How fun to be doing this week’s interview with Georgina Cross, whose debut novel, THE STEPDAUGHTER, has received rave reviews and has been compared to THE MOTHER-IN-LAW and BIG LITTLE LIES. Below, Georgina shares more about her journey to publication, the experience of losing her best friend, and the importance of modeling grit and perseverance for one’s kiddos. Enjoy!
After graduating from Louisiana State University, Georgina enjoyed a career in marketing & communications and worked 9 years in business development/bid & proposal for an aerospace & defense contractor before joining the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber of Commerce as the Workforce Director. Georgina founded Susie’s Wish non-profit in 2015 which sends patients with life threatening illnesses to the beach, named in honor of her best friend, former TV news reporter Susie Edwards. Georgina spend weekends with her husband David going to basketball tournaments, scary movies, and trying new restaurants with their combined family of four sons.
Share something about you that most people don’t know.
I’m Eurasian (my mother is Malaysian-Chinese and my father is English). Before moving to the United States, we also lived in England, Dubai, and Malaysia. We also lived on a cargo ship! My father is a ship captain and for several months my mother, sister, and I lived onboard as we made routes around Papa New Guinea and back to Hong Kong. I was only three years old at the time and don’t remember much but there are pictures of my sister and I splashing around in a baby pool on the top deck while my mom is waving and my dad is wearing his splendid white captain’s uniform.
What first inspired you to start writing?
When my best friend Susie, a former TV news reporter, was thirty-four-years-old, she died after a fourteen-month battle with cancer. Toward the end, she asked me to help her plan her funeral and it was one of the most gut-wrenching experiences of my life. I literally felt like I was wailing and losing my mind on the inside while we stood at the funeral home and picked out her coffin. We stood in the parlor and selected her flowers. She asked me to speak and that we sit by her mother. Afterwards, she put on a brave smile and asked that we go get ice cream which was profound because she was the one who wanted to cheer us up. The pain and grief took several years to comprehend until I sat down one day to write about Susie and her brave fight. Writing that short story helped me reflect on so much that had happened and what we’d lost. It was more than cathartic. It also helped jump-start my ability to write short stories again. And it paved the way for us to create Susie’s Wish in her name, a non-profit that sends patients with life threatening illnesses to the beach. Going to the beach and dipping her toes in the sand had been one of Susie’s last wishes. She is the inspiration for me pursuing my love for writing again. Those short stories soon turned into full-length novels and I was hooked.
Tell us about one of your proudest writing moments.
My sons, Reece and Liam, spend their weeks practicing and playing for their travel basketball and school teams committing to hours of shooting hoops in the gym. On those same weekends, I’m working hard too: writing books, editing books, and coming up with new story outlines. I want my kids to see that at any stage in life, we must always work hard to follow our dreams. Nothing comes easy. But it’s our passion that drives us to keep working harder, even if that means 6 am writing times or evening practices at some court across town. I was rewarded recently when my fifteen-year-old son looked at me, my shoulders hunched at the keyboard, a new manuscript on the screen, and he said, “Mom, I respect the grind.”
Publishing a book is a bucket list dream for many people—are there any other accomplishments on your bucket list right now?
I have created two non-profits while working full-time. The first one was the Ability Foundation which raised money to install handicapped doors in schools. Compliance insures handicapped parking spaces and bathrooms but not handicapped doors with push-button access. We installed more than 50 of these doors in North Alabama schools. The second non-profit is very close to my heart and called Susie’s Wish named after my best friend Susie, a former TV news reporter, who died in 2010 after a fourteen-month battle with cancer. Her last wish had been to go to the beach but we were unable to bring her in time. We now send others to the beach in Susie’s name by gifting patients with life-threatening illnesses a week-long stay to the beach with their families. Since 2015, we have sent more than 30 patients.
The road to publication is twisty at best–tell us about some of your twists.
My first book never sold! That could have been the end of my journey but I kept working. Kept striving. I signed with an agent very quickly and was super optimistic at first, but the book was rejected by 10 editors and we decided to put it aside so I could work on the next project. It took another 2 years of writing while also working full-time, caring for my kids, and simultaneously working on two other books. All that hard work paid off because in early 2020 I signed a two-book deal with Bookouture, Hachette Publishing, and then -bam!- another book deal with Ballantine, Penguin Random House. I have also been hired to ghostwrite a local celebrity’s book. This author journey is a long one and it’s very much about perseverance, discipline, and not giving up! And another key word: PATIENCE.
MORE ABOUT THE BOOK
It’s a normal afternoon when I walk out the patio doors of our kitchen to check on Mia, my stepdaughter, who is swimming in our backyard pool. But she’s gone. My heart stops when I see the back gate is open, her pink, fluffy towel lying folded on a chair. I was just feet away. Why didn’t I hear her scream? Who took our little girl?
My husband can’t understand how I could have let his daughter disappear. And when the police come asking questions, I wish I could wind back time to that normal afternoon when I was cooking lasagna for my family, Mia’s favorite. I can tell the officers don’t believe me: they’ve cast me as the evil stepmother.
I just wish I could understand the messages I’ve found from my husband on Mia’s phone: I’m so sorry, I still love you. And why his wedding ring is found at the bottom of the pool after Mia disappeared. He never told me it was missing. What else is he hiding?
But the detective keeps asking me where I was during those ten minutes when Mia vanished. And I can’t tell her my secret. From the way she’s looking at me, I know she thinks I did something to my stepdaughter. Mia and I haven’t always been that close and sometimes she drives me nuts, just like any normal teenager, but I would never hurt her.
I just need you to believe me.
RT for a chance to win a copy of THE STEPDAUGHTER by @GCrossAuthor Its a twisty tale of crumbling marriages, disappearances and mysterious fires. You don't want to miss out!!https://t.co/u1M53jJOs8
— The Debutante Ball (@DebutanteBall) December 9, 2020