I met Caroline Corcoran through my dear friend Rachel Tompkins (who I interviewed here) and got to know her by drinking copious amounts of wine on Rachel’s hen do and wedding.
Caroline’s a Freelance Editor and Writer, who has been the editor of 3am online (the Mirror’s Showbiz section), Features Editor at Fabulous magazine and Deputy Editor at Sugar…I can feel the glitz and glamour from here! Since she went freelance Caroline has built on her vast experience writing on lifestyle and popular culture for a varied range of top titles including glossy magazines from Stylist, Grazia, Cosmopolitan and Marie Claire, to leading newspapers like The Telegraph and The Guardian plus she has embraced digital with content appearing on The Pool and Refinery 29. Caroline’s strength is her ability to diversify and she’s moved effortlessly into copywriting, plus she’s contributed to radio and TV channels, written celebrity biographies AND has her own novel on the way, ensuring that writing is at the core of all her projects.
Caroline is quick, witty, loves a good pun and exudes a calm, confidence and sensitivity that engender trust. When I was researching Caroline’s career, I found that Susan Riley, Editor of Stylist had said it even better than I ever could: “When I’m looking for a clever, funny spin on a news story, the first person I think of commissioning is Caroline. She pitches original, timely ideas and consistently files sparkling copy that I can put straight through, which is such a valuable and rare skill in a freelancer – and essential when you’re working on a daily deadline.”
I chatted to Caroline about changes in the industry, what it means for journalists and how she juggles her freelance world:
NakedPRGirl: Where are you from and where did you grow up?
Caroline Corcoran: I grew up in the north west and I now live on the Wirral peninsula between Liverpool and North Wales after relocating recently. Before that I was in London for 13 years.
NakedPRGirl: What did you study? When did you decide you wanted to be a journalist?
Caroline Corcoran: I studied English Lit at Sheffield University, then did my postgraduate course in magazine journalism at City University. I decided at school, I think, doing school newspapers etc (though a careers ‘advisor’ once told me that it wasn’t the career for me as I’d filled in a form saying I didn’t fancy working shifts. News for you careers advisor: magazines start work at 9.30am and you’re usually in the pub by 6.30).
NakedPRGirl: How did you get your big break?
Caroline Corcoran: Two places. I worked at the Liverpool Echo in my summers from university after doing work experience there, which gave me a great portfolio to take with me to my City interview. Then when I was at City I did work experience at Sugar magazine and from there went on to get a junior writer job.
NakedPRGirl: You spent many years working in Showbiz at 3am and The Mirror, how did you find that? Was it super competitive?
Caroline Corcoran: I was actually only there for a year or so but I’ve worked at showbiz magazines like Heat too. Always on the desk-based side though, on features, editing and writing and coming up with ludicrous captions. I’m not the one out at the parties, chasing the stories, I’d be rubbish at that!
NakedPRGirl: How has the world of celebrity changed? Have the Kardashian’s altered everything forever?
Caroline Corcoran: It’s altered hugely since I worked at Heat etc, the sales figures say it all – people won’t wait for magazines now, the major change is that we get celeb news instantly via Instagram/ the celebs’ own blogs etc. So yes, in that way – and, er, in the way we view bums – the Kardashians probably have altered everything forever.
NakedPRGirl: How has social media and online changed how we report on celebrity?
Caroline Corcoran: Hugely. So many stories now lead on social media, ‘Twitter furious that XXX’, ‘XXX posts sexy Insta snap from holiday’ blah blah blah, it just means that the celebrities take matters into their own hands a lot. And it’s much harder for traditional news outlets to keep pace with that.
NakedPRGirl: You’re now freelance, how did you manage to go self-employed? How does that differ to full time? What do you like about it?
Caroline Corcoran: Yes, I’ve been freelance for five years now and I love it. Firstly it gives me the freedom to work from anywhere. I moved to France for six months with my partner a few years ago and now we have a little boy, it’s given us the option to move out of London and live near the beach which makes me very happy. Secondly, and more work-based, it means I get huge diversity in what I write about. It’s not unusual for me to be writing a 2000 word Marie Claire report while doing a food and drink piece for Emerald Street and a TV review for Digital Spy.
NakedPRGirl: From your https://carolinecorcoran.contently.com profile, I can see you are super varied, do you like being able to write on lots of different topics?
Caroline Corcoran: Yes, I do. Maybe it just suits my brain but I’m not a political junkie or someone obsessed with fashion, however I do love pop culture and keep abreast of the zeitgeist and that feeds into various different areas, all of which I then get to write about.
NakedPRGirl: How has digital changed your industry and what do you think the future of journalism will look like?
Caroline Corcoran: It’s changed it beyond recognition and because of that, I don’t think any of us know what the next wave will involve and what the hell the future will look like either. But I’m relaxed about it. It will exist, in some form, because people love reading stories and good writing. It means for us that the industry will still be there too, we’ve just got to be open to how it adapts.
NakedPRGirl: I spotted you also write books, how did the one, for example on Beyonce come about? What’s the next one you’re working on?
Caroline Corcoran: Yes, I’ve written three celebrity biographies, commissioned in much the same way as a feature, through contacts who thought I would be the right person to write them. And the process was similar to writing a feature too really, doing your research, crafting your structure and plan, then writing them. Just A LOT longer! And excitingly arrives with its own cover.
The latest one is very different though – I have just finished my first novel, Through The Wall which I’ve been writing for the last two years.
NakedPRGirl: What’s your favourite social media channel?
Caroline Corcoran: Everyone around me loves Instagram but I panic about privacy and I don’t share personal pictures online so it’s not the one for me… know it’s not cool and it’s very over but I’m a news/ good writing junkie and I love Twitter for the many links it gives me. It’s nice and quiet now from people’s opinions because no-one posts on there any more so now, I just happily pick up lots of great links and read some interesting stuff.
NakedPRGirl: Do you ever get bad feedback from opinion pieces, and how do you deal with that?
Caroline Corcoran: Oh yes! I’ve had the odd Twitter spat with celebrities and I don’t deal with it well, to be honest and would feel terrible if anything I wrote upset anybody which is why I don’t tackle particularly controversial issues and have shied away from more contentious opinion writing. I hugely admire people who do it – they just have thicker skins than me.
NakedPRGirl: Do you think of your role as part marketer?
Caroline Corcoran: Yes, in fact these days I do a lot of copywriting as well as journalism and sometimes – often – the two cross over.
NakedPRGirl: How do you structure your working day?
Caroline Corcoran: Hmm, often I have a really odd working day structure because a lot of my work is now done in toddler naps and evenings, as I have a one year-old. But on my full work days, I tend to write for deadlines in the mornings and do ideas/ research for more ongoing pieces in the afternoon when I need a change. Then I often finish writing in the evening. Everything feels a lot calmer when people aren’t pinging over quite so many emails so I’ve always loved writing then.
NakedPRGirl: Do you have any advice for aspiring journalists?
Caroline Corcoran: Be open to change. The industry is evolving constantly and if you are determined that you’ll only write XYZ you aren’t (unless you are a real exception) going to be able to make a living. I often juggle the pieces/ projects that I want to do that don’t make much money with other less glamorous work that does.
NakedPRGirl: I love your Nice Stuff People Said section on your website (some really lovely comments), how important is networking to you? Who inspires you to spend time with?
Caroline Corcoran: I’ve always been rubbish at networking for networking’s sake but handily I’ve just met some really lovely people in this industry who I’ve wanted to hang out with and who have become great contacts. There is a certain sense of humour, buzz and a certain camaraderie in the industry that is pretty special and hanging out with other journalists always, always results in belly laughs and big ideas.
NakedPRGirl: What’s your style? Any wardrobe staples?
Caroline Corcoran: Very different to when I worked in an office! When you work from home there are a lot of Hush luxe joggers going on. But when I do venture out, I am a big advocate of jumpsuits and a really good trouser silhouette with a wide leg and fitted tucked in tops. I love & Other Stories, Zara, the aforementioned Hush and of course H&M.
NakedPRGirl: Are there any brands/people or magazines you’d love to work with?
Caroline Corcoran: I’ve been lucky enough to work for a lot of the ones that were on my list. I think the industry has changed so much that now those ‘dream’ jobs and places don’t exist in the same way and so now I feel much more open to where things go. A lot of my favourite websites didn’t exist a few years ago and I’m always open to new places and new ideas.
NakedPRGirl: What’s your strategy for the future? Where would you like to be in ten years time?
Caroline Corcoran: If this novel goes well, I would like to write books. And maybe scripts. Writing’s a pretty adaptable skill and I’m not wedded to only doing it in one field. But mostly I’m not a planner, I just roll with it and as long as I get to write in some form for a living, I feel pretty lucky with that.
2019 Update! Since this interview Caroline’s debut novel has been published. I caught up with her to ask her all about Through The Wall.
NakedPRGirl: What can we expect from the book?
Caroline Corcoran: Through The Wall is about two women who live next door to each other but never meet – rather they hear every detail of each other’s lives through the shared wall of their flat, and form preconceptions about one another that turn out to be very far from reality.
It’s a novel about how skewed our impressions of others can get when we’re living our complicated and divergent thirties. It’s about loneliness, envy (in all of its ugliness) and desperately wanting something that you don’t have. Harriet is a party girl, Lexie watches TV repeats in her pyjamas while eating biscuits but both are heartbroken and lost, one missing a man and one missing the baby she can’t conceive.
They take small pieces of information that they learn about each other and use them to write their own inaccurate stories about one another, convincing themselves that their neighbour’s life is perfect.
In real life Harriet and Lexie don’t interact, but alone at home, their minds wander and they fixate on each other in ways that are unhealthy and dangerous. But it’s when one of them decides to take their obsession into the real world that things really take a dark turn. I hope that it will have people gripped, as well as being quite an emotional read. There’s also a bit of dark humour in there too.
NakedPRGirl: How did the idea come about?
Caroline Corcoran: I used to live in a flat in London where I could hear my neighbour’s life but we never met. It just got me thinking about the anonymity of cities and how the way we interact with each other has changed so much. I also find the way we use social media and what it’s doing to our minds fascinating, so that was a key theme too.
NakedPRGirl: Can we expect a follow up book?
Caroline Corcoran: Yes! I’m writing it at the moment and it will be out in 2020. It’s not a follow up but a completely new book and I’m excited about it.
Buy Caroline’s first novel Through The Wall. The link below is an affiliate link so if you purchase the book below I receive a small percentage of the sale.