Caitlin Moran tells Hannah Stephenson about the film adaptation of one of her novels, and her latest tale of a young journalist battling against revenge porn.
Outspoken feminist, bestselling author and award-winning columnist Caitlin Moran is one entertaining â and exhausting â individual.
Her fast-talking, expletive-filled chatter is amusing, opinionated and feisty in equal measure, as she talks about everything from her upbringing on a council estate in Wolverhampton, the eldest of eight children, to her experiences of sexual harassment in the workplace.
Her book signings go on for hours and often seal friendships as people wait, although sheâs also witnessed the occasional punch-up when thereâs a bar close by, she observes wryly.
â Caitlin Moran (@caitlinmoran) June 26, 2018
âYou see girls walking towards you and you think, âOh my God, in 10 yearsâ time, you are going to change the world. You have such an air of destiny about youâ. I like to tell them that, that they have an incredible aura about them.
âPeople used to say that to me when I was younger and it does change the way you think about yourself.â
In Moranâs case, it certainly proved true. She published her first childrenâs novel, The Chronicles Of Narmo, at just 16 and became a columnist for The Times at 18, while her bestselling books include How To Be A Woman and Moranthology.
Her latest novel, How To Be Famous, is the second in a semi-autobiographical trilogy following the adventures of Johanna Morrigan, a 19-year-old columnist (known as Dolly Wilde) for The Face, who makes a name for herself against a backdrop of 1995 London at the epicentre of Britpop.
While climbing the career ladder, she has âbad sexâ with a loathsome young comedian who videos them in the act and then shows the video to his friends. As the story of the sex tape spreads, Johanna sets out to wreak revenge on the comedian, while her romance with a rock star sheâs lusted after for ages develops.
âSheâs a clever teenage girl writing a column about how people are screwing up their fame, and then finds out that there are many kinds of fame and the fame that she gets is notoriety,â Moran explains. â
Even though itâs the Nineties, thereâs so much revenge porn now, and I wanted to write how a teenage girl would deal with revenge porn and sexual shame.â
There is a âMe Tooâ reference, although Moran believes she wrote the book after the real campaign began.
She herself experienced sexual harassment during her early career, but didnât realise it immediately.
âWhen I was working for magazines, the first time I asked for a cover feature, the features editor told me to sit on his knee and come and talk about it.
“I just dealt with it as I would deal with an annoying brother, I just sat very heavily on his knee and bounced up and down and said, âYes, Iâd like to write a feature, pleaseâ. He gave me the feature and never did it again.
âAnother guy tried to sexually shame me by telling people Iâd had sex with someone from the office. I made him stand on the chair in an editorial meeting and apologise to everybody for spreading rumours about me.
âI ended up marrying the guy that he was spreading the salacious gossip about â he is my husband now.â
That man is Times rock critic Peter Paphides, whom she met at 19 and married at 24. They have two daughters â Dora, 17 and 14-year-old Eavie â who are, unsurprisingly, both feminists.
âIâve got pictures of them dressed up as suffragettes on marches with their placards. Weâre all excited about Trump coming here. Weâre going to march against Trump â thatâs going to be a big family day out,â says Moran.
While her writing and social commentating have earned her great acclaim, Moran is now dipping her toes in the movie world, as her first novel in the trilogy, How To Build A Girl, is being made into a film starring American actress Beanie Feldstein, best known for her role in coming-of-age hit, Lady Bird.
âIâve always wanted to make movies, Iâve always wanted to make TV, so itâs been the best thing. Weâve got an incredible cast and some incredible cameos â famous people who like my books and have very kindly agreed to be in it.â
She is clearly in control of the project. Moran is executive producer, has penned the screenplay, and selected the band who will write songs for her fictional pop star.
Itâs really real: pic.twitter.com/CCF3FQZa3D
â Caitlin Moran (@caitlinmoran) June 8, 2018
Sheâs been involved in casting, the settings, wardrobe, make-up, the lot. âItâs basically the story of my life and I know whatâs right and whatâs wrong,â she asserts.
Sheâs even helping Feldstein with her Wolverhampton accent, by sending her recorded tapes of her voice.
âI realise now, because Iâve lost my accent, that Iâm basically doing an impression of Noddy Holder,â Moran quips.
âBeanie Feldstein looks a bit like me. When we started developing the script, it was a leap of faith because the chances of finding a young actress whoâs big and curvy, brilliant and charming and beautiful… you just donât get those actresses coming along. Then Lady Bird came along and there was Beanie Feldstein.â
Can FINALLY talk about this – what we’ve been working on for the last two years. SCREAMINGLY excited. Oh, the first scene is a DOOZY. And Beanie is just … astonishing. The world is going to EXPLODE with love for her. https://t.co/OTfflGazv5
â Caitlin Moran (@caitlinmoran) May 9, 2018
While there is great humour in the novel, towards the end the tone becomes more punchy, as Johanna seeks to put her own feminist point across and put the comedian in his place. âMy modus operandi is to lure people in with jokes and sex and dirty stuff, and then hit them with the politics and the feminism.â
The third book will be set in the present day, when Johanna ventures into politics.
âI wanted there to be a story that girls like me can read and go, âOh God! I could be a politician! I could change things! I could go back to a system where working-class people with great ideas can change things for the benefit of their kinds of peopleâ.â
Today, Moran writes a celebrity column, and says the nature of celebrity has changed since she started writing it a few years ago.
âComing from a council estate in Wolverhampton, I realised very early that there are three kinds of power: Political power, financial power, and the power of fame. This is a more accessible power, particularly if youâre working class, than any other.
âThe biggest change in the last 20 years is thereâs a famous class who are famous just for being famous,â she adds.
âBefore the turn of the century, you would have been famous just for having done something creative, like writing songs.
âWe invented reality TV, and we invented people who just did the famous bit. We hived off the celebrity gossip but away from the fame and creativity bit, which was previously the only form of fame we had. Thatâs an incredibly benign thing to do.â
But she doesnât think thatâs necessarily a bad thing though.
âIf you look at why celebrity gossip exists, itâs because there are a million instances every day when you need to have a conversation with someone you never met before that lasts for two or three minutes.
âYou donât want to talk about politics or the weather, you just need something vacuous to talk about.â
How To Be Famous is out now