FIRST CWIP WINNER Kirsty Eyre's funny third novel is somewhat pro lactose - more cheese madam?
Mahoosive congratulations on the publication of your second novel! What can you tell us about it?
Thank you! Yes, I'm mighty chuffed that You had me at Halloumi is now on the shelves and I can chitchat away about my cheesy novel. Feta late than never, and all that. Halloumi, as I like to call it, is a holiday rom-com following Freya to Cyprus where she competes against six other super-chefs for The Golden Spoon, a prestigious culinary award. The novel is set on a fictional islet and oozes sun, sea and lots of cucumber - in Tzatziki of course. I wanted to give the story a hefty dollop of heart peppered with humour - I hope it hits the spot for readers needing funny, sunny escapism.
Did you write this book over lockdown? How did you immerse yourself in the Mediterranean idyl while stuck indoors?
I did indeed write the novel during lockdown back in those gloomy days of fighting for loo roll and cooking oil. The circumstances were tough, but I can honestly say that opening my laptop to dip my toes in the crystalline waters of the Mediterranean was tremendous escapism. I created the islet of Lappo, just off the coast of Cyprus and know exactly where the best beaches are and how the village is laid out. As research, I'd look at photos of Cyprus on the internet, then get side-tracked, casually browsing pictures of David Duchovny (nice), and seeing what was on sale at Oliver Bonas (even nicer).
Amazing! So, where can we buy You had me at Halloumi?
Cue manly voiceover: 'It's available in all good book stores.' To make it easier though, here's a link!
You had me at Halloumi, by Ginger Jones: buy here
Where does your alter ego Ginger Jones come from?
Ginger Jones is a bit of a minx. She's definitely bolder and braver than I am, and would certainly think nothing of writing imagined cheesecake sex scenes (for example). Her bottom is where it should be and hasn't yet slipped into her thighs, she can still walk in high heels and doesn't need reading glasses. She's a smoky jalapeno margarita kind of a gal who enjoys writing rom-coms for Bonnier Zaffre.
Who are your comic female inspirations?
Oooh, there are so many. Growing up, I idolised Victoria Wood and Julie Walters, going on to hero-worship Fleabag, Caitlin Moran and Flo & Joan. In terms of comic writers, I love Helen Fielding, Marian Keyes, Caitlin Moran, but my ultimate favourite is probably Sue Townsend. The Secret Life of Adrian Mole aged 13 3/4 was and still is a comedy masterpiece. I also can't go without mentioning Helen Lederer as a comic female inspiration - as a performer, a writer, and a CWIP trailblazer, she's a one-woman tornado and has done so much for funny females.
Other than publishing two(!) books, what have you been up to since WINNING the inaugural CWIP unpublished prize?
Since winning the inaugural CWIP Unpublished Prize with Cow Girl, it's been a rollercoaster. Standing next to Jilly Cooper at the CWIP Winner's Event and having her tell me a bawdy joke was a highlight, along with having Cow Girl shortlisted for the Romantic Novel Association's debut novel of the year award in 2020. Then lockdown came along and... well, I still feel as though I've got PTSD from home-schooling! Those were dark days but getting a puppy cheered us up (I know, I'm a lockdown statistic) and having Lulu the schnoodle (spellcheck keeps changing that to schnozzle) is now a big part of our family - plus, saying 'schnoodle' is quite therapeutic. Or schnozzle, come to think of it.
How do you balance your work and your writing? Any sageness you can share?!
Work/ life/ writing balance is a bit like hair, isn't it - you always want somebody else's and nobody has it perfect - apart from Nicole Scherzinger, who we all know is secretly a robot. On paper, I work three days a week but in practice, I am cramming five days of work into three (frazzling) so that I can write between school hours on Monday and Friday (which never actually happens due to life admin). I am pretty disciplined in that I work to a word count each week, but more often than not it's sneaking in an hour or two at 6am on a weekend and being messy and disorganised.
Now you’ve gone through the publishing process twice, do you have any advice for other unpublished witty writers?
Firstly, don't forget to enter the CWIP unpublished prize! What have you got to lose? Secondly, when you enter, try not to spend months polishing the opening chapters to the detriment of the rest of the book. Have faith that you're going to be asked for the full manuscript and make sure the rest is up to scratch. Cow Girl took a while to get right as I initially penned it as a diary and it underwent a total rewrite. It was worth it though and I'm really happy with the result. My favourite part was writing 'Grandma' and the cows themselves.
Also, you learn something new with each book. You'll get faster (maybe not so much in word count/ week, but in recognising what's not working earlier and saving yourself from writing yourself down a rabbit hole) and you'll meet different challenges along the way. If you're writing witty but it's not translating to the page, try writing it from a different point of view which might help it come to life. You had me at Halloumi found it's voice in the third person whereas Cow Girl is first person. Sometimes you need a few cracks at it to get it right! Failing that, Irish up your coffee and shoot from the hip!
Can you tell us what difference CWIP has made to you?
Without CWIP, I would not have a published novel or a literary agent. Without CWIP, I would not have been offered a two-book deal as Ginger Jones. Without CWIP, I would not have a writing career. Without CWIP, I would not have been told a bawdy joke by Jilly Cooper. I am extremely grateful to CWIP for the opportunity and to Helen Lederer personally for recognising that funny female fiction wasn't recognised and being the tour de force she has needed to be to pull CWIP off. Thank you, Helen.
How can readers keep in touch with you?
You can catch Kirsty/Ginger on Twitter via @KirstyJaneEyre or @GingerJ53270983
And on Instagram via @eyre.kirsty or @redhotscribbler
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