To celebrate the publication of Before You Knew My Name in ebook and audio, author Jacqueline Bublitz chatted with Pigeonhole, a digital book club platform, to answer their questions on being an author and writing Before You Knew My Name.
What research did you do for the book?
I lived on the Upper West Side in New York for a spring and summer (tough gig!), where I spent a lot of time searching for the perfect murder spot. I also spent many nights on, and learning about, true crime forums. And I once tested out my murder weapon (gently) for its effectiveness. On myself of course. I was very method for a lot of this book!
Why do you think you became a writer?
There’s a lot going on in my head. A lot of people and words and ideas milling about. Writing sort of feels similar to the way Dumbledore uses his wand to extract his excess thoughts. It’s my way of giving them the space they need to be coherent.
How important is setting for your writing?
I view setting as another character in the story. Places have personality, and I try to capture that.
How much of your writing is built on personal experiences, be they yours or of those you know?
I think of myself as an observer, as opposed to someone who writes from pure imagination, so I’d say most of my work is grounded in someone’s lived experience. When it comes to my characters, I often borrow details – quirks and habits and gestures – from people who intrigue me, but nothing is ever explicitly autobiographical (that I will admit to, haha).
Name the first book first that forever changed your outlook on life?
The Color Purple by Alice Walker. It was the first time I realised you could tell the truth in a story and have it be both brutal and beautiful. As a reader, I loved that book. But as a writer – it was a revelation.
If you weren’t able to write – how would you fill that time?
Aimlessly scrolling through all my social media accounts and wishing I was a Broadway star. Which I do far too often as it is.
Do you have guilty any shortcuts you take while writing?
The first few drafts are just one big shortcut. I generally start knowing the ending, and then weave my way there, without any continuity at all. I wish I was better at plotting out my stories, because it would make the proofing stage a lot easier!
Do you live where you write?
Yep! I have a gorgeous little study set up at the house, and I’m either there at my desk, or writing from my bed across the hallway.
What is your favourite book of the year and where were you when you read it?
My favourite book of the last twelve months is Betty by Tiffany McDaniel. It’s just so lyrical and heart-breaking and engaging, and I loved the father, Landon, so much. I was mostly in my bed, weeping, as I read this one.
What’s your favourite book ever?
I cannot choose. This is actually the hardest question ever! When I was a child, however, I was obsessed with a disaster book called Catastrophe Calamity & Cataclysm. I used to check it out of the library every month. And I carried my copy of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe everywhere.
Do you have any advice for handling criticisms / compliments, both in life and specifically about your writing?
It’s important to remember that not all feedback is created equal or given over in the spirit with which you offered up your work (or your heart). So, I’d say pay attention to both good and bad advice or feedback that comes your way, but know the difference between acknowledging something, and actually taking it on, and always consider the messenger.
What is your aim as a writer? How does a book do that?
I hope I can offer the chance for a reader to lose themselves, and find themselves, at the very same time. The only thing I love more than being surprised by a book is that moment of recognition, where you realise the writer is telling a kind of truth that resonates in your own life, beyond the page. As to the ‘how’ … I’m writing towards this answer, too.
Literary Figures (historical and contemporary): Snog, marry, avoid.
Snog: Katherine Clifton
Marry: Atticus Finch
Avoid: Count Vronsky
Stay tuned for part 2 coming soon!
A GOOD HOUSEKEEPING BOOK OF THE YEAR
'Spellbinding' Elly Griffiths
'The most wonderful book. Unusual, beautiful, feminist, gripping, deserves to win prizes. I loved it so much.' Marian Keyes
'A brave and timely novel which will fuel the debate on women's rights to walk safely through our streets. I raced through the pages, anxious for resolution, yet at the same time not wanting this beautiful writing to finish.' Clare Mackintosh
This is not just another novel about a dead girl.
When she arrived in New York on her 18th birthday carrying nothing but $600 cash and a stolen camera, Alice was looking for a fresh start. Now, just one month later, she is the city's latest Jane Doe, an unidentified murder victim.
Ruby Jones is also trying to start over; she travelled halfway around the world only to find herself lonelier than ever. Until she finds Alice Lee's body by the Hudson River.
From this first, devastating encounter, the two women form an unbreakable bond. Alice is sure that Ruby is the key to solving the mystery of her life - and death. And Ruby - struggling to forget what she saw that morning - finds herself unable to let Alice go. Not until she is given the ending she deserves.
Before You Knew My Name doesn't ask whodunnit. Instead, this powerful, hopeful novel asks: Who was she? And what did she leave behind? The answers might surprise you.
'An exquisitely written, absolutely devastating novel, which gives a voice to all the women who never made it home.' Red
'I fell head over heels in love with this heartbreaking, beautiful and hugely important novel. Jacqueline Bublitz's prose is luminous and the up-all-night, just-one-more-page plot is brilliantly clever and original. Everyone should read this book.' Rosie Walsh, author of The Man Who Didn't Call
'A really remarkable book - so fresh and original. I've never read anything quite like this.' Laura Barnett, author of The Versions of Us
'I was mesmerised by this exquisitely written, heartbreaking, lyrical story of friendship from beyond the grave.' Jane Corry, author of My Husband's Wife