Brand name

Brand name

<p>There is something quite intimidating about the thought of interviewing Jo Brand. One of the doyennes of &shy;entertainment, she has been an acerbic and forthright presence in the male-dominated realm of comedy since the mid-Eighties. Her autobiography is due later this year, while her third novel <em>The More You Ignore Me</em>, will be published in May (Headline, h/b, &pound;12.99).</p><p>It is the romantic, comedic and&mdash;at times&mdash;distressing story of Alice, a young girl living in rural 1980s &shy;Herefordshire with her father Keith and mother Gina, who suffers from a psychotic condition. It is a topic close to Brand&#39;s heart as she famously worked as a mental health nurse for 10 years before turning to stand-up: &quot;I do think it&#39;s quite important to get that kind of stuff out there,&quot; she says, in that familiar yet slightly unnerving dry tone. &quot;No one&#39;s saying that being mentally ill is a fantastic way to be, but it certainly is not the way that most people imagine. . . [You should only write] if you&#39;ve got the knowledge within you to put those misconceptions right.&quot;</p><p>The harassed young doctor attempting to deal with Gina&#39;s illness reflects Brand&#39;s ambivalence towards mental healthcare: &quot;[The drugs] are a large part of what happens. As a society we frown on behaviour that we can&#39;t control. To a large extent, though I have huge admiration for psychiatry and psychiatrists in some ways, it is very much about controlling people.&quot; </p><p>Gina dominates the novel, as much with her depersonalised, medicated presence as by the escapades that shock the neighbours and torment her family. Brand adds: &quot;I don&#39;t really think that people realise . . . that the family suffers an enormous amount as well.&quot;</p><p>Keith increasingly relies on local GP Marie Henty, while shy, miserable Alice, after a fateful viewing of &quot;Top of the Pops&quot;, falls for The Smiths&#39; frontman Morrissey. He invades her world both as the pop idol unreal beyond the voice on a tape, the poster on a wall, and as an imagined confidant. Even the &shy;novel&#39;s title mirrors one of his songs. &quot;If you&#39;re the sort of person who can almost become addicted to &shy;another, that happens most easily when you&#39;re a teenager,&quot; Brand explains. &quot;Also when you&#39;re a teenager, things change so quickly, hormones exploding all over the place . . . to be able to latch onto someone who&#39;s a bit of an icon is quite reassuring. . . [And] Morrissey engendered a particular sort of real obsessive love from his fans. He still does really.&quot;</p><p>Brand has admitted in the past that she finds the prospect of writing novels difficult, so can she see herself writing more? &quot;The three novels that I have written have all been achieved in very different ways, so I can&#39;t really see how I would do the next one. [With] the first one I was very organised and I did it in about six months. The second one I was so busy that I just didn&#39;t do anything and then panicked because of the deadline and wrote the whole bloody thing in six weeks. And this one took two years because again I had so much on that I could seldom find time to sit down and do the work.&quot; She adds: &quot;Once I sit down and start writing I really enjoy doing it.&quot;</p><p>She is already planning the autobiography, but hasn&#39;t started writing yet. Prospective word counts make her apprehensive: &quot;It&#39;s like having to do 15 essays all the time. The sheer volume of it, particularly when you start, is very daunting&mdash; I&#39;m not the sort of person who&#39;s good at compartmentalising their life. </p><p>&quot;Once I&#39;m halfway through and the end is in sight I feel a lot less depressed.&quot;</p>