I knew I’d love meeting up with Kathy Lette, that it would be just like talking to all my wonderful, witty, intelligent girlfriends - and it was. We laughed over our cappuccinos and we empathised with one another just like old chums. So although this blog is written in interview style, it was really more like a good old chat. Kick back and enjoy!
Kathy, you bring a great deal of empathy and humour to your writing. When did you first realise that you could make people laugh and that you liked that feeling?
I think it started when I was a short, red-headed teenager on the beaches at Cronulla. Surrounded by Ken and Barbie’s progeny, I knew I had to have some other trick up my trackies or I’d never get noticed.
Your books are really popular in Christchurch libraries and the question most readers wanted me to ask you is: Are you like this at home?
Yes I am! I like to keep myself entertained. It’s not that I don’t have down times, but yes I’m quipping away on the homefront as well. Remember that I spend a lot of my time working on my own, so I suppose that is when I am at my most subdued. Then I just have to get out, meet a girlfriend and have a laugh.
You’ve been billed as “a witty author who writes for women”. Do you think this pigeonholes you and that you are much more than that.
I don’t mind that description, but I do believe that in my latest book The Boy who Fell to Earth, I have tackled a far more serious topic – my son’s diagnosis with Aspergers. I did a lot of research for that book and relived a lot of the anxiety of raising an Aspergers child. OK, so I do it with humour, but that doesn’t detract from the fact that it was really really tough and heartbreaking and fascinating and draining and stimulating all rolled into one. Now I can honestly say that having a child on the autistic spectrum has taught me so much that I would otherwise not have known.
I’m sure I could do it, but I wouldn’t want to. I’m rampantly feminist. Men have plenty going for them – better salaries, the old boys club, freedom from childbirth and the menopause. I don’t see why they should get me as well.
What does your son think of The Boy who Fell to Earth?
He loves it! I would never have published it without having run it past him. But he is in his twenties now (and hoping to become the world’s quirkiest sports commentator!) and he is very supportive of what this book is trying to do.
What sort of reaction have you had to The Boy who Fell to Earth from the Autistic community?
Fantastic. I have been inundated with e-mails and stories from parents (women in particular) who thank me for telling their story for them.
Your writing depends a lot on wordplay and the subtle nuances of the English language. Has your work successfully survived translation into other languages?
My books are published in 15 other languages, but the translation is very difficult. I have reams of howlers that are a direct result of mistranslation. I usually ask them to employ a comedienne to help them and to contextualise the examples to appropriate examples from their country.
Libraries – what do you feel about them?
I am passionate about libraries and reading. I can’t imagine what a world without libraries would be like. I am worried about reading though, so many young people just don’t read at all. I’m involved in World Book and have recently handed out hundreds of copies of Pride and Prejudice on the London Underground. People are so suspicious of anything free, but I just say to them: Slip between the covers of this darling!
From the lady who gave us gems such as:
“Breasts so large they have their own postcode”
“the pubic pelmet” as a description of miniskirts and titles like Foetal Attraction
I was chuffed when she wrote in the copy of my book:
You are a literary goddess. Thank you for such a scintillating interview,