Arts

Lederer has nothing to lose with acclaimed novel

Helen Lederer progressed from stand-up to TV shows including The Young Ones and Absolutely Fabulous. Now she has written a semi-autobiographical comic novel based around weight loss. Ahead of readings in Belfast and Newtownabbey, she talks to Brian Campbell.

Helen Lederer comes to Newtownabbey on June 12 and to Belfast on June 13

HELEN Lederer says she has a particular level of fame. Ive been doing what Ive been doing for 30 years but Im not one of the big-hitters. So I dont get to be on the Graham Norton TV show but I get to be on the Graham Norton radio show, she says.

I find that quite amusing. At my age, you just go `It is what it is. I feel Im slightly on the outside looking in and I think that most people can relate to that.

Would she fancy getting asked to appear on the Alan Carr TV show? Well I would quite like one of his cocktails, she laughs.

Lederer started as a stand-up comedian in London in the 80s and went on to appear in TV shows including The Young Ones, French and Saunders, Naked Video, One Foot in the Grave and Bottom.

Many will know her for playing the dippy Catriona in Absolutely Fabulous, while she has also starred in Hollyoaks, Doctors and Horrid Henry: The Movie (2011).

The London-based actress is now promoting her comedy novel Losing It. It tells the story of Millie, a middle-aged woman whose desperation to lose weight and earn enough money to pay off her debts sees her jump at the chance to do both by agreeing to front a campaign for a new diet pill  meaning she has to lose three stone in three months.

Lederer is clearly an advocate of the `write what you know approach, as she herself has tried appetite suppressants, joined slimming clubs and taken amphetamine injections as she tried to lose weight over the years. In the book, Millie even tries a `Tantric workshop and a `coffee colonic in her bid to shed the pounds.

I was paid money to lose weight, so that part did happen to me. The colonic and everything was true, says the author. I thought it made a good story. She is in debt and divorced and is going to lose the house and gets this way out, but losing weight  as most women know  is a nightmare. Youd almost rather be in prison for not paying your mortgage than have to lose weight.

But the book is written for laughs and is never a depressing read. The goal of writing it was to make people laugh out loud when they were reading it. Overall, I think the book is quite optimistic.

Would she be amused if the book ended up in the health/weight loss or self-help sections of bookshops? That would be hilarious. I dont mind, as long as I get paid, she laughs. There is a message there about having empathy with people who are weak. I like all the wrong things  like cheese  and I hate exercising.

There are beautiful women out there like Amanda Holden who are in the papers all the time and people aspire to that, which is fine. But in my book theres a message to say its all right to fail.

The book has won the praise of Stephen Fry, Jo Brand, Dawn French and Joanna Lumley. Lederer says shes happy to be part of the Absolutely Fabulous family.

Im very respectful of my position with Ab Fab. Ive just been `availability-checked for the film, so thats set to happen in October and Im chuffed that Im included.

In the book, Millies daughter is in Papua New Guinea and in real life Lederers daughter Hannah has just returned from Thailand. Lederer says her daughter plans to read Losing It now that shes back home.

I dont know what shes going to make of the relationship between the mother and the daughter but I think its a loving relationship and its real life and a lot of readers have said they enjoyed that dialogue and that awkwardness between them.

Shes staying with me for a month, so shell have to read it. Theres a book in every room.

:: Helen Lederer comes to the Courtyard Theatre in Newtownabbey at 8pm tomorrow (tickets 5/7) and the Crescent Arts Centre in Belfast on Saturday at 7pm (tickets 6/8, as part of the Belfast Book Festival). Losing It is published by Pan Books.

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