Singer Clare Grogan tells Jane Howarth why she was inspired to write for children.
Little girls don’t want to be princesses anymore. Not many want to be ballerinas, either. And, despite Barbara Follett’s assertions that they all want to be WAGs, there is evidence to the contrary.
In fact, many of today’s little girls want to be pop stars. They want to be Hannah Montana, Sharpay from High School Musical, The Cheetah Girls.
Soon, there will be a new character that these wannabes will be latching on to: Tallulah Gosh.
Tallulah is the brainchild of Clare Grogan. That’s Clare Grogan, the pop star, she of the 80s post-punk pop band Altered Images. It sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Pop star turns children’s writer?
She knows the comparisons to Madonna, who penned the English Roses stories, and Spice Girl Geri Halliwell who has added “writer” to her CV with the Ugenia Lavender books, will come thick and fast. She is under no illusions and groans, knowing that the public is bound to be sceptical.
“I know people will be cynical about another ‘celebrity author’, but this story’s been in my head for a long time and I’ve been wanting to write it for a long time. When I got the chance, I decided to go for it,” she sighs.
“Over the years, people have been telling me to write an autobiography, but I’m not into that. I wanted to write a positive children’s book, using some of my experiences.”
It centres on a young gir, Teresa, who is hellbent on becoming a popstar. She sets up a band called Tallulah and the Teenstars in time for a school talent concert (dealing with the wrath of her parents, who are appalled by her ambitions). Her determination wins through, the band wows the audience by playing cover versions of songs made famous by idols, Betty and the Bee Stings. Then her win gets her the gig of a lifetime: playing with Betty.
It was at this ending I guffawed in derision. Surely there’s a difference between fiction and downright implausibility? Well, here is the interesting bit: this is where art mimics life. For Clare Grogan hit the big time at the age of 17 after sending a tape of Altered Images songs to Siouxsie and the Banshees, asking if they could support them on the Scottish leg of their tour.
To her amazement, the Godmother of punk invited the band to do just that. And the rest, as they say, is history...
“Things just don’t happen like that,” laughs 46 year old Grogan in her girly Glaswegian drawl.
“People have always said that was a great story and I like the idea of using positive things that have happened to me. It might encourage young people to chase their dream.
“I never wanted to be a celebrity or rich. I wanted to be part of something that I really admired. Whether people want to be a pop star or a teacher, I just think ‘go for it’.”
Although she claims never to have a masterplan, Grogan, who lives in Crouch End, London, with husband Stephen Lironi, guitarist with Altered Images, she has not stopped since that first supporting gig.
The band had three hits in the top 10 and two albums in the top 15. At the age of 21 she starred in Gregory’s Girl, a Bafta-winning movie and has worked continuously since, acting and presenting. Even this summer she was performing on stage with Kim Wilde and Belinda Carlisle.
But the book has been burning at the back of her mind for years. She was told her experiences could form a solid base for a story and took on the advice that aspiring writers are always told when embarking on a book: to write about what you know.
Grogan began to write Tallulah and the Teenstars in February and has been taken aback at how quickly her idea is turning into a marketable brand. Not only are another two books on their way, but she is recording some Tallulah songs, including Baby I Don’t Bebo that features in the book.
One of her motives for writing it was the fact that while there are a plethora of music-based characters, they were very mainstream. “I couldn’t help but notice the whole cult of High School Musical and Hannah Montana have done really well. But where’s the kooky girl? The indie chick? The girl who likes stuff like Belle and Sebastian,” she says.
She was keen to write about a cool girl, but wanted her to be a role model for sevens and over, who she believes are a particularly susceptible age group. The singer is mother to adopted daughter Lucia, who is nearly four, and has an eye on the trends that are being marketed at youngsters.
A former MTV presenter, she has become increasingly troubled by the images that young girls are being presented with on television and music videos.
“I’m not on a moral crusade, but I have become concerned about the oversexualisation of little girls,” she says. “They are bombarded with such sophisticated images. I wanted to go down the hip and cool route, but I wanted it to be fun.”
Her “little chick lit” is certainly sassy, but there is a good mood vibe running throughout the story, which is aimed at children aged seven and above.
“I wanted to connect with how I felt when I was 14. Essentially I was more concerned about my hair than anything else,” she laughs.
She has been delighted at the response to her book as she has travelled around the country promoting it.
“It’s really early days, but it’s very exciting. I’m so pleased I got round to sitting down and writing it,” she says.
And so, I suspect, will a generation of young girls.
* Tallulah and the Teenstars by Clare Grogan. Black and White Publishing, £4.99.