Sydenham writer shortlisted for Comedy Women in Print Prize

An aspiring writer from Sydenham has been shortlisted for a comedy writing prize.

Hannah Dolby’s book is one of six works of fiction which are in the running to receive the Comedy Women in Print Prize for an Unpublished Comic Novel.

The novel, called The Lady Detective, did not start out as a comedy though.

She said: “I also wanted to write about a woman who starts out as repressed as the average Victorian woman but is brave and clever enough to find her own freedom and have adventures, even if it leads to chaos.

“I think that women of the time were tougher than we think and would have lied, schemed, and cheated to ensure their lives were as interesting as they could be.

“The Comedy Women in Print Prize was really my inspiration for writing a comic novel though – before I spotted it my novel was very dull and my heroine was having a thoroughly grim time. Now she’s definitely having fun.”

Ms Dolby said that the inspiration for the novel came from her childhood home, but living in South London has also provided colour.

She said: “I have always loved the Victorian era. I think that comes from growing up in a draughty old Victorian house which had a gloomy coal cellar and a secret trapdoor in the living room.

“It was packed full of atmosphere and it was brilliant for the imagination.

“And now I’m living right next to Crystal Palace Park which is such a wonderful inspiration for the era – all those lichen-covered headless statues and crumbling walls, and the dinosaurs of course.”

Another inspiration came from Ms Dolby’s day job, which is in PR for museums, galleries and gardens.

She said: “I’ve written press releases on everything from Dolly the Sheep to Egyptian mummies, which has given me the skill of spotting a good story and setting it down at speed.

“It does also mean that my head is crammed full of ideas but hopefully I’ve got loads of brilliant material for future novels too.

“Museums are such great places for inspiration, and I spent too many hours there after dark supervising film crews, wondering if the spirits of Roman soldiers and Pictish warriors were watching.”

The Comedy Women in Print Prize is the UK and Ireland’s only awards to shine a light on humorous writing by women, and was launched by actress, author and stand-up comedian Helen Lederer in 2019.

Main Picture: Hannah Dolby

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