Queen of the small screen Dawn O’Porter achieved national fame thanks to her no-nonsense approach towards female issues. Investigating size zero culture, Geishas, polygamy and the delights of ballroom dancing, the TV presenter is not one to shy away from the nitty gritty of womanhood in her edgy documentaries. Her candid approach has won her a faithful magazine column readership and more than 270,000 Twitter followers, Dawn’s heartening, confessional style is a favourite with her British sisters, who admire everything from the star's honesty to her fantastic dress sense.
Although she already has a memoir to her name, the broadcast journalist was quick to take on the challenge of writing a teen fiction novel in her inimitable prose. Cue Paper Aeroplanes. Set in Dawn’s home town of Guernsey, the presenter’s debut charters the enigmatic friendship between teenagers Reneé and Flo, who find themselves supporting one another in times of bereavement and boy trouble, and are always in fast pursuit of a decent portion of chips.
"I really wanted to write an honest book so I just abandoned all responsibility," said Dawn.
"I didn’t think about writing a book that mothers approve of. I just wanted to write a book about teenage girls and how I remember it being. I would have been writing the same story for thirty year olds. It’s definitely a book for women too," revealed the star.
Beginning its journey as a loosely autobiographical tale, Dawn began her authorial journey by drawing on her own teenage experiences written in her diary. Although the setting and the all-girls school backdrop may spell out similarities between Dawn and her protagonists, the journalist says that the story soon took a life of its own.
"I thought it would be a loosely fictional version of my teenage years, but when I started writing it, Reneé and Flo’s story completely became fiction," revealed Dawn.
With a nineties backdrop for nostalgic emphasis, Dawn revisits the years that are worryingly already part of the “retro” category. Uncovering the era where platforms and the Spice Girls reigned king, avid social networker Dawn found that her characters could be more uninhibited in an internet-free zone.
“I set it in the nineties to remind us about how pure it used to be,” she says.
“I didn’t have a lot of pressure in the media. We didn’t know what was making us fat. We were the last generation of teenagers to have that freedom. No trolling… imagine being a teenager right now. Facebook, the things people say about you online… the conspiring that goes on, the people texting about you, we don’t communicate in the way that you used to.”
Although the girls belong to a world free of the embarrassment of social networking—a place where Dawn jokes that she “spends most nights feeling like I’ve completely overexposed myself”—it doesn’t mean that the girls go through their teenage years pain-free. Uncovering the cringe worthy tales of awkward first kisses, drunken debauchery and upholstery-styled shell suits, Dawn makes the story her own with her laugh-out-loud, no holds barred approach.
“In all girl’s school like I went to, that could be really hard sometimes,” says the TV star.
“You’d take a sick day, and you’d come back and everyone would have just been talking about you off all day.”
“When I read my own diary, a lot of those feelings came flooding back, such as the idea that the first boy you fall in love with will be your last. You can never imagine that you could ever love anyone else and that they’re just the one.”
However, a generic boy meets girl romance is not what makes the book such a fresh take on adolescence. Although the "bromance" trend is still alive and well in Hollywood, Dawn's story proves that powerful friendships are not just male domain.
“One of the main reasons I wanted to write about female friendship is because it’s so powerful and underestimated,” she says.
“In Hollywood most of the films we see are all about the relationships between lovers, but as massively important as that is in someone’s life, my relationships with women have always been really dramatic and powerful. They can be the best, most complicated friendships in the world, from that with my auntie to my really strong relationship with my sister."
She added: “All of these relationships, apart from my relationships with my boyfriends, have been the most significant relationships of my life. My girlfriends that I have ended up with are just my complete powerhouses.”
Although Hollywood may now be Dawn’s second home, it is clear that the lovable writer is still very much a Guernsey girl at heart. As she still holds onto her tuber-loving days, Dawn reminds us exactly why no matter how dangerous, emotional and embarrassing adolescence can be, there is a unique bittersweet relish in revisiting our past. This is what Paper Aeroplanes sets out to do, and so effortlessly proves.
“I still love chips. Chips are still my favourite potato dish. I struggle not to have chips every day.”
Paper Aeroplanes is available for general release on Thursday.
Interview: Jasmine Andersson
It's a little princess!