I really enjoyed Dawn O’Porter session at last year’s Dublin Writers Festival. She was in conversation with Roisin Ingle and here to talk about her first book Paper Aeroplanes. She is a very engaging speaker and I was delighted to see her back again, this time interviewed by Anna Carey in the Twisted Pepper as part of Banter. O’Porter is a wonderful interviewee – very open, very funny and very passionate about her books and characters. The crowd at the Twisted Pepper was almost entirely female, lots of well-dressed women in the late twenties and early thirties, queuing politely for the sold out session and many buying the newly released Goose on their way in.
The two books follow the lives of teenage girls Renee and Flo, growing up on the island of Guernsey. O’Porter also grew up in Guernsey which she describes as being trapped on an island surrounded by water, and openly admits that the books are semi-autobiographical. The big themes of the books are unreliable mothers and female friendships. It’s common in popular culture for women to be portrayed as bitchy and competitive towards each other; examples of positive female friendships are rare. O’Porter, who lost her mum to breast cancer when she was seven, says that her female friends are a really important part of her life and that was something she was very keen to explore in her writing. In Paper Aeroplanes, the girls are 15 and just becoming friends. In Goose, they are 17 and starting to look to the wider world. O’Porter has committed to write two more books with Renee and Flo in their twenties and thirties but says she is keen to keep writing them and wants to follow their friendship to the end of their lives.
Goose is set in 1997, a year an a half after Paper Aeroplanes ends. O’Porter describes the 1990s as the last golden age before technology totally consumed teenagers social lives. She says that the majority of her readers are women who lived through that time, are nostalgic for the 90s and enjoy looking back at their teenage years from a safe distant. O’Porter feels a responsibility to be honest about what it’s like to be a teenager, particularly for readers who are going through that now. She takes that responsibility seriously and her books are blisteringly honest. She says she’s not interested in writing a Disney version of what your teenage years should be like. As a result, anyone who is or has been a teenage girl will find common ground within the book.
O’Porter also talks about her own life with great honesty. During the Dublin Writers Festival, she talked about a long period of unemployment in LA that left her feeling very down and lacking in self-confidence. She says women in the public eye have a responsibility to be honest, as a way to combat the pressure to be perfect all the time. She also talked about her love of vintage dresses and her mission to get other people to love them too – the subject of another book and TV series starting on channel 4 in May called This Old Thing – about how it’s not enough to just call yourself a feminist; it’s a movement, we need to move it forward, and how she much she hates being asked when she’s having a baby, among many other things. She’s funny and truthful and a joy to listen to. You can find out more about Paper Aeroplanes, Goose and O’Porter’s other writing at her website or find her as @hotpatooties on Twitter.