Review & Interview: Dawn O’Porter’s Paper Aeroplanes

A review of Paper Aeroplanes and an interview with the author, Dawn O’Porter.

As a big fan of Dawn O’Porter (can you be any other type of fan other than a ‘big fan’?) I was rather excited when I learnt she was writing a book. However, I can’t have been the only one who felt a bit ‘meh’ when it was revealed it was a novel for teenagers. Come on, don’t teenagers get enough? Sure, they’ve got all that angst, but could they let the adults have the cool literature?

However, I needn’t have worried. Waterstones aren’t lying when they class it as a ‘Not just for kids’ read – like the equally enjoyable Haribo sweets, Paper Aeroplanes is for the grown-ups too. I was lucky enough to catch up with Dawn at the Liverpool signing of her debut novel to chat about how the story came about and all things Paper Aeroplanes.

 

This is your first ever fiction book – was writing a novel always an ambition or was it something you just stumbled into?

“It was the thing I wanted to do at 16 but I just fell into TV and found myself writing non fiction and journalism. To write a novel, I always just presumed I’d sit and do it when I retired. But then I got a book deal!! I had a deadline and had to get it done. If I hadn’t got that deal and not seen the novel as an actual job, I’d have probably been writing my book for years and years and years and whether I actually wrote it or not, who knows? I needed that kick up the bum.”

Based loosely on Dawn’s own childhood experiences, Paper Aeroplanes is a gorgeous coming of age tale of two girls, Renee and Flo, who really shouldn’t be friends. Set in 90′s Guernsey, the nostalgic novel tackles all the classic teenage traumas; periods, family woes, boys, friendship and underage drinking. The subject of death also features and knowing that Dawn lost her mother to breast cancer at the age of 6, it makes for at times emotional reading. Dawn manages to balance out sensitive chapters with bursts of humour, which means you’ll be chuckling through the tears if you’re a crier.

The book is based loosely on your childhood – which character do you relate to more, Renee or Flo?

“Renee is obviously more me because her family structure is like mine – I lived with my grandparents until I was ten, she’s living with them at 16 – that’s me projecting what that may have been like. It’s really inspired by my family structure and she’s the same kind of person I am – the kind of person who’d very easily make a mistake and be really, really sorry. It was the friendship I always wished I’d had at 15. So the story didn’t happen and the people aren’t real but it’s inspired about how I felt as a teenager and what I would have liked to have happened I guess.”

Paper Aeroplanes is primarily aimed at teenagers – what was your favourite book growing up?

“‘Oranges are not the only fruit’ By Jeanette Winterson. It’s about a young girl who has a very strict catholic mother and the relationship between them is awful; her mother is very unloving and very unsporting. I didn’t have a mum growing up; I loved the story of a young girl who couldn’t rely on her mum as that’s kind of how I felt. Renee’s mum had died so to kill Flo’s off would have been traumatic so just followed the relationship I’d seen in ‘Oranges are not the only fruit’ (for Flo & her mother) and they’re both in the same situation really.”

Any plans for any literature just for the grown ups?

“I was writing about two women in their 30’s and then I got a call from a Young Adult publisher asking if I’d like to write for them. I’d never considered writing for kids before, I’m not very child friendly. The story I was writing worked the same if they were 15 or 30 so I just changed the ages!

I didn’t write it any different to how it would have been for adults, I didn’t think about teenagers when writing it – I thought about female friendship. I don’t have a young audience yet, so most of the readers have been 25 plus and the response has been amazing.

These two books are young adult but I’d like to keep writing about these two girls all their life. I’ve already kind of mapped out the 3rd book which is them in their 20’s and the 4th which is them in their 30’s. They’ll obviously be aimed at adults because the characters will have grown up. The idea is to keep the audience growing with the book that would be ideal.”

It’s impossible to read Paper Aeroplanes as a tale of intense female friendship and not think back to your teenage years and reminisce. Caroline Flack sums it up perfectly, with her quote on the back of the book; “Anyone who has ever been a teenage girl will love this book.” I could not agree more.

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Review & Interview: Hairspray starring Marcus Collins

A review of Hairspray – The Musical at the Liverpool Empire with Marcus Collins.

You can’t stop the motion of the ocean, and you certainly can’t stop yourself smiling the whole way through the wonderful touring production of Hairspray, which rolled into Liverpool last night.

Set in 1962, Hairspray is jam-packed with big hair, big hearts and even bigger laughs. Baltimore’s larger than life Tracey Turnblad, wonderfully performed by newcomer Freya Sutton, is transformed from outsider to overnight teen sensation after bagging a spot on local TV programme, The Corny Collins Show.  Hairspray is an homage to the swinging 60’s, with colourful costumes and toe tapping music, but it also tackles the darker issues of race and segregation throughout the era, and a young girl’s journey to be accepted, regardless of her size.

Marcus Collins starring as Seaweed
Marcus Collins starring as Seaweed

Many of the big laughs come from the loveable Penny Pingleton’s (Lauren Hood) naivety and her ditzy quips. As Tracey’s loyal, supporting sidekick, Hood’s comic timing ensured the stalls were filled with laughter.

Although each individual character gives pitch perfect vocal performances, Motormouth Maybelle’s (Sandra Marvin) rendition of Big, Blonde & Beautiful actually warranted a standing ovation throughout the song, so mesmerized were the audience of Marvin hitting some outrageously high notes.

Without question though, the star of the show is Seaweed, played by Liverpool’s very own Marcus Collins, who received a warm welcome upon his return to his home city. Though trained in musical theatre, Hairspray is Marcus’s theatrical debut and he explained how Seaweed was a role he just couldn’t say no to;Obviously I’ve been a hairdresser, so you could say that helped the show appeal to me on a level! Hairspray is one of my favourite productions and there was no way I could turn it down, the role was perfect for me. Seaweed is really fun to play; he’s a cool kid, a trend setter and always gets a good reaction from the audience”.

Speaking prior to the opening night of the production, Marcus also revealed how excited he was to bring the tour to Merseyside; I cannot wait to get back to the city – I think 3/4 of the audience will be my family and friends and I’m excited to show them what I’ve been working on.” With a raucous response to Collins’ exceptional portrayal of Seaweed, it was evident that Liverpool extremely impressed with just what he’d been working on.

There’s no doubt about it, Hairspray is big, bold and bursting with talented stars – a musical guaranteed to have you singing and dancing along in your seat.

Verdict: **** Excellent

Liverpool Empire Theatre

Writers: Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan

Music and Lyrics: Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman Director: Jack O’Brien

Choreographer: Jerry Mitchell

Cast: Mark Benton, Lucy Benjamin, Marcus Collins, Freya Sutton, Sandra Marvin

Running time: 150 minutes (Including interval)

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Interview: Kerry Katona

Speaking at her book signing in Liverpool’s Waterstones, Kerry Katona discusses phone hacking, I’m a Celeb and the upcoming Atomic Kitten reunion.

Kerry Katona is holding-out for a massive pay-out from the News of the World, she has disclosed.

Lawyers for Mother-of-four Kerry, 32, are fighting a legal battle with News International after she discovered that she was a victim of phone hacking.

She is blaming the newspaper for STOPPING her getting clean and causing her to fall out with friends and family.

The former Atomic Kitten star Kerry is currently promoting her second autobiography I’m Still Standing, she said: “The News of The World play a big part in my book.

“A lot of people call me a publicity whore but I have been the victim of phone hacking and I am currently in a big legal battle with them right now.

“Every time I wanted to get myself clean or start a new chapter the News Of The World would leak a story that had come from hacking my phone

“I was falling out with friends and family who I thought had sold stories on me.”

“I’m honestly convinced to this day the the News of The World had a front page ready to be printed upon my death – I was on the cover of that newspaper every weekend.”

Kerry has spent over 12 years in the media spotlight, going through battles with drugs and alcohol and very public break-ups and divorces.

Speaking at a book signing in Liverpool, she called the writing process of her new book “dreadful” and “one of the hardest things to do in life”.

She added: “I found it dreadful to write if I’m honest.

Kerry was in Liverpool to sign copies of her latest book.
Kerry was in Liverpool to sign copies of her latest book.

“I think one of the hardest things to do in life is to look at your flaws and come to terms to the fact it’s no ones fault but your own.”

“The book goes through divorce, bankruptcy, mental health issues, custody battles – just one of those issues alone in life is so draining so to go through several all at once is hard.

“I’ve put all that to rest by doing this book and hopefully when people do read it they can maybe take something away, perhaps not what to do whilst growing up!”

Kerry is set to reunite with Liverpool-based girl band Atomic Kitten and said she feels like she has come “full circle”.

The Warrington-born mum looked slim and healthy as she signed copies of her book, and gushed about the reunion.

She said: “It’s great to be in Merseyside, Liverpool’s the home of the Kittens and I used to live here so it’s always good be back.

“I’m excited to reform with the girls, I feel like I’ve done full circle. At the moment we’ve done a photo shoot and we start filming in January – that’s all I know.”

Queen of the Jungle Kerry also talked with fondness over her time on I’m A Celebrity… and her desire to return to the show.

“I would absolutely love to go back in, I really think they should a ‘Best of..’ version where all the Kings and Queens go back in”, she said.

Buy Kerry Katona: Still Standing here.