Meet Phoebe Morgan Author Of The Wild Girls

Do you fancy the sound of a free holiday to Botswana to celebrate a friend's birthday? That's the choice three women have in Phoebe Morgan's latest novel The Wild Girls but could it be too good to be true?

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Book cover of The Wild Girls by Phoebe Morgan

TW: As well as being an author you are Commercial Fiction Director at Harper Collins. Which came first and what was your route into getting both jobs? 

PM: I was an author first! I started writing at about age 24, with the book that became The Doll House, and at the time I was working quite a few jobs, as a babysitter, a barmaid, and as a publishing assistant at Octopus Books, a non-fiction publisher. I moved to HarperCollins in 2016 to join the Avon team, and that’s when I began working in commercial fiction, but at the time of sending my book out to agents I had none of the contacts that I do now, I just had to submit cold which was a bit terrifying (though actually I think it would be worse now if people knew who I was, I would be embarrassed!) 

I joined the crime and thriller team at HarperCollins last year, and I now write in the evenings and at weekends and work full-time during the week. Before this, I studied English and Leeds University, but I always wanted to become something creative if possible.

TW: What are your tips for writing whilst working full time? I'm sure other writers would love to know!

PM: I tend to stick to weekends at the moment – with the pandemic I have had more time (no social life) so I can get quite a lot done on a clear weekend. I sometimes write a little in the week, too, but I try not to be too hard on myself about that, as it is really difficult to spend all day working and then open up your laptop to write in the evenings. So at the moment, I don’t write at all really in the week, I just focus on work, and then the weekends are my creative time. I find having that boundary really useful. 

Realistically, I think if you write full time you have to be able to use weekends; I feel so much clearer on Saturdays than I do after work on say a Thursday night, because my brain gets a bit fried from the working day, especially now that everything is remote and there is no separation between work and home. So my tips are be kind to yourself, be realistic about how much you can get done, and try to keep the two jobs as separate as you can in your mind. I also think it helps having a priority – for me, my day job always comes first.

TW: Congratulations on the publication of The Wild Girls, your fourth novel. You wrote it during the 2020 Covid-19 lockdown - can you tell us about it and where you got the inspiration from?

PM: Yes, I wrote the majority of it in lockdown 1! It was actually really lovely having that escape when the world was going mad; I was quite anxious about the pandemic but I found that if I could lose myself in the writing over the weekends, it was very helpful and a good creative outlet. I had the idea for setting the book in Botswana during a brainstorm (pre-pandemic) with my agent, and then I found some amazing luxury safari lodges online and used them as the inspiration for Deception Lodges, where my book is set. I had the tab constantly open on my laptop so I could refer back to it, and writing about an exotic location whilst being stuck inside my flat was actually a lot of fun!

TW: You have a US deal for The Wild Girls too. What difference do you think that makes to a writer's career and how does the US thriller market differ from the UK?

PM: I think for me it was a really nice confidence boost – it can be quite hard to get a deal in America and I didn’t for my first three novels, so to me this was quite a milestone. I think the US and UK markets are quite different – there are some novels (e.g. serial killer books) that don’t work as well over there because they are seen as too graphic, and the jacket looks always vary wildly! I find looking at UK and US jackets really interesting. Also there will be some authors who are huge here but who the US have never really heard of, I think there are only a handful of writers really who have managed to crack both (I'm not expecting to be one of them, I am just grateful to have a deal!). I think on the whole the US market is slightly more conservative than the UK market, and they have different trends.

TW: Friendship is a huge theme in the novel. Which of the four main characters would you most like to be friends with and why?

PM: Yes, it really is a book about female friendship and how difficult, complex and sometimes toxic that can be. I’d probably most like to be friends with Alice, to me she seems the most fun, but they are definitely all quite flawed characters in their own ways! Grace is supposed to be the main protagonist, hence why her chapters are in first person and the others are in third, and I hope readers can find something to identify in each woman – even if they’re not particularly likeable.

TW: Which of your books did you most enjoy writing and why?

PM: Honestly it was probably The Wild Girls. I think I had the plot a little clearer in my head than I did with some of my others, and the edits were straightforward – the edits for my second book, The Girl Next Door, were really tough and so although that book is probably my favourite in terms of the story, it was quite a painful process. I’m writing my next book now in lockdown 3 and that has been really hard, too – I think like a lot of people, this third lockdown for me has been exhausting and it feels tricky to be creative when we are living such small lives without much stimulation. Hopefully that will change soon...

TW: With your editorial director hat on, what do you think will be the big trends in the thriller genre in 2021 and 2022?

PM: I think some trends from 2020 will continue, such as locked room mysteries, but I also think there might be a spike in cosy crime after the success of Richard Osman. I think readers are turning to what I would term ‘quirky’ crime too, such as novels like The Appeal and Eight Detectives, where the reader is forced to play detective and figure out the puzzle for themselves as they go. On the flip side, we’re seeing a bit of a trend for very dark novels (such as Girl A which I published in January), and we’re also seeing a diversification in terms of representation, with more LGBTQ characters and bigger, bolder books that tackle important themes that have perhaps been a bit overlooked in commercial fiction. I hope that continues.

TW: Also with that hat on, what are your tips for readers who want to become thriller writers themselves?

PM: My main tip is always to persist – you have to keep going, even if your first book isn’t the one that lands you an agent. My second tip is to read a lot – read about the genre, see what other crime authors are doing and how they are doing it, use other novels and styles to spark your own ideas.

TW: Finally, any exclusives on book 5?

PM: Book 5 is currently called The Trip (though that might change) and it’s about a man whose fiancĂ©e goes missing, just as they are about to embark upon a round the world trip – he gets on the plane and she isn’t there. It should be out in Spring 2022.

Thanks Phoebe!
Image of Phoebe Morgan

More about The Wild Girls:

In a luxury lodge on Botswana's sun-soaked plains, four friends reunite for a birthday celebration...

The birthday girl has it all but chose love over her friends. 

The teacher feels the walls of her flat and classroom closing in.

The mother ;oves her baby, but desperately needs a break.

The introvert yearns for adventure after suffering for too long.

Arriving at the safari lodge, a feeling of unease settles over them. There's no sign of the party that was promised. There's no phone signal. They're alone, in the wild.

The hunt is on.


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