Georgina Cross, NANNY NEEDED

Georgina Cross, NANNY NEEDED

Zibby was joined by Amazon bestselling author Georgina Cross for an in-person interview to talk about her latest novel, Nanny Needed. Georgina shares how through multiple contracts and a surprise ghostwriting project, this is actually her third book out in a year—and the first she’s been able to celebrate during the pandemic. The two also discuss Georgina’s unique life story, why this novel’s twist has made it harder to properly market, Georgina’s love for comedian Kevin Hart, and which projects she is working on next.


Zibby Owens: Welcome, Georgina. Thanks for coming on “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books” to discuss Nanny Needed.

Georgina Cross: Thank you for having me. Again, I said it earlier, it’s really cool to actually see you face to face and talk to you. Thank you for having me.

Zibby: You’re welcome. It’s my pleasure. Nanny Needed, as I was just joking, I was like, is this my building on the cover? It’s this book about a New York family and the girl who goes to work for the family on the Upper West Side. Though, I have to say, I’m on the Upper East Side. You were just explaining that while you live in Alabama, your sister had lived here for years. Go back for where this book came from and all of that.

Georgina: I would love to know if there is a situation in your building where there is a nanny that has gotten to up the — with the family and the antics. I was at a book club meeting. This woman was insistent. She said, “Tell me who this is based on.” I was like, “I came up with it in my head. It was inspired by other stuff I read about, but I don’t know of a family that this has really happened to. If you know of a family, please tell me.” She was unconvinced. She really feels like there is someone out there. I was like, “No, I made it up.” There could be a chance that there’s a family out there.

Zibby: I don’t know them. They’re not friends with me. I’ll tell you that much.

Georgina: Okay. My sister was in the East Village for, gosh, fifteen years, maybe. Because we had a free place to stay, we would fly to New York and sleep in her apartment. She had a two-bedroom with a hallway. That was a really big deal, to have an apartment with a hallway. She used to be in a tenement-type apartment. We’d walk. My parents would come visit. You know, you’re in New York City, it’s so great to walk. We would explore and end up in the Upper East Side, Upper West Side. Just from standing on the sidewalks and looking up at the penthouse buildings, that’s really where this story percolated from. I thought, wouldn’t that be so fascinating to know what’s going on behind those drapes in the windows and these penthouses where you imagine everything is wonderful? You imagine that, with money, they can figure out everything. They could be happy, but what if they’re not? That was the germ of the idea. Then it was, okay, who could infiltrate a family like this? I had tossed around some ideas and just landed on a nanny. I know there are lots of nanny books. We’ve been trying to tell people this is not your typical nanny book. She does not sleep with the husband. We don’t go down that trope. This is unlike most nanny books. I think that’s why people are enjoying it.

Zibby: Yes, it’s fantastic. I feel like if there are any comps, I don’t know if you read The Photographer by Mary Dixie Carter.

Georgina: No, I haven’t, but it sounds intriguing.

Zibby: Somewhat similar. Then the other one I would say, not that you’re looking for comps, is Laura Hankin’s Happy & You Know It. These are not infidelity-type books. It’s just —

Georgina: — Someone who’s infiltrated.

Zibby: Someone who’s infiltrated.

Georgina: I love the idea of a photographer. I had not considered that. I’d read a short story about a tutor who was — obviously, they go into these households. They get to know the families to a certain extent. A nanny, I just thought would be really interesting. It’s hard to market this book because there’s such a twist four or five chapters in. It’s not meant to floor people. I think a lot of people assume that it’s coming, but it’s a way to propel the rest of the story. Then you get to the end where everything kind of implodes. I had a lot of fun with this book. It’s different from my other two. The other two are more domestic suspense. This was my ability was Penguin Random House. They were like, “Just go creatively. The stranger, the better.” I enjoyed that. It was fun.

Zibby: I love it. As someone who is literally sitting inside one of those buildings right now, I am on the other side of the curtain peering down on you on the sidewalk waving. Here I am. I will say, life is the same. Life is life no matter where you are. Life is full of love and illness and heartbreak and loss and happiness. It doesn’t matter if you’re on the top floor or the basement.

Georgina: Right, that’s exactly what it is. For so many of us that walk the streets of New York, to stand on that sidewalk, you just assume. Like you said, every family has its own challenges no matter what. It’s just, it’s fun to imagine that there could be so much going on behind those closed curtains that we’re not aware of, especially when it’s in a situation like this family and that world they’ve been able to get away with creating because they are cut off in this penthouse floor. Nobody has to, necessarily, see them or know what they’re getting up to. Money did allow them, to a certain extent, to hide some things.

Zibby: This is how I feel about LA and Bel Air or all these neighborhoods with these giant hedges. I’m like, what happens there? What does that look like behind the gate? I feel the same way. In New York, I don’t feel the same because I’m like, oh, I’ve been to all these buildings.

Georgina: You’re like, these are some of my neighbors.

Zibby: I didn’t mean to suggest that — obviously, I’m very lucky and fortunate, privileged to be in this position, and it’s not the same. I just meant from an emotional standpoint, it doesn’t matter where you live. You have the same stuff. Anyway, off topic. Back to the book. The interesting thing about this nanny is this nanny — I would not hire this nanny. This nanny had no experience at all being a nanny. I’m like, how did she even scoop this thing up? Yet when the ad somehow magically appears in her building and she’s like, oh, I can do it, I’ve been around kids and whatever — I don’t know, I have a lot higher criteria.

Georgina: You have four kids, correct?

Zibby: I do.

Georgina: We have a combined family of four sons. The older two, one’s — we’re way past, beyond nanny stage. Still, it’s a raucous-y household. You’re right. This one woman had no real reason that she should’ve even thought she could apply for this job except for the desperation. She needed extra cash. This was going to pay more than waiting tables. Then as we find out, there’s a more sinister reason why she even saw the ad in the first place, why she was picked in the first place, and why her nannying lack of skills really ended up not meaning anything.

Zibby: Wait, go back a minute. First of all, how can you have a child who’s already in college? You look so young.

Georgina: Thank you. It’s because I’m wearing makeup today.

Zibby: No, it’s not. There’s no way that you’re older enough to have a child in college. There’s just no way.

Georgina: I know. My husband is ten years older. He’s got one out of college, one in college. I’ve known them since they were middle school, freshman year. We used to work together. Then my kids are sixteen and thirteen. My husband jokes that he was an empty-nester for one week. No, no, no, not even a week. A day. Then we got married. He was like, “I’m starting all over again with two teenagers in the house, and curfews. What have I done?” I’m like, “Well, you wanted to get married.”

Zibby: My husband doesn’t have his own kids but married — I have four kids. We’re in the teenage years. It’s chaos. It’s just crazy.

Georgina: Teenage years are rough. It’s a whole other web of — it just gets harder. It’s the toddler twos, and then just gets harder and harder. Now we’re into legal ramifications if they do something wrong. That’s my fear. I’m like, “Whatever you do, you’ve just now jumped it up a level of accountability. Grounding isn’t going to cut it at this age.” Have fun with that. It’s going to be great.

Zibby: Wait, go back again. Sorry, I’m all over the place. Let me have your life story really quickly. You’re from New Orleans. Then what happened?

Georgina: From New Orleans to Huntsville is probably the most boring part. Before New Orleans, I was born in Hong Kong. My dad’s an English sea captain, ship captain. He met my mother in Hong Kong, but she’s Malaysian Chinese. They lived together. We lived in Dubai. We’ve lived all over. We lived on a ship with my family because we just were never around my dad. We didn’t speak English. My mom was really concerned about that. We went through a typhoon, saved some Vietnamese refugees that their boat was sinking. I’ve always thought about writing about that as well. I started it. I’m like, I don’t know, emotionally, if I’m there yet. I don’t remember, obviously. It’s from my parents telling the story. We were so little. Then we ended up in New Orleans, huge shipping port of the world, and so my dad ran a company there. That’s how we ended up in America. I got a job in TV news. I was in New Orleans and then came to Huntsville. That jump has actually been the most normal bit. Then we’ve just been here ever since working and raising the kids. That’s our lives in a nutshell.

Zibby: Where are your parents now?

Georgina: They’re here. After Hurricane Katrina, they had trees on the house. That’s another fun story too. My dad got picked up by a Walmart truck driver because he was stranded on the side of the interstate. We didn’t hear from him for five days because all the cell towers had been taken down. He ended up in the newspaper because of his plight. They live here now because at least they can be closer to my kids. They were ready to retire. Then my sister is now in Chicago with her kids. It’s fun. This feels, at least, calm.

Zibby: Wow, that’s crazy. You’re like the Forrest Gump of — look at you. That’s crazy. Then when did you start writing?

Georgina: Since I was a kid. It was always a hobby, and what you hear, I’m sure, from so many authors you’ve interviewed where they didn’t know, necessarily, if they could cut it as an author. It’s very different to write on the side. I did the typical stuff, the high school newspaper, the college newspaper. I did all of that, interned at a TV station, but just thought, I’ll get a degree in broadcast journalism because at least that’s a paycheck, and put it on the backburner, really, for writing, but always wanted to get back into it. The kids, they take up a lot of time. To answer your question, it really wasn’t until about six years ago that I sat down and thought, okay, if I’m going to do this — I’ve worked in the corporate world for twenty-plus years. It’s time. I would work my day job Monday through Friday, write on the weekends. Slowly but surely, wrote a couple books.

Zibby: Wait, what was your day job during the week? Was it still in broadcast journalism?

Georgina: No. At the time, it was basically airspace and defense contracting.

Zibby: That’s right. Okay, yes.

Georgina: Which is a far cry from the creative world, but it paid better than a lot of jobs. That’s how I met my husband. He’s still in that world. Huntsville’s a very DOD kind of town. NASA’s here. A lot of military here. I just thought, I’ll write on the weekends. The kids were getting older. I put some drafts together and found my agent at a Chicago writing conference. I pitched to her face to face. She signed me, but it took another four years, Zibby. This is a long haul. It took another four years before she finally sold the book. When she did, it was a two-book deal. I had been writing Nanny Needed in the background. They always tell you, “Don’t sit idle and wait while you’re on submission. Keep writing.” Because I love it so much, I was like, “No problem. I’ll write on the weekends.” I came up with Nanny Needed. My agent was like, “Oh, my god.” She sold it within a month to Penguin Random House. I’m still signed to two publishers. Last year, it was four books because then I was hired to ghostwrite for someone, a local celebrity in town. I’ve got three more books. I’m kind of tired.

Zibby: Whoa. The other two obviously came out. Then Nanny Needed just came out. Then you have four ghostwriting projects now?

Georgina: No, just the one ghostwriting. Just the one. In the first year that I signed my contracts, I had come out with four books total because there was the two-book deal, then all the edits and slash and burns to get Nanny Needed, and then I ghostwrote the book for this lady and turned it in. Then this year, I should’ve had a book come out this month. Last year, I hit a wall, as so many of us did, especially over the summer when we realized COVID wasn’t really lifting. I think mentally, that took a toll on so many of us. Now we’re just living with COVID. We’re not waiting for it to go away. We’re just living with it. I pushed my deadlines. My next book doesn’t come out until September, but I’m proud of myself.

Zibby: You’re a slacker. You’re a totally slacker.

Georgina: I know. There are days where I’m like, what? I’m proud of myself. The word I learned last year was, it’s okay to say no, and so I’ve started to say no.

Zibby: What is that book about?

Georgina: That one is about two sisters who are estranged. One of them ends up dying in a house fire, but her teenage daughter survives. She breaks out of the home and is free. Then come to find out that the will that was updated a year prior so that if anything were to happen to her, that her daughter would go and live with the estranged sister. Of course, the sister’s like, that’s peculiar. The teenage girl comes and lives with her. Then we find out exactly why the family was estranged and all these secrets. That’s the next book with Hachette Publishing for those contracts. Then the next Penguin Random House book, I’m finishing right now. Well, the edits. I’m finishing the edits now. That one’s set on the Oregon Coast. A few years back, my husband rented a house. All the family got in there. It’s overlooking the Pacific. It was beautiful. Everybody’s playing Scrabble and baking. I’m over there going, this would be a great place for murder and mayhem. A storm has to come in. That’s that book. I’m excited about that one. I’m already so excited about the cover.

Zibby: Wow, you are just doing it. There’s so many books. You’re just cranking them out. This is amazing. Dueling contracts and two houses, this is awesome. You’re living the life.

Georgina: Thank you, but I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. I do not recommend signing two contracts. It was very exciting at the time, but it is a lot. You’d hear of authors where they — one book a year is a lot. Then the really big authors, they take five years to create this beautiful piece. To pump out at this velocity is a little overkill. I really started to feel that last year. Moving forward, we’re going to slow down a bit and take some time. My sixteen-year-old, he’s going to be a senior next year in high school. I really don’t want to spend his senior year in my writing cave like I did the last two years. Before he leaves us, I kind of want to see him a few times.

Zibby: Describe the writing cave.

Georgina: The writing cave, I’ve actually posted photos, so if you ever want to peruse my Instagram. I’m going to do some Lives from the writing bunker, is what we call it. Our house is from the 1970s. It’s five levels. They’re all split-level. If you go down several staircases, there is a services room. It’s filled with the plumbing, the pipes, the circuit breaker, all this stuff. If you go under the pipes, there’s this back part that we jokingly refer to as the prison cellar. If we were to ever kidnap anyone, we would shove them down there. Nobody would ever hear them. It’s brick wall.

Zibby: I’m not sure I feel comfortable ever coming to your house. Not that I’m invited. You already know where you’re going to store the kidnap victim. I don’t know.

Georgina: It’s great. It originally was built as a tornado shelter. We’re friends with the family who built this house. They were like, “In the seventies, this huge tornado came through. That’s where we hid.” It happens that the dimensions are just perfect for my writing desk. I go down there. I’m shut away from the children. I can hear the pipes turn on. I’m like, okay, that one’s getting ready for school. That one’s going to work. Okay, that one still needs to get ready. If they pound up and down the stairs, sometimes I can hear them. The only worry is, my sister’s like, “Can you please make sure you get outside and get some sunshine sometimes and get some oxygen?”

Zibby: Wow. I did peruse your Instagram. I see that you also have a show. What is it? Writing with G or Live with G.

Georgina: Books with G.

Zibby: Books with G. Sorry, Books with G, which you had to stop for Kevin Hart. You’re a huge Kevin Hart fan. I’m like, what is going on? She has ten posts about Kevin Hart.

Georgina: I know. It’s so funny. My whole Instagram is books, writing, and then there’s Kevin Hart. He came to town. If you’ve never seen him, Zibby, he is hysterical. He’s hysterical no matter what. This show that he’s on tour with, they don’t let you bring in your phones. They lock them up in these little cases. All of a sudden, everybody’s like, what time is it? Nobody has watches anymore, so nobody knew what time to go in for the show. Because I didn’t have a phone, I couldn’t go live. I was like, oh, no. That’s my “show,” in quotes. It’s my attempt to try to do some Lives, some marketing, honestly, a chance to just talk to people. Writing is such a solitary endeavor. I’m alone a lot in my head for seven, eight hours a day. Just the ability to talk, Instagram Live, I’m trying. Kevin Hart just needs to stop coming to town so I can actually do another show.

Zibby: Now I want to go figure out where he is on tour.

Georgina: The tour’s for the next two months. We were laughing so hard we were crying.

Zibby: I’m writing this down. The last comedian I saw was Seinfeld, but that’s such a New York-y thing to do. Here I am going to the Upper West Side to listen to Seinfeld.

Georgina: Kevin Hart, we were laughing so hard we were crying. I took the teenage children. It’s not appropriate. Do not bring your little ones. I think you have younger ones.

Zibby: I do. I won’t bring the little ones.

Georgina: Go with some girlfriends. Go with the husband. You’ll laugh until you’re crying. Don’t even wear makeup. It’s not even worth it. It just all comes off.

Zibby: I have this new — someone sent me this mascara from Thrive Cosmeceuticals. It doesn’t come off. It’s the coolest thing. Now I can wear it. It’s not waterproof. I don’t know what it is, but my makeup remover doesn’t take it off. Then I put it on, and it stays. Nothing ever happens. It used to smudge.

Georgina: That’s what I need. It’s from Thrive?

Zibby: Thrive Cosmeceuticals.

Georgina: I’ve heard of them. I see their stuff on Instagram. I’ll have to do that because my mascara just runs constantly.

Zibby: Mine too.

Georgina: I have an event this Sunday. Kevin Hart, everybody was just sobbing from laughing. There’s makeup all over everybody.

Zibby: We should just put them in touch. They should sell it in the — .

Georgina: They should.

Zibby: Oh, my gosh, wow. So from Alabama, you’re in your bunker — this is such a visual. I just love thinking of you doing this underground writing, cranking out this content that now the rest of the world is inhaling. Now here I am in New York reading about this New York moment while you’re still there. It’s just crazy. Aside from Instagram Lives, how do you stay in the — do you travel? How do you stay in touch with everybody all over the place? You don’t seem disconnected at all. You’re totally in it.

Georgina: All three of my books came out during COVID. I have no concept of what it is to launch a book when it’s not COVID. I finally had a book party. Penguin Random House is a lot more cautious than some other publishers. Up until last summer they were like, “It’s touch and go if you can have your event.” I was like, oh, my gosh. Then finally in October with the vaccines rolling out, we were like, “We’re good to go.” I made sure I had an outdoor event at a brewery. There was an indoor, but there was enough space between everyone. I was able to celebrate all three books. I had a cake for each book. I was like, this is for Nanny Needed, but I didn’t want to forget about my first two. We were able to celebrate all three. Honestly, because I haven’t been able to go anywhere, it’s stuff like this. Thank goodness we have Lives and interviews and Zoom interviews and YouTube stuff. I was nervous about these last year. I’ve gotten over that. It’s been so much better, I think, than traveling, honestly. I hear about authors who, it’s such an expense, and then maybe five people show up. You hop on a Zoom or an Instagram Live, and there’s hundreds. They’re from all over. They’re all sitting in their pajamas totally comfortable listening to you. They didn’t have to go anywhere. It’s been helpful.

Honestly, I think in a weird way, we authors — people adapt. We’re really good at adapting. Authors have been able to adapt. I think readers are enjoying this surplus of interviews. I think they’re loving that they can sit on the couch and join a Zoom that’s taking place in LA or New York or Miami or wherever. I don’t have to go anywhere. They don’t have to go anywhere. That’s been cool. The Facebook groups, there are so many that I have found in the last two years. That’s been monumental. We all cheer each other on. In each group, you get a hundred fans. Then we’re, in turn, fans of their work and promote their books. Social media, it gets a lot of flak. I don’t want to say that I’m on it all day long, but I definitely benefit and have been benefiting from how it’s been able to get my books out there without me even really having to spend any money on advertising. I haven’t spent a dime. The publicity teams may have, and the marketing teams. With your show, did this come out of COVID? Were you already doing your podcast and your interviews prior?

Zibby: I was doing it prior. I started in March/April of 2018. I just started doing a lot more during COVID. Now I have to ratchet back. I was literally just emailing being like, I can’t — if the world opens up now, I have to go out and be able to leave my desk. I can’t maintain this pace anymore.

Georgina: The intro to your podcast alone when you’re like, “And I have this show. Then I have this other show. Then I’ve got the publishing company. Then I’ve got the –” What is it? What’s your challenge?

Zibby: I know. I should stop. #22in22.

Georgina: Yes, #22in22. Go back and listen to the intro of your podcast alone. You’ll be like, huh. Then I read your article — was it a few months ago? — where you were burning out.

Zibby: Yes.

Georgina: I related to that big time. I think that’s what ends up happening. There will be a day of reckoning where you’ll have to sit down and go, I love it all, but I’m going to have to cut two things.

Zibby: I think I had that day yesterday, honestly, literally. I don’t know why we’re talking about this. I literally spent an hour and a half just typing out all the things that I do. My whole thing is like, well, this doesn’t take that much time. This one thing doesn’t take that much. Then when you do twenty things that don’t take that much time, they take a lot of time, but I love all the stuff that I do. I love it, so it’s really hard.

Georgina: Per your point with COVID, you increased all your interviews because we were home, so we thought, well, why not? A, to connect with people because we weren’t able to even see them. B, you had more idle time, sort of. Kids are still all over the place. We crammed it, didn’t we? A-type personalities will just cram it into the schedule. Now, you’re right, as stuff opens up and there is now invitations and events and distractions, you’re really going to have to sit down — I don’t know what you’re going to cut. That’s going to be painful for you.

Zibby: Maybe not cut. Just cut back or something. I don’t know.

Georgina: Or hire. You may need to hire someone.

Zibby: I have a great team. I have some amazing people who I work with. I love my team. They’re awesome. I just hired a COO of my whole business. Now I feel like she’s going to help me figure everything out. That started last week.

Georgina: Good. She can be the managing of it all.

Zibby: Yeah, she’s going to manage everything. She’s like, “You should do this. You should do this. How can we do this?” I’m like, “Thank you. Yes, you tell me.”

Georgina: Let you do the fun bits. Be the talking-head fun bit and the name and the face. Then let her pull all the strings in the background and just tell you when to show up and when the next Zoom is.

Zibby: Do you like to read? You must love to read. What do you like to read?

Georgina: Every night. Right now, because with my contracts and my head is in — I write seven days a week. My husband was like, “Once you started working from home –” I was able to leave my other job and come home two years ago. I’ve been writing full time ever since. He was like, “I thought you’d at least take Sundays off.” I thought so too. Then I was like, no. I know myself better. I’m a workaholic. I might as well. These kids are sleeping. You know how it is. The older they get, they’ll sleep until noon. I’m like, well, I might as well get up in the morning. I enjoy it so much, so I just want to keep doing it. I forget, what was your question?

Zibby: I asked you what you were reading.

Georgina: Oh, that’s right, what I’m reading. Suspense. Because my head has to be in suspense every day because that is what my books are, I read and I watch a ton of Netflix. Any suspense show, any streaming service, I’m in it. It’s not even just for inspiration. I just enjoy the genre. Every once in a while, I’ll have palate cleanser. I’ll read some literary fiction like Lauren Groff. I had some Sally Rooney, Beautiful World, Where Are You. I’ll definitely have a nice palate cleanser. Book of the Month is great for that because I’ll pick the one that I’m like, that’s probably what I wouldn’t have gravitated to, like Fiona — any of those books that will come out. I’m like, that was good for me to read some really smart literary fiction. Suspense, it’s just fun. It keeps me interested. I like the psychological suspense of, why did the character act that way? Why did they react that way? I think that’s so fascinating. I enjoy it.

Zibby: I want to introduce you to Katie Sise. She writes suspense. She’s awesome. She lives nearby here in New York. Not in the city. I feel like you guys would get along. You are in a similar space. You’re both mile-a-minute thinkers like this. I think it would be a fun conversation. You should do an event together or something.

Georgina: Katie Sise?

Zibby: Sise, S-I-S-E. I’m going to put you in touch.

Georgina: We’re doing an event this Sunday with a Nashville author. It’s a Q&A. Then part of the event as a fundraiser is, win a chance to name characters in our upcoming books. I’ve seen a lot of authors do that, but we’re so excited for this because the money’s going to go to this charity. I’m eager to see the names that are pitched. I keep warning everybody. It has to be a reasonable name. It cannot be Boaty McBoatface. It can’t be like what happened in the UK. You get a vote, but it has to be something that could fit reasonably in a book that isn’t outlandish. I’m excited to see how many people pick their own names versus someone who’s going to come up with a name maybe that means something in their family. I think it’ll be good. It’ll be fun.

Zibby: That’s awesome. I could talk to you all day. I’m having to pull the cord here because we’re out of time, but I could chat with you all day. I’m so glad our paths have crossed. This is so fun. Please, let’s stay in touch.

Georgina: Yeah, I know, I feel like I could hang out with you. That wasn’t even an interview. It was just a conversation.

Zibby: I know, right? I hope we talked enough about your book. Nanny Needed, everybody.

Georgina: By the way, Nanny Needed. At this point, my brain’s moved on to the other books. I already pitched an idea for the next book inspired by this house. I’m so excited. I can’t wait to just — I want to get edits over with with these projects because I’m already thinking — my fingers are itching for the next book.

Zibby: I get it. Amazing.

Georgina: Thank you.

Zibby: Thank you for coming on. This is so fun.

Georgina: Thank you. Bye.

Zibby: Bye.

Georgina Cross, NANNY NEEDED

NANNY NEEDED by Georgina Cross

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