Tea, death, and a dog – in large doses – by Veronika Dapunt
Congratulations on being longlisted for our unpublished prize! Could you tell us about your novel in one sentence?
When Death comes to Earth on a much-needed holiday, she decides to investigate a series of bizarre murders as she discovers emotions and has to deal with the greatest challenge she’s ever faced: human bureaucracy.
Have you always been interested in (comic) writing, or did you fall into it unexpectedly? Have you ever kept a teenage diary?
I’ve always loved comedy, and I adore British humour especially, even though it took me a while to fully understand it. When I first moved to the UK, there were a few comic (for everyone else, not so much for me) situations, where I completely misunderstood a joke or didn’t pick up on sarcastic subtext. I read very widely across all genres, but whenever I write I slip into comedy mode almost automatically; with Death and Her Life, my initial idea was simply to write about a female, personified Death and even that ended up as something humorous — not the most obvious combination. I did very briefly attempt a teenage diary, but there was nothing funny to report in it, fortunately or unfortunately, so I lost interest.
We’d love to hear about where you get ideas for your wondrous wit? Do you have any tips you could impart to aspiring witty writers?
I think the best comedy actually resonates with something profound in the world around us, so paying attention to everyday life is the biggest inspiration for me. I also enjoy immersing myself in other creative fields and trying to understand what an artist wanted to say, why they thought it was so important and how they chose to express themselves. And then of course there is tea, litres and litres of it. If there was no tea, I’m sure all I would write is tragedies, really dark and depressing ones. They would be short, too. So my biggest tip for aspiring witty writers is to stock up on tea (and if you need recommendations on the best tea-system for inspiration, let me know, I have some sophisticated theories).
Speaking of which, where does your writing magic happen?
I live in London, so writing has to happen in a corner of my bedroom. I have a lovely desk, which used to be my mum’s, decorated with colourful crystals — they always add some sparkle to my day. My biggest writerly support is my dog Cosette, you can see us in the photo, discussing my latest plot conundrum. She’s a brilliant and very patient listener. I’ve added another picture of her for cuteness, there is no such thing as too many dog photos!
What is the best piece of content by a witty woman you’ve read/watched/listened to/experienced recently?
That’s difficult, there is so much great content out there. I especially loved Meg Mason’s Sorrow and Bliss, and I think it’s brilliant that this has been longlisted in the published category. It’s funny but poignant and wise at the same time, which is really hard to do, and the book stayed with me for a while after reading it. And of course Killing Eve and Fleabag are all-time favourites!
Finally, what does being longlisted for the CWIP prize mean to you? Do you have any advice for other witty writers thinking about entering the prize?
I was beyond excited and so honoured! I've been writing for a long time, and as it is a solitary pursuit without quick rewards (if any), I think it can be difficult at times. I do have a fantastic and very supportive writing group, but being longlisted for the CWIP prize gave me faith that I was going in the right direction — especially since I decided to write a comic novel about Death, an idea which still results in some awkward pauses whenever I mention it. My advice to witty writers is: find a nice writing group, keep going and trust yourself! (And tea, just in case I didn’t get that message across yet.)
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