About Kirsty Eyre
Kirsty grew up in South Yorkshire, idolising comedy writers like Sue Townsend. Having studied languages at Nottingham Trent, her love for theatre led her to write and direct several comedy stageplays, which received favourable reviews at the Edinburgh and Brighton Fringe festivals. Kirsty now lives in South East London with her partner and two children. Her first novel, Cow Girl, won the inaugural Comedy Women in Print Unpublished Prize.
A Conversation with Kirsty Eyre
Tell us about yourself and how many books you have written.
Hello! I am originally a Yorkshire lass but have been living in London for a while now. Cow Girl is actually my first novel. I have written several comedy stage-plays which were performed on the Fringe Festival circuit but when I had children, I decided to turn my hand to writing something which didn’t require nocturnal rehearsals. Writing the novel wasn’t easy. I may have won the Harper Collins publishing deal through Comedy Women in Print, but in all honesty, it took three years for the book to be in the shape that it’s in now.
Where were you raised? Where do you live now? Do you have any pets?
I was raised in Sheffield and made to go on weekend walks in the Derbyshire/Yorkshire countryside (where Cow Girl is based) in spite of my teenage protestations, but now that I live in South East London and particularly during lockdown, I crave the Peak District and all those miles of open space. My eldest son is heavily campaigning for a dog at the moment but for now, we have a hamster who loves blueberries and hates his wheel.
Picture this: You feel uninspired and you’ve sat at the computer for an hour without conquering any words. How do you get your creativity flowing?
I don’t have to work too hard to picture this! I find it either comes or it doesn’t. When I’m stuck – either on a plot point or writer’s block – I tend to go for a run, which helps my brain unwind. Thinking time is part of writing time so anything that can get my brain ticking over without two small people yelling that they’re hungry is a good thing. Normally, I’ll have a few ideas during a run and try not to forget them before I get back! I’m long-sighted and run without glasses so the notes I type into my phone whilst on the move are often undecipherable.
Who are your favorite authors? What is your favorite genre to read?
I love Caitlin Moran both for her writing and everything that she has done for feminism and fairness over the years. My other favourite authors include Dolly Alderton, David Nicholls, Nora Ephron and Maria Semple. Left to my own devices, I read a mixture of comic novels that also have a lot of heart (I loved ‘The Rosie Project’ and ‘Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine’) and the big literary prize winning novels (out of intrigue). I’m a member of a feminist book club, so I also read titles that touch on gender politics and feminist literature. I found Lisa Taddeo’s ‘Three Women’ excellent and it sparked lots of debate amongst us.
Describe your ideal writing spot. When you’re writing what’s your drink and snack of choice?
I need silence or white noise when I write. I can’t listen to music or write next to people who are having a loud conversation because I just tune into them instead of the writing. As unglamorous as it is, I tend to write at home at a messy table covered in cups of tea with our hamster running around in his ball under my feet. I couldn’t live without tea and recently invested in a chintzy china teapot from the charity shop which never fails to serve up a cracking brew. And in terms of snacks, I’m terrible – sometimes the motion of eating helps me think so I’ve been known to chomp through a bag of carrots at a time.
Writing Cow Girl
Tell us a bit about your new book ‘Cow Girl’. What inspired you to write it?
Cow Girl is an uplifting feel-good romantic comedy: an LGBT Bridget Jones’s Diary meets Cold Comfort Farm, where Billie, a thirty-something biochemist, ditches London life to run her dad’s dairy farm when he falls ill with a brain tumour. It’s not easy and farming turns out to be a man’s world. Battling misogyny, homophobia, the economic turmoil of a dairy crisis and the turbulence of romance, Billie certainly has her work cut out before the farming community affectionately dub her the Cow Girl.
I had Billie as a character in my head for a while, but it was only when I went home to visit my parents who retired to the Yorkshire/ Derbyshire border that I knew she was a dairy farmer. There is a dairy farm just outside Baslow village which became my muse, along with the surrounding countryside.
What does it take to write funny?
Hmm. It’s tricky because different people have different senses of humour and it’s not one size fits all, but I love observational comedy and constantly have to jot down funny moments (overheard conversations on the tube or at the bus stop) to weave into the comic tone of a book. For me, writing funny is a fusion of wit, gags and funny situations. But it’s also about not overdoing it. Life isn’t wall to wall hilarity and it’s important to have a mix of light and shade. I enjoy writing dialogue and had to work hard at training myself to expand on description and slow the story down. There is, of course, the risk that if you overdo the slapstick or comedy situations, it just becomes a pantomime.
Comedy is a craft and I’m so grateful to Comedy Women in Print for recognising that and launching their prize. I’ll be forever indebted.
What do you think will be the initial thoughts of your readers while reading your book?
‘Is that really how you milk a cow?’
‘Ooh, I wish she hadn’t mentioned gourmet sausages, I could murder a hot dog.’
‘At least her friends are vegan.’
‘What does she mean by the “bull sperm incident?”’
How do you come up with names for your characters?
Good question. Billie was always Billie and I like the idea that its pronunciation is unisex though often assumed to be male, in keeping with the bigotry that she experiences. Her friend Maria I imagine as being an eighth Spanish and having a catholic upbringing. Kat can be spiky with feline qualities and needed to be one syllable. Grandma’s name is Kath (after my grandma) but is predominantly referred to as Grandma. I love thinking up names. I guess I often use friends’ surnames. I’m writing a book about three sisters at the moment and they’re named after Greek Goddesses which has been really fun.
What was your hardest scene to write in ‘Cow Girl’?
Writing the chapter about Dad getting diagnosed with a brain tumour and having to tell Billie from his hospital bed was really difficult because it brought back memories of me losing my mum to a brain tumour. I guess writing it was a form of therapy. It was really difficult though and my earlier drafts were way too ‘on the nose’ and sentimental.
Technically, I had to rewrite the opening chapter a number of times. I felt like I was trying to tick all the boxes – set up the book and signpost where it was heading, have an intriguing opening line and an immediate voice that readers can connect with. I found myself trying to do so much in the opening chapter that I was worried Billie’s character wouldn’t shine through. Hopefully it does.
Describe Cow Girl in three words.
Cows. Comedy. Chemistry.
What’s next for Kirsty Eyre? Are you working on a new book? Can you tell my readers a little about it, a blurb, potential release date, etc?
I’m currently writing my second comic novel, Goddesses of Barnsley, which is about a singing sister trio who are torn apart when one of them goes solo. Ten years later, they are forced back together for their dad’s funeral. Resentment. Anger. Can the sisterhood be restored?
Although one of the sisters has a romance arc, Goddesses of Barnsley (working title) is more of a tragicomedy than a romantic comedy. I’m enjoying the challenge of writing from three different points of view – the sisters rotate for each chapter.
In terms of a release date, it’s ‘if and when’ as I’ve yet to go through the pitch process. Fingers crossed!
I can’t thank you enough for taking your time to this interview, Kirsty. Many thanks for being with us today. Wish you all the very best for your new book and the amazing blog tour that follows!
About ‘Cow Girl’
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?