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CWIP success story: Fangirl admiration for Eva Verde

2019 CWIP longlistee Eva Verde chats to Helen Lederer about her debut novel Lives Like Mine which came out earlier this month from Simon & Schuster.

1) Might you share your definition of 'BADASS HUMOUR'? We ask because your mentor Yvvette Edwards said you had loads of it... and we want what you have!

I think she means that I boldly use the fun in otherwise tricky writing moments! Life's most bland when you can't turn humour to your advantage – used correctly and it's a powertool!

2) Is your heroine based on your own life? And how does 'school gates humour' feed into Lives Like Mine? I don't see many Monicas in books and really wanted to write a representation of a life like my own in fiction. I admit, it wasn't hard slipping on Monica's shoes, but I'm so glad hers is not my life! The school gate is where I'd plot and plan the book. Being a bit of an outsider myself, I was a pure observer. The things I witnessed...!

3) Have you ever been on a self-assertion course? Please describe (these were big in the 80's so you may be too young) OR how might you respond in the rare event of being ignored by an agent?

I've been ignored by dozens of agents. It just made me more determined, and Abi was absolutely worth the wait. Finding the right agent is like finding a life partner – you've got to match, have chemistry – and the same vision and values for your work.

4) Did you keep a teenage diary? If so, could you share some typical inserts? What was the biggest disappointment you have ever had, that you now think is funny?

'When Will He Notice Me?' was my permanent teen lament. I've pages of well documented unrequited love, my heart destroyed time and again, by pube-less boys at school who didn't even know who I was! Nowadays I view those heartaches as very lucky escapes!

5) How did you hear about CWIP and what do you think a prize like this can do for original and witty writers? What was it like to be longlisted in 2019 and also snapped up by an agent? (This is so we can re-live the thrill of it.)

I'd heard talk of CWIP through Twitter. Before CWIP, I was getting nowhere and felt no one was 'getting' the book, so to be longlisted really validated my belief in the story. It's an important prize because it helped me work out where my book might fit, should it ever be published. It also coincided with the opportunity of mentoring, and a serendipitous moment when I crossed paths with my agent-to-be. I was at my nephew's soft play birthday party, when I heard the spectacular news that Abi wanted to sign me! I resisted leaping into the ball pit headfirst, but I did make a prosecco pig of myself in celebration later.

6) Who is your current laugh-out-loud author? and what did you laugh at recently, if you can recall that moment? If not, feel free to make one up.

I'm not always the happiest of souls, but I am always laughing. TV is usually my go to source and lately I'm just loving We Are Lady Parts on Channel 4. For a fresh and funny boost book-wise though, you can't go wrong with a Kristen Bailey novel.

7) How do you think Monica became empowered? How can tragedy and injustice be made funny? – (we ask because you have done this so brilliantly in your novel)

Thank you! Writing racism came with huge feelings of responsibility, and though Monica's a very real representation, hers is only one story. Like all good difficult characters, she's also a horrifically unreliable narrator. Her humour adds texture and depth, but it is also her biggest weapon. Monica's sharp as hell; she just needed to self-destruct to begin again, and flourish this time around, at ease, at last, with all that she is, because she deserves to be. I love her very much.

Thanks so much to Eva Verde for joining us on the CWIP blog today to chat about her debut novel Lives Like Mine which is out now as an audiobook, ebook and in hardback from Simon & Schuster and available in all good bookshops. Be sure to check it out this Independent Bookshop Week!

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