Before Marianne started writing, she was an actress. Not the famous sort, though. After graduating from Cambridge University she was in various TV shows, did some comedy on Radio 4 and made a brief appearance in the film Ali G In Da House, where she managed to forget both her lines.
She then worked as a continuity announcer for Living TV, introducing, and getting obsessed with America’s Next Top Model. She’s been the voice of a leading brand of makeup, a shopping centre and a yoghurt.
Marianne is the author of the Ellie May young fiction series for Egmont, and a regular contributor to The Independent on Sunday. She lives in London with her husband, daughter and a bad-tempered cat.
A Quick Self Interview
Right. Let’s start with the important stuff. Tell everyone about your cat.
I have a cat called Boots. He bites me and hisses at my guests and spends his days meowing for food, scratching the woodwork and trying to sit on the keyboard of my computer while I’m writing. And sometimes, as a very special present, he’ll be massively sick all over something really important.
What's this weird obsession you have with celebrity?
I know, I know. You'd think I spend my days hiding behind lamp posts with a long lens camera. In fact, I don't think I'm any more interested in celebrities than average. But I am interested in society's interest. When I go into schools or talk at festivals, I ask audiences who wants to be famous, and almost every hand goes up. When it comes to writing, it's not the fame in itself that fascinates me, it's what happens next. Ellie May is a very famous person trying to be normal. Katie, the heroine of my new book, is a normal person who has to cope with becoming famous. I like exploring that tension; I think many of us spend half our time wanting to be heard and the other half wishing we could be left alone.
What was it like being an actress? And how come you weren’t incredibly famous?
Well, to be honest, I wasn’t especially good. I never really knew what to do with my hands and I often found myself mouthing other people's lines. Oh, and I suffered from stage fright. Even so, I had lots of little parts in sitcoms on TV, and that was excellent because I met people like Stephen Fry.
Anyway, I did that for a bit, and then it became increasingly clear that my career would go better if people could hear me, but not see me (it solved the hands thing). So I did some comedy on Radio 4, which was brilliant fun, and I spent a few years being the voice that introduced TV programmes on Living TV. I am very good at saying, ‘And coming up next tonight...’ I still do voiceovers for adverts and documentaries. If you click here you can hear some of them.
What books do you like? Who are your favourite writers?
My favourite author is E.M. Delafield; Diary Of A Provincial Lady is probably the single thing that has most influenced my writing. Adam Gopnik’s books Paris To The Moon and Through The Children’s Gate are just astonishingly good. But honestly, my favourite books change day by day. Cloud Atlas, The Man Who Ate Everything, Never Let Me Go, The Hare With Amber Eyes, How I Live Now, Mapp & Lucia, Bergdorf Blondes, anything by Nora Ephron, oh, and a wonderful book called The Best Place To Live Is The Ceiling which no one in the world seems to know about but me. My favourite book when I was a child was The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge. It’s really beautiful and also the heroine spends the entire adventure stuffing her face.
And of course, writers don’t just write books. I like going to see stand-up comedy and watching sitcoms like Modern Family, The Simpsons, The Day Today, The Thick Of It, Seinfeld, 30 Rock... I could go on and on. Aaron Sorkin is amazing. I loved The Social Network and The West Wing. Stephen Sondheim’s musicals are funny and clever and break my heart. Oh, and I adore Pixar, in particular Monsters Inc, The Incredibles, Finding Nemo and Wall-E.