At first glance, it’s easy to assume that Tammy Greenwood’s writing was primarily shaped by her upbringing in New England. Right now, she’s summering in a Vermont cabin her great-grandfather built in the 1940s, taking time to write while enjoying nature. Specifically, most of the 14 novels she’s published over the past 25 years aren’t set in the Clairemont neighborhood she’s lived in for nearly 30 years, but in Vermont and the Northeast.
“I used to joke that my books were auto-geographical,” says Greenwood, who goes by T. Greenwood. “Where you grow up, of course, makes you who you are in many ways.”
Between the present day and the late ’70s, “Such a Pretty Girl” (out October 25 on Kensington Publishing Corp.) is a dream come true for the novelist as she always wanted to write a book. about “gritty and grungy” 1970s New York City.
“It’s set in the ’70s, but I think it will resonate with the contemporary reader,” Greenwood says, and she’s right.
As the meat of the story – and the answers to its underlying mystery – is set in the past, both in Vermont and New York, the novel feels like it’s headline-grabbing. The protagonist, Ryan Flannigan is a former middle-aged child actress, but wakes up one day to find that a provocative photo of her as a child has been discovered at the home of a wealthy investor after revealing that he was long gone. a pedophile and a sex trafficker. . The scandals surrounding men such as Harvey Weinstein and Jeffrey Epstein will immediately come to mind, but the novel attempts to unpack the various emotions that Ryan must now reckon with, including whether or not his mother, Fiona, was complicit in the taking. of the picture.
“Most of the book is about this relationship between Fiona and Ryan,” says Greenwood. “I don’t want people to think they’re going to read a book about sex trafficking, because that’s not it. It’s really a story of growing up, a mother-daughter story and a story of friendship.
Readers have come to expect layers in Greenwood’s novels – how she effortlessly mixes coming-of-age fiction with elements of suspense and mystery. But she brings, albeit unintentionally, another common thread that unites her stories that is much more subtle and nuanced than a privileged geographical location.
“I’m really interested in exploring relationships between mothers and daughters, especially daughters who are performers or have some sort of quality like that.”
— Author Tammy Greenwood
“I think writing about mothers and daughters has become kind of a normal course for me,” says Greenwood. “I’m really interested in exploring relationships between mothers and daughters, especially daughters who are performers or have some sort of quality like that.”
Looking back on Greenwood’s work, beginning with 1999’s Breathing Water, it becomes clearer that she’s wanted to be a writer for as long as she can remember. She jokes in her biography that she “wrote” her first novel on her father’s typewriter when she was 10 years old. She has made a career out of exploring the tender and tense family dynamics that make us who we are. When asked bluntly if Greenwood believes she is who she is as a writer not just because of her background but also because she raised girls herself, she stops but agrees that there could be something in this theory.
“Parental anxiety is something that’s been explored a lot in my novels, because I know that feeling,” says Greenwood. “I’m an extremely anxious parent, and I’ll be the first to admit that. My children certainly know that. I’m a writer, so I can always imagine the worst-case scenario at any time, so it ripples through my life, and then into my fiction. That’s my job as a writer: to tap into the roots of that anxiety.
This anxiety is exploited as Greenwood attempts to untangle Fiona and Ryan’s relationship in “Such a Pretty Girl”. In the end, it all comes down to whether the sins of the past, however harmless or acceptable they may have seemed at the time, can be forgiven in the present.
“Yes, Fiona is a problematic character, but she’s also very complex,” says Greenwood. “I wanted to explore the complexities of their relationship, as Ryan loves his mother, especially when she was a child.”
Greenwood will continue to explore these mother-daughter themes in her novel “The Still Point,” slated for release in 2023. She describes him as a “book beast,” her “ballet mom.” novel, and “Big Little Lies” meets “Black Swan.” A distinct difference, however, is that this book will be set primarily in Southern California, not Vermont.
“Vermont is deeply ingrained in my DNA, but San Diego is where I grew up in so many ways,” Greenwood says before adding, “It’s where I got married. that I became a mother.
I am who I am as an artist because of…
“I am what I am as an artist thanks to the teachers who told me I was a writer before I knew I was one myself. Because of the books my grandfather gave me given and stories that storytellers in my family have shared. I am the writer I am today because I grew up thinking books were magical, and the people who told me I could create this magic in my own words.
“Such a Pretty Girl” by T. Greenwood (Kensington, October 2022; 304 pages)
Combs is a freelance writer.