A Good Girl's Guide to Murder - Interview with author Holly Jackson on staying true to the books

A Good Girl's Guide to Murder - author Holly Jackson and the cast on staying true to the books and the big scenes fans will recognise

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June 21, 2024 - Complete Series Paperback Boxed Set available here: https://amzn.to/3VSdQYq

Interview with Holly Jackson - Author and Executive Producer


Can you tell us about A Good Girl’s Guide To Murder?

A Good Girl's Guide to Murder is based on my debut YA thriller book which first released in 2019. And, clearly, you can’t keep a good girl down because, since then, it has sold more than 7 million copies worldwide and been translated into around 40 languages. Both the book and the TV show tell the story of 17-year-old Pip who decides to investigate a closed murder case for her school EPQ project. Everyone in the small town of Little Kilton believes that five years ago, Sal Singh killed his girlfriend, Andie Bell, and her body has never been found. Everyone except Pip that is. As she starts digging into the case, she’ll soon realise that the people around her have many secrets. Secrets they want to stay buried in the past. And if the person who really killed Andie is still out there, how far will they go to stop Pip from finding the truth?

What is it about A Good Girl's Guide to Murder that makes it right for a television adaptation?

I think the reason that A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder lends itself so well to a TV show is because the book is cinematic. I don’t start writing until I know every single beat and scene and can run the plot like a movie in my head. I think that’s why so many readers have been clamouring for an adaptation since the start. So, in a way, it felt like quite a natural translation to turn A Good Girls Guide book into the TV show, with all the big set piece scenes readers will recognise from the book, and new scenes or existing scenes envisioned in a new way to fit the visual medium. All the characters we love, and the same story and plot twists are there from the book because I know readers are very protective and want to see a faithful adaptation. I have made sure — wherever I was able — that the show stays true to the books, because I owe my readers everything and want them to love this adaptation as much as the books.

What were the major challenges for adapting the novel and what was important for you to maintain in terms of the DNA of the book?

What has always been most important to me throughout this adaptation process is to stay loyal to the source material and make sure it adheres to the spirit of the book, as I know that that’s what readers truly want to see. I’m really excited for everyone to see the characters and scenes they already love, and some new surprises too. When I sold the option rights to the book, before it even published, we had no idea that A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder was going to keep growing and growing. Five years later, it’s now a full trilogy and a worldwide bestseller, becoming this behemoth of a book series. By the time it came to writing the episodes, we were in a completely different situation than when we first started out which definitely added to the pressure to get it right. That inspired us to make this the best TV show we possibly could, to honour not only how successful the books have been, but how engaged these fans are and how protective they are of Pip and her story. I have always kept that at the forefront of my mind.

Why is it a story for now?

A Good Girl's Guide to Murder is very much a modern take on an Agatha Christie-esque style mystery. Just like the book, we rely heavily on social media for both plot and style and embrace an almost multi-media storytelling at times: there are TikToks in the show, and there’s a whole plot strand about Instagram photos. As a reader and viewer of other modern thrillers, I have often felt frustrated when some plot device is introduced in order to remove access to phones and technology, seeing those things as obstacles to a thriller story. Instead, I wanted to use the everyday aspects of our lives — like Fitbits and the "Find my friends” app on phones — to find ways of adapting these everyday devices and apps and somehow turning them into crime-solving tools. A Good Girl's Guide to Murder truly embraces that and that’s why I think readers — and future viewers — are so invested in Pip’s investigation, because they can realistically feel like they could solve a murder in the same way she does.

Who are the central characters and how important was getting the casting right, especially for Pip and Ravi?

Casting the two lead roles was our most high-pressure task because we knew from the start that we had to find the perfect Pip and Ravi. The show would not work if we didn’t find the right actors. The first time Emma Myers’ name was mentioned to me was in a conversation with one of the other execs. I had just recently watched the show Wednesday (in fact, in a strange coincidence, I had been watching it while signing copies of A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder). As soon as her name was brought up, I knew she was the one, the person who was always meant to play Pip. I didn’t even need to see Emma read for the part to know she would be perfect, though when I did, I got goosebumps! Pip is quite a complicated character, and I just knew that Emma had the ability to do her justice: that perfect balance between the soft and the prickly, the funny and the serious, the awkward and heart-breaking, the teenage innocence with a glimpse of potential darkness beneath the surface. I have to say, I had the highest expectations of Emma, and she completely blew me away with her performance. She is utterly mesmerising and so smart and dedicated to her craft. I cannot wait for everyone to see her as Pip; she is a once-in-a-generation talent!

The search for Ravi was equally as daunting, as he has become known as one of the internet’s favourite ‘book boyfriends’ and is a character who is adored worldwide. I only ever saw one person read for Ravi, and that was Zain Iqbal. As soon as I saw him, I knew he was the one. I actually giggled to myself during Emma and Zain’s chemistry read because I knew we’d done it, that we’d found our Pip and Ravi. I’m so proud of Zain; this has been his first real acting job and — boy — did we throw him into the deep end. I have been so impressed by his bravery in taking this role on, and watching him grow on set every day, and for perfectly embodying such a well-loved character. I wouldn’t have trusted Ravi with anyone else. I’m so excited for everyone to see Team Pip and Ravi in the flesh when the show finally comes out — I can just picture all the amazing fan edits now!

How did you feel about the fan reactions, the casting of those two?

I always knew that when we announced the casting for Pip and Ravi that there was going to be a strong reaction and a lot of noise on the internet, because this is such an engaged fanbase. So, I have to admit, I was nervous. VERY nervous. Especially as Emma and Zain were choices I supported; what if the readers disagreed and then blamed me? My heart was in my mouth when I pressed send on that Instagram post with a photo of me and Emma and Zain. But I shouldn’t have worried for even one second: the reaction was incredible. Every single comment was overwhelmingly positive, with people praising the ‘perfect casting’. You could just feel the excitement as the news exploded across the world. That’s when I knew that we’d got it right, and if we could get the casting spot-on, then maybe we really could make a special show that readers and new fans alike would love.

What do you feel you've achieved with the series?

My one goal with this adaptation has always been to make a show that feels true to the book, because A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder would have gone nowhere without its loyal (and huge) readership, and I know that I owe them everything. I kept the readers in the forefront of my mind with every decision and have always advocated for them. So I hope that, in the end, we have made a TV show that they will love and feel proud of, like I do. I will be nervously awaiting their reactions, but I’m secretly optimistic that we’ve done it: created a faithful adaptation that is a fresh and binge-worthy show in its own right.

About

It’s the Summer holidays, but teenager Pip Fitz-Amobi is focused on an unusual school research project. In Little Kilton five years ago, schoolgirl Andie Bell went missing. Her boyfriend Sal Singh sent a text confessing to the murder before being found dead, seemingly taking his own life. Andie’s body was never found. Case closed. However, Pip isn’t so sure and is determined to prove Sal’s innocence.

The six-part series is based on Holly Jackson’s smash hit novels and stars Emma Myers (Wednesday), Anna Maxwell Martin (Motherland, A Spy Among Friends), Gary Beadle (Rye Lane, Small Axe), Mathew Baynton (Ghosts, Wonka) and newcomer Zain Iqbal.

A Good Girl’s Guide To Murder was filmed in and around Somerset, England. Commissioned by the BBC, the series is produced by Moonage Pictures (The Pursuit of Love, The Gentlemen, Bodies) in co-production with ZDFneo and Netflix.

All episodes will be available on BBC iPlayer from Monday 1 July.

Complete Series Paperback Boxed Set available here:https://amzn.to/3VSdQYq

Source BBC iPlayer

June 21, 2024 3:00am ET by BBC iPlayer  

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