Love Letters: An interview with author Daisy Buchanan
'Dead Daisy' is how I accidentally start my initial email to Daisy Buchanan. I mean to say Dear Daisy, and like all my attempts at being professional, it goes spectacularly wrong. Daisy, luckily, doesn't see it as a death threat and instead writes: 'Dead Daisy is HILARIOUS. One of us needs to write a scary psychological thriller with that title. Amazing.' It would certainly be a change in tone for the author, journalist and podcast host. Daisy has written extensively - her work includes being an agony aunt for Grazia, a regular contributor to The Guardian, The Sunday Times and The Telegraph, a novelist (her first novel How to Be a Grown-Up was an enormous success, and her second The Sisterhood comes out in March) and most importantly (to me at least), the world's greatest Made in Chelsea commentator. If that wasn't enough she also hosts the fantastic podcast You're Booked, in which she assumes the role of 'book inspector' and nosies around her guests bookshelves. It's one of those ideas that seems so perfect that you only wish you had thought of it yourself. She is, above all of this, incredibly funny and - what a boring word, I know - kind! Read below for her fantastic answers to my typically rambly questions.
Maddy Fletcher: You describe your upcoming novel The Sisterhood as ‘a love letter to the women who have shaped me’, (which, by the way, I think sounds absolutely wonderful!) I’m interested to know however, if you could receive a hand written love letter from one great woman from history, who would it be? (Not that you asked, but mine would be Jane Austen, without a doubt).
Daisy Buchanan: Oh wow, what a GREAT question! I think I would have to say Nancy Mitford who wrote my favourite novel, The Pursuit Of Love – it is such a witty, beautiful account of how we fall in love with the idea of love, how we get it wrong and how our life is made of so much love that goes unheralded – from our friends, our families and from the culture we immerse ourselves in. Nancy was also one of the most stylish, style obsessed and well dressed women of her age and her letters are full of gorgeous, gossipy details about Dior fittings. Perhaps most pertinently, Nancy was the family writer (although Jessica and Deborah wrote too) and the eldest of six sisters! She also had a brother called Tom – but Nancy’s knowledge of women shines in her writing, because she was surrounded by them, and could celebrate their similarities and differences. This is what I hope to do in The Sisterhood.
MF: Speaking of Jane Austen: you come from a family of 6 sisters. I know the Bennets were only 5 but I cannot help but hope that your life growing up was a little Bennet-esque. Was it?! Which sister do you think you like best and which do you identify the most with? As a side note: I’m ever so slightly worried that in nearly every interview I’ve done I somehow manage to bring things back to Pride and Prejudice. There might be a day that I stop, but that day is clearly not today.
DB: To be honest, I was inspired to write The Sisterhood because I really, really adore novels about sisters – and the fact that so many books about sisters exist made me think that perhaps I already had the makings of one within my family! My Mum is an Austen superfan, and we adored Pride And Prejudice because it felt so close to home. I think I read it after Sense And Sensibility, and just after the big BBC adaptation, when I was 10 or 11. At the time, I was desperate to be more grown up than my younger sisters, and reading Austen made me feel quite adult! Beth, who is the sister after me, is a beautiful brunette who really looks like Jennifer Ehle’s Lizzie. As the eldest I definitely tried to be a bit like Jane, but I wish Jane were a bit sparkier – she’s quite boringly serene, and I think she gives big sisters a bit of a bad name. Increasingly, I love Lydia, the Amy March of the set. I was always being told to ‘set a good example’ which meant I was quite good and quite dull, but I longed to be naughty and gorgeous and irresponsible, like Lydia. I still do. (In my family, Olivia is the most Lydia like and even has a very similar name!)
MF: I know what you mean about Jane being a little insipid, but I think Rosamund Pike's performance of her does a very good job at redeeming her. I found it strangely comforting to read in an interview that you delayed writing about your mental health and sexual assault by instead writing about washing your hair (which I should add, was one of my favourite chapters in your novel, and I have fully hijacked your hair care routine). It’s a question I have asked to a lot of people; the challenges and differences between writing something poignant versus comedy. Maybe it’s because I myself am perpetually worried about it that I was pleased to read that you also squirmed a little at the idea of bearing your soul on the page. Other than documenting extensive shampooing rituals, do you have any other tactics for getting over the fear of seriousness?
DB: I always endeavour to write to be read. My writing changed when I stopped trying to perform a better version of myself on the page, and started trying to think about what a reader might want to know, what would move them and what would make them laugh. I write because I really want to make people laugh, but also because I know that when I have been in difficulty, or experienced emotional pain, I have felt as though I was all alone. However, I’m not special or unique enough to be alone! I write about serious subjects because I hope to make life a little easier for anyone who is going through something really tough. I honestly don’t think that writing for readers (as opposed to keeping a journal) should be therapeutic. So it helps to go in and think “What would be useful and helpful to know? If I were at the beginning of this grim experience, what would I like to read about it?”
MF: On an entirely separate note: I cannot stress enough how much I LOVE your podcast You’re Booked. I think you can tell so much about a person from their reading taste, and you ask your guests all the sorts of questions I want answers to. My absolute favourite is which book your guests claim to have read, but in reality, never made it past the first chapter. It is a running family joke that every holiday we have ever been on my dad brings a copy of War and Peace which he insists he will finally read. He has never made it past the first 50 pages. My mum claims she has read it twice, which is just so clearly a lie (I do not know when she would have found the time). If you are willing to reveal it, I’m dying to know the answer: what is the book you lie about having read?
DB: HAR! Thank you so much for the lovely compliment – and also I have a running joke with my husband, Producer Dale, that one day someone will come and do a You’re Booked on me, and discover that my whole reading life is a lie - I’ll have nothing but a Viz annual and a stained pamphlet explaining how the microwave works. (I’m obsessed with Grand Designs but also secretly convinced that Kevin McCloud lives in a seventies prefab bungalow with an avocado bath suite). Anyway, I have about a thousand books in my flat – this is not an exaggeration, I just worked it out by shelf! And I think I have read about half of them. I just accidentally lied to one of our guests Sinead Gleason about reading Kate Chopin’s novel, The Awakening – I thought I’d read it but I was thinking of her short story, The Storm. Also, I have never come out and said this but I have only read two Dickens stories, Great Expectations and A Christmas Carol, and ACC hardly counts because it’s so short. I’m ashamed of this. Also, I am currently reading Anna Karenina for the very first time, aged 33. It’s brilliant, but it’s taking me a while!
MF: I lied my way through an entire university seminar about Great Expectations only the other day! I hope that this does not sound too interrogative, but does it ever panic you having to maintain such a constant presence on social media? I only ask because I have such a funny relationship with social media, as do nearly every single one of my friends. For our website, Instagram has been such an overwhelming force for good. People are so encouraging and positive to us and I really think that were it not for that reassurance I would lose motivation. Also from a practical perspective it connects us to the world - were it not for Instagram I would not be talking to you! But for myself, it's sometimes really distressing. Wading through pictures of size 8 insta-models in Australia as I sit in bed at 10pm on a Thursday eating crisps feels a little demoralising. I am so aware that Instagram is the most curated portfolio of a life, but it can still prove unnerving. Do you feel the pressure to constantly post to social media? Are you able to separate it and see it as part of your work, or do you simply enjoy sharing what you love with others via social media? Or do you really not overthink it? I am certain I would find it stressful so I am intrigued to know your thoughts on the matter.
DB: Oh, love, ME BLOODY TOO! ARGHHHHHH! I had a real honeymoon phase with Twitter where I was constantly making ridiculous jokes, making friends and having a lovely time, and now it breaks my heart. I think that negativity begets negativity, and heaven only knows that there is lots to be negative about at the moment, but it just seems to make everyone feel powerless and furious. And that’s before I compare myself negatively to every single author I follow and envy their success. Instagram feels a lot less natural to me, I don’t really know how to comport myself over there, but I’ve just restarted my #dailycompliment – I try to put a silly, funny compliment in my Stories, to have something that makes people feel good, to counteract any Instagram comparison that has been making them feel bad. And aesthetically, you must fill your feed with images you LOVE – my current favourites are @baddiewinkle, @accidentallywesanderson, @simondoonan, @townandcountrymag, @simplicitycity, @aestheticsofjoy, @bymariandrew and @blairwaldorf_looks. (WARNING – you will be overwhelmed with an urge to buy extravagant hair accessories.)
MF: I recently had to talk myself down from buying a £45 embroidered llama headband, so I might steer clear of that last one. For the final, and most important question I have: Made in Chelsea. I used to pour over your columns on the show. I think they are absolutely brilliant (and I still refer to Jamie Laing as biscuits in homage to them). A part of me is sorry to ask you about it, because I am certain that as its most prolific commentator, you are bored out of your skull with questions. Equally, I cannot interview you and not ask for your professional opinion. If you had to be trapped on a desert island with only one cast mate for the rest of your life, who would it be any why? Also are you not FASCINATED by Spencer Matthews’ rebrand from the most evil man on planet earth to an actually really endearing father in his new reality show!?!? The unprecedented transformation keeps me up at night.
DB: You can ALWAYS, ALWAYS ask me about MIC, it is my life’s work. *Rethinks life*. I think that Toff is the most resourceful, the most charming, and would keep one’s spirits up. (Imagine being on a desert island with Mark Francis! He would complain that palm trees are vulgar!) Also Louise, who is one of the best dressed women of the age, and would know which plants were the best protein sources. I suspect she eats a lot of steamed fish, so she might be good at catching them. I am a little bit in love with Vogue Williams, and I imagine that Spencer knows he is punching so hard that he has been forced to undergo an entire personality transplant. He is an unexpectedly adorable Dad. Also, I often wonder what happened to Funda, his series one girlfriend, and her terrifying dog. I just had a Google and apparently she married Caggie’s ex in 2017! He’s called Scott, he looks not unlike Serge Gainsbourg and he dated Katie Price and Jodie Marsh! Some days, I really love the internet.
- Maddy Fletcher