• Helen Lederer

CWIP prodigy gets prefect badge!

Helen catches up with author Abigail Mann, 2019 CWIP Prize Unpublished Novel runner-up with The Lonely Fajita (since published and available as an audiobook, ebook and in paperback), the day after ebook publication of her second novel, The Sister Surprise.


Photo credit: B. Clarence Photography


We absolutely loved your publication day video (see below) for The Lonely Fajita. It was inspired. How hard has it been to launch a book during lockdown? And what other plans do you have to market your book? Are you thinking of dropping your new paperback The Lonely Fajita into the bath and then drying it off in your airing cupboard before taking a picture of it for Instagram?

Thanks! My partner is used to my slightly crackpot publicity ideas by now, so much so that when I said ‘I think we should turn the paperback into a puppet so I can pretend to treat them to a night out.’ He said ‘we should storyboard this.’ He managed to animate the book using cheap cotton and a bamboo cane whilst filming at the same time, which he has insisted I credit him for in every interview I do.

I would drop the book in the bath if I had a bath to drop it into! Until then, I’m juggling between ideas for The Faj, (an unsanctioned nickname for the book) and The Sister Surprise, which came out yesterday. The Virus has bumped my publication dates along, so it won’t be long before I’m inclined to do another silly video, possibly Scottish themed. I won’t attempt any accents for fear of offending an entire nation. When I can, I’d love to do a location and bookshop tour that features Elissa’s haunts from the book – a Tour de Faj, if you will. Where she buys discount doughnuts, where she nearly died trying to cycle round Old Street roundabout, etcetera. When lockdown is eased, it’s on the cards.

Until then, I’m sharing a ‘Who’s Your Annie?’ post to celebrate the brilliant older women in our lives. They haven’t half had a rough time of it recently, have they? Instagram is one of my favourite places to share news when I’m not at my desk.


If you had to take your broken sun lounger, old speakers, and germy condiment holder to a tip - which older person would you like to talk to in the queue from a) Germaine Greer b) Whoopi Goldberg c) Dolly Parton or d) another of your choosing, and why?

b) Dolly Parton – a tactical choice, as if I’m throwing away rubbish, I imagine she is too. Therefore I can swipe her unwanted besequined costumes and recreate Dollywood in my bedroom with the addition of a synthetic – and highly flammable – Dolly wig.


Did Elissa have any early teenage crushes before she got involved with Tom? Did she chuck or was she chucked?

This is an excellent question. Is anyone chucked when both parties avoid initiating the chucking? How far does someone have to go to force the other person to bow out, gracefully? Elissa and Tom are both humungous avoiders of awkward conversations, which of course ensures they have nothing but awkward conversations. Without Annie’s help, I think Elissa would loosely hold onto the crumbs of their relationship because she can’t be bothered to find a dustpan. Elissa’s teenage crush would be someone who was essentially a fantasy representation of an actual human man, like Peter Andre in his Mysterious Girl phase, or teenage Simba in The Lion King.


What are the best bits about living with an older person who swears more than you do?

You don’t have to apologise after them in public because older people get away with everything. Annie pretends to be senile to avoid talking to her creepy warden, so I wouldn’t put it past her.


List five pillars of wisdom gleaned from an elder. Please.

  1. Don’t bother cooking if M&S do a ready meal version of the same thing

  2. Puddings aren’t just for Sundays.

  3. Life’s too short to underdress

  4. Talk to people at the bus stop. They might need it more than you.

  5. If you don’t want to do something, don’t do it.


Are you like Elissa? Do you think before you speak? Have you been caught talking to yourself in the supermarket? If so, what were you saying?

I think before I speak so often that I’ll have a whole conversation in my head with someone before opening my mouth. I’m incredibly indecisive, especially when it comes to 3 for 2 deals in the picnic food section of the supermarket. I’ll politely dismiss potential additions – ‘Not today, feta parcels. Back you go.’


How long, hypothetically, would it take you (or Elissa) to write a witty limerick for Annie’s birthday. Please write such a limerick here and say how long it took you. (you may lie)

I heard of a woman called Annie,

Who wanted to go to Miami,

She bought her plane fare,

But had nothing to wear,

So had to expose her fanny.

(ten minutes and I had to use a rhyme generator)


What do you love most about CWIP and could you mention it here please? Loving you more already. Helen Xxx

I love how unpretentious, supportive, and fun CWIP is. We love books, we love funny books, and we love a party to celebrate those two things. CWIP has given so many women a platform that beforehand you needed a divining rod and a rabbit foot dangling from your keys to find. I have met so many other writers through CWIP and am yet to come across one who isn’t completely bloody lovely.

CWIP categorically boosted me at a very early stage of my career and gave me confidence to see myself as part of the comedy writing world when I was reluctant to pull a seat out at the table. I honestly cannot thank everyone at CWIP enough, especially as it turned out I’d be releasing my books during a pandemic when all the bookshops have shut. The CWIP door has never fully closed and I’m so excited to read the books it continues to sift to the surface over the upcoming years.


How many words did you write yesterday and give us a teaser sentence of your next book?

I wrote 750 words of book three and at least 400 felt like pulling teeth.

Here’s the first sentence from The Sister Surprise, which is completely finished now:

At twenty-seven, I should have outgrown the act of picking glitter from my cuticles, but then again, being Lorrie Atmore’s daughter comes with its own set of obligations.

You can't leave it there...and yet she did! Thanks to Abigail for joining us in a busy publication week. Team CWIP wish her all the very best with The Sister Surprise now it's out in ebook.


Abigail Mann may have got a leg up to fast track publication (who doesn’t like those?) for her deserved first novel - but she’s positively sprinting now… hence prefect badge - we love her funny novel and we know you will too. You can buy a copy here:



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