28 January 2014 by

Caitlin Moran: 'The Best Writers Tend To Have Chaotic Lives'

Getty images, Stuart Wilson

Cailtin Moran has just announced details of her first full tour! For all the dates head here and read our interview with the author from last year...

Half an hour before Grazia is due to meet columnist, author and prolific social media user Caitlin Moran she Tweets: "*Throws laptop across room* Right. I've finished my new book. How To Build A Girl Out In July. Now I'm going to get pissed." As Grazia approaches the Soho private members club where we're set to meet the How to Be A Woman author we're worried about what we're going to witness- a re-enactment of the bacchanalian scenes she infamously shared with Lady Gaga perhaps? Instead we're treated to a loquacious (but sober) Moran conversing at a million words per minute on her latest project, Raised By Wolves, a comedy pilot about her childhood growing up working class in Wolverhampton. Co-written with her sister Caroline, it's as hilarious and smart as you'd come to expect from the writer who has become a patron saint for modern womanhood. My Mad Fat Diary meets Judd Apatow (via Victoria Wood), it's been a decade in the making.

"We wrote this ten years ago," she says breathlessly between gulps of her drink (it's water) "in a pre Bridesmaids, pre Lena Dunham, pre Miranda world. At a point when we really thought that women couldn't be funny. We took the script around and the response was 'no, we've actually got a female sitcom for this year and next year. Maybe come back in two years?" she says, her voice bobbing between accents (Brummie via North London). "I thought 'this is outrageous - does popular culture need to change to make this sitcom?'" In the end she changed popular culture herself via her (now) half a million selling radical(lly hilarious) feminist text

For Caitlin, the creation of Raised By Wolves was important on a social level. The importance for her was that it repositioned the working class from the skid row dystopia of Paul Abbott's Shameless to somewhere a bit brighter.

"My dad brought me up with this idea of 'the progressive working class'," Caitlin says, "There was self education through art, music and books. Now to be working class is likened to being a bit feral and on the make."

Consequently in the show there are pointed shots of the family Moran's massive book collection (The Bell Jar, The Collected Poems Of Ted Hughes), plus plenty of high brow references (Simon Schama, Totalitarian government). Albert Square it's not.

"1 in 3 people are on benefits and I wanted to write something that brought dignity and intelligence back. Basically I wrote this to bring down David Cameron."

Getty Images, Phillip Massey

Like Moran herself, the show spits and spins at you at a million miles an hour, spinning idea off idea and joke off joke. It's anchored by the Caitlin character (Jermaine), a wide eyed, head in the clouds comic figure and her stern, old before her years sister Aretha (based on her own sister Caroline).

"The genesis of the show is the theatrical plays we used to invent as children. And the set up would always be the same - the bumptious Toad of Toad Hall character versus the furious, intelligent introvert. They hated each other, yet they were stapled together." If the 'opposites attract' characters are established sitcom types, it was born out in real life between Caitlin and Caroline. "What you're basically seeing is a massive argument going on between us on screen," she adds with a laugh.

Caitlin adds that the atmosphere between siblings in the sitcom was exactly what it was like at home. "It was a massive race to be the funniest," she says. However, Caitlin's own daughters are less impressed by 'funny mummy'. "Predictably my eldest is quite like Saffy from Ab Fab." Caitlin recounts an ancedote when her brother ("Uncle Joe") taught her daughters to play poker. The penalty for losing? "You have to read mum's book!"

"Mum's book" may not be popular in her household but How To Be A Woman put the fire into her career (she's also working on a film about the period when she first came to London. "My sister helpfully said: 'You've just basically re-written Babe: Pig In The City haven't you?"). It helped Caitlin cement her position as one of the premiere columnists in Britain. "The awful thing you learn is that to be a columnist you have to get lost and do stuff for 10 years," she says. "The best writers tend to have the most chaotic lives. You have to live, you have to get drunk and say terrible things to people, you have to have sex with unadvisable people, have ridiculous adventures," she says. "Burn your life down a couple of times because that's the best stuff to write about."

Caitlin says the success of How To Be A Woman emboldened her. "I always felt I had to cover up the fact I was working class, that I was a liberal Lefty and a woman because I wrote for The Times. But after you've sold a million copies of a book where you describe having your first wank to Chevy Chase you think 'well, I could probably say I vote Labour in The Times and it would be ok.'"

 


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