Important Reading and Writing Questions for Crime Writer Jacqueline Bublitz

Jacqueline Bublitz’s Before You Knew My Name was shortlisted for the Ngaio Marsh Crime Writing Awards for Best Mystery Novel, was shortlisted for the Crime Writers’ Association’s Gold Dagger Award, and won Best General Fiction Book of the Year at the 2022 Australian Book Industry Awards.

What’s your all-time favorite crime novel?

One of my favorites is I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara. This is a non-fiction account of the late author’s search for the Golden State Killer, a man who committed a series of heinous and sexist crimes across California in the 1970s and 80s.

It’s such an original and sensitive approach to a series of crimes that could so easily have been exploited for their shock value, and for me it was a real lesson in centering the victim and refusing to deify the perpetrator.

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What are the clichés of criminal writing you’ve seen and how do you avoid them?

The response to Alice Lee telling her own story in Before You Know My Name was an eye-opening moment for me: plot twist can be as simple as who the story is being told to … what I’m trying to bring to the page is the unexplored in the familiar, if that’s not an overly written thing to say. And when you find that different point of view, it suddenly becomes much easier to avoid particular tropes and clichés along the way.

There are only two things that are close to my heart. I refuse to eroticize violence and, taking inspiration from the work of Michelle McNamara, I am not interested in portraying the authors as those sort of evil “mwah-ha-ha” geniuses worthy of our respect. I would completely leave them out if I could.

New Plymouth author Jacqueline Bublitz had astronomical success with her crime novel, Before You Knew My Name.

ANDY JACKSON/Stuff

New Plymouth author Jacqueline Bublitz had astronomical success with her crime novel, Before You Knew My Name.

Where do you draw your criminal inspiration from?

Most come from real world events. I would say it’s 10% imagination, 90% observation. With Before You Knew My Name, there was a murder on my street in Melbourne that really shook me, and with my second book, I really paid attention to how we consume true crime stories, in especially those that take place in the media. .

I think that’s how crime is both a societal issue and a deeply personal issue. This intersection is so complex and so… human. When I was younger, I was more interested in unsolved mysteries. In elementary school I was really obsessed with finding out what happened to Anastasia Romanov. I must have read The Riddle of Anna Anderson by Peter Kurth a hundred times. These days, I’m more interested in working backwards from a solved crime to try and find the point in the story where things might have ended differently – both for the perpetrators and their victims.

Tell us about your writing routine.

I tend to hear my characters chattering in my head long before I can put them on the page. Running often helps me distill what they’re actually saying, so jogs along the local foreshore are a big part of my writing process.

At the start of a manuscript, I also like to take a notebook to my favorite cocktail bar and jot down ideas on a vodka martini (or two). And despite having a nice office setup these days, I still write a lot from my bed, which is probably why I constantly need a restorative massage.

I would say early morning is my most creative time; I used to be a night owl but these days it often goes off at 9pm. Every once in a while I have to turn the lights back on, because I scared myself with the dark searches I was caught up in before bed.