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Jane Ayres third time lucky and sausage dog muse

Mildred the sausage dog

Jane tells us: Mildred the sausage dog “likes to grab life by the jaws if not claws and was definitely the inspiration for Caro’s dog Boadicea”. Here she is looking forlorn after being discovered destroying Jane’s favourite cushion.

When did you first hear about the CWIP Prize?

I’ve been in it from the beginning. I’d been writing comedy for years and I hadn’t seen a competition specifically for funny women before, so when Helen started up the CWIP prize in 2019 I entered. I didn’t get anywhere but I gamely followed up the invitation to resubmit the following year. Still nothing. During those two years I read a lot, wrote a lot, and attended some workshops. Some of that must have paid off because here I am on the long list.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and how long you’ve been writing?

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t tell stories. My first real memory was a nativity that I wrote, aged five, for my sister to perform with me, for the family. I’m afraid that the Virgin Mary’s visit to her cousin Elizabeth got so many laughs that Jesus was never born in Bethlehem and the play was abandoned. This when I realised the power of comedy and never looked back.

Talk to me about teenage angst: Was it manifested in poetry or diary form?

Mostly diaries. I rediscovered them when I cleared my Mum’s house and cringed with embarrassment at those hates and loves. I’d forgotten that my first six boyfriends were all called Paul. I never use that name in my writing.

Can you describe what your novel, THE WORLD IS YOUR LOBSTER, is about in two sentences?

Caro Thompson finds that you're never too old to change life for the better. Add in a sausage dog, tap dancing, and some romance and The World is Your Lobster.

Did you set out to write a funny book?

Not specifically, but most of my writing is comedic. I just can’t help myself. Even a tragedy can be funny if you view it from the right angle.

Where did the inspiration for your protagonist Caro come from?

In my previous life as a dentist I met all sorts of wonderful older women. Some were happily resigned to life in the slow lane, while others were still searching for excitement. Caro is a mixture of many of them with a little of me thrown in.

Post-pandemic how do you intend to “grab life by the claws” like Caro?

I’ve always been a claw grabber and believe that if you should say ‘yes please’ whenever an opportunity comes your way unless there’s a really good reason to say ‘no’. Covid made us all say ‘no’ to so many things, and I can’t wait to get out and travel the world again.

Who do you enjoy reading?

Most things apart from shoot ‘em ups and horror. Nina Stibbe is a favourite author, but I love a Tudor historical romp too.

What’s your favourite type of humour?

Wit. You can’t beat PG Woodhouse for that, and I love good observational humour. The real world is funny enough without knob gags.

What’s your most cringe moment in the last five years if you’d care to share for our delight?

Oh, dear I’m blushing as I type.

On holiday in a secluded French gite it felt quite safe to wander in nothing but flip flops. I did not expect an impromptu visit from a group of gorgeous young men performing folk songs to the accompaniment of bagpipes and concertina…a sort of summer carol singing group collecting for a local charity. Clearly, I had no loose change about my person and I fled indoors during a chorus of Sur le Pont d’Avignon. I definitely heard them laughing as they walked back the drive 

Is there a funny line, scene or book that you wish you’d written?

Oh so many.

Where does your writing magic happen, and can you tell us about your writing routine?

I write anywhere and everywhere. I’m answering these questions sitting at the kitchen table with Radio 2’s Popmaster quiz playing on the radio, but I have a messy study upstairs where I usually shut myself away. Wherever I am, Mildred the sausage dog won’t be far away, shedding fur and possibly chewing my shoes. She has featured in most of my writing. She is without doubt a dog who likes to grab life by the jaws if not claws and was definitely the inspiration for Caro’s dog Boadicea.

Jane's study

Mildred is very uncooperative when she sees me taking photos, so I couldn’t get one of her in my study.

Helen Lederer ‘Loving the flip flop expose, and your continued witty cleverness. I always tell myself if at first I don’t succeed - seek counselling…You went one better!

2021 Unpublished Longlist
‘The World is your Lobster’ by our Jane Ayres is first on the left

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