In September, I got to be on a panel with author, Georgia Clark, at Better Read Than Dead in Newtown for the event, Bad Women: A Discussion about Women, Writing and Likeability. After hearing her talk about her life as a feminist, author, her ideation process and critically acclaimed new book, The Regulars, I knew I needed to read it immediately. By read, I mean devour. And that I did.
Since Georgia is a legend, she agreed to answer some questions for Summer’s Book Club!
Are there any authors or books in particular that inspired you to write fiction with a feminist kick? (The Regulars reminded me of Dietland by Sarai Walker!)
My love for fiction-with-a-feminist-kick really started with Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It was the first time I’d seen a fun, shiny pop culture show with an openly feminist agenda AND a sense of humor. It felt revelatory and revolutionary. I fangirl over books by female comedy writers (Tina Fey/Lena Dunham/Amy Poehler/Mindy Kaling etc) and generally like any smart take on the rom com genre, which mixes the business of being a feminist with the pleasure of love, sex ‘n’ romance (bonus points for girls kissing girls.)
Did you come up with your characters first or the plot?
For this book, it was the premise that came to me first. I’d wanted to write about beauty for a while before the idea for The Regulars came to me, as magically and mysterious as the Pretty itself…. I was at home, editing my last book, glass of wine in hand (natch), and the idea of a serum that turns you pretty popped into my head. Hm, I thought, that’s interesting. As I sat there, a scene began playing in my head as fully-formed as a movie: three different girls in a grounded real-life world, a potion, an unexpected transformation… When it ended I knew instantly it could be a novel. And here we are! Moral of the story: listen to your daydreams.
Did you always know the ending for The Regulars or did it evolve as your were writing?
I had a sense of the tone and emotion of the ending, but the not the exact mechanics of it. The freelance editor I work with says that the feeling you want the reader to end up with on the last page defines the type of book it is. I know I wanted a feel-good ending that was uplifting and hopeful. I’m a sucker for a happy ending. Ironically, the ending was the part that most picked on in reviews. Readers felt it was too neat. Can’t please ‘em all!
As a female author writing about beauty standards, have you had to defend yourself or your work?
If you mean defend it to trolls and people bashing feminist fiction, no. I think there’s a wide gap between fiction and non-fiction, the likelihood someone will take you to task over it because it’s fiction, dummy, I made it up (or did I?). It’s harder to pin down and attack, unlike memoir or essays, which speak the direct truth about someone’s experience or point of view. Plus, my work speaks very directly to a female audience in a way that explores the complex realities of being a woman: I’m not pushing an agenda you might find the need to argue with.
Would you like to see The Regulars in movie or TV form? If yes, would you write it?
That would be a dream come true, an even greater dream than my all-you-can-eat-grilled-cheese-buffet dream, which is also quite wonderful. Before I was a novelist I was an aspiring TV writer: I spent my 20s writing pilots, making trailers, trying to get a break that seemed intent on evading me. (As my mother always tells me, I’ve chosen a difficult path.) Perhaps this is all a way of things coming full circle. Yes, I would be involved in a potential show and yes; there are some fun things in the works. Stay tuned!
The Regulars is your third book (after Parched and She’s With The Band,) what was your road to publication like?
Long and complicated. Less a path, more a washed-out-road-that-isn’t-even-on-this-f**king-map. I’ve had some opportunities handed to me on a silver platter and others refuse to acquiesce to me despite fighting tooth and nail for them. I’ve written two books that didn’t sell and both times thought they would end me (they did not). The first was a young adult novel I wrote without being familiar with young adult writing. It seems so obvious now, but it is near-impossible to sell anything without being familiar with the genre: any assumptions you have about a genre are likely outdated and untrue. I was cocky enough to think I could write a YA without doing my homework; it was a girl-detective called Tigerskins Incorporated, with an odd-couple set-up and a PG-rated detective tale. Too PG-rated: when my agent took it out, it suddenly became “middle-grade” (not my intention) and then didn’t sell. I was beyond gutted: every writer knows the feeling of years of “wasted” work. It definitely set me back and shook my confidence, and only through sheer, stubborn perseverance did I cobble/force another YA into existence, Parched. My advice: read your genre and don’t kid yourself about whether your ms sits comfortably in it or not. Work with a freelance editor. Don’t get hung-up on perfecting one book—if it’s been over 5 years, think about starting something fresh.
Do you have any publishing or marketing advice for aspiring authors?!
Everything I know about marketing, which we could even just call ‘spreading the word about your great book’, is through trial and error, and observation. As authors, we’re necessarily solitary creatures but writing the book is only half the job: the other half is telling people about it! There are lots of online courses on teaching you how to write writing but none on how to effectively spread the word once you decide to self publish or get traditionally published. I created The Pro-Active Author to empower writers every step of the way, from timelines, to networking, to using social media and online platforms, to getting great blurbs.
My approach is holistic, strength- and pleasure-focused, and about the long game. So while, say, a Goodreads giveaway might be immediately effective in seeing a spike of people adding your book to their To Read, I think things like building a mailing list and sending a monthly newsletter, planning events with other authors, and making sure to include your friends and family in the lead-up to launch are just as effective. I’d suggest exploring whether hiring a freelance publicist to help you with your launch feels right (it did for me), and make sure you have a confident, unapologetic elevator pitch ready for you and your book.
Where is your favourite place to write?
I work from the New York Writers Room, which is a writer-centric no-talking space in Manhattan, and from home, which is Brooklyn. Both great options: I’m very lucky.
What are you currently reading?
Last year my two favorite books were The Girls by Emma Cline, which is so beautiful and spooky, and Sweet bitter by Stephanie Danler, which is poetic and powerful. Right now I’m reading Fear of Flying by Erica Jong, which is fantastic: really funny and ballsy and quirky and almost disturbingly modern, considering it was written in the 70s!
The Regulars is out now. Follow Georgia on Twitter and Instagram at @georgialouclark. Sign up for her mailing list at georgiaclark.com. Georgia has kindly offered readers of Hearts Talk a 10% discount to The Pro-Active Author! Use promo code friendly10 at check-out.