As a blogger I have been given some amazing opportunities over the last few years; we’ve had some wonderful adventures, been gifted the most beautiful items and worked with some hugely respected brands. And yet, from a personal fan girl point of view, nothing has made me quite as excited as this – the chance to interview a lady whom I have huge admiration for, Dawn O’Porter!!
Dawn O’Porter is a well respected novelist, columnist and broadcaster who lives in Los Angeles with her husband Chris (O’Dowd) and their two sons Art and Valentine, and it’s safe to say that I’m a huge fan. I have always admired her confidence, her outspoken attitude and her individuality, and with her new novel, The Cows, fast becoming one of my favourites, I couldn’t wait to find out more!
Hi Dawn. Let me start by saying what a huge fan I am of your work and, in particularly, of your latest novel The Cows. From the moment I started reading I literally couldn’t put it down and I devoured the entire book in one luxurious child-free day. I guess my first question is, where did your idea for The Cows originally come from?
I wanted to write a story about how different kinds of women make different kinds of choices, especially when it comes to motherhood. I get frustrated when women are generalised about…that all women are searching for love, we all went kids, we all feel the same about working, love, etc, etc. So I wrote a story about three very different kinds of women, living very different lives. However, they can still help each other out, and pull each other out of the depths of their own despair despite their differences.
I love how Tara, Camilla and Stella are so different! Did you draw from your own experience to create their characters, and which of the three do you most relate to?
I think everyone can see a little of themselves in each character, although for me, as a mother of five, I found Cam’s insistence that she didn’t want a family harder to relate to, having been certain that I wanted children my whole life. Did you always want to be a Mum? Or is that side of Cam’s character something you can relate to in your past?
YOU HAVE GOT HOW MANY KIDS??? Wow, ha, super hero! No, I didn’t. I wasn’t sure I wanted kids until very close to the time I did. So it wasn’t hard for me to put myself in Cam’s shoes. I also have multiple friends who don’t want kids. I am surrounded by women who are happily childfree, and I envy them in many ways. I wouldn’t change my position for the world, but a self-nominated childfree life is a wonderful life.
I think society needs to get better at appreciating that not all women want kids. And that doesn’t make them tragic, or cold, or selfish. OR whatever other words are hurled their way.
That is such an important message and I commend you for breaking down those stereotypes, I think as a society we often struggle to see outside of the box.
The thing I love most about The Cows is that it made me feel so many emotions. One minute I was laughing out loud and the next I was breaking my heart. Did you feel that rollercoaster as you wrote it?
Absolutely. And that is life, I find. Things can be going well and then BAM, something happens that changes the course of your life. Whether it’s a death, a conversation, something you do. I cried for Stella so may times when I was writing the book. She acts so appallingly in so many ways, but I understand her. She’s so lost. She’s so afraid. That can make someone’s behaviour so questionable. I cringed for Tara on every page, and I cheered for Cam.
As I was writing it I would shout ‘WHAT ARE YOU DOING?’ at my computer. Then I’d burst out laughing and realise I needed to take a break. I was extremely involved with them all.
I love that, and I think that’s the sign of a good writer right there. You have to be able to feel those emotions to have conviction in your words, and you achieved that with every single turn.
The public shaming that Tara experiences is quite shocking, and yet so prevalent in today’s society, even more so with social media. Have you ever experienced a public shaming or backlash as a result of a moment of madness?
I mean, yeah. But nothing major. I once used a derogatory term in an article. I didn’t know it was insulting, and that may be due to my ignorance, but I certainly never meant to offend anyone. I think that was very clear. The minority that I offended came down hard on me, saying I needed to examine my prejudice and massively over blown statements that seemed so over the top, when all I had been was a little careless. It blew over very quickly, but I thought wow, people are ready to pounce. It’s a wonder anyone says anything at all!
You’re right, I think the fear of saying anything wrong can actually suppress many people from speaking their minds, which is another reason why I love that Cam wasn’t afraid to speak out even when she knew her attitudes may not be shared by others.
Do you ever feel nervous writing about subjects which are still quite risqué amongst our society and have you ever edited out any scenes as a result?
Good for you! I’m very similar in that I am not easily shocked, but I have been known to edit out parts of a blog post in a last minute panic. Maybe I need to stop doing that!
At the end of the The Cows I was massively taken aback by the ending. Did you consider any other outcomes or was the novel always going to end the way it did?
Wow huge respect to you! That must have taken some dedication to sit down and write, I could barely string a sentence together in the year after giving birth!
What advice do you give to women out there who feel under pressure to meet female stereotypes, and how do you as a woman break away from following the herd?
I mean, the only advice there is, is to be yourself. Don’t compromise yourself to satisfy how other people think that you should be. It just makes you miserable. The most interesting people are the ones who speak their own mind, dress, behave and live their own way. You don’t have to be anything more or less than what you are. God, the world would be so boring if everyone conformed. Women will never be equal if we try to fit in.
You don’t have to be the boss, you don’t have to achieve massive things, be well know, be successful financially, all you need is to say how you feel and not be afraid to do so.
Amazing advice! Your words sum up everything I want my daughters to know and, actually, everything I want my sons to know.
So what’s next for you in terms of writing? Do you have any ideas in the pipeline of how you will top the success of The Cows?
I am currently in the process of plotting my next novel. It’s true, there is a lot of pressure when you follow a big success. But I have to write what my heart tells me to write, and not what I think will sell. I truly believe that if you do that when you are creating, you will always succeed. I want to write another book that people want to read until the end. Where they think about the characters after they have finished the book, and a book in which they can lose themselves, and possibly even find a little bit of themselves. No pressure then.
I have no doubt that you will achieve all of those things and more, and I for one can’t wait to read it! Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions and, most of all, for being so honest and open, and sharing advice we can all use and learn from.