The best thing about writing for and about teenagers, is that it gives you a chance to do it all again, and better. Actually, that’s not true. The best thing about being a writer is being able to watch Gossip Girl and claim it’s research. But the second best thing is definitely redrawing your past, and giving your heroine the happy ending you didn’t get (the boy, the dress, the comedy revenge on the mean girl involving a chocolate doughnut). Because, believe me, when you’re five foot nothing, with mental hair, a mum who walks around with a j-cloth welded to her right hand in case you spill Ribena, and a brother who dresses like the Virgin Mary, you don’t get that many happy endings. Or at least that’s what I thought as I glowered with ill-disguised jealousy at my five-foot-eight best friend with her poker-straight shiny-plum Toners and Shaders dyed hair, brand new Wham cassette and mother who looked like Sue Ellen (ask your dad).
But the thing is, the further away from teen years I get, the more I get told how actually cute I was (in good way, not in furry rabbit way). Or, weirder, how cute my brother was (despite him having glasses with Sellotape on, hair like moss and a liking for ladies clothes). Or, triply weird, that the Most Beautiful and Coolest Girl in Saffron Walden (official, as measured using several criteria, including shortness of skirt, thickness of eyeliner and having a dad who worked in film), hated her bohemian family, her looks, and the boys who fought over her (actual fighting, and not just two boys, but two entire schools on one occasion) and sometimes kind of wished she was me. (Which, like, I KNOW).
And so Buttercup Jones was born. The opposite of my own alter ego Rachel Riley. And I hope, a girl we can all learn from (including me): that, whoever you are (tall or tiny, with or without boobs, and with or without a Wham cassette (honest – it was highly coveted on the sheep field at County High), growing up is hard, and sometimes it does suck lemons. But in the end, being yourself isn’t all that bad. Honest.