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Author Interview with Alex Marwood



A Q&A with Award-Winning Author Alex Marwood!


Here Alex tells us about her latest thrilling novel – The Island of Lost Girls, out 14th July 2022.


  1. 1) Tell us about The Island Of Lost Girls


The Island of Lost Girls is a novel about grooming. About the crimes with which we associate

with the word, but also the way that whole societies can allow themselves to be groomed. Can be persuaded to go along, to sacrifice their freedoms and even their basic moralities for the sake of a quiet life, from naivete, or for the sake of not being the one who attracts the mob’s opprobrium.


The tiny Mediterranean island of La Kastellana is rapidly corrupted when its feudal Duke decides to build a marina and turn it into a playground for the super-rich. And when twelve-year-old Mercedes Delia catches the eye of Tatiana Meade, the spoiled daughter of a ruthless multimillionaire, their arrival brings about the death of her sister, the collapse of her family and the beginning of a lifetime of bonded servitude.


Thirty years later, the marina is filling with yachts as the Duke’s 70th birthday celebrations go into overdrive, and Robin Hanson arrives on La Kastellana, searching with increasing despair for the runaway daughter she has heard will be there. In her  villa on the cliffs, Tatiana Meade is hosting a party for VIPs, and has imported a clutch of barely-legal girls to make sure their week goes with a bang. And quietly, behind the scenes, housekeeper Mercedes plots the downfall of the family who destroyed her world.


  1. 2) What inspired you to write The Island Of Lost Girls?


As always with books, it’s never one thing, is it? Obviously, the exploitation of girls and young women (and boys – we should never forget that boys are being groomed too) has been very much in the news with the Maxwell trial and the fallout of the Epstein scandal. The Maxwell trial, particularly, was a grim reminder that, though most of the victims of sex trafficking and exploitation are women and girls, very little of it could be done without the active participation of other women. In the same way that Brady and West could never have been so prolific without Myra and Rose. It does concern me that we continue to infantilise women by speaking of them as passive victims with little volition over their own lives, while concurrently decrying as “shrewish”, “shrill” and “hysterical” women who do attempt to assert some boundaries. Until we as a society deal with society as it is, we’ll never even begin to properly tackle the evil done by the players of bad faith within it.


But like most of my novels, the seeds were sown many years ago. One of the moments that made me really think about the very rich, and the fact that they inhabit a completely different world from the rest of us, was back when I was a journalist, and a colleague interviewed a Very Famous Hollywood Actor. They got on like a house on fire and he returned saying what a nice guy VFHA was. A few weeks later, once the ensuing very flattering piece had been in the paper, VFHA’s People got in touch. VFHA really enjoyed meeting you, they said, and wondered if you would like to be his Friend. Why, how lovely, said colleague. I’d love that.


A couple of days later, the contract, including hours he would be expected to dedicate to VFHA each week, what clothing he would be expected to wear on public occasions, non-disclosure agreement and proposed salary, arrived…


  1. 3) Family bonds are significant to life on La Kastellana; how does the theme of sisterhood come to play in the novel?


Mercedes, the central protagonist of this novel, has lived her entire adult life in a state of bereavement after the suicide of her rebellious elder sister, Donatella. Every aspect of her life has been coloured by this loss. The events that led up to the death, which have left her filled with a simmering rage. The empty flailing of being stripped of her support system. The lifelong sense of responsibility for her mother, who has been broken by the loss, and broken more by the readiness with which Donatella has been forgotten. Her own guilt that she could have done more to protect her sister.

Siblings, especially in troubled families, can be each other’s lifelines – mine certainly were, in my own – and there’s a strange ferocity to the protectiveness I feel toward my sister that I have never really felt towards anyone else. Mercedes and Donatella, surviving an embattled family in an embattled society, were each other’s armour, solace and moral centre, and Mercedes has never really recovered from her loss.



  1. 4) What can readers expect to feel when reading The Island of Lost Girls?


Gosh. I don’t know. Outraged, I hope. Though ultimately Mercedes’s story is one of redemption. It was a difficult book to write, as its central theme – the exploitation and abuse of the young and the vulnerable by older, more powerful people – is always in danger of tipping into exploitativeness in itself, if you’re trying to get across the true horror of it; I only hope I’ve stayed on the right side of the line. But I was quite startled, during the Maxwell trial, by the number of people on social media who bought into the defence’s representation of the prosecution witnesses as fantasists and greedy little whores, and I think it’s a subject that needs to be discussed. The stones need to be turned over to reveal the wriggling, slimy things beneath. There’s clearly still very hazy understanding of the nature of grooming and how it works. By its very intent it masquerades as something other than the coercion it actually is, and convinces the victims that they have cooperated through their own choice, and it’s often long after the event that they realise what’s been done to them. So I really hope that a few of the people who were muttering that Epstein’s victims were no better than they ought to be will stop, for a moment, and think about how vile the crimes that were committed on his watch really were.


  1. 5) Can you reveal a secret about yourself that no one else knows?


Mmm. I’m very clumsy and have had lots of absurd accidents over the course of my life. But the best was the time I broke my toe when a frozen haggis plummeted from the freezer shelf and landed on it.


The Island of Lost Girls is available to order now