Ten Terrifying Questions
1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?
Hello! I was born in the hippy paradise of Brighton, but when I was two my parents moved to the depressed industrial town of Wolverhampton, in the West Midlands – to be near my nan – and had their next seven children there. Still sticking to their hippy ideals from Brighton, we were raised as proper Children of Woodstock – muesli, miso, experimental jazz, home-schooling and crocheted ponchos – in a town into fighting and Duran Duran. As you might imagine we made exact none (zero) friends. But we DID learn all the lyrics to “Almost Cut My Hair” by Crosby Stills & Nash, so that was a comfort. Singing them as we were socially ostracised for a decade.
At twelve I wanted to be discovered by the BBC, and given my own TV programme. Every time a car came down our street, I presumed it was the BBC, who had somehow heard me and come to “get” me. They would act like benign foster parents – telling me to pack a bag, and kiss my siblings goodbye – and then I would be installed in an apartment in Soho and given “being famous” like wedding guests bestow vases, or toasters. It only took me a year to realise that wasn’t going to happen, so I started writing my first book when I was thirteen. It was published when I was fifteen, and I got a gig presenting a TV show when I was eighteen, which I hated, because I was terrible at it – so at eighteen, I really wanted to be able to present a TV show without sweating so much I smelled of ham. At thirty I had two small kids with poor sleeping habits, so at thirty – as far as I remember it through a haze of sleep-deprivation – I probably wanted to be Elizabeth Taylor, on her private jet called “Elizabeth”, fucking Richard Burton on top of a pile of diamonds. But that’s a constant to be honest.
3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?
At eighteen I strongly believed that I was psychic. I used to read people’s hands. I stopped doing that when I looked at a man called Barry’s hand and saw he had a “Murderer’s Thumb,” and realised I couldn’t go on doing something that would involve me pointing at friends-of-friends at parties and screaming “YOU WILL KILL! YOU ARE DESTINED TO KILL!” Of course, later, when Barry did kill, I regretted not speaking up.
4. What were three big events – in the family circle or on the world stage or in your reading life, for example – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced you in your career path?
At thirteen, the then-Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, introduced changes to the benefits system in our country that made me believe that my entire family would become homeless, and so I started writing my first book in order to earn money and save us all from the workhouse. I read a lot of Dickens at the time. I thought we still had workhouses. Reading about Courtney Love and her band Hole when I was fifteen blew my mind – realising you didn’t have to wait and become a pretty, calm, polite, well-dressed, skinny lady to start having opinions and doing things: you could stick your hefty ass in a nightie, put on some lipstick and start shouting STRAIGHT AWAY! you could be part of the game TOMORROW if you wanted to! And meeting my husband when I was 17, and him telling me that all I really had to concentrate on was being a nice person, and that everything else was a bonus. That was the first relaxing thing everyone had ever said to me. Before then, I was convinced that the most important thing was to be TOTALLY AMAZING AT ALL TIMES, which is utterly exhausting.
5. Considering the innumerable electronic media avenues open to you – blogs, online newspapers, TV, radio, etc – why have you chosen to write a book? aren’t they obsolete?
I practically live on Twitter, but 140 characters is only really good for jokes and linking to things. Writing for a newspaper or magazine, you’re still being “Caitlin Moran from The Times,” or “Caitlin Moran from Grazia.” A book is your own piece of open space – wandering off onto the hillside and founding your own village. You can make up all your own rules there. You’re accountable to no-one. Being able to stretch out for 100,000 words after 16 years of 1000 word columns was blissful. PLUS I could do swearing.
6. Please tell us about your latest book… How To be a Woman
As a feminist, I had become horrified by how few women now would use the word to describe themselves. IT IS THE ONLY WORD WE HAVE THAT MEANS WOMEN BEING EQUAL TO MEN. If you don’t believe you’re a feminist, you might as well be bending over and begging the patriarchy to take your vote and kick your arse. So How To be a Woman is me thinking of the hardest thing I could do as a writer – try and make feminism sound like a total hoot; the most fun you can have as a lady that doesn’t involve crisps – and make women THRILLED to say “I am a feminist – indeed, a STRIDENT feminist.”
It also allows me to be the first writer – as far as I know – to admit that their first masturbatory experience was thinking of Chevy Chase in “The Three Amigos.”
(BBGuru: Publisher synopsis – A new way of looking at feminism from one of our funniest writers
1913 – Suffragette throws herself under the King’s horse.
1969 – Feminists storm Miss World.
NOW – Caitlin Moran calls Katie Price ‘a mimsy Quisling f**k’ and demands to know why pants are getting smaller.
Why are we supposed to get Brazilians? Should you get Botox? Do men secretly hate us? What should you call your vagina? Why does your bra hurt? And why does everyone ask you when you’re going to have a baby?
Part-memoir, part-rant, How To be a Woman follows Caitlin Moran from her terrible 13th birthday (“I am thirteen stone, I have no friends, and boys throw gravel at me when they see me.”) through adolescence, the workplace, strip-clubs, love, fat, abortion, TopShop, motherhood and beyond.
After 100,000 years of the patriarchy, the world may never be the same again!)
7. If your work could change one thing in this world – what would it be?
I would like every woman to believe they can now write a light-hearted, and occasionally angry, book about feminism. Have their pop at setting the world to rights. Feminism should be something fun, and interactive, like rock’n’roll – not something you feel you have to study at for ten years, like the Duke Of Edinburgh Award Scheme.
8. Whom do you most admire and why?
Lady Gaga. Insanely talented, constantly taking the piss out of herself and her industry, joyful, positive, has written THREE songs about how women are always safe on a dancefloor – one of the greatest pieces of advice for a 21st century woman – politically engaged, informedly and fiercely liberal, hard work-ethic, loves her family, and still only 24. At that age, Madonna was still working in Dunkin’ Donuts in Brooklyn.
9. Many people set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?
Haha I don’t like “goals” – that sounds a bit risky. As a mum, I simply have “A to-do list.” Writing the screenplay for the book is the next thing on the list –me and my sister Caz intend to make the first strident feminist rom-com. We’re going to kick those bitches from Sex & The City’s skinny, stupid-skirted arses.
10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?
Write. Write every day. Write like you’re writing to the person you fancy the most, and you want to put every word directly into their heart, like a spell. Be honest – everything you think is a weakness is actually a strength, if you admit it. And ham sandwiches really seem to help, for some reason.
Caitlin, thank you for playing.
Order your copy of How To be a Woman from Booktopia, Australia’s No. 1 Online Book Shop – here
‘In How To Be a Woman, I was limited to a single topic: women. Their hair, their shoes and their crushes on Aslan from The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe (which I KNOW to be universal).
‘However! In Moranthology – as the title suggests – I am set free to tackle THE REST OF THE WORLD: Ghostbusters, Twitter, caffeine, panic attacks, Michael Jackson’s memorial service, being a middle-class marijuana addict, Doctor Who, binge-drinking, Downton Abbey, pandas, my own tragically early death, and my repeated failure to get anyone to adopt the nickname I have chosen for myself: ‘Puffin’.
‘I go to a sex club with Lady Gaga, cry on Paul McCartney’s guitar, get drunk with Kylie, appear on Richard & Judy as a gnome, climb into the TARDIS, sniff Sherlock Holmes’s pillow at 221b Baker Street, write Amy Winehouse’s obituary, turn up late to Downing Street for Gordon Brown, and am rudely snubbed at a garden party by David Cameron – although that’s probably because I called him ‘a C-3PO made of ham’. Fair enough.
‘And, in my spare time – between hangovers – I rant about the welfare state, library closures and poverty; like a shit Dickens or Orwell, but with tits.’
About the Contributor
While still in his twenties, John Purcell opened a second-hand bookshop in Mosman, Sydney, in which he sat for ten years reading, ranting and writing. Since then he has written, under a pseudonym, a series of very successful novels, interviewed hundreds of writers about their work, appeared at writers’ festivals, on TV (most bizarrely in comedian Luke McGregor’s documentary Luke Warm Sex) and has been featured in prominent newspapers and magazines. Now, as the Director of Books at booktopia.com.au, Australia’s largest online bookseller, he supports Australian writing in all its forms. He lives in Sydney with his wife, two children, three dogs, five cats, unnumbered gold fish and his overlarge book collection. His novel, The Girl on the Page, will be published by HarperCollins Australia in October, 2018.