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Crying (with laughter) writing method by Nicola Whyte

Nicola's desk setup

Congratulations on being longlisted for our unpublished prize! Could you tell us about your novel in one sentence?

Thank you so much! Godfellas is a story about a newly-ordained vicar who becomes involved in the unlikeliest of crime organisations; think Grantchester meets The Outlaws.

Have you always been interested in (comic) writing, or did you fall into it unexpectedly? Have you ever kept a teenage diary?

I’ve loved mystery novels for as long as I can remember, in particular the ones with relatable, observational humour that celebrate the absurdity of real life. However, I also love books that make you laugh until you cry, and once made an entire carriage full of people uncomfortable while reading Louise Rennison on a train; so for a long time, that was my benchmark for what constituted a funny book. I didn’t ever consider myself a comic writer until I finished the first draft of Godfellas, and was thrilled to find that people found it funny. I’ve never been able to keep a diary though. Even as a teenager, writing about my inner life felt cringingly embarrassing. Fictional worlds were infinitely more exciting and a lot less mortifying.

We’d love to hear about where you get ideas for your wondrous wit? Do you have any tips you could impart to aspiring witty writers?

My whole family has a dark sense of humour, and we’ll find something inappropriately funny in most situations, so it’s sort of ingrained to look for the ridiculous in amongst the sublime or super-serious. I’m also quite introverted (I’m the worst at parties), so love nothing better than people-watching and listening to snippets of conversation. Real life can be wonderfully silly, so my tip would be to just pay attention, wherever you happen to be and whatever you happen to be doing. There’ll be inspiration there somewhere, even if you don’t recognise it at the time.

Speaking of which, where does your writing magic happen?

I’ve worked from home since before lockdown and quickly became the designated parcel delivery hub for every house on my street. While it was a great workout running up and down stairs to answer the door several times a day, I now work and write almost exclusively from the living room, where the best internet is to be had. This has its advantages, as it means I get to people-watch from the front window (free material!) and am closer to the kettle, but the disadvantage is that I get interrupted a lot, often by animals who want to sit on me or stare at me until I give them food. It’s the thinking time that’s the most important part of the process for me, which is also the hardest thing to make room for. As a result, the writing magic generally happens in my head, either while I’m out walking the dog or once I’ve gone to bed, then I write it up the following evening from the sofa, in front of an out-of-control TBR pile which both mocks and inspires me.

What is the best piece of content by a witty woman you’ve read/watched/listened to/experienced recently?

I’ve just finished reading Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus, which was one of those rare books that make you smile and cry and laugh and gasp and then smile some more. I’ll be thinking about that book for a long time. I’ve also recently caught up with the final season of Derry Girls, which made me laugh and cry so hard, it was good that I was alone.

Finally, what does being longlisted for the CWIP prize mean to you? Do you have any advice for other witty writers thinking about entering the prize?

Aside from being proof that people other than my sister find me funny, being longlisted for the CWIP has been a huge confidence boost, and real validation that you should write what you love, because other people might love it too. So if you’re reading this and wondering whether your warm, witty, or humorous book is funny enough to enter the CWIP next year, then it probably is and you definitely should. Do it!

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