• Helen Lederer

CWIP Winner in Tears... Faye Brann opens up...

247 edits, a new title and keeping her Hussey clean - Helen Lederer gets the goss from 2020 Unpublished Novel winner Faye Brann.

CWIP 2021 Unpublished Novel Winner Faye Brann sitting crosslegged
Faye Brann - Author photo © PND @pndphoto

1) Taking you back to the moment you were told (live on zoom) that you had won the CWIP 2020 Unpublished Prize – did you feel you were channelling Gwyneth Paltrow (tears) or b) Olivia Coleman (humorous raspberry blowing) c) other?

I blubbed, big time! I’d been told to expect a call from a judge to do some soundbites for the awards night and even when I saw it was Kate Bradley from Harper Collins, I still didn’t really think I’d won. The emotion of that moment, of realising my dream, was completely overwhelming. Although, if I’m honest, it was a bit odd hanging up and going back to doing the laundry versus getting sloshed at the Groucho Club. CWIP did an incredible job of the online awards night and the weeks leading up to it, to make it as special as they could for all of us involved, but it was really surreal. I suddenly had this publishing contract and a trophy from CWIP sitting in my downstairs loo, but it felt like a dream. A very good dream, obviously.


Here is a little reminder of the 2020 Winners event! For Faye's reaction to her win, go to 8:35.

2) Now you have the CWIP precious metal Hussey (which can stain attractively) do you buff it up with soapy water or do the stains remind you of the tears shed over your reworked manuscript? HINT - describing your pain in approaching your reworked manuscript from the year before and then … WINNING - would be especially welcome here. Could you insert the word ‘stress’, ‘anxiety’ and ‘relief’ - or indeed as a published writer – you may wish to select your own words?

OMG how DO you clean that award?! It’s almost as hard to keep it clean as winning it in the first place! I first entered Tinker, Tailor, Schoolmum, Spy under a different title in 2019, but got nowhere. A full year later, I’d finally signed with an agent and the 247th and most significant edit was complete. It went out on submission and I got very positive feedback, but frustratingly it never quite converted. I kept the faith, though and decided it might be worth trying for the CWIP prize again. I knew my manuscript was much, much better this time around; I still had no idea if it was good enough, but I knew it stood a better chance than the previous year. So, in 2020 I resubmitted, crossed my fingers, and settled down to a nice cup of tea and a pandemic.


3) Without prying - may you share any early fantasies that involved going into a book shop and seeing your own book on the display table? Are they ones where you loiter and finger it continuously or might you sneak the novel on top of the cookbooks and spritz it with fresh smelling room spray? Other?

I don’t know if I ever fantasised about it because I honestly never thought it would happen. I would like to be on a plane and sit next to someone who’s reading it, though. Preferably a really long flight where they can’t get away easily. I have zero shame, generally. If I spy my book on a display table anywhere, I’ll be taking selfies and gently placing it into people’s baskets as they queue for the checkout whilst wearing my Hussey as a (rather dirty) crown.

4) How soon may we see your book and what colour is the cover mostly – we predict red or blue or yellow, but we may be wrong? What are your views on embossed covers, and will you be sending sweets to reviewers… I sent Kit Kats – feel free to copy…

Ta da! I’m so excited to have a cover to share with you. Everyone else has to wait until next week's big cover reveal to see it but CWIP's been granted an exclusive sneak peek. (Chuffed to bits - thank you, Faye & Harper Fiction. An it's a great cover - so fun and eye-catching. We love it!)

I think my designer has done an amazing job and really captured the spirit of the book. I didn’t think I had any hard and fast views on embossing, to be honest, but now you’ve got me thinking I probably should...


I am very happy to exchange calories for reviews, what a lovely idea. Chocolate hobnobs have been a food staple for me this past year, although they aren’t all that easy to fit through a letterbox so maybe KitKats are a better choice.


5) Where do you write? What do you do when nothing enters your head? do you phone a friend or see what Marian Keyes is doing?

I can tell you where I don’t write and that’s in a pandemic. This year it has been incredibly hard, I haven’t been able to concentrate at all and I desperately miss people. Despite writing being a traditionally solitary calling, I’m a hugely social person and love having a little bit of background noise to work to. Cafes and planes are where I do my best and most prolific writing, but the back garden also works, where I can hear the hum of daily life going on in the gardens and streets around me. We’ve just had an outdoor office built at the bottom of the garden (furnished with some of my CWIP prize money!) and I’m really looking forward to having a place that’s separate from the house where I can focus on writing. And also where no one will find my hobnob stash.


6) How do you think CWIP can improve the arena for talented authors? Might you write down the ideal brand sponsor while you are here – we ask because we like the way you think and write, and we are looking…

I have unending gratitude for the whole CWIP team. I’m so looking forward to meeting you all to say thank you in person! CWIP is doing amazing things for witty women writers. I mean, I would say that, having won the thing ... but whether you’re longlisted, or shortlisted, or a winner, I think CWIP provides a really amazing platform and gives unpublished authors recognition and validation that matters. Anything that helps you get a little bit of a leg up is really valuable. The road to publication is not easy, and even once you are published, you still need to work hard to stay in the game. I love seeing how CWIP are supporting past winners and their careers too. A brand sponsor? I feel like it should be food related. Authors probably spend more on chocolate biscuits per annum than the GDP of Luxembourg. (Good call! We love you, Faye - the CWIP Team.)


7) How does it feel to be a judge this year? And what will you be looking for?

On September 2nd, I will finally hold my book in my hands and be able to say I’m a published author. I cannot wait to play a part in making another witty woman’s dreams come true, because I know just how much it means! As for what I’ll be looking for... for me, it’s about finding a book with really great writing. When I won, the judges told me they had been impressed by how polished my manuscript was. Writing comedy is hard, the devil is in the detail and I think you have to be really quite precise to be funny. If I read a manuscript where I see the work has clearly been put in, to make it the best it can be, and it makes me chuckle at the same time...well, I will know I’m holding a winner. Good luck!


Thanks so much to Faye for chatting to Helen about her win and lockdown life since then. You can find out more about Faye's CWIP Prize award-winning book here: Tinker, Tailor, Schoolmum, Spy complete with pre-order links. We know you want it now but a pre-order = a September surprise.

And if you've written or are writing a witty novel at the moment, send us 5,000 words and a one-page synopsis by 28 May. If you've entered before, you can resubmit your novel as long as you substantially edit it. Maybe not 247 times over but make it as good as you can. Then send it in via Enter 2021 and this year it could be YOU winning a book deal with Harper Fiction! Good luck!




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