My Mad Fat Diary author Rae Earl overwhelmed by feedback on Channel 4 show
Rae Earl says people have contacted her from as far afield as Argentina and Brazil and the reaction from everywhere has been 99.9 per cent positive.
Speaking this week from her home in Hobart, Tasmania, she said: “My Twitter following alone has gone from around 200 to 10,000 - it’s been wonderful, absolutely fabulous.”
The first series of six episodes, on Channel 4’s E4 on Monday nights, ended last week and attracted an average of 1.2 million viewers. It was scripted from a book Rae wrote in 2006 based on her diaries covering her torrid adolescence as a Stamford High School pupil in the 1980s, The programme has received great reviews, with positive comments from the likes of Times columnist Caitlin Moran, stand-up comic Sarah Millican and American comedy drama Glee star Kevin McHale.
“The only one who didn’t like it was A A Gill - but to be honest I was quite relieved by that,” joked Rae.
She thinks the reason for the show’s popularity is that it covered material not previously dealt with on television.
“Normal teenage angst has been done to death but the misery of being a 16-stone teenager with major mental health issues hadn’t really been covered before and it has struck a chord with many people.”
Rae’s teenage years involved self-harm, fights with her mother amd at one point a two-week stay on a hospital psychiatric ward. Nevertheless, she was well supported at school and went on to conquer her demons. She got a university degree and a job as a radio presenter in Peterborough, Leicester and Derby before heading down under. Now 41, she is happily married to Australian Kevin Johnson and they have a young son, Harry.
The programme stars Sharon Rooney in the lead role. The screenplay was written by Tom Bidwell but Rae was consulted all the way.
“Tom really got it, his gender made no odds. He adapted the book brilliantly. There is a danger as a writer that you lose control but that didn’t happen. I spoke to Tom at length, saw every script and things were changed if I wanted them to be. I was just blown away when I saw the finished product,” she said.
Because of a gall bladder operation last year, and because her son was too young for long-haul flights, she didn’t come over for the filming.
Rae says her mum Diane, who works on the lottery counter at Morrisons and lives in Stamford, has been fine about her portrayal in the show.
“Mum thought it was a fantastic series. We’re best mates now. We both see it as a thing of its time. We didn’t get on like a lot of teenagers and their mums. My dad wasn’t featured much in the book but he was fine with it too.”
Rae says her mum now goes out to stay with her for Christmas.
“And the first thing she does every Friday morning is get me to look at the Stamford Mercury website so she can read the announcements - basically who’s dead,” she said.
Although she misses home, Rae describes Tasmania as “the Australian Lincolnshire - minimal population, maximum root crops, quite isolated but very friendly.”
“There are only half a million people here. Everyone knows everyone else - just like in Stamford.”
She was delighted by the announcement of the second series.
“I didn’t know about it until just before everyone else did.” she said.
The first series was based on just one year’s diary - 1989 - although it’s set in 1996 with a Britpop music soundtrack. There is plenty more to tell - another two diaries in fact - diaries which at one time she almost threw out.
“It was Kevin who stopped me, he thought they might make something.”
She is currently writing these up into a second book and is also planning a prequel. A children’s book by her - OMG! Is This Actually My Life? - has also been published.
Rae hasn’t been to Stamford for three years but is planning a trip home later this year.
“I miss Stamford terribly. It will always be home - it’s a very special place. I have an enormous affection for the town and my old school. I have so many friends there and if I get to be a millionaire I will buy The Vaults pub,” she said.
Her email address features the word Dame.
“That’s what I’m living for,” she joked, “I won’t be happy with just a CBE!”