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Webchat with Kathy Lette, now Wednesday 17 April, 1-2pm

(69 Posts)
GeraldineGransnet (GNHQ) Wed 27-Mar-13 17:56:14

We're thrilled that the feisty and funny queen of puns and one-liners will be joining us for a live webchat on Wednesday 10 April. Kathy Lette is the author of 10 comic novels, which have been translated into 14 languages.

She'll be coming in to GNHQ to mark the paperback publication of her latest, The Boy Who Fell To Earth, about a boy with autism, based on her experiences of having a son with Asperger's. We have five signed copies of the book to give away to gransnetters who post a question.

KathyLette Wed 17-Apr-13 13:27:08


I know you're a big feminist, and I'm a feminist too, but sometimes I struggle to relate to some of the drivel out there. In Western society, do you think we've almost reached equality? I sometimes think that some women are rooting for a matriarchy, rather than equality.

Matriarchy! Bring it on! It's our turn. No, really, women just want to be treated as equals, instead of sequels. In so many countries, women are still runners up in the human race.

KathyLette Wed 17-Apr-13 13:29:24


You are very lively and glam and often...forthright? Well not afraid of talking about sex and stuff. You are married to a successful lawyer who I imagine isn't allowed to be any of those things in his professional life. Do opposites attract?

Definitely. DId you know that my husband was going out with Nigella Lawson when we met? AND I CAN'T COOK. I use my smoke alarm as a timer! But I could make him laugh, which proves a good antidote to the daily grind. He's a human rights lawyer, so saves the world's underdogs from their kennels.

KathyLette Wed 17-Apr-13 13:32:04


Your career has been pretty impressive - what are the highlights?

HIghlights - teaching Stephen Fry a word. (It was misogymist - an allergy to marriage) , getting Salman Rushdie to do the Limbo, being writer in residence in the Savoy Hotel (parting was such suite sorrow) and getting my honorary doctorate from Solent Southampton Uni. They made me a "companion of literature", which is abbreviated to C.LIT.
HOW APPROPRIATE IS THAT!? Those academics really rubbed me up the right way!

petitpois Wed 17-Apr-13 13:33:47

Is the UK particularly bureaucratic when it comes to autism and getting help? Or is Australia, for instance, quite similar?

KathyLette Wed 17-Apr-13 13:34:59


Hi Kathy and looking forward to the webchat. I've another question, why do I hardly ever hear/read of girls/women being affected by autism? (I don't want to say 'suffer from it'). Is it in the genes? Do they have it and cope with it in a different way from the males? Or I guess put another way - why do more boys/men appear to have autism?

Yes, you're right, 4 out of 5 people with autism are male. Nobody knows why, except that autism is often described as an "extreme form of maleness." Engineers, mathematicians, computer techies, scientists , which are male dominated fields anyway, all score very highly on tests for autism. Simon Baron Cohen is doing a lot of research in this area.
I think women on the spectrum are often just better at disguising the condition because, as a gender, we are more socially adept.

KathyLette Wed 17-Apr-13 13:36:34


Hello Kathy - Do you think writing courses are helpful for aspiring writers and, if so, do you think a sustained course over several months is likely to be more beneficial than a short/weekend writing course?

The only way to be a good writer is to have something to say and an interesting way of saying it. If you want to write, just start writing. You don't need a course. I only write for revenge. I often impale enemies on the end of my pen. "Poetic justice" is the only true justice in the world - and I say that married to a lawyer!

KathyLette Wed 17-Apr-13 13:38:40


I've read a few of your books and enjoyed them very much. Have you ever written any non fiction? And do you use experiences of friends and family in your fiction? And if so do they mind?

I always write the book I wish I had when I was going through something - be it childbirth, motherhood, menopause etc. I cannibalise my entire life but I never take from friends or family without permission. Although I don't think a writer can have all work and no plagiarism!
Non -fiction, yes, "Men , a User's Guide" and "Hit and Ms."

KathyLette Wed 17-Apr-13 13:41:52


Do you miss Australia or are you a fully converted Brit?

Ha ha. I like to think of myself as "bi". I tend to straddle hemispheres - my favourite position! Australia is so fabulous, the weather, the wine, the sea, sand and surf. In England, we conquer the Great Indoors - galleries, theatres, museums. In Oz we have inverted snobbery. If you can trace yourself back to the First convict fleet, you're practically antipodean royalty. My convict ancestors were transported to Oz on the First and SEcond fleets, which makes me the creme de la crim.

KathyLette Wed 17-Apr-13 13:44:46


Have always loved your books - ever since I read about the "zipless fuck". Really looking forward to reading the new one. Is it as raunchy as the others, or have you grown "more mature" like many of us have had to?

I think i am actually immaturing with age. I was dreading turning 50. I just kept telling people that I was approaching 50 only not saying from which direction. But a lovely "Oh F* it, I'm fifty" gene kicks in. You care less about what people think. And no more periods is SO LIBERATING. Although, can we just talk about female biology for a mo? All the things women go through - periods, pregnancy, childbirth, mastitis, then the menopause and then, just when everything goes quiet, do you know what happens? YOU GROW A BEARD!! Is that fair, I ask you? I could weave a macrame hanging basket off my chin.

KathyLette Wed 17-Apr-13 13:47:59


did you find doing your book a different experience to doing your comic novels?

"The Boy Who Fell To Earth" is still a romantic comedy. It's the story of a single mum who has a child with autism and her quirky quest for love. I wanted to emphasise the positive side to life with aspergers and not just the doom and gloom. People with aspegers have no filter. They say whatever they're thinking. Which means that , socially, I sweat more than Paris Hilton doing a Sudoko. For example, the time I took Jules to a charity bash and he met Anne Widdecombe and he said to her, "My mother says you're two faced. But if so, then why are you wearing that one, when it's all wrinkly , crinkly and old?" I just wondered if it was too late to put him into the condom vending machine for the refund!

KathyLette Wed 17-Apr-13 13:50:13


Do you think you have to experience the kinds of things you write about before you can write about them or do you just let your imagination go wild? Were you a 'lively' girl at school? I bet you didn't hide your light under a bushel! grin

I grew up as a surfie girl in Oz. Surfie girls prove that Barbie and Ken dolls do have sex, because they must be the perfect progeny. Blonde, blue eyed, long legged with breasts which arrive five mins before they do. As a bonsai brunette whose bra cups did not runneth over, I had to learn another skill. So, I developed what I call my "black belt in tongue fu." And i'm still shooting from the lip!

KathyLette Wed 17-Apr-13 13:51:21


It's good to have you here Kathy. Great books by a great author.

thank you for your lovely message. (The smoke alarm has just gone off to GRansnet - must be my hot flush!) No, all silent again now. Phew. x

KathyLette Wed 17-Apr-13 13:56:02


So you've jumped off from David Bowie's SciFi film, The Man Who Fell to Earth, with your own title? That suggests a certain ambivalence and, possibly, a sense that your son's progress is in the hand of the gods. As yet there are no known diseases, only names, for psychological/emotional tendencies (a guess) such as Asberger's and Autism, although the drug companies would probably love to nail a name so they can prescribe drugs at great cost to mask the real symptoms. Just where do you stand with this? What are your hopes for your son? Sympathetic and very interested.

Labels are only useful as a sign post to getting the right help. What kids with aspergers need is early intervention. And love and understanding. And special needs schools. Getting the right educational help is expensive, and getting the right help is a post code lottery. The Govt put up bureaucratic speed bumps to slow down a parent's progress. I educated my own child in a state school with some help. But I think educating a kid with special needs is a pointless as giving a fish a bath. Bullying is the worst ordeal. My son once came home from school with a sign sticky taped to his back saying "Kick me, I'm a retard.' You might as well as ripped my heart out of my chest and stomped all over it.

I wrote the book to help take the stigma out of autism and to encourage people to be more accepting and tolerant of difference

KathyLette Wed 17-Apr-13 13:59:40


Love your books Kathy, the first one I ever read was Nip 'n tuck ,it had me hooked. I have just finished the short read Love is Blind.
What made you decide the time was right to write this book based on your son? Was it easier or harder to write than your other books, given the circumstances?

Nip'n'Tuck was my literary raspberry against cosmetic surgery. My mother told me never to pick my nose - especially from a catalogue.
But in some ways writing The Boy Who Fell To Earth was easier, as I just dipped my pen straight into a main artery. I hoped the novel would give some much needed comedic comfort to other parents who have a child on the spectrum, but also an empathetic insight into the lives of families with a 'differently abled' child.

KathyLette Wed 17-Apr-13 14:03:16


The best and craziest job I ever had was teaching boys with autism in a social communications base attached to a mainstream high school and my question is this: who is the "normal" one, you or your son?!

Ha ha. I totally agree. I heard a scientist with aspergers saying that normal people think he's weird, in that he doesn't make small talk or eye contact. He said that he thinks WE are weird, the way we spend hours being nice to people we don't even like. He said that if it weren't for people with autism, human beings would never have got out of the cave!

My son keeps me on my mental toes by always asking me the most interesting questions. His latest is "why is there no other word for antonym" and "if there's a happy hour in bars, is there a sad hour too?" In his own way, comically profound. My son often tells me that he feels he's drowning in his own brain waves. I hope that The Boy Who Fell To Earth, will act as a small literary life raft.

CariGransnet (GNHQ) Wed 17-Apr-13 14:04:41

A huge thank you to Kathy for joining us (and apologies for the being deafened by the fire alarm thing) - do read her wonderful book...and we hope she will come back and see us again soon

KathyLette Wed 17-Apr-13 14:06:19


A huge thank you to Kathy for joining us (and apologies for the being deafened by the fire alarm thing) - do read her wonderful book...and we hope she will come back and see us again soon

Loved being here for hot goss and girl talk. Your women friends are your human wonder bras - uplifting, supportive and making each other look bigger and better. Thanks for your wonderful and stimulating company. Love Kathy x
p.s. Must get back to braiding my beard.

CariGransnet (GNHQ) Wed 01-May-13 13:45:05

Whoops - completely forgot to announce the winners drawn out of the hat to get the signed copies of Kathy's book. They are:


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