Wilton to serve as backdrop in new novel

WILTON — Wilton residents will be able to pick out some of the town’s most recognizable landmarks in McGarvey Black’s new novel, “The Fussy Virgin,” which pits the fictional 29-year-old Callie Swan, a native Wiltonian, under the stressful city lights of Manhattan.

Black paints the dichotomy of the character’s lived experiences through her adopted home of New York City and her true home in Wilton. While the main character tries to navigate her way through the city, her hometown repeatedly serves as a calming and centering “haven,” as Black puts it, for the main character in the story.

McGarvey Black serves as the pen name for Moira McGarvey Black, 63, who was born and raised in New York, but moved to Wilton in 2002 when her sons were 6 and 4 years old. She wanted to live in Wilton, she said, because it felt like a town where everyone cared about the community and it was a great place to raise her children. Although Black moved out of Wilton in 2019, she said the town has left a lasting impression on her and her family.

Black also felt Wilton was the appropriate setting to add as a backdrop in her newest novel, set to release on Feb. 8. The familial sense the town has brought her was a deciding factor in making it her main character’s hometown, she said.

“There is something pretty idyllic about Wilton,” Black said. “I wanted Callie to be from Wilton because I wanted her to come from a family that is loving and a place that is calming. Juxtapose that with the harshness of New York City. In the book, she comes home to Wilton to get centered.”

Black added that the main character “has that Wilton sensibility. Young women in Wilton can definitely identify with her.”

Landmarks like the town gazebo, Cannondale train station and the Turnover Shop are referenced in the book as well. But Black, who is now on the verge of releasing her fourth novel since 2019, did not always have aspirations to become an author.

Growing up in Long Island, then-Moira McGarvey fancied herself an actress. She graduated from Iona College with a bachelor’s degree in speech and theater, with a minor in English.

“I wanted to become the next big Broadway star,” she said. “I tried that for a few years. I sang in a band. Then, I decided to switch careers.”

Black underwent a stark career shift and decided to pursue advertising and digital sales. She spent a large chunk of her professional career working as a member of the advertising team at GQ Magazine and as the vice president of sales for WebMD. All the while, Black said she kept word documents on her computer of various stories that she added to periodically. She had no intention of sharing these, at first.

“They were just for me,” she said.

Then, Black moved to Wilton in 2002 with her husband, Peter. A few years later, she pivoted careers once again and became an executive recruiter in the digital advertisement space and started working from home. This afforded her more opportunities to spend time with her family and also forced her to make a realization about her silent hobby, she said.

“In 2010, I started writing the beginning of a few different novels. By 2015, I had realized that I had two of them nearly done,” Black said. “I started reaching out to literary agents, mainly. ... 177 rejections later, I was a bit beaten down (by the process).”

Finally, Bloodhound Books, a United Kingdom-based publishing company of primarily fiction books, published Black’s firsst novel, “I Never Left,” and signed on for her second, “The First Husband.” Black and the publishing company re-upped for another three-book deal, which was kicked off by last year’s “Without Her Consent,” which is Black’s most popular novel to date, selling over 100,000 copies and, at its peak, reaching number 62 on Amazon’s U.S. Kindle reading list.

For her latest novel, Black said younger test readers, primarily in their 20s, responded that the story resonated with them.

“They said, ‘You nailed what it is like to try and meet someone today.’ They said these are exactly the conversations they have,” Black said before adding that many of the story’s themes are evergreen and can apply to all generations. “We all have the same angst, same fears. We all have to deal with managing our own life. We still feel the same emotions.”