Episode 1

Writing funny and publishing in a pandemic with Abigail Mann

Abigail Mann is a Norfolk native living in London, surviving on a diet of three-shot coffee, bourbon biscuits and vegetarian sausage rolls. The manuscript which became her debut novel was runner-up in the inaugural Comedy Women in Print award in 2019. Thanks to the pandemic she has just celebrated the paperback publication of her debut, the Lonely Fajita, and will soon celebrate the publication of her second novel Sister Surprise. 

We usually try to avoid talking about the Panny D (British for this whole pandemic nightmare), but in Abigail’s case it’s an essential part of the conversation and the reason why we’re discussing two novels today instead of just focusing on her latest release

Interview starts at 20 minutes if you want to skip our chat.

P.S Our beautiful new artwork is the genius of Rhi. You can follow her on Instagram here for some eye-catching graphics and cute quotes in your feed.

Caitlin recommends

It’s Been a Pleasure, Noni Blake by Claire Christian

“This book really deserves all the love it’s been getting. It actually felt really hopeful and inspiring, not just funny and joyful”

Michelle recommends

Line of Duty (TV series)

“It is just mind-blowingly good. It’s my whole life now and I can’t stop thinking about it. It is, from a storytelling perspective, some of the best TV I’ve ever seen.”

In this interview, we chat about:

  • The real-life inspiration for Abigail’s debut novel, The Lonely Fajita, which is based on a scheme where young people move in as housemates with pensioners. Plus, how her time in Sheffield influenced the charming character of Annie.
  • The isolation of living in a huge city, especially for elderly residents.
  • Some spicy stories from Abigail’s own strange London internships (which inspired parts of The Lonely Fajita)
  • The Sister Surprise and some of the fun research Abigail did for the novel in Scotland (just before the pandemic)
  • Late-twenties panics and the way this time makes us reflect on our family histories and where we’ve come from
  • The home DNA/Ancestry boom and how that inspired the storyline of Sister Surprise
  • How a comedy writing competition forced Abigail to write The Lonely Fajita after feeling uninspired for many years following creative writing studies at university
  • Abigail’s tips for great comedic writing

Books and other things mentioned

  • The Switch by Beth O’Leary
  • Just the Gist podcast (Elizabeth Holmes episode)
  • Wolf of Wall Street
  • Uncanny Valley by Anna Wiener
  • This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay
  • The Panic Years by Nell Frizzell

Follow Abigail on Instagram @abigailemann

Follow us on Instagram @betterwordspod

UK listeners: The Lonely Fajita is out NOW in paperback, eBook and audio. 

Sister Surprise will be available as an eBook from March 25. It will be available in paperback in June.

Aus listeners: The Lonely Fajita will be available in paperback in Australia from April 6. 

Sister Surprise will be available as an eBook from March 25.

Please note that Caitlin's job at HarperCollins Publishers did not affect our decision to invite Abigail to be a guest, we're delighted to have her and hope you enjoy this episode. We both received copies of The Lonely Fajita and Sister Surprise for review. 

About the Podcast

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Better Words

About your hosts

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Caitlin Toohey

Hi, I'm Caitlin! I've been on bookstagram since 2016, a podcaster since 2017, and worked in publishing since 2019. So books and reading are my entire life. When I'm not reading, I like listening to Taylor Swift, watching sitcoms, and going to aerial classes.
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Michelle Gately

Hi, I'm Michelle! I write words and tell stories for a living as a journalist and marketer. So it makes sense that in my spare time I'm devouring more words and talking about books, right? I've been podcasting since 2017 and now also work in radio. When I'm not thinking about words, I can be found cuddling my pug Percy and dreaming about moving back to England.