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Good morning and happy new week! This morning I have something slightly different from my usual Monday posts as it is not a Mental Health Monday post. I was given a chance not just to review this newly released book, but a chance to interview the award winning author which I could not pass up!
Winner of the Comedy Women in Print Prize‘Inspired and stylish’ Jenny Eclair‘Original and witty’ Helen Lederer
Billie fled her Yorkshire upbringing to pursue her dreams of finding a cure for the illness which killed her mother, yet when her father gets sick, she must return home to save the farm.
But the transition from city girl to country lass isn’t easy, not least because leaving London means leaving her relationship with Joely Chevalier, French pharmaceutical femme fatale, just as it was heating up. And when she gets to Yorkshire, Billie’s shocked to discover the family dairy farm is in dire straits.
Battling misogyny, homophobia and the economic turmoil of a dairy crisis, can Billie find a way to save the farm, save the cows and save herself?
Kirsty Eyre is the winner of the inaugural Comedy Women in Print award (2019). Her debut novel, Cow Girl is out (audio/ eBook) on June 25th 2020 and the paperback follows on September 3rd. She loves tea and hates her big toes.
Her writing credits include several comedy stage plays receiving great acclaim at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Originally from Yorkshire, she now lives in South East London with her partner and two children.
1) Congratulations on the publication of your first novel – how does it feel?
Thank you. It feels flipping fantastic! I’ve dreamed of this moment for years and I’m just so chuffed that Cow Girl is now a real book rather than a manuscript on my hard-drive. It’s surreal that people I’ve never met are actually reading my words. Thank you for having me on your blog.
2) Releasing a book during a pandemic must be different from what you expected. In what ways have you noticed this most?
Obviously, it’s been a little tricky. My paperback proof copies got locked down in the Harper Collins office and didn’t make it out to reviewers and for a while, we didn’t know whether there would be an audio version given that the recording studio got closed down, but thankfully Chloe Massey came up trumps with a great reading of Cow Girl.
I’ve been to a few virtual book launches recently and find it fascinating how authors have adapted so fast and Instagram-Live and Zoom have become a part of day to day life. I read that Zoom is now worth more than the world’s seven largest airlines combined. So yes, I’m excited and nervous about the virtual launch – the last time I did a live interview, an ice-cream van kept blaring outside, and my neighbour’s teenage son started his drum practice. That, and my children were having a scrap downstairs.
3) Last year you won the Comedy Women in Print Prize. What other comedic writers have inspired you?
I was over the moon to win the Comedy Women in Print Prize and am very grateful to Helen Lederer and the team for recognising comedy writing as a craft. I’ve always loved reading and watching comedy. My mum was a huge Victoria Wood fan and got me hooked on her – I think I can still recite every word of ‘Let’s do it.’ Along with the nation, I loved Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones’ Diary and then I sucked the life out of everything written by David Nicholls and Nora Ephron, which made me laugh and cry. Now, I feel inspired to write when I read anything by Caitlin Moran, Dolly Alderton and Maria Semple.
4) As a girl born and bred in Derbyshire – albeit more of the city side – what made you base Cow Girl here?
Years after I left Sheffield, my parents retired to the countryside on the Yorkshire/ Derbyshire border. We’d often go for walks through Baslow village and up to Curbar edge, where Cow Girl is set. There is a dairy farm just off the main lane up to the moors which became my muse. I love the landscape of the Peak District – the huge lumps of granite rock amongst heather and gorse. Even on the bleakest days, it has a wild beauty about it. There’s nowhere else I’d want to base Fernbrook farm.
5) Billie AKA Cow Girl is a lesbian. This raises some interesting points around homophobia, particularly in more rural areas. What made you decide to have a homosexual main character for the book?
I think the most immediate answer is, why not? I’ve carried Billie around as a character for a long time and she’s always been a lesbian. I did want to illustrate that casual (and blatant) homophobia and misogyny sadly still exist amongst some communities. Although female farmers are on the rise and associations and networks such as Women in Farming have been up and running for a while, agriculture is often still a man’s world. Cow Girl provides a lens as to what it is like for a lesbian farmer to come into a long established agricultural community as an outsider and the bigoted views and discrimination that she comes up against. Obviously, this is fiction and not based on my real-life experiences.
6) Do you have any farming experience yourself?
My stepdad grew up on a dairy farm but no, I don’t have a farming background. The nearest I’ve got to being a dairy farmer is milking a cow as part of a day-trip to a children’s farm and playground so I had to do a lot of research. I learned all about milking equipment, herd health, cattle feed, milk fever, insemination and all sorts – some of my earlier drafts had a whole lot more dairy farming detail in there – but fundamentally, I learned so much about cows. Cows are intelligent creatures, each with their own personality, likes and dislikes. Their friendships are varied and complex. Jealousy, anger, joy and grief – it all goes on amongst the herd. I love cows.
7) What has been your favourite read (aside from your own) this year?
It would probably be Queenie. Candice Carty-Williams has a natural flair for dialogue and characterisation. I found the book heart-breaking in places and hilarious in others. I’m part of a book club and we devoured Queenie fast and furiously and it gave us a lot of food for thought. Previously, we read and enjoyed Kiley Reid’s ‘Such a fun age’ which also was good for a bit of ‘post-match analysis.’
8) What made you want to be a writer?
Growing up, I used to write humorous poems for my friends – I’m not convinced they endured the test of time – but it wasn’t until my friend, Stephane, enlisted me to co-write a pantomime which led onto me writing comedy stage plays, that I could call myself a writer. I spent a few years directing my plays on the fringe festival circuit around my day job and had become a bit nocturnal. When my children came along, I was no longer in the game for writing as I knew it, so I turned my hand to writing a novel. I’ve always loved the process of writing. Give me a cup of tea, a pair of slipper socks and a laptop and I could spend hours writing – if I wasn’t working and home-schooling!
9) Why should people read Cow Girl?
I appreciate that comedy is subjective and what tickles one person’s funny bone, won’t work for another, but I’m hoping that Cow Girl might provide feel-good escapism everyone needs during lockdown. On paper, it’s a romantic comedy but Cow Girl is also about the plight of a dairy crisis and Billie’s journey from ‘outsider’ to a highly respected member of the local farming community who wind up affectionately dubbing her the Cow Girl. Cows, comedy and chemistry; there’s something for everyone.
10) What’s next? Are you still writing? Can we expect a new book soon?
My writing is somewhat hampered by home-schooling on top of the day job, but I’m still writing when I can. My second novel, Goddesses of Barnsley (working title), is about three feuding sisters who are forced back together as adults when they’re dad dies. Resentment. Anger. Dark secrets. Will the broken sisterhood ever be restored? I don’t have a publishing contract for this one, so I guess it’s ‘if and when’ in terms of a release date.
I am really not surprised that this won a comedy award – it is really funny! Despite the book being characterised as a rom-com, I think this book is much more than that and covers lots more topics relevant to life today. The author touches on issues like homophobia, sexism and the plight of dairy farmers and I feel handles them really well.
Billie is a really easy to like main character and it is not hard to be really hoping she does well. I also really like the supporting characters and they were all well written. I found the book to have a decent pace and was perfect for a relaxing read. As you know, I really love a good thriller, but do enjoy a lighter read now and again and I was really pleased I chose to pick up this one.
A perfect Summer read – light, funny and leaves you with a smile on your face.
Not only did I love the book but it was also set in Derbyshire/South Yorkshire border. Born and raised in Derby, it was nice to hear familiar town names as I was reading! If you check the book out, let me know what you think in the comments below. Take care and stay safe,
I am pleased to be a member of the IA and also on the committee of my local group – Notts and Derby IA – however the views expressed in this blog are my own and are not necessarily the same as the IA
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