The Writing Life of: Kirsty Eyre
This week I am thrilled to be interviewing author Kirsty Eyre. Kirsty will be sharing with us details of her writing life, telling us all about her new book ‘Cow Girl‘, which was released on 25th June 2020 and answering a few fun questions too. This post contains affiliate links.
Kirsty Eyre is the winner of the inaugural Comedy Women in Print award (2019). Her debut novel, Cow Girl is out (audio/ eBook) now 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) As a child did you have a dream job in mind?
I remember wanting to be a nurse, but my mum telling me I’d have to stick my hand up people’s bottoms – I’m not sure what particular nursing she had in mind… Then, I wanted to be a P.E. teacher partly because I loved sports and also because I had a crush on my P.E. teacher. Now, my dream job is to be a full-time writer rather than a comms manager in an IT department.
2) Who was your favourite childhood author (s)?
Probably, Shirley Hughes. Do you remember ‘Dogger’? I still love ‘Dogger’ and can’t get through it without a tear in my eye. I also loved Enid Blyton’s ‘The Magic Faraway Tree’ and can still picture Moon-face and Silky. Growing up though, it had to be Sue Townsend’s ‘The secret life of Adrian Mole, aged 13 ¾.’ To this day, I think it is a comedy masterpiece and hail Sue Townsend as one of the comedy greats.
3) Was there a particular point in your life that you realised you wanted to be a writer?
I was a late starter. It wasn’t until I was about 28 that I knew I wanted to write. I started pulling together a novel about a Chalet Girl, based on a ski season I did. Before I could finish it though, my computer got nicked and this was before the days of back up to the cloud. If I had a copy of it now, I think I’d be pretty mortified at how bad the writing was. But hey ho, stepping-stones and all that!
4) What is your average writing day like? Do you have any special routines, word count, etc?
I need slipper-socks and silence when I write – I can’t listen to music because I get too distracted. I like to have a pot of tea at my side and often take a bag of carrots to my desk so that I munch my way through something healthy rather than eating my own body weight in chocolate. I find the process of chomping food powers my brain, which is a slippery slope!
5) How many books have you written? Any unpublished work?
Other than the aforementioned Chalet Girl, I don’t have a back catalogue of unpublished work. I previously wrote stage-plays which were performed at fringe festivals and were richly rewarding. Other than that, I am writing my next novel, Goddesses of Barnsley, which resides on my hard-drive at 60K words and is yet to be finished.
I may not be hugely prolific at the moment with lockdown home-schooling and work, but I really love writing my goddesses – they’re great escapism.
6) Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Am I allowed to say that I’m a mix? The thing is, I plot on scraps of paper and the backs of envelopes but then I tend not to follow what I’ve plotted and end up being a pantser. I do the same with supermarket shopping – write a list and then leave it at home. Then I get my proverbial knickers in a knot and have to re-plot, repeating the same cycle.
Concerning your latest book:
Publisher – HarperCollins
Pages – 400
Release Date – 25th June 2020
ISBN 13 – 978-0008382247
Format – ebook, paperback, audio
When her father falls ill, Billie returns home to the Yorkshire farm which she left behind for life in London. The transition back to country lass from city girl isn’t easy, not least because leaving London means leaving her relationship with Joely Chevalier, 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 – the last thing Billie expected was a return to the life of a farmer but it isn’t long before she’s up at 5am with manure up to her wellies.
Battling misogyny, homophobia and some very unpredictable dairy cows, Billie must find a way to keep the cows happy, save the farm and save herself…
7) How did you go about researching the content for your book?
I did a lot of internet research on dairy farming and watched quite a few YouTube videos on herd health, milk yield, hoof care and such like. Some of it was really upsetting – I remember my stomach rolling over when learning about insemination techniques and also freeze-branding. I had to check my cow-to-acre ratios and understand how many cows could be milked simultaneously using modern equipment and what dairy farming technology can report on. It opened up a whole new world to me.
Fundamentally though, I love cows and reading about their behaviours was fascinating. Did you know the reason cows have wet noses is because they sweat through their nose?
8) How long did it take to go from ideas stage to writing the last word?
I think it took me about three years – however that did include a rewrite of the entire book from diary format into first-person straight narrative. Getting the words down on paper took about a year but chopping and changing, reworking the narrative and taking on board feedback from beta readers and agents meant about three years in total.
9) How did you come up with the title of your book?
I had several working titles before settling on Cow Girl. When the novel was in its original diary format, I’d called it, ‘Billie’s Queer Year’ but feedback told me that sounds as though Billie is only queer for a year, so it then became ‘It’s up to you, Billie!’ I knew that title wasn’t right but couldn’t work out what was. Then one day, when I was getting the kids changed for swimming, I had a lightbulb moment. Cow Girl. Billie is the Cow Girl.
10) Can you give us an insight into your characters?
Cow Girl is written from Billie’s point of view. A London-based biochemist, Billie is driven by her need to find a cure to Eclampsia, the illness that killed her mother. Her dreams get put on hold when her life is diverted to the dairy farm, where she discovers that friendship and family are key to her happiness, and that she also has a love for cows she never knew about.
Grandma is a no-nonsense widow, wise and forthright, she would die on the sword for Billie, the farm and the Yorkshire moors. Billie’s dad is of a similar mindset, wedded to his beloved cows.
Joely is as elegant and intelligent as she is beautiful, but is she going to love and support Billie through thick and thin, and accept her as the Cow Girl? Lorna, on the other hand, is a no-frills bovine vet and socially awkward at times but what you see, is not what you get.
Billie’s friends are also important. The story is about friendship as much as it is romance. As Billie muses; ‘Friends are like a toolset. You need different tools for different occasions; Maria for entertainment, Kat for advice, and Bev for loyalty. Who needs romance when you’ve got friends? It feels so good to have the right tools for the job.’
11) What process did you go through to get your book published?
A long, convoluted one! I wrote the first draft in diary format – it took me a while, what with having very young children and little time. I then went on the three-month Curtis Brown Creative novel writing course and was advised against the diary format. The rewrite took the best part of another year. I submitted to agents, got rejections, reworked it, submitted again, got a couple of bites – I had a memorable 121 session through #pitchDHH where I got some helpful feedback, reworked it, submitted again, got a couple of full manuscript requests, whooped and cheered, only for radio silence to ensue.
Meanwhile I became a member of London Writer’s Club and attended many agent talks (where I met my agent, Felicity Trew from the Caroline Sheldon agency) and entered Cow Girl into the Comedy Women in Print (CWIP) competition. This is where it really took off. Being able to quote getting longlisted for CWIP made my pitch letter to agents more credible. I got a small flurry of full manuscript requests and shortly after signed with Felicity. A few days later, I was shortlisted. Little did I know I’d go on to win CWIP and therefore a publishing deal with Harper Collins. It still feels surreal.
12) What’s next for you writing wise?
My CWIP win gives me a one book deal with Harper Collins, so I am about to go through the pitching process with my second novel, The Goddesses of Barnsley (working title), which I’m trying to finish at the moment. It’s about a singing sister trio who grow apart when the youngest goes solo but are thrown together again ten years later when their dad dies – resentment, anger, and dark family secrets all come to light. I’m enjoying writing it.
1) If you could have any super power for the day which would you choose?
I would love to fly. Can you imagine the ability to soar above the treetops and glide over mountains and sea? It would also make the commute/ lockdown/ school-run more fun. The sooner I can ditch my dependence on South Eastern trains, the better.
2) Do you have any pets?
We have a Siberian hamster named Jango. My boys campaigned hard for him, but poor Jango tends to lie low until they’re firmly in bed and then likes racing around in his ball.
3) If you decided to write an autobiography of your life, what would you call it?
4) Your book has been made into a feature film and you’ve been offered a cameo role, which part would you choose, or what would you be doing?
Ha, that’s a great question. I’d probably have to be a villager in the Scarecrow Festival scene because my tomato-throwing skills outweigh my acting ones. I can imagine Grandma being one of the most fun roles though.
5) Where is your favourite holiday destination?
I love Mediterranean France. I love the language, the people, the food, the sea, the smell of Provence, the fields of lavender, the inland gorges where you can swim in green lakes framed by limestone rocks. As a child, we went to Scarborough most years and when I was twelve, I remember realising that I didn’t know what ‘abroad’ meant. I travelled quite a bit in my twenties to make up for it.
6) A baseball cap wearing, talking duck casually wanders into your room, what is the first thing he says to you?
I would like to say a big thank you to Kirsty Eyre for sharing with us details of her writing life and for a wonderful interview.