At 16 I knew I wanted to be a writer. In fact I was already a writer, I’d published my first book, a children’s novel. And I was just starting to work for Melody Maker. That was quite weird, turning up at a cool rock magazine having written a children’s book [The Chronicles Of Narmo]. I was trying to project the aura of being a sassy rock’n’roll lady, so at the first editorial meeting I turned up with a pack of cigarettes and a bottle of Southern Comfort, and I threw them down on the table and said, ‘Who wants a shot?’ because I thought that’s what grown-ups did. And all the grown-ups around the table were like, who is this mad child monkey in a dress – we’re trying to have an editorial meeting.
I had big plans when I was 16. I was in a three-bedroom council house in Wolverhampton with seven other siblings, and at that point we had 18 dogs because my parents were breeding dogs. I was sharing the double bed that my nan had died in with my three-year-old sister, who persistently wet the bed. So when movies were telling me that teenage girls were going off to the prom and having their sweet sixteens, I was lying in bed, wearing my dad’s thermal underwear that was wet from my sister’s urine, thinking, I’m gonna make a better life for myself.
I got interviewed when I was 16, and the journalist, Valerie Grove, said I came across as very arrogant, that I would talk myself up a lot and dismiss other people who weren’t our family. Because obviously I felt massively insecure; we were dirt poor, I only had three items of clothing. I was aware that I smelled quite a lot. So I had to play up this whole thing of like, yeah, this is how we are, and it’s cool and it doesn’t matter if I’m poor and fat and ugly because I’m really fucking clever and I’m gonna tell you 10 jokes now. If you’re a wise person you would have seen that I was very insecure and scared and smelly. And if you were just taking me on surface, you’d probably think I was an annoying prick.
I was still a virgin at 16 so I was very interested in getting kissed and having sex and touching boys. The problem with being home educated, as we were, is that you can’t really have any kind of early teenage crushes because you only have access to your brothers and that would be wrong. So the first time I had access to men was when I became a journalist and started to interview them. To me at 16 this seemed like a magic thing – you could ring up a person called a press officer and go, I’d like to meet Evan Dando from The Lemonheads at 11 o’clock on Thursday, and then Evan Dando would be delivered to my pub table. And I would think, well, I should probably get off with him because this is an opportunity. Unfortunately, most of the pop stars that were delivered to pubs for me to interview were profoundly not interested in that happening. So I went through a process of trying to get off with rock stars, and they were very firmly ‘no’. You would think as a child going out to meet rock stars they’d just be pigs, kind of like bumming you in a hotel. But actually they were all so respectful and treated me like a little sister and looked after me.
I don’t think my 16-year-old self would be very surprised by anything that’s happened to me. I absolutely have lived the life I presumed I would when I was 16. When I read the novels of Jilly Cooper, and she described to me what a middle-class life was like, I was like, I want that. I want to live in a lovely house with a beautiful garden with herbaceous borders, surrounded by delightful spaniels, and have friends over and we’ll get drunk in the garden drinking champagne, smoking fags and gossiping. I’ve always had really gigantic dreams so I absolutely imagined a future of film premieres and books being published.