Georgina Moore grew up in London and lives on a houseboat on the River Thames with her partner, two children, and Bomber, the Border Terrier. The Garnett Girls is her first novel and is set on the Isle of Wight, where Georgina and her family have a holiday houseboat called Sturdy. Follow her on Twitter at @PublicityBooks
The Gloss Book Club: Your journey to publishing has been a bit different than most, you work with authors and books all day long, what’s it been like to switch seats?
Georgina Moore: I have had a lot of advantages with the publishing process – knowing the industry, knowing agents and editors and a lot of UK publishing. I also knew what to expect and how important it was for the author to jump into the sales, marketing, publicity team and work hard. In many ways though it made the anxiety worse. Knowing people, waiting for their reactions. As the Garnett Girls was out on submission and editors took it to acquisition meetings there was a nerve wracking few days when lots of my friends were reading it across publishing. There were a couple of authors who I knew really well who got sent early proofs and I knew they wouldn’t be able to pretend if they didn’t like it. That was terrifying and I think they were terrified too in case they didn’t like it!
I hope I was always a sympathetic publicist but I think I will be even more so now. It’s hard work being published, and it’s easy to get side-tracked by social media in to wondering about what everyone else is getting, other author’s sales and reviews and constantly checking Goodreads!
TGBC: Does the setting of this novel (Isle of Wight) have any significance to you? What inspired you about this location?
GM: We have a holiday houseboat on the Isle of Wight, which we rent out. It is in the sea, in Bembridge harbour. 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 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 as 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.
TGBC: Where did the inspiration for the family dynamic between the three sisters: Rachel, Imogen and Sasha come from?
GM: I am the oldest of three siblings so I have first-hand experience of being one of three. I think something happens in families – it happened in mine – as a child you get assigned a role, a persona. From then on it is very hard to ever break away from the persona you have been given. You might be labelled the clever one, the pretty one, the black sheep of the family. It means that within your family you feel restricted, unable to be anything different. You can see this with the Garnetts, how they are pulling against Margo’s perceptions of them. Rachel feels like she always has to be responsible for her younger sisters, Imogen is the one that feels she must look after Margo and stay close to home, and Sasha as the youngest has been leaning in to being the wild and rebellious one, so much so that she does not know how to break the distance between herself and her family.
I have also observed from my own family and other families I have known that it is hard for outsiders, new boyfriends or girlfriends to break into the intimacy of the family circle. I wanted to depict how close the Garnetts are, with their family rules and habits, their in jokes and shared humour, the way they speak over each other, and all the long held complex emotional damage they cannot let go of. And how hard that is for outsiders to understand.
TGBC: Which of the sisters do you relate to most and why?
GM: Each sister has a part of me in her, a starting point. They each have something I experienced at different stages of my life. I have been the rebellious one in the family, running away from home like Sasha. I have also been Imogen, drifting, wanting things but not sure how to make them happen, and with the wrong person because it is too terrifying to make a big change and hurt someone. I am more like Rachel now as a person, trying to have it all with kids and a job. So each character I can relate to in different ways.
TGBC: Did your work in PR and publishing shape the WAY you wrote your debut novel?
GM: No, thank goodness. I think lockdown really helped with that as I felt quite distanced from the world and from publishing as I was writing. I didn’t think about what the market would want from me as a writer, what genres were selling well, the new trends. I just sat down and wrote the kind of book I love to read – a character driven novel, one with flawed characters.
TGBC: What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
GM: It was just one of those things I knew from such an early age. Probably one of my early favourite reads which would have cemented the thought – something like Anne of Green Gables or Little Women – the way language could create a character who you loved so much and who lived with you for always.
TGBC: What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?
GM: I’d like more people to read The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets by Eva Rice, The Great Gooden by Meg Rosoff, A Place Called Winter by Patrick Gale.
TGBC: What does literary success look like to you and when do you find time to write?
GM: I’m over the moon with the reception that The Garnett Girls has had in the UK. It’s had good reviews from the national press and magazine, from real readers and bloggers. I am most interested in lots of people reading my story and I feel like The Garnett Girls is just at the start of its journey.
Making time to write now there is no lockdown is very hard, with a job and two kids! Luckily, I really want to find the time to write, and I have the perfect place to escape to to write. I have a canal barge called Betsy, moored up at the back of our houseboat, overlooking the river and once I am aboard Betsy it’s just me and the noisy geese and I can get a lot done in a short space of time. Early mornings are still the best, when my brain is the sharpest.