Having read ‘Freddie Mercury: The Definitive Biography’ by Lesley-Ann Jones, I was very eager to interview her. Here, you can read what she has to say writing, and about the book. Don’t forget to visit her website www.lesleyannjones.com (click here to view) and her Twitter page @LAJwriter (Click here also to view.) You can also buy the book here
Hello Lesley-Ann, thank you for agreeing to this interview.
Thank you for asking me.
 Initially, how did the idea of writing a book about Freddie Mercury come to fore? 
I have written two biographies of Freddie Mercury, the first in 1997.  I was commissioned by a literary agent, Robert Kirby (then with the agency Sheil Land – I believe that he is now with PFD.) They had enjoyed unexpected success with a book called ‘Mercury & Me’ by Jim Hutton (Freddie’s partner for the final few years of Freddie’s life;  sadly, Jim himself died too, not long ago). They decided that a more general biography of Freddie Mercury would probably do very well, and Robert contacted me, to ask whether I knew anybody who had known Freddie well enough to be able to write one. As a rock writer, I had been on the road with Queen four times, and had got to know Freddie as well as any journalist could. I wrote a substantial proposal, which was submitted to Hodder & Stoughton, and they signed it. Cut to 2010, when speculation was mounting that Sacha Baron Cohen would play Freddie in a long-awaited biopic (never yet filmed.) My current agent Ivan Mulcahy (Mulcahy Associates) thought it would be a good idea to relaunch the book, on the wave of publicity surrounding that apparently forthcoming film – Peter Morgan (‘The Queen’, ‘Frost Nixon’, ‘The Other Boleyn Girl’) had been engaged to write the script, and there was talk of several high-profile directors, including Stephen Frears (‘High Fidelity’, ‘The Queen’, ‘Philomena’).

They decided that a more general biography of Freddie Mercury would probably do very well.

Peter Morgan contacted me, and came from his home in Austria to see me. I became, in the most modest terms, a script consultant to him. Having re-read my biography of Freddie, I decided that it could not possibly be republished ‘as was.’ Both the Queen story and Freddie’s had moved on. Not only that:  a dozen years down the line, I knew that I would write the book differently. Writers evolve. We become better at it. We wince when we read our old stuff. I had views and an understanding of my years with Queen that had taken time to shake down, to crystalise. Ivan agreed. I wrote a proposal for a new book, which Ivan pitched to a number of publishers, and we were very fortunate that Hodder & Stoughton agreed to publish it again.
 
How did you go about, preparing the manuscript? For example, did you interview anyone? 
A biography without interviews is a poverty-stricken read. No author can give an overview, an unbiased account, without having talked to as many people as possible. I was so lucky to have spent so much time with Freddie. I also knew Brian May and Roger Taylor well. I had even had dealings with John Deacon, which not a lot of people can say – he is notoriously reclusive. I recall with great fondness the night in Montreux, at the Rock Festival, when we, a gang of badly misbehaved hacks, managed to break into ‘Deaky”s suite and empty it of every single item within – including the toilet rolls, the lightbulbs, the bed … we were lucky  that he saw the funny side … I digress.  I interviewed everybody I could lay my hands on. I travelled to Zanzibar, Freddie’s birthplace, and found members of his family, including an aunt and a cousin, and friends. I also went to Bombay and Panchgani, in India, to find his Aunt Sheroo, and to visit his school, St. Peter’s. I interviewed Gita Choksi, an early girlfriend of Freddie’s, and also a couple of teachers who had known and taught him. Other notables included the late Barbara Valentin, who was Freddie’s girlfriend while he was living in Germany during the Eighties, whom I interviewed in Munich; Peter Freestone, Freddie’s personal assistant, whom I found in Devon; Jim Hutton, of course, who invited me to his home in Ireland. Etc etc. When it came to writing the second book, I interviewed many more people – some of whom had refused me the first time around. They had perhaps been too grief-stricken to talk to me originally. Time, the great healer. I wound up with about a hundred new interviews for the second book, some of which informed the text without making actual appearances. This was their choice, always honoured. Others, such as Spike Edney, the keyboard player with Queen for so many of their live shows, were happy to speak on the record.

I also knew Brian May and Roger Taylor well.

As for preparing the manuscript:  once I have all the interviews transcribed; once I have visited all the relevant locations, seen and experienced them for myself; once I have soaked up as much of the subject as possible, including where he lived his life, how he lived it, and who with, I map out a timeline, an overview, separate it all into years and categories, break it down into chapters, assign a word count to each, and I begin writing. The first draft is only the beginning. The revisions are a vital consumer of time. Two more drafts, and I pretty much have it … unless, as almost always happens, something unexpected comes to light which changes the course of the story, and I have to go back and rework a substantial amount. Every chapter must inform the next. Every contributor’s quotations must illustrate a point, an aspect of the subject’s character. As in everything we write, every word counts.
 Did you ever interview Freddie? 
Only once, officially … which you will know, having read the book. I was a journalist on the Daily Mail, and was sent to the Queen offices in Notting Hill to interview both Freddie and Brian. Brian did almost all the talking, while Freddie sat quietly in the corner. It struck me then, and I later saw it first-hand during the many live Queen shows I attended, how different the off-duty Freddie was from the huger-than-life star on stage.
 Out of their entire catalogue, do you have a favorite QUEEN song? 
This changes all the time. While Freddie was still alive, I adored ‘It’s a Kind of Magic’. It chimed with the life I was living at the time. Since I talked to his mother, Jer Bulsara, whose favourite is ‘Somebody To Love’, I have become very partial to that song too.  Mind you: ‘Killer Queen’ … ‘Is This the World We Created’ … ‘Love of my Life’ …’These Are the Days’ …’Who Wants to Live Forever’ …’Under Pressure’ … ‘The Show Must Go On’ … Then again, ‘A Winter’s Tale’ never fails to take my breath away. The clues to ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ are in that song.

Often, Freddie and QUEEN were seen as a bit of an enigma. When writing this book, did this impression at all change? 
Yes. and no. And yes … and no … Queen took ages to ‘take off’. They were indefinable. They fell outside every known category at the time. They stayed true to their own inspiration and creativity, and never tried to conform to popular taste. This integrity paid off in the end. Four fantastically talented men with their own agenda often made for clashes in the recording studio; and boy did they fight. Every member of the band composed Number 1 hits. Every one of them brought something unique to the table. Musically, technically, they were all brilliant. Freddie, to me and to millions of others out there, is as alive today as he ever was. Perhaps that is the greatest enigma of all.

Musically, technically, they were all brilliant.

 Have you worked in any other aspects of publishing?
No, I am just a humble scribe. I do the words. The excellent people in publishing houses who edit and copy-read and legal-read and picture-research, and those who design the jackets and lay out the pages and the photos and other illustrations, who make the mere words sing as a book to be reckoned with, work as hard as I do. They are unsung heroes who deserve much more recognition than they get.
Have you ever worked as a Journalist ?
Of course! Fleet Street was where it all began, and where I honed my craft. Had I not had the great privilege of working on national newspapers, I would never have acquired the skills necessary to be able to research and write entire books of more than 100,000 words each. I owe every single newspaper editor who ever stood me on a doorstep in the snow until 2am.
 
 For people wishing to follow in your steps, do you have any advice? 
The newspaper industry and the publishing industry are unrecognisable today, compared to the businesses I started out in. Physical newspapers are in decline, as the online industry has taken over. Similar things are happening in publishing. It is much harder today to achieve a publishing contract, and therefore all the more rewarding when you land one. To have seen my Freddie Mercury biography published in so many languages in so many countries has been one of the most fantastic experiences of my life.  These days, I also coach would-be writers both in the UK and abroad, one-to-one sessions as well as group workshops, in which I share the tricks of the trade. Every time I host a workshop, I learn a little more about how to write. Advice? Follow your dream. Read whatever you can lay your hands on: newspapers, magazines, novels, biographies, blogs. Reading is how you learn to write.
And finally, one random question, as you may get bored always being asked the same questions: 
 If you had to dye your hair, would you rather it be bright pink, prairie green? 
Ah, the random question.  I am certainly not averse to enhancing what nature gave me, as the ever-changing publicity photographs show 🙂 Bright pink or prairie green, however: hmmm. Not unless I was researching a book, needed to go underground, and the only way to blend into some funky background was to be like everybody else. If the pink or the green were requisite, I’d slap some on without hesitation. Whatever it takes. I have gone undercover as everything from a hospital nurse to a London Zoo-keeper in my time, in the quest for a good story. I even dressed as a hotel porter and hung about round the back of the Dorchester, laying in wait for Madonna while she was out on a run around Hyde Park. I got the interview, though she saw right through the disguise – probably because I was six months’ pregnant at the time. (She liked the piece that was published, and sent me a bouquet the size of my bed when my baby was born). As to the psychology of why women dye their hair: are blondes really dumb, but have more fun? In Caesar’s Rome, blonde was an indication of nobility (and when their poor abused hair fell out, they sported wigs). Are redheads foxy and feisty but untrustworthy (and so often burned at the stake for it in the past), while brunettes are clever, reliable kooks, all strong and powerful and sensual? There is science behind it. Ancient Greek gods were assigned different hair colours for all sorts of reasons. An unnatural hair colour screams ‘Look at me!’ For me, a little anonymity goes a nice long way.
 
Thank you very much to Lesley-Ann for taking part. Don’t forget to buy her book (please click here.) 

William Kuhn is a writer, biographer, and historian. He has published several books-such as Reading Jackie (click here to see our review), and Mrs Queen takes the train. In this interview, you will find out a lot about his work.
Hello William, thank you for agreeing to this interview.
 
When growing up, did you have an interest in publishing or history?
I don’t think I thought very much publishing when I was growing up, but there were lots of books in the house.  My father collected eighteenth-century and nineteenth-century books, mainly works of English literature.  He had a sabbatical when I was eleven years old.  He was an English professor at the Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio.  We lived in London that year, which was quite different from central Ohio.  History was much more tangible to me there, mainly in the built, architectural environment, but also in the sense of a long past memorialized in statues and churches and cathedrals.  This was 1968-9 and there were still a few vacant bomb sites from the Second World War.  I think that was the beginning of my interest in history.
 
 Apart from publishing, do you have any previous ‘writing experience’ -such as in Journalism?
I did a PhD in history.  Writing is part of what you’re expected to do as an academic, so I’d written academic articles before I became a full-time writer.  I published my dissertation as a book and I taught for 15 years at a small American liberal arts college before becoming a full-time writer.  I had plenty of “writing experience” grading student papers too.  You have to think a lot about writing when you’re trying to correct the work of another writer.
 How do you compile each manuscript?
It’s usually a multi-year project where I begin reading some of the standard works of nonfiction on a person I’m interested in, followed by some archival research.  I draft chapters and show them to friends or to an editor.  I get feedback and then I write some more.   Reading Jackie probably took about five years all together.
 Is there any specific period of history that interests you most?
My academic specialty was the late Victorian period in Britain, but the Jackie book takes place in America from the 1950s to the 1990s.  I suppose I’m more interested in modern history, that is after the French Revolution, than in classical or medieval history.  I’m writing a book now which stretches from the 1880s to the 1920s in both America and Britain.  That period feels comfortable and more familiar to me than some other eras.
 Do you have a specific writing routine?
Yes.  I write in a personal journal every day for about half an hour.  This is usually about what has happened the day before, and what I’m working on.  It’s usually a nice big blank sketchbook I’ve converted for journal purposes.  I use a favorite fountain pen.  I’m drinking the first coffee of the day while I’m doing it.  Then I go to the library and work on writing projects from about 10 am to 2 pm, usually about five or six days a week.  Most days I read in the afternoon from roughly 5 to 7 pm both for work and for pleasure.  This reading is usually the groundwork for an upcoming writing project.
 
What inspired you to compile the book’ Reading Jackie’ ?
 
I saw the book of an exhibition mounted at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. about Jackie’s clothes in the White House.  The curator was Hamish Bowles.  Such care and knowledge of both art and fashion history went into assembling her wardrobe, that I began to see her as a much more thinking person than I had before.  She wasn’t just a fashion plate.  She know about the clothes that previous first ladies, and queens, and heads of state had worn and how they had been depicted in portraiture.  From Bowles’s exhibition catalogue, I also discovered her publishing career, which I hadn’t known about before.   You can’t be an editor who produces 100 books over a 20-year career without being also an intelligent person.  It was Jackie’s intelligence that I wanted to explore and honor in the book.
 Did you ever meet Mrs Onassis?
No, but I met some of the authors she worked with.  I also met Nancy Tuckerman, her lifelong assistant who’d been with Jackie even back when the two went to boarding school as high school aged girls.
 
 Throughout ‘Reading Jackie’ , you comment on how many thought Jackie would be a writer, but chose editing instead. Alternatively, how do you think she would have worked in the editorial world?
I think she came to trust her own instincts as an editor.  No one really trained her to do it.  She thought to herself, “If I like this book, other people will like it too.”  Or,  “If I don’t understand what’s happening in this manuscript, other readers won’t understand either.  I’ve got to get the writer to change it.  That’s my job as the editor.”
 Do you have any writing tips?
Set aside the 5-10 books you love most, and ask yourself, “Why do I love these books?”  When you’ve made some notes to yourself about why you love those books, then try to write something (it doesn’t have to be long) on that same cluster of subjects yourself.  Try to begin by choosing and imitating writing that has been very meaningful to you.
And finally, one random question: Out of the following bands, do you have a favorite?
 The Beatles
QUEEN
Oasis
Areosmith.
 The Beatles!
 To purchase a copy of ‘Reading Jackie’, click here.
For William’s website, click here.
To follow him on Twitter, click here.

So, how do I introduce these amazing two young women?
The Vagenda is an online magazine, which, in all honesty, is one of the greatest succes stories in publishing. The main editorials the two co- founder’s, Holly and Rhiannon, publish are based round the representation of women in the media. With this also, they have published a book, available May 1st, which we are looking at in this interview:
As the two founders of The Vagenda Magazine, how did you come up with the idea? 
Holly:  We were living together in a damp garret above a pub in London, and we were both avid readers of women’s magazines. Many a Friday night was spent with a bottle of cheap Chardonnay and a stack of Cosmos and Grazias – and eventually, we found ourselves getting really bored and jaded. Holly used to read out columns to Rhiannon in a sarcastic voice because it made them funnier. Eventually, we realised that there might be a wider appeal to making fun of this repetitive content with its silly sex tips and its back pages packed with cosmetic surgery advertorial. When we got our act together and thought about it, the Vagenda was born.
Rhiannon:  Yes, it was after Holly had to move into my airing cupboard because of homelessness that we really got the site off the ground, but we’d had the idea ever since sharing that horrible flat together almost a year previously.
 
How did you physically put The Vagenda online,in terms of design and coding?
Holly:  We made the site through Blogger for free originally, so there was never any money involved. We used a free template and Rhiannon designed around it using Photoshop, which was brilliant. Then, later on, we bought a proper domain name and did a Kickstarter campaign that helped us pay a proper designer to put together a similar but more individualised website.
Rhiannon: We always had a very clear idea of what the website would look like and our amazing web designer Kate was able to pay tribute to that, so we’re really happy with the new site.
Could you describe for us your day to day routine? 
Holly: We both work other jobs in journalism on top of the Vagenda, because the Vagenda is an ad-free, non-monetised labour of love. But most days we’ll both go through a few of the pitches that come to the Vagenda email in between freelance journalism work, and if we find something we particularly love, we’ll edit it and then put it up on the site. We also keep a constant eye on Twitter, and scan the news first thing to make sure there isn’t something big in the headlines that we need to cover on the site. In the evening, one or both of us might buy a magazine and take it home to write a deconstruct in a piss-takey manner for the blog the next morning!
Rhiannon:  Working from home means that you can stay in your pyjamas until 5pm but it also means that you can binge watch Girls if you get bored, so it can be bad for productivity. I usually get out of my pyjamas at about 5pm and will go to meet a friend, just to keep me from going insane. Twitter is great but it’s no replacement for a human face.
What is the purpose of The Vagenda? 
Holly:  At the beginning, the purpose was to make people laugh and to challenge some latent misogyny which had become so entrenched in the media. Now that we have so many pitches and articles from other writers, we also see its purpose as giving women and girl writers a platform for their views and their experiences. We cover candid anecdotes about genital warts and abortions, as well as serious political writing and fun pieces about fashion. So we hope the Vagenda can be an accessible magazine for women that is interesting to read and doesn’t stereotype or advertise in the way that other print mags on the shelves do.
Rhiannon:  We intended it as a funny media watchdog with a feminist slant, but it’s grown so much since then. Some of the first person stories that our contributors have sent in have been amazing, and I hope they help others feel less alone. It’s still a media satire blog but we like to think we cover other things too, perhaps things that traditional magazines aren’t all that interested in.
Does the website have anything to do with feminism? 
Holly: The website is undoubtedly feminist, although we didn’t set out to explicitly create ‘a feminist site’. We set out to challenge the media and to write interesting content for women. It does attack sexist stereotypes, and it does question the way in which women are portrayed – so yes, it is a feminist pursuit in that way.
Rhiannon: We didn’t really know that ‘internet feminism’ existed so were somewhat surprised when we started being seen in those terms, but the website was always intended as a counter-point to media sexism
Are you both feminists?
Holly: We both identify as feminists, believing as we do in complete gender equality.
Rhiannon: Hell yeah!
 
How do you source contributions? 
Holly: We’re lucky enough to get a number of pitches and articles a day from interesting and engaged women and girls, ranging in age from 13 right up to – at one point – 85! But if we think there’s a particular issue that needs covering which people have mentioned to us, but we lack expertise or personal experience with (for instance, in the case of the Vagenda piece on the weave), then we usually use Twitter to try and find a willing and more appropriate writer.
Rhiannon: We also have a submissions section on our website that gives some helpful tips for pitching
 
In terms of online presence, how did you make yourselves so well known?
Holly: The Vagenda became a literal overnight success, much to our surprise! We had no social media presence for the magazine or strategy; we just started the blog because we thought of it as an interesting project for ourselves. People sharing the content were responsible for its success, so we owe everything to our readership. Obviously, once we saw how many people were reading and sharing the articles, we did set up our Twitter account and kept regularly updating the site.
Rhiannon: It was a total surprise. We only thought our mums would read it. People were sharing articles on Twitter and I think that’s how the momentum started. Then a stock image post I made called ‘Women Looking Remorseful After Sexual Encounters’ went viral.
How did the idea for your new book The Vagenda start out? 
Holly: Within a week or so of the blog being profiled in the media after its initial internet success, we were approached by a number of literary agents willing to help us compile a book. After meeting a few, we chose our excellent agent Diana and she helped us to prepare a blueprint for the book we wanted to write. After that, we sent our proposal to publishers and chose a supportive publisher who wanted to give us complete creative control – we knew we wanted to take the central themes from the blog and do deeper media research than we’d been able to do before, and we kept adding things in right up until publication because the media moves so fast.
Rhiannon: We chose the topics that we felt had resonated with readers and went into more depth. We felt that there was room for that to exist in book format, as everything on the internet is much more ‘rapid response’ to such and such story. It gave us a chance to have a broader scope
For our readers who may not have read it, could you tell us a little bit about what the book is about? 
Holly: The book is divided into chapters that discuss broad themes – sex, beauty, body problems, lad culture, the fashion industry – and explores how those are presented by women’s media. We take examples from the 1920s right up to the present day, and pepper those with our own (sometimes completely embarrassing) personal anecdotes about growing up reading these mags in the nineties. We then explore what it means to be a woman today, in reality and in the words of the Daily Mail’s sidebar of shame, and hope to equip readers with the critical tools to cut through some of the most insidious bullshit.
Why did you choose such a distinctive picture for the front of the book? 
Holly: The Vagenda is all about satire, and the book cover is distinctly satirical. We chose to take an image that looks like your traditionally thin, airbrushed, white woman, with ‘the Vagenda’ ripped out of that with shreds of magazine editorial around it. It’s subvertising, and we hope it shows how, in the book, we’re taking the conventions of the media and turning them on their head.
Rhiannon: This is going to sound really pretentious, but I wrote my thesis on an art group called the Situationists. They were really into subverting existing images, and also since doing the Vagenda people had sent us lots of funny pictures of sexist billboards that had been disrupted by feminists, so I was inspired by that.
 
Will we ever see a sequel?
Holly: Who knows? At the moment, we just want to be able to take some time out and maybe enjoy a chilled glass of wine as friends together, rather than diving straight back in to another demanding project. We love and are proud of the book we’ve produced, and are very much concentrating on that right now.
Rhiannon: Wine sounds good.
Would you ever co- produce a book with another organization, such as Everyday Sexism? 
Holly: Again, it’s far too early to tell. We are friends and great admirers of Laura Bates, as well as so many other admirable women in innumerable feminist organisations. But whether that would ever translate into joint books or projects is something we’re just not in a position to consider at the moment.
Rhiannon: Laura is brilliant and tireless and a friend of ours, but I think we’ll probably all need a holiday first and foremost!
What are your handbag essentials? 
Holly: House keys, credit card, phone, music. Who needs anything more than that? Maybe a black eyeliner, which covers up so many sins and makes bags under your eyes look intentional.
Rhiannon: Credit card, e-cig (am trying to give up real fags), a book, and yes, black eyeliner. Sorry it’s boring but I’m of the Nora Ephron school of thought – a massive bag just impedes your movement, not to mention that you can never bloody find anything in there
Do you have a mantra? 
Holly: ‘Shy bairns get nowt.’ That’s a Geordie phrase that roughly translates into, ‘If you don’t ask, you never get.’ Over the last few months, the phrase ‘If you’re not being criticised, you’re probably not doing anything’ has become increasingly important as well!
Rhiannon: “I’d rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy.”
― Dorothy Parker
For anyone, do you have any tips? 
Holly: Let go of the classic pressure women feel to get everyone to like them. It is a universal truth that you will never get everyone to like you, personally or professionally – and attempting to make it true is a massive waste of your time and emotional energy. Accept that you’ll piss some people off, accept fair criticism from people you respect, and ignore everyone else in favour of having fun.
Rhiannon: That’s good advice actually, Holly. I should probably take it.
One final random question: Do you have any guilty pleasures? 
Holly: We try to steer away from the term ‘guilty pleasures’ in general, because pleasures aren’t really pleasures if you’re expected to feel guilt about them, and the term is almost always only applied to women. Having said that, I would have possibly said my One Direction onesie if pushed – although, on second thoughts, I feel no guilt about that.
Rhiannon: Sex and the City. Most feminists seem to hate it, perhaps understandably. I know being sent an unsolicited Oscar de La Renta dress by a wealthy Russian is not the meaning of true and everlasting love, but the programme spoke to a younger, shallower me and I can never bring myself to furnish upon it the disdain it deserves. I see myself as a bit of a Carrie, I think.*
* This is a joke. I am Samantha.


You can order the book here. 

It’s time to meet the (relatively) new columnist for GLAMOUR, as well as TV presenter,  Journalist, and Novelist Dawn O’porter; writer of “Paper Areoplanes”, and “The Booby trap”, as well as the spouse of Chris O’dowd, you have the opportunity to learn about her working process;
As a Writer/ Author/ Columnist/ TV presenter, you’re very multi talented. Could you tell us a little bit about how you started out in the field of Journalism specifically?
It was a bit of an accident really, and I use the term ‘journalist’ very loosely. I always wanted to write because I wanted to have an opinion in the public eye. I worked behind the scenes in TV for a long time, and then the opportunity to make documentaries came up I grabbed it. That lead on to more writing opportunities too, but I had written long before I was on TV. Not a lot of it had been published, but at least I tried. I just maintained it by continuing to write and not just doing the TV stuff.  So I pitched articles all the time and eventually got a column. It was important to me to never just be a TV presenter. Writing always came first.
Did you have an interest in Journalism from a young age?
Like I said I always wanted to be a writer, and non fiction was where I started, so yes. I once got a temp job on reception at The Independent and I did everything i could do get writing work. I sent stuff to all of the bosses there, and got a job writing for a magazine called Girl About Town, but it went bust a few weeks later so that was really upsetting. My big moment…gone.
For blog readers, do you have any advice about how to write a cover letter?
Imagine how many cover letters an editor gets. So do what you can to make yours stand out. Avoid the obvious words like ‘innovative’ and ‘bright’ and use your skills as a writer to create something interesting. Dont write too much, these people are busy. And if you are pitching a specific idea then make sure your take on it sounds unique.
What was your first job in journalism?
 Well i wrote articles and sold them to Company Magazine and The Sunday Times Style. it was a long time before i got a regular job, maybe ten years. it takes a lot of effort and time.
 How did you come to be a columnist for GLAMOUR?
I’d done a few features for them and I think Jo Elvin just really liked my style. We had got to know each other a bit and one day she took me out for lunch and offered me the column. That was a very happy day, I was honoured to be asked.
Whilst working for UK publications, and living in the US, is it difficult to manage time differences?
I have to wake up pretty early as we are 8 hours behind, and I need a few hours with the UK before everyone leaves work. So i get up around 7 then lie in bed with my laptop drinking coffee until about 10. Sometimes that’s really nice, sometimes it’s really stressful and not a nice way to wake up because a lot of people are asking a lot of me. But most of the time it’s nice. Then I work all day and send off some work, and by the time I wake up it’s usually been read and I may or may not have notes. It’s nice that by the time I get to the afternoon the UK is going to bed so I know I wont get hassled for anything for the rest of the day. I have no complaints about the time difference.
Would you say it is advisable for Journalists to keep a notebook with them at all times?
It’s the first rule of being a writer.
 What are your handbag essentials for a day at the office?
Its been a long time since I worked in an office. But if I did, I’d have lip balm, my phone, a packet of crisps and a tampon. What else do you need? Oh, money for a drink after work, of course.
 Specifically, what do you draw inspiration from,  when creating articles/features/ novels/ documentaries?
This will sound naff, but it’s all drawn from how I feel about something. I write about, and make TV shows about, things I care about, or that interest me. I have to pour so much of myself into my work that it wouldnt work any other way. I feel lucky that I have a career where I can pick my topics. It never gets boring.
Do you have any tips?
Just write. Relentlessly. And don’t worry about what anyone else is writing. If you have an idea and someone does it, you can still do it but put your spin on it. When I did Super Slim Me where I dieted down to a Size Zero, two other programs were made doing exactly the same thing, but I just did mine my way, and thats all that matters. Also be determined but dont be annoying. Desperation and hassling busy people isn’t the right way to do it. Presenting busy people with something they cant turn down is the way to go. Work hard, it will pay off.
 Random question: Do you like Quiche?
Um..it’s OK. I like warm home made quiche, but cheaper shop bought ones are a bit rubbery;)  I took this question very seriously.
To follow her on Twitter, click here
Her official website
Paper Areoplanes on Amazon

Jessi Cat is a four year old cat, who belongs to the Dillon household. One of the son’s, called Lorcan, has Aspergers Syndrome, as well as selective mutism ; two disorders which impact on his perception, as well as his speech. Since Jessi arrived, things have changed a great deal, as I hope you will see in this interview.

Hello Jessi, thank you for agreeing to this interview for Mademoiselle. We are very honored to have you here.

Thank you for asking me! This is very exciting!

 You play a prominent role in the Dillon household. Can you tell us a bit about how you came to live there?

Hiya! I came to live with the Dillon’s under purrfectly sad circumstances. They had an elderly kitty named Flo who died of kidney failure. After Flo died Jayne got a bit freaked out thinking she could hear Flo’s paws on the wooden floor and decided to get another cat. They decided to get a pedigree cat rather than a rescue kitty as they live on quite a busy road and wanted a house cat. Happily, I was just old enough to leave my mamma and litter mates so they came to see me and fell under my spell straight away. The rest, as they say, is history.

Could you take us through your daily routine, hour by hour?

Ok, here we go. I tend to vary where I sleep at night but I’m usually upstairs somewhere. I occasionally sleep downstairs but the dog is a pawful snorer! I get up when ma humans start mooching about for the day and I meow loudly for food. They like me to do this, I think it helps them to wake up for the day! I like to help wake up ma young humans so they are not late for school. I also check they eat breakfast as young brains need nourishment to function well. When they have gone to school I either ‘help’ around the house or I settle down for a snooze. I do wander into the kitchen on a regular basis to meow for ma favourite treat, Dreamies. I just love them and I do get a bit cross if I get told I can’t have any more….

When Lorcan comes home from school I often greet him with an Eskimo kiss. He loves me doing this. Then we play. Sometimes Lorcan sets up rows of action figures which I like to step carefully through. On occasion I am a bit naughty and I charge through, scattering them. Lorcan doesn’t get cross with me.

He is always doing things of interest and I like to get involved. As you know, cats are curious creatures and small boys are fun to be with. In the evening I often climb up on the TV. It isn’t very comfortable but it is warm and the view is great. I often get lifted down because it is ‘dangerous’ and humans get annoyed when ma fluffy tail blocks the screen. When Lorcan goes to bed I like to go upstairs and make sure he is ok.

To you specifically, are the awards you have received worthwhile?

I have two very purrecious awards from Cats Protection. I won the first one for being Lorcan’s best friend. I wasn’t allowed to go to the awards which I think was a shame as I am a very well behaved young lady. I followed the awards ceremony on Twitter and was extremely purrleased when Lorcan and I won. I was the first purrson Lorcan said ‘I love you’ to which was a very purrecious moment to me. I feel very purroud to be Lorcan’s best friend and to help him and look after him. When we won the Cats Protection National Cat of the Year Award it was sooooo exciting! There were so many amazing cats who had helped humans but they picked me! I help out Cats Protection sometimes by going along and helping them fundraise, which is fun! Everyone makes a fuss of me because I am kind and loving and very adorable! We also support the charity Birman Welfare and Rescue which cares for and re homes lovely birmans like me. Obviously we also support the wonderful Selective Mutism Information and Research Association (SMIRA).

Could you tell us a bit about your relationship with Lorcan?

I am Lorcan’s best friend. Lorcan is my best friend. I am very good at sensing his mood and adapting my behaviour accordingly. If he seems sad for instance, I will sit quietly with him. I am always happy to see him and miss him when he is at school. I am a very social cat and I love his company.

 Do you have any beliefs in theories of what causes Autism, such as it being a combination of Genes?

 I am of the opinion that there is a genetic link. My favourite theory about the cause of Autism is that it is a form of evolution. A different way of seeing the world.

What is your favorite cat toy?

This is a difficult one. I like feathery toys very much indeed but my favourite ever toy is a Wiggly Worm. They come in different colours with a thread attached. I always recommend cat people snip the thread off as a kitty could get hurt. Wiggly Worms are nice and light and cats love to carry them about and throw them around.

When Lorcan is at school, what do you do?

I’m quite a busy little purrson so I can be found ‘helping’ with the cleaning on occasion. I like to follow ma humans about and meow at them. However, if I am an honest kitty I like to sleep. Hour after hour.

Do you have any tips, for parents with selectively mute/ autistic children?

The most impurrtant tip I think is for families to trust their instincts. Parents know their child better than any professional. Selective mutism is not as well known as autism but if it is treated properly children can make a full recovery. The first thing to do if a child is selectively mute is to remove all pressure to speak. Bribing, tricking or trying to force a child to speak will not work and can be very damaging.

I like to accept little persons for who they are and work with them to build confidence and coping strategies. Cats can do this in a number of ways ranging from slow blinking and head bumps to purring to alleviate anxiety. Some cats have to learn the skills of interacting with humans but some of us are born with these skills. When I first met Lorcan I was a very young kitten. I instinctively knew I must not bite or put out my claws as he wouldn’t trust me again if I hurt him. I behaved very gently with him and allowed him to cuddle me when he wanted to. I also knew it was important to look after him so I followed him around and offered a comforting paw when necessary. Meowing is good too as Lorcan learned that if he spoke to me I responded.

 Random question: 
 Out of the following singers, which is your favorite? A. Adele B. Michael Jackson C. Dire Straits D. Anastacia

Hmmm, difficult. I think I would have to go with Adele out of those four but I also like to listen to Gary Numan. One of my favourite songs is The Lovecats by The Cure.


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