Book of the Month competition: Freakslaw

Start date: 29 May 2024, 12:00

Closing date: 30 June 2024, 23:59

Topics: Competitions

Freakslaw book cover

We are proud to offer five signed copies of Freakslaw by Jane Flett in our June Book of the Month competition, courtesy of our friends at Doubleday.

To be in with a chance of winning this fantastic debut from a recipient of our New Writers Awards, all you need to do is answer the question at the bottom of the page by midnight on 30 June 2024.

All entrants must reside in the UK and full terms and conditions apply. Check out our competitions page to find more giveaways.

About Freakslaw by Jane Flett

It’s the summer of ’97 and the Scottish town of Pitlaw is itching for change.

Enter the Freakslaw – a travelling funfair populated by deviant queers, a contortionist witch, the most powerful fortune teller, and other architects of mayhem. It doesn’t take long for the Freakslaw folk to infiltrate Pitlaw’s grey world, where the town’s teenagers – none more so than Ruth and Derek – are seduced by neon charms and the possibility of escape.

But beneath it all, these newcomers are harbouring a darker desire: revenge.

And as tensions reach fever pitch between the stoic locals and the dazzling intruders, a violence that’s been simmering for centuries is about to be unleashed.

Q&A with Jane Flett

Author photo of Jane Flett - person with long red hair and fringe in a striped vest looks at camera against a navy backdrop

How did you first get into writing? 

I was an obsessive reader as a child. My local library had a summer programme where you won rewards for every ten books you finished, with a different theme each year. My proudest moment was completing the dinosaur challenge and receiving a Tyrannosaurus Rex sweatshirt that proclaimed 'I Have Read 100 Books!'

Then when I was eight, I ran my own mini publishing house for a while – the imaginatively named Panda Press, complete with little black and white animal logo. Panda Press put out stapled A5 'books', including an illustrated haunted house story that I think was based mainly around me wanting to be on the TV programme Knightmare.

But it was in my twenties I really started taking writing seriously. Two things happened that made me think this was something I could do. Firstly, my dear friend and brilliant poet Ryan Van Winkle invited me to take part in the Golden Hour Tour, where we got in a van and drove around Europe, getting up on stage every night to read to excitable audiences. And then I was awarded the Scottish Book Trust New Writer Award, where I received a stipend of £2000 and writing/publishing support. With the kind of hubris you only have in your twenties, as soon as I got the award, I quit my job and went to live in New York City for two months, writing as many stories as I could. This was a truly foolish move and some of the most fun I’ve ever had. 

Writing a book takes an enormous amount of self-belief and an incredibly long time. Honestly, these moments of validation along the way meant everything. 

What can readers expect from Freakslaw?

People tell you not to read your Goodreads reviews, but someone there described Freakslaw as 'Like if a more deviant Angela Carter wrote Something Wicked This Way Comes, and then set fire to it and chucked Nancy from The Craft into the flames for good measure,' which is pretty much perfect, so there you go. The book is a grab bag of all my obsessions, so you can expect witchcraft, neon, chosen family, excessive descriptions of fried food, tarot, gratuitous references to early punk, pagan rituals, and so much kissing. 

It was also my aim to write a book that made being a weird queer outsider sound like the best possible thing to be (a thing I myself desperately needed to read as a teenager), and I hope I’ve succeeded in doing that.

What drew you to the setting of a 1997 Scottish town for this novel?

It’s funny – the earliest drafts I wrote of Freakslaw were set nowhere in particular. They were based around a funfair, but the wider setting was a nebulous hybrid of Scotland and Hollywood Americana. I’d moved to Berlin a couple of years earlier and I think I hadn’t lived away from Scotland for long enough to understand what I wanted to say about it. That original manuscript didn’t work, and I put it away for a few years. When I came back to it, I realised what was missing. It was a book about feeling trapped in a place, about needing to escape – so of course I needed to think about where they wanted to escape from.

My relationship with Scotland is complicated. If anyone ever calls me British, I’ll correct them furiously. Having lived in Germany for the past twelve years, there are many things about my home country I miss so much. But there are also Scottish tendencies that rankle me. I hate the way that suffering is seen as somehow more real and important than ease. And I wish it were more encouraged to genuinely tell people how brilliant they are, rather than thinking too much approval will turn them soft or give them ideas above their station.

To me, Freakslaw is both a love letter to Scotland and a love letter to escaping. I felt like an outsider when I was growing up there, but now I live somewhere else, I realise how much Scotland is a part of me. This book is one attempt to reconcile those complicated feelings. 

Freakslaw by Jane Flett is published by Doubleday (£16.99).

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In which fictional Scottish town is Freakslaw set?

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If you are under 16, you can still enter the competition but will be asked to provide an additional contact email for a parent or guardian.