She’s a columnist, author, feminist icon and star of the Twittersphere. Now Caitlin Moran has written a sitcom, Raised by Wolves, with her sister Caz about their, ahem, unusual upbringing.
Judging by the looks on the lorry drivers’ faces, this east London industrial estate has never seen anything like it. Caitlin Moran, 39 – journalist, literary star, feminist icon and ubiquitous Twitter presence – is prancing along, all trademark eyeliner flick and wide grin, flanked by an enormous wolf – yes, really. Next to Caitlin is her nervous-looking younger sister Caz, 37, with her own lupine friend.
The elder Moran may be used to being the centre of attention, but on today’s photo shoot she’s been upstaged by Mr Wolf and Summer, whose misdemeanours would have Barbara Woodhouse turning in her grave. (Apparently, on a previous shoot, they sniffed Kate Moss’s bottom.) In order to stop them from wandering off mid-shot, their handlers stand close by, bellowing, ‘Wait! Steady!’ It’s hard to imagine a more chaotic, surreal way to spend a Tuesday afternoon. ‘Good wolf work,’ Caitlin reassures her sister once it’s all over and we settle down for a cuppa.
Caitlin is, of course, an old hand when it comes to showbiz weirdness. A music journalist from the age of 16, she’s spent two decades as a national-newspaper columnist and interviewer. Her highly personal 2011 feminist memoir How to Be a Woman was a worldwide hit, as was last year’s novel How to Build a Girl, the first of a planned trilogy and soon to be a movie. Her latest project is a sitcom she’s written with her sister – Raised by Wolves (hence the beasts), which airs on Channel 4 this month. The inspiration is their impoverished childhood in Wolverhampton, with eight home-schooled siblings crammed into one council house.
For someone who’s known for being an over-sharer, Caitlin is surprisingly difficult to pin down as an interviewee. I had hoped to get some insight into the sisters’ relationship, but she’s the master of subject change, mad tangent and silly banter. She may speak at warp speed, though she does repeatedly defer to Caz, who, despite being far quieter, is clearly no pushover…
How did Raised by Wolves come about?
Caz: We initially wrote it as a film. But when we took it to [TV and film industry] people, they all said, ‘No, it should be sitcom.’
Caitlin: But then everyone said, ‘Sorry, we’ve already got a women’s comedy this year, so we can’t make this.’ It was pre-Miranda, Bridesmaids, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. At that point, they could only have one funny women’s thing at a time.
Caz: Although, to be fair, the script was quite shit. Never put down to the patriarchy what you could put down to weak material.
I’m not sure I could work with my siblings…
Caitlin: There were brutal arguments. The one that went to the wire was about whether Della [the mother] would wear underwear or not. I’ve given up wearing pants, because they’re just admin. They’re another thing you have to put on, another thing to wash. And I think Della wouldn’t want to wear pants. But Caz disagreed.
Do you wear pants, Caz?
Caz: Of course! 90 per cent of what she [points at Caitlin] does horrifies me.
Caitlin: If you just tried it once, let everything flap free…
Caz: I would feel so self-conscious, insecure and vulnerable. In the end we decided not to resolve whether Della wore pants, because it got so contentious – people storming out of the room, saying, [whiny voice] ‘I’m going to call Mum.’ We always row about inconsequential things. Once we got on set, the actress who plays Della said, ‘This is going to sound weird, but I like to research my characters and I must ask, does Della wear pants or not?’ I said, ‘Yes, of course she does’ – because Caitlin wasn’t there, ha!
Do you write together?
Caz: We’d do the brainstorming, storyboarding thing in an office together, and then divvy up the scenes. We couldn’t write in the same room as each other – we’d drive the other crazy.
Caitlin: I’m very annoying when I write. I make high-pitched sounds, put my head on the desk and groan. Caz: Even though the office was a really big room and I had a desk in the corner, she’d just keep coming over and lying across it, getting really close to me.
Caitlin: The story of our relationship over the past 37 years is that Caz will be somewhere and I’ll move to be near her.
Caz will move away from that place, and then I’ll move, too, and she’ll just keep moving slightly further ahead, both literally and intellectually.
How would you describe each other?
Caz: [Sniggering] Mr Toad in a dress.
Caitlin: The main thing is I’m an extrovert and Caz is an introvert. Sometimes I wonder if you’re an introvert simply because I was extroverting right up next to you [rubs up against Caz, who cringes], and the only place you had to go was inside. I like to be really close to her at all times, curled up in a lovely bed having chats like Bert and Ernie.
What’s Caitlin like as a sister?
Caz: She’s a leader of men, and the life and soul of the party – she’ll get everyone up on the table. She’s Elizabeth Taylor, with shades of Richard Burton.
Caitlin: Caz is a mystic analyst. If you’ve got a crisis, she’ll sit down and analyse things. She’s the most fascinating and cleverest person I’ve met.
But who’s the boss?
Caitlin: [Firmly] Caz. She has knowledge.
But you’re the famous writer.
Caitlin: Yeah, but I don’t know anything about scripts or characterisation. ‘Life doesn’t have a plot,’ I’d say naively. And Caz would say, ‘Yeah, but a sitcom does.’
Don’t you ever pull rank as the eldest?
Caitlin: That’s just never worked in our family. When we all get together, there’s a thing called The Gimping. At a certain point – and I never have any warning – I’m grabbed by my siblings, a bag is put over my head and a series of unpleasant things happen to me. The worst time was when we went on a caravanning holiday to Dorset. I’d only had a baby four months before, so my pelvic floor wasn’t great. I’d put the baby to bed and there was a knock on my caravan door – they were all stood there, saying, ‘We’ve come for The Gimping.’ My husband [writer Pete Paphides] just stood aside and let them do it. They dragged me down to the sea. I literally wet myself and ran home.
So you’re not ‘life-long rivals’, as Caitlin describes the characters (who play you) in Raised by Wolves?
Caz: You can’t help but have a bit of sisterly… [Rethinks] We’re very different people, so there’s not often a clash.
Caitlin’s been working from a young age, so when I was a teenager she was already on TV. I have respect for what she does, but it’s not something I’d ever want to do. I’d be terrible in broadcast situations.
Caitlin: But I am too. When I went on Newsnight, I started off by talking to Emily Maitlis about masturbation.
Caz: I feel quite protective of her. She gets a lot of attention – sometimes it’s negative and it’s difficult to see someone going through that.
Caitlin: Last year when [feminist campaigner] Caroline Criado-Perez was being trolled on Twitter with rape threats, I waded in to defend her. I came up with the idea of a Twitter silence [to protest about the fact that they didn’t take action over the threats]. People said I was trying to infringe on freedom of speech. The Telegraph did seven pieces in seven days saying I was a c**t, and doing it for attention-seeking reasons. We were all on holiday at the time and I cried a lot.
Caz: My role was to say to her, ‘Just step away from it for a bit.’
Caitlin: But if every time we get trolled and bullied we withdraw from the space, they’ve scared us off. So I can’t withdraw.
Caz: [Chiding] But you can just for the next 20 minutes or so. It’s the job of family to be that safe place you can go back to, because there are a lot of crazy people out there.
What was your relationship like growing up?
Caz: We were very close. There was a bit of bickering, but you couldn’t really fall out because you couldn’t get away from each other – the house was quite small. Because we were home-schooled, we didn’t have any friends growing up – hence my terrible social anxiety.
Caitlin: My kids go to school, because I want them to have friends. I think about how much I knew when I was their age, though – I’d go to the library every day and read. But it was cripplingly lonely. I’d throw myself into Caz’s bed and wail, ‘I need to talk to you.’ She’d be there, 12 years old, in her dungarees, saying, ‘I really don’t want to talk about your Edward Scissorhands masturbation fantasy.’ She’d point out that he’d be a bad lover, because his hands were made of scissors and they’d cut my vagina off.
How do you think your relationship has evolved over the years?
Caz: [Giggling] We’ve got separate houses now, that helps a lot. And we don’t have to share tights.
Caitlin: It would get brutal – there were four girls in our house, but often only two pairs of tights. Since I’ve started earning money, I’ve bought endless pairs.
You write about celebrity, Caitlin, but now you’ve crossed over to the dark side yourself…
Caitlin: I’ve thought about that a lot. Claudia Winkleman gave me a great bit of advice. She said never be the thing that’s happening, be the third thing that’s bubbling under. Once you peak, it’s all over. I’ve spent 20 years meeting famous people, studying what they did in their careers and thinking, ‘OK, I won’t do that.’ Heroin being the main one. That’s why I’m moving into fiction now – I don’t want to write about myself any more. It gets on people’s tits. Now I can let the characters talk.
So what’s next?
Caz: I’m going to have a bloody big holiday. And then I’m writing a sitcom with my brother Joe, and a fantasy book.
Caitlin: I’ve got the next two books in my trilogy – How to be Famous and How to Change the World. Then I have the next four books after that planned. And we’re making How to Build a Girl into a film. I’d love Ellen Page to play me, but I suspect she can’t do a Wolvo accent.
How would you sum each other up in a word?
Caitlin: A ginger Emma Thompson.
Caz: That’s not one word. Just say ginger.
Caitlin: That’s borderline racist. I’ll say genius. Just fucking genius.
Caz: Aww, well, I’ll say the same about you – big-haired, entertaining genius.
Raised by Wolves is on Channel 4, Mondays at 10pm.
Photographs by Perou