• www.inkwellwriters.ie

Putting Working-Class Women Centre Stage: Ginger and Me by Elissa Soave

Writing.ie | Magazine | General Fiction | Interviews
Ginger and Me

By Elissa Soave

My debut novel, Ginger and Me, is just published. Lots of people have asked me about my journey from starting out as a writer around six years ago through to publication. Although of course there was plenty of rejection and disappointment along the way, the good news started with the Primadonna Prize.

The Primadonna Prize was founded in 2019 by a group of women who were determined to increase access to the literary world for those women who are currently under-represented. In conjunction with an annual Primadonna festival (this year’s will take place in Suffolk from 29–31 July), this Prize has been a force for good in the world of writing and publishing for the last four years.

I was lucky enough to win the inaugural Primadonna Prize in 2019. As a completely unknown, unpublished writer from South Lanarkshire in Scotland, imagine my surprise when I was announced the winner of the competition by Sandi Toksvig at a swish ceremony in London’s Conway Hall in March 2020. In the weeks that followed, I signed a contract with my agent, the wonderful Cath Summerhayes of Curtis Brown, and a couple of months later, a publishing deal with HQ, an imprint of Big Five publisher, Harper Collins. Looking back, I can see that quite apart from the practical help the Prize gave me – signing with an agent and so on –  what it really gave me was confidence in my writing. If judges like Neil Hegarty, Joanne Harris and Lemn Sissay liked my writing, then maybe it was quite good? In a nice turn of events, I am going to be speaking on a panel at this year’s Primadonna festival, so that’s really a great honour for me.

My novel, Ginger and Me is about two young Scottish women called Wendy and Ginger. Wendy, who’s 19 and a bus driver, finds herself alone in the world after her mum dies. Her support worker encourages her to put herself out there and ‘make connections’ so she does – she joins a local writers’ group and also meets Ginger, who appears suddenly on her bus one day. They’re both outsiders, so they quickly click and become great friends but we find out there is darkness underlying the good times. It’s partly a coming-of-age tale – Ginger is Wendy’s first ever friend so we see them doing all the things that friends do – putting on make-up, going on nights out, spending time together; and it’s partly a mystery – the book opens with Wendy in prison so we’re immediately wondering why she’s there. There’s mystery too surrounding Ginger’s chaotic home life that unfurls as the book progresses. I think it’s fair to say there are some dark themes in the book but also lots of humour, mostly around Wendy’s very innocent way of looking at the world and the way she often misinterprets things, such as the relationship that she thinks she has with a local author called Diane.

I wanted to write a story that put working class women at the centre of the action because I don’t think we hear from them enough – either in literature or indeed in life generally. It was important to me to set that story in Scotland but more than that, I wanted to set it in a small, mostly unknown part of Scotland because I wanted to make the point that, although we are more used to reading about the lives of characters in big cities like London, say or Dublin, in fact, the lives of people like Wendy and Ginger and the stories they have to tell are just as important and just as valid. There’s a poignant scene in Ginger and Me where Ginger is telling Wendy that she used to dream about getting a job in a nice office, shopping at M & S, maybe having a week abroad – these are not big dreams, and yet to Ginger, they are completely unattainable. I wanted to show those kinds of aspirations, so that more privileged people who have always had choices are forced to really think about what it’s like to have no choices.

Going forward, I hope that under-represented writers continue to push at the gates of publishing and demand that their stories be heard. As in every industry, diversity and inclusion are topics that need to be talked about in publishing. I hope that by putting working-class women centre stage in Ginger and Me, and making sure they’re the ones driving the action rather than appearing as the mother/ girlfriend/ wife of the main male character, I’m doing my bit to encourage diversity of voices.

(c) Elissa Soave

About Ginger and Me:

Ginger and Me

Wendy is lonely but coping.
All nineteen-year-old Wendy wants is to drive the 255 bus around Uddingston with her regulars on board, remember to buy milk when it runs out and just to be okay. After her mum died, there’s nobody to remind her to eat and what to do each day.

And Wendy is ready to step out of her comfort zone.
Each week she shows her social worker the progress she’s made, like the coasters she bought to spruce up the place, even if she forgets to make tea. And she even joins a writers’ group to share the stories she writes, like the one about a bullied boy who goes to Mars.

But everything changes when Wendy meets Ginger.
A teenager with flaming orange hair, Ginger’s so brave she’s wearing a coat that isn’t even waterproof. For the first time, Wendy has a real best friend. But as they begin the summer of their lives, Wendy wonders if things were simpler before. And that’s before she realizes just how much trouble Ginger is about to get them in…

An unforgettable debut novel from the winner of the Primadonna Prize 2019 which will stay with you long after the last page.

Order your copy online here.

About the author

Elissa Soave won the inaugural Primadonna Prize in 2019. She was also a Bloody Scotland Pitch Perfect finalist 2019 and has had work published in New Writing Scotland, Gutter, Structo and The Glasgow Review of Books. She’s had two short plays performed by the Short Attention Span Theatre Group and has performed at various spoken word events. She currently lives in South Lanarkshire and Ginger and Me is her debut novel.

  • www.designforwriters.com
  • allianceindependentauthors.org

Subscribe to our newsletter

Get all of the latest from writing.ie delivered directly to your inbox.

Featured books