Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Q&A with Georgina Moore


Photo by Szerdi Nagy



Georgina Moore is the author of the new novel The Garnett Girls. A longtime book publicist, she is deputy managing director of the PR agency Midas. She is based in London.


Q: What inspired you to write The Garnett Girls, and how did you create the three Garnett sisters?


A: We have a holiday houseboat on the Isle of Wight which we rent out. The island is my happy place, where I feel most relaxed walking our dog Bomber on the beaches. My children grew up spending a lot of time on those sandy beaches.


We were there for a weekend once, and I saw a large family all come out of an old house that was right on the beach. They were talking over each other, laughing at each other, off to go sailing together. I was curious as to what it would be like to grow up in a small community, where everyone would know your name, your family’s business, your history. That’s what it is like in parts of the island.


I am a Londoner, born and bred, and knowing your neighbours, living in such a close community was a mystery to me. I could see how it would be claustrophobic and restricting at times growing up, when you are trying to go your own way. But also how as you grew older, there would be comfort in a community and in their support through hard times. That was the seed of the idea behind my debut novel, The Garnett Girls.


Q: How would you describe the dynamic between the sisters and their mother?


A: Complex, like most mother and daughter relationships. And unique to each sister. The girls were abandoned by their father when they were very young, and Margo feels very protective of them after what they have all been through together.


She wants them to marry nice, kind husbands, the kind of men who will look after them and be reliable. So the opposite of what Margo chose in their father – the epic romantic love with a sexy poet. Of course the girls don’t always want to follow their mother’s romantic advice.

I really wanted to explore what it is like to grow in the shadow of charismatic parents. There is a lot of love and closeness in the Garnett family, but also secrecy and silence, and the family goes on a journey together to overcome their past and face up to their future, realising that they are stronger when they are united together.


Q: Good Housekeeping UK said of the book, “Read this terrific debut for the compelling characters and the gorgeous descriptions of the Isle of Wight.” What do you think of that description, and how important is setting to you in your writing?


A: I wrote The Garnett Girls in the first lockdown in 2020, and life was very different. We couldn’t go anywhere, and suddenly everything seemed so narrow.


As I was living vicariously through the Garnett girls I was writing, I was missing the Isle of Wight. People have been kind enough to say that you can feel the yearning in the novel and that the Isle of Wight tourist board should use the book to tempt people to the island! Other people think I have made it sound like the Hamptons.


Setting is so important, because I think it is a way of giving the reader an escape and some glamour, even while the subject and issues in the novel remain hard-hitting. The Garnett Girls is escapist but never sentimental, and setting plays its role in that. In a way, the island and the Sandcove house are additional characters in the novel.


Q: Did you know how the novel would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way?


A: As a book publicist, I have been to lots of events, and I have heard authors say that characters can just go off and do their own thing. I don’t think I ever believed it until it happened to me.


Yes, I knew there was a secret that would come out in The Garnett Girls and what it would be, but each sister pulled me in different directions along the way. There is a touching scene at the end of the novel that always makes me cry and just came to me as I was writing.


Then I went back and wrote a new opening, so that the beginning and end tie together in what I hope is a satisfying way for the reader.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I am working on the second draft of my next novel which is set on a houseboat island. It’s about two families, the Greenwoods and the Stars, the history they share on the island, and the famous history of the island’s hotel, which was a haven for teenage music fans and which as a venue hosted some of the most famous bands in its run-down ballroom.


The working title is Walnut Tree Island. There will be multi-generational female voices again, and this one I feel is more romantic. It’s about second chances and not giving up on life.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: It was important to me to have an older female protagonist in The Garnett Girls, and that is why I created Margo. And not one sitting in the corner knitting, but a woman who may be a bit older but who is still sexy and vibrant, very much living her life and being the main character.


Given that women are the main book buyers in the publishing industry, and especially women 40-70 years old, it seems mad to me that women are not being represented in a meaningful way as they get older.


I love a coming-of-age novel, but characters who have lived a bit—who have loved and been through stuff and who have emotional baggage—those are more interesting to me.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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