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Snatching the punchlines - Jen Fraser nails it

Boris the cat

Boris the cat gets annoyed when I don’t pay him attention. Here he is stopping me from editing and typing. He is on the large size so doesn’t struggle to achieve both in one sitting.

When did you first hear about the CWIP Prize?

I spotted those capital letters beside an author's bio and clicked through to find out what they stood for....

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

I’m a freelance journalist specialising in interiors, property, and shopping; I also work part-time in an independent bookshop. In 2019 I enrolled on Faber Academy’s London-based Writing a Novel course. I learned loads about fiction writing and, even better, met great friends. We share our writing anguish and joy (mainly anguish), and in July celebrated the group’s first baby: little Noah, far away in Singapore.

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

Diary! Luckily for everyone's eyes and ears, I have never written poetry.

Can you describe what your novel, THE LAKE HOUSE, is about in two sentences?

Light-fingered, charity-shopworker Phoebe begins a friendship with recently widowed customer Dorothy. Discovering Dorothy is depressed and yearns to travel, Phoebe offers to host Dorothy’s eightieth party at her family’s historic lakeside house set deep within a New England Forest. But when the two families gather at the lake house, everyone’s lives are changed – and not all for the better.

Did you set out to write a funny book?

Not specifically, but I would have found it hard to keep humour out of the pages – and my three women protagonists each possess a ‘got to laugh or you’d cry’ attitude to their circumstances which I hope makes readers smile.

What inspired you to write about a multi-generational relationship?

I wanted to write about a motherless daughter, which was my inspiration for Phoebe. Dorothy came about because I got tired of reading older people portrayed as doddery and useless. Dorothy has had some terrible things happen to her but retains her rebellious streak and stands up for those she loves. Rae initially dislikes both Phoebe and Dorothy but, as the novel progresses and all three reveals why they are as they are, her inner kindness rises through her grumpiness, and surfaces.

Are you a charity shop fanatic yourself? What’s the best item you’ve snaffled up?

As a student I found a blazer with golden braided sleeves. I was wearing it on a train travelling north when a girl asked if I was in the Merchant Navy – I wasn’t. I have no idea what happened to it! It can’t have fallen apart as it was built to last.

Who do you enjoy reading?

I grew up entertained by the brilliant prose of Sue Townsend and Jilly Cooper. Nora Ephron’s Heartburn – especially her sizzling introduction – never fails to raise a smile. I adore Candice Carty-William’s Queenie and any book threaded with subtle, clever humour will appeal: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah is an all-time favourite. Recently I’ve read Summerwater by Sarah Moss which includes some wonderful, pithy moments: the running commentary on running kit made me laugh.

What’s your favourite type of humour?

Observational. Whether it’s in fiction, or delivered by a stand-up comic, or via a line written in a screenplay, when I read or listen to something never previously noted I love having the reaction: yes, they’ve nailed it – swiftly followed by: why didn’t I see that, before?

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

See above!

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

I wish it were magic. Oh, wow. That would be amazing. I write at home, snatching moments when I can, in an extremely unmagical manner.

Helen Lederer ‘Deeply impressed with er…the largesse of Boris – a feline muse is now my ‘must have’ desk companion… maybe Boris has a brother…

2021 Unpublished Longlist
'The Lake House' by our Jen Fraser is third from left

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