think it was only natural that I would progress to telling these kinds of stories.”
Jackson relished venturing onto new fictional turf with Five Survive, in which six friends on a road trip get trapped in an RV that breaks down in the dark, thanks to someone who wants them dead.
“I was aiming for a thriller that is almost defined by its limitations in time and space, and I decided to set myself the challenge of writing a book that was set in just eight hours,” she said. “The story unfolds in the same amount of time it takes to read the book—a real-time effect, if you will. I also wanted the entire story to be set in a single, confined setting. It was quite a claustrophobic, uncomfortable story to write, and I hope it reads that way too. The tension and the stakes are dialed up to 100 here.”
Delacorte senior editor Kelsey Horton, who acquired and edited Five Survive, as well as Kill Joy and the other installments of Jackson’s series, praised the author for the strides she continues to make. “Holly really gets how to bring out our worst fears on the page,” she noted. “In Five Survive she balances multiple challenging things: a ticking time bomb element, a small, close setting, and a well-crafted backstory for each character, all while building suspense until the very end. Watching her grow as a writer has been incredible and her writing is addictive as ever—as soon as one plot twist is revealed, there is something else about to unravel.”
Fans of A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder can look forward to reuniting with Pip and her fellow characters in a different medium at the end of 2023, when a TV show based on the series (adapted by Poppy Cogan for producer Moonage Pictures) is scheduled to air on BBC Three in the U.K., with BBC Studios handling international distribution.
And Jackson has a new YA novel in the works, details of which she’s keeping under wraps for now. “I am currently writing another standalone mystery thriller, after extensively planning it scene-by-scene,” she confided. “I can’t say much more than that, but—though it is still early days—I think this will be my favorite book I’ve ever written. I am very excited to get it all down on the page.”
Five Survive by Holly Jackson. Delacorte, $19.99 Nov. 29 ISBN 978-0-593-37416-0
Kill Joy: A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder Novella by Holly Jackson. Delacorte, $12.99 paper Feb. 28, 2023 ISBN 978-0-593-42621-0