Dawn French so hated an unofficial biography of her life that she paid fans £20 to hand over their copies, she has revealed.
The comedienne, actress and author said she was horrified when the book came out because it contained “big untruths” about her life.
Fans would turn up at the stage door of her shows on tour with her comedy partner, Jennifer Saunders, brandishing copies of the book for her to autograph.
“Because it was the only book out there about me, people would bring it for me to sign,” she said. “I’d already read it and hated it, but these were lovely people. And so what I started to do was – the book, I think was £19 when it first came out in hardback – I would take the book and give the person £20.
Jennifer said to me: ‘You can’t keep doing that, you’re not going to earn anything off this tour.’ So my recourse then was to write my own book, which I did. And then I realised what a massive control freak I am, and how utterly pleasing this was to do.”
French was speaking at the Cheltenham Literature Festival where she was promoting her latest book, Because Of You.
The book contains several BAME characters, and French said fiction authors “have the right to write anything or anybody” they like.
“It didn’t even occur to me to not write those characters in various cultures. I have a mixed race girl at the centre of it, there is a character from Sierra Leone, there are all kinds of colours there,” she said.
“The minute we start to police people’s imaginations, we go down a very nasty old route there that I don’t want to go to. I have a lived experience of some of this [French was married to the comedian and actor Lenny Henry] and even if I hadn’t, I have the right to write anything or anybody I like. This is called fiction.”