Earlier this month, book publicist Georgina Moore released her first novel into the world. The Garnett Girls tells the story of three sisters and their free-spirited mother, Margo. All three sisters have always tried to do what is expected of them following the father walking out on them when they were young. Richard is a name that is never uttered at Sandcove where the eldest daughter, Rachel makes her home. Playwright Imogen is making discoveries of her own following her engagement and Sasha finds herself trapped between her controlling husband and her fractured family.
In this interview, Georgina shares about at what point in her career as a publicist, she released she wanted to write her first book, an interesting discovery she made after the book was published, and what she’s working on next.
At what point during your career as a book publicist did you realize that you wanted to write a book?
I tried back in my 30s; I thought I might have a single-girl-about-London novel in me. But I realized I didn’t have anything original to say. Plus, my career was so all-consuming, and a lot of publishing put me off wanting to be an author. I saw first-hand how competitive it is; how hard authors have to work; how many books are published in just one week; the issue over review space for books and the general lack of space in the media. It wasn’t until lockdown came and so much of my job changed that I thought it was now or never.
When did you first come up with the storyline for The Garnett Girls?
I always knew I wanted to write about the push/pull of the mother/daughter relationship. We have a houseboat on the Isle of Wight, located off the south coast of England, which is a holiday rental business, and when we were on the island many years ago, I saw a large family coming out of a slightly ramshackle house on the beach. They were all talking over each other, the way families do, about to go sailing. A seed of an idea started to grow in my mind. As someone who had grown up in London, I was fascinated by what it would be like to grow up in such a small, close-knit community. The kind of place where you know everyone in the shops and on the streets, where everyone knows your history. I thought it would probably be claustrophobic for some but a supportive and helpful way to live for others. That was when I knew I wanted my Garnett family to live on the island.
Where did you write the majority of the book?
At home on our houseboat on Taggs Island in the River Thames. Very early in the morning during the first lockdown, before the kids got up and before I had to start the very painful exercise of online schooling two kids! We couldn’t go anywhere and so I think you can tell in The Garnett Girls that I was living vicariously through their parties! Critics have been kind enough to say that you can feel the longing for the Isle of Wight in the novel.
You have a holiday houseboat ‘Sturdy’ on the Isle of Wight where the book is set. Are the various locations in the book based on real places or are they purely imaginary?
Oh yes, they are all real places and easy to spot. I also found out after publication that there is a real Garnett family in Seaview where my book is set. Now they all think the novel is about them!
Out of the three sisters (Rachel, Imogen, and Sasha) which sister did you feel the most connected to as you wrote the novel?
There’s a touchstone of me in each of the sisters. Me at different stages in my life. I started with that touchstone, and then the girls developed in their own ways. My UK publisher did a quiz to find out which Garnett Girls you are; I got Margo, and everyone seemed to agree with it! So I think the strongest vibe I project is the Margo vibe.
How do you think the sister’s complicated relationship with their mother, made their relationships with each other stronger?
Each sister realizes that the only people who can understand what it is like to have Margo as a mother are their sisters! Once the Garnett sisters share the burden of their past, and the emotional damage they have been through and really talk to each other and share their secrets, then they can become stronger as they unite. United, they can try to get Margo to see that controlling their lives is not the only way to mother them.
What was your favorite scene from the book?
I love the Boxing Day BBQ on the beach scene where everything comes to a head, long-held tensions and secrets exploding. The scene moves fast between different viewpoints, and it was fun to write. The end scene between Richard and Margo gets me every single time I read it, and I always shed a tear.
Which character was the hardest to say goodbye to at the end of the book?
I haven’t said goodbye to them. For me, they are out there on the island beaches, living their lives. Lots of readers have asked for a prequel or sequel, and I think at some point I may revisit the Garnetts.
What has been the best part about meeting readers on tour?
I love every part of it! I am a bit of a natural extrovert, so everything to do with events and festivals I find so much fun. I love talking to readers about the characters as if they are real people. I also love meeting aspiring writers, too. I think they find it inspiring that I had my first novel published at 50. If I can do anything to help or encourage an aspiring writer, I will.
Are you working on your next novel, and if so, can we get a sneak peek?
Yes, I’m working on the second draft of Walnut Tree Island. It’s set on a houseboat island in the Thames with an old hotel on it which had a glorious past as a music venue in the 1960s. When business magnate Oliver Greenwood turns up as the new owner of the island, old grudges resurface, and Jo Star is determined to protect the island from him, despite the entwined and complicated history of their families.