Printing a Caitlin Moran interview requires a robust use of the asterisk key. But expletives are just part of the author and columnist’s charm. Stylist’s Lucy Foster meets one of the most important voices of our generation
Cailtin Moran is in a bouncy mood. It’s Friday afternoon, she’s just completed her latest book (three hours before to be precise) and has chosen to celebrate with a couple of hours of press interviews in a discreet Soho members’ club, before meeting friends. “I’m going to be celebrating later on, so I need to be careful right now,” she excitedly explains, refusing a glass of wine. Not that she needs one to warm up; the 38 year old rattles along in her slight Wolverhampton brogue, belly laughing and jumping on the sofa, banging the table and talking at a pace that sounds as if she’s running through a radio ad’s legal smallprint.
And there’s a lot to be excited about. The pilot for the new sitcom she co-wrote with her younger sister Caroline (Caz), Raised By Wolves, is soon to be broadcast on Channel 4. It’s semi-autobiographical, in that it revolves around two sisters; 15-year-old Germaine – loud, chubby, and yearning for an outlet for her hormone-flooded body and Aretha – 14, angry, quiet, ginger and prone to death stares. They live, with their mother and a multitude of siblings, in a council house in Wolverhampton and, between cheese-on-cheese sandwiches (made from layers of cheddar and red Leicester) and games that involve being locked in the garden shed, are home-schooled.
It’s just the latest success in an incredible tally of achievements. This is the woman who holds down three weekly columns in The Times and is in the middle of writing the film script for How To Be A Woman, the adaptation of her bestselling memoir. She’s won Columnist of the Year, Interviewer of the Year, Critic of the Year, Book of the Year and her fourth literary offering is on its way to the publishers. She also still manages to communicate a heady range of opinions to her devout followers through Twitter. It’s a veritable whirlwind, much like the woman herself. Stylist sat down with Ms Moran and did our best to keep up…
Caitlin Moran: tweet deck just out of shot
First of all, you are always on Twitter. How do you manage to get anything done?
[Laughs] When people say, “You tweet so much” well, I literally only send about one in 10 tweets that I think of. My editing process is so ferocious – I know it doesn’t look like that – but I could sit on there all day.
Do you ever write a tweet then delete it because you think you sound like a berk?
Embrace the berk! Those are my favourite ones. In fact, I find my dickishness really funny. I will be lying on the floor weeping with laughter if I’ve come up with a really good/astonishingly bad pun. There’s that whole idea that woman are not supposed to be funny, that we have to be calm and serene and just be interested in other people. But that moment when you just go, “No, I’m really fascinated by myself, I’m a massive f***ing dick and I find that incredibly hysterical”, you suddenly have this whole world open up where you can say, “Hey, I can’t really do anything bad now I’ve already admitted I’m a massive b*llock.”
So, tell us about the new book.
Well, it’s a novel called How To Build A Girl and it’s roughly based on my life between the ages of 14 and 17. That time where you realise you’re going to have to invent yourself. So, you go out there and find poems and role models. You bolt yourself together and it’s like Weird Science. And the first one you make is a freak without brains. I want to make amazing female protagonists, and while I may not have done that, I have made a protagonist who has sex with a man with a uselessly large penis.
Caitlin has also written a f*** load of books. Sorry, the swearing's catching
So, hang on, is this a semiautobiographical novel…?
Yes. And I’ve written the subsequent chapter about cystitis straight after the sex with the man whose penis is too large. A whole chapter on cystitis – nobody’s ever done that.
No, that is a first.
Yeah, cystitis lit, I’ve invented that – well done me.
When did you come up with the idea for doing the sitcom?
Ten years ago. And we took it around everywhere – because you forget what it was like before Tina Fey and Bridesmaids and Miranda and Lena Dunham; everyone said, “We really like it but we’ve got a women’s sitcom this year.” I was furious that in whatever f***ing year it was then – 2008 – you could still only have one funny girl a year. I was like, “This is why women still bicker at each other, because if you only ever let one through the door, of course they’re always going to b*tch at each other and tear each other down, because there are another 300 girls who want to get through.” And then, of course, when the book [How To Be A Woman] was published everyone was like, “Do you want to write a sitcom?” We were like, [thumps the table] “There it is! Already written it. Go on, then.”
In the pilot there are a few snide David Cameron insults. Do you think you can use a sitcom as a political platform?
Oh god, yes! You should use everything as a political platform. You should use a piece of paper as a political platform. The presents that I gave everybody at the wrap party were ‘F***ing David Cameron’ dog tags. That’s going to be the catchphrase that we have throughout the series, and it will be employed in increasingly ridiculous situations, like after a bad shag. I want, when everything goes bad, everybody to shout, ‘F***ing David Cameron!’
You’ve talked about the absence in the media of a “progressive working class”. What are you trying to get across with this sitcom?
There is a class war at the moment, clearly and obviously. One in three people in this country claim benefits and they are spoken about as the scrounging scum of the earth; they’re blamed for everything. And it’s easy to demonise them because you haven’t got working class people talking about their lives in TV shows or the newspapers. I just want to show that not every working class person is a character out of Shameless. The amount I’ve heard that show referred to in political speeches and newspaper columns and now I can say, “Here’s another family who live on a council state and live on benefits and they’re not like this. They’re reading, they’re educating themselves and they’re a part of society.” You can only change so much with polemic, then you have to start writing stories – that’s how people understand things. That’s what George Orwell did, that’s what Charles Dickens did. You start as a campaigning journalist then you start writing big stories with big characters.
Where did you get your ideas from? Both you and Caz wrote a lot in your diaries…
Yes, and we used to read each other’s. But she would have a second real diary that she hid somewhere because she’s cleverer than me. She would leave her decoy diary out for me to leave comments in the margin. She’d find my diary, full of amazing bits of poetry about being strangled by life, and in the margin, she’d just write, “Lordy doo, wench, have a w**k,” so she was an unwelcome and brusque editor of my work.
Did you ever have any lasting squabbles?
We had this thing where we thought that our vaginas were called navels and we would have this thing called ‘navelling’…
[Laughing] How old were you?
[Laughing] Fairly old – old enough to know better. And so, we had this thing where we’d both be topping and tailing on a sofa and we’d be taking turns to try and push our feet up each other’s vaginas, while going [adopts high pitched voice] ‘Navel, navel! Navel, navel!’ We punched each other on the tits quite a lot as well.
Caitlin and Caz Moran (second right) with the cast of their sitcom Raised By Wolves
Now, ‘cheese on cheese’ [in the pilot, Germaine makes a sandwich and sings about it to the tune of Duran Duran’s Girls On Film]. Is that an actual thing?
Yes! We used to do it. And we loved it because it was an homage to – a fromage to…!
[Laughs] Oh God…
[Starts to laugh]… to something that had happened in our childhood.
…that was one of the worst things I’ve ever heard.
[Laughs] Thank you! I was so happy when I thought of it. It was literally just then. And the producers said, “You can’t do it because you’ll have to pay copyright” and I was absolutely distraught but then I thought, “Hang on, I know Simon Le Bon, I talk to him on Twitter.” So I just DM’d him – “Le Bon, this is going to sound a bit weird, but can we rip off Girls On Film and replace the lyrics with ‘cheese on cheese’?” and he was like, “Go for it.”
Now, libraries, you must feel very strongly about them if you spent a lot of your childhood there.
Enormously, yes. I saw today, they’ve applied a 53% funding cut in Wolverhampton library. This is why ‘F***ing David Cameron’ is my catchphrase. Whenever people come up with these policies, for instance, that you won’t get housing benefit until you’re 25 so you have to stay at home. That just presumes that your parents are lovely people with a spare bedroom, who love to have you around. Most of the people I knew when we were kids, that was not the case. My home was safe, but a lot of the people I knew moved to London because their homes were not friendly places. It’s the same with libraries – [they’re a place] where you don’t need money, you’re warm, you can read every single newspaper and book. People say, ‘Oh but we’ve got the internet now’ but Google brings you up the most popular results, which is usually a picture of a cat. At a library, things have been curated by people who have a good spread of knowledge, who can guide you through things, who get to know you. You have the best of humanity’s fiction, fantasy and creativity in one place. And to take that place away…
Now, in the sitcom, Germaine is a highly sexualised young woman. You were quite similar…
Oh God, yeah. I was mad for the w***ing.
[Laughs] I’m not even going to ask how you do that when you’re sharing a bed with your sister…
It’s like Communist Germany. You have to make a division like the Berlin Wall of cushions or, in my case, a long sausage dog draft excluder. It’s a great hobby. The thing is, if more teenage girls were like teenage boys…
Well, girls are not taught or encouraged to get in touch with their sexuality.
Exactly! Yeah, 11-year-old boys in school go,”Have you sp**ked up yet?” The idea of the girls going, “Have you f*pped yourself senseless yet?” just seems ridiculous. So then it just means that you’re waiting for someone to do sex on you. Every girl should have a w**k every day.
So, talking about sex, what do you think about Miley Cyrus?
There seems to be this recurring theme where people are saying, “When will someone write an open letter to Miley that resolves the whole matter?” But you’re not going to resolve the matter. There are enough public female figures for this to become a debate and it’s not going to be shut down by one person saying, “She’s either a whore or she’s sexually inspiring”.
The thing that we need to talk about is the proportion of the women making pop music who are all completely naked. Because clearly now, it’s a disproportionate amount. I was trying to explain to a male friend why it was so weird to me that every woman apart from Adele and Florence + The Machine, has no clothes on. So I said, “It’s like if every single male artist dressed up as farmers. In every video they were on a farm. Every single man, whether it was Jason Derulo or Oasis, they’re always on a tractor, they’re always surrounded by sheep and always in boots. And all the songs are about enjoying farming, and this is all you’ve had for 10 years – you’d think you were going mad.” This is what it feels like when I watch it. All I see is hyper-sexualised stuff that is never about women’s pleasure. It’s always talked about in competitive terms – “I’m going to f**k all night long” – rather than what it is. Which is an incredibly relaxing thing to do before or after Newsnight.
Raised By Wolves is part of Channel 4’s 4Funnies transmitting later this month
Photos: Rex Features