Welcome Abigail. First of all, congratulations on being runner-up in the inaugural 2019 CWIP Prize for an Unpublished Novel but also Happiest of Publication Days to you! The Lonely Fajita is out as an ebook today with audiobook and paperback following later this year.
You’ve had quite a year. Can you give us an idea of what it’s been like? Is it everything you imagined it would be, or have there been any surprises along the way?
Oh man, it has been full of wonderful surprises! Every time my inbox has pinged with A Good Email, I’ve spent the next few hours wondering if I’ll receive a follow-up saying ‘Sorry, wrong person!’ Ever since I was long-listed for the CWIP Prize, I’ve felt like my approach to writing has been turbo-charged. Each week that has gone by, I’ve felt more and more confident about calling myself an author and feeling part of the comedy scene. The community of supportive readers and writers that I’ve found in the past year has been unexpectedly lovely – everyone seems to cheerlead everyone else and upholds the idea that there’s room at the table for everyone.
How/when did you first hear about the Comedy Women in Print prize?
I know the exact time and date I found out about it, because I took a screenshot of a tweet announcing that the prize was open for entries and half thought: ‘hmmm, that seems like a good fit. I’ll come back to that!’ November 16th 2018, at 3:48pm in the afternoon!
Did you use the prize as a deadline to finish writing The Lonely Fajita or did you decide to write the book so that you could enter?
Yes, I did! I spent a year planning a historical novel set in the late Georgian period, but when I came to write it, nothing happened – it was like wading through treacle trying to get the words down. I asked my mum what kind of book she could imagine me writing and she said ‘something comedy-ish,’ so I plotted a new idea and planned to finish my first draft in time to submit it into the CWIP Prize. Luckily, the first submission was only the first three chapters, so I furiously spent the next month polishing the whole manuscript just in case I was asked for the rest. Without the deadline, I think I would have spent the best part of two years dipping in and out of it, umm-ing and ahh-ing.
Can you tell us what The Lonely Fajita is about in one or two sentences?
The Lonely Fajita is a feel-good story about when Tinder and geriatric love collide. It follows the story of Elissa, who moves in with sweary pensioner Annie after signing up to a live-in home companionship scheme. After a strained start, the two women develop an unlikely friendship and where they teach each other how to how to find a less isolated way to live.
Which character arrived first – Elissa or Annie, or a different one altogether?
Elissa came first, and like a lot of protagonists, she’s 30% me, 30% people I know, and the rest made up. I wanted to explore how someone like Elissa, who often second guesses herself, would fare when thrown together with Annie, who is forthright and infuriatingly stubborn. They both had a clear sense of direction, so writing scenes where they were both together came easily, like commentating a tennis match. Read more