Is Dolly your real name?
No! It’s a nickname that stuck thanks to my forceful coaxing! My real name’s Hannah. You’ll hear my parents and my doctor call me it.
How did you get into writing?
I was an avid diary writer from the age of about five, and I’ve had more blogs than I can name, a particular highlight being ‘Dolly Does’ where I tried out new experiences like visiting Billingsgate Market (sadly, this blog has now been deleted). I’m the sort of person who goes for dinner with a friend and spends the entire bus journey home writing up our conversations in my iPhone Notes. Writing is the way I experience life.
Your writing is very honest and open, often about personal things. Do you need courage to write in this way and do you get nervous before an article goes to print?
Firstly, our generation is different, we are all more open than our parents would have been. Many people think if you write about yourself you don’t have boundaries but I do. I create my own boundaries and these shift as I grow older. I have the power to share or not share as I choose, and I only write what I am comfortable writing. That said, yes, I do still get butterflies before a piece is printed.
Do you write letters and postcards?
All the time. I always have a book of first class stamps on my desk and love writing notes by hand using my black fountain pen.
Can you recommend one old and one new book for Iris readers?
Old(ish): William Boyd Any Human Heart, Louisa May Alcott Little Women or the collected poems of Larkin.
New: Rod Stewart’s autobiography.
Who are your literary heroes?
Nora Ephron is everything (journalist, essayist, playwright, producer, director, feminist. Click here to hear a rousing and inspiring speech). And Martin Amis.
Which literary character are you?
I’m Jo March (from Little Women). I have heated arguments with my flatmate about who’d be Jo. But I’m the writer, it has to be me!
If you were to go on Desert Island Discs what would be your one luxury/song/book?
My luxury would be a big bed with goose feather pillows and a billowing white mosquito net like Jarvis Cocker chose, as everything feels more doable after a good night’s sleep. My song would be Take a Walk on the Wild Side by Lou Reed to remind me of all my happiest moments over the last 10 years dancing with the same friends in various kitchens. Bookwise I’d have to take something exceptionally romantic as I would long for passion and touch, like any sane human. Maybe the randiest of all the Jilly Cooper novels. I’ve never read one, maybe that will be the right moment.
Marilyn Monroe said ‘I’m selfish, impatient, a little insecure and at times hard to handle. But if you can’t handle me at my worst you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best.’ Do you have a motto for love?
My Mum has always said it’s not who you love, but who you become when you love them. I love that notion. Long-term love should be about growing tall, both separately and together. Or as Joni Mitchell says: ‘I want to knit you a sweater, I want to write you a love letter, I want to make you feel better, I want to make you feel free.’
At time of writing Dolly Alderton is a freelance journalist, Sunday Times Style columnist, co-host of the PanDolly podcast and writer. Sign up to her wonderful weekly newsletter The Dolly Mail by clicking here.
Words by Daisy Allsup. The Iris Letter October 2016.