Kathy Lette: The bestselling Australian novelist on republicanism, women's humour and her interviewer's love life

 

Oscar Quine
Saturday 08 November 2014 01:00
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Lette says: 'You have to strap on a bulletproof bra and learn not to get upset. If Jane Austen were writing today, she'd be classed as chick lit'
Lette says: 'You have to strap on a bulletproof bra and learn not to get upset. If Jane Austen were writing today, she'd be classed as chick lit'

Your new book centres on a mother-daughter relationship. What did you most enjoy about writing it?

I love to write women's dialogue. Women together are really funny. We don't tell set jokes. Men will just tell those "Did you hear the one about the Irish Afghan's homosexual grandson?" or whatever. We don't do that. But we do strip off to our emotional underwear. It's very cathartic humour, very self-deprecating, incredibly confessional. When we go out together, we have to be hospitalised from hilarity. We laugh so much. I just write that dialogue down – the way women talk when there are no men there.

Have you ever tried to write a male protagonist?

I tried to once. It was a total disaster. I don't know how they think. I bored myself into a coma after about one chapter... Am I talking too much? They don't call me 'the mouth from the south' for nothing.

No, talk away. When do you find you miss Australia? Today, when I was cycling here, the weather...

Oh, you cycled here? Good boy. I normally cycle everywhere. Every time you get on your bike, don't you feel you may die today?

That's part of the thrill, isn't it?

No! Honey, I'm going to have to take you in hand. So, are you in love?

Am I in love? Yeah, I think so.

In lust? What's going on with you?

It's complicated...

Is there a lot of baggage there? A whole carousel!

Yes, I suppose. So... Australia. Do you miss it?

I'm like one of those little turtles every morning that hatches out of their egg and immediately has that instinct to run into the sea. So on a sunny day I run out of my house and... have nowhere to go. It's very disorientating.

And you're a republican?

Yes, but I have always loved Prince Charles since he wanted to be a tampon. I thought, "How fabulous to have a man who's not gynophobic". And it's such a metaphor for his life – always in the wrong place at the right time. Don't you think?

Er, yes, I suppose.

I like him actually. He likes women. Not in a predatory way. He likes female company. He likes witty, wild women. I like him very much... and Camilla's great.

When did you last see them?

I occasionally pop over for a soirée. And she's great Camilla, a real woman's woman.

And they must know you're a republican...?

Yeah! I keep telling them. But they haven't put me in the tower.

Do you read your own reviews?

The broadsheets never review me. They used to but they're so snobby. Most of those reviewers have been at Oxford for so long they've got ivy growing up the back of their legs, and all they graduated in was advanced smuggery. They just look down their nose jobs at me. I am being hypocritical; I did get one glowing review in the Express that I was going to get tattooed on my forehead. But, generally, you have to strap on a bulletproof bra and learn not to get upset. If Jane Austen were writing today, she'd be classed as chick lit.

Biography

Kathy Lette found fame in her native Australia at the age of 17 with her debut novel ‘Puberty Blues’. She has since written 12 books. Now aged 55, she lives in London with her husband and two children. Her latest novel, ‘Courting Trouble’, is out now

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