Joanna Trollope Bio:
Born in her grandfather's rectory in the Cotswolds in December 1943, Joanna Trollope has always felt that her birthplace in the Cotswolds was her real "home". Joanna says — “It gave me - still gives me - not just a sense of rootedness, but a capacity to value landscape and weather and the rich life of smallish communities. It wouldn't matter where I lived now, I'd always carry that centred feeling of having come from somewhere very well defined with me.”
Joanna’s family is hugely important to her. She is the eldest of three, the mother of two daughters and the stepmother of two stepsons, and, now, immensely enjoying being a grandmother.
Her school days, in Surrey, were really not a happy time and, in fact, Joanna says that she actually rather dreaded school. She says, “I only started to enjoy education when I got to university. No school can be blamed, however, it was more my childhood and adolescent sense of being an outsider, of not belonging (a very formative sense, I now know, for being a writer) that made me miserable at a time when 99.9% of children long to conform. But, I was very well taught, however, and I think I sensed this, even then.”
After winning a scholarship to Oxford, Joanna joined the Foreign Office and then became a teacher. She began writing 'to fill the long spaces after the children had gone to bed' and for many years combined her writing career with working as a teacher. It was in 1980 that Joanna became a full time author but says: “My first novel was written when I was 14, all about myself, of course (it is now kept under lock and key in case my children find it...) I suppose I wrote it for the same reason that I still write - to communicate. I don't think we should ever underestimate the power of story - story is how we negotiate with each other, how we build up relationships, how we learn. And nothing is so fascinating as good narrative - nobody of any age can resist What Happens Next ...”
Joanna Trollope has been writing for over thirty years: she first wrote a number of historical novels now published under Caroline Harvey, then Britannia’s Daughters - a study of women in the British Empire and more recently, her enormously successful contemporary works of fiction, several of which have been televised. The Choir was her first contemporary novel, followed by A Village Affair and A Passionate Man. The Rector's Wife was her first number one bestseller, and made her into a household name. Since then she has written eleven more contemporary novels: The Men and the Girls, A Spanish Lover, The Best of Friends, Next of Kin, Other People’s Children, Marrying the Mistress, Girl from the South and Brother and Sister, Second Honeymoon, Friday Nights and the newly published, The Other Family.
All of her life Joanna Trollope has had a huge commitment to people. She says, ‘I mind more and more about people, especially vulnerable and disadvantaged ones.’ She devotes a quite considerable amount of time to supporting her particular charities and says, “I’ve found a powerful speech aimed at roomful of men, seems most effective in getting them to reach into their pockets, rather than being photographed with ‘dear disadvantaged children’ For me, it’s no good just being warm-hearted about charity, you have to be practical. If I can persuade people to support a worthwhile cause, then I’ve done a good job.” At present Joanna is the Patron of the March Foundation; Patron of for Dementia and Patron of Mulberry Bush. Joanna also supports RNIB — especially the Right to Read Campaign (Joanna's books and Audio CDs are available from RNIB's National Library Service); the Meningitis Trust; Macmillan Nurses, Breast Cancer Care and the Gloucestershire Community Foundation.
Joanna is one of the judges for the Melissa Nathan Award and she joined the Advisory Board of the Costa Awards in 2008, having chaired the Judging Panel for the 2008 Awards.
When asked to comment on who, or what, has been the greatest influence on her writing — Joanna’s response was: “Simply - just life, I think. At certain stages - I'm sure this is true of everyone - a particular person or book or idea or movie can strike a huge chord, but, looking back, I can see a whole series of influences - personal, educational, social, professional, economic - that have shaped me rather than being able to point to one single colossus and say "It was him, or her". Very few writers who could be said to be prophets, true inventors, What most of us are is inventors, translators. We take the old human truths that Shakespeare and Sophocles described inimitably, and we re-interpret them for our own times, in our own voices, coloured by as it were, our own messages to the world. The pen is there to illuminate, to describe the human condition in contemporary terms, to – in fiction’s case certainly, - describe ourselves better than anything else can – except for the simple struggle of just living life. Writers aren’t there to tell you what to think. They are there to beckon you into a book and join them in the thinking.”
Rachel has always loved being at the centre of her large family. She has fiercely devoted herself to her three sons all their lives,and continues to do so even now they are all grown up. They are, of course, devoted to her – she and Anthony, their father, hold the family together at their big, beautiful, ramshackle house near the wide, bird-haunted coast of Suffolk.
But when Luke, her youngest, gets married, Rachel finds that control is slipping away. Other people seem to be becoming more important to her children than she is, and she can no longer rely on her role as undisputed matriarch. A power struggle develops which can only end in unhappiness; her three daughters-in-law want to do things their own way, and so, to her grief, do her sons...
Joanna, welcome to Romance Author Buzz. How long have you been writing and what was your call story?
Since childhood….which was so long ago that I really can’t remember the answer to the second part of your question!
What are you currently working on?
So sorry, but I can’t ever talk about work in progress…I have a superstition that if I talk about it, I won’t be able to do it any more…
Do you plot your stories or let your characters lead you?
Both. I start with a theme, then make a cast list, then I plot the first quarter of the book or so, and the ending, so I know where I’m going, but I don’t know exactly how I’ll get there.
Of all of your characters, do you have a favorite you identify with and why?
I always love writing about children and teenagers. I like the way that they are full of promise and capacity, but not set in themselves yet, so still open to possibility and change.
What is the best thing about your job as an author? What is the hardest thing?
The best things are being paid to do something I love, and my truly amazing and loyal readers. The harder parts can be the solitude – I get so very sick of myself – and the very necessary but painful vulnerability that comes from working alone.
Describe a day in the life of Joanna Trollope.
Very dull. Very disciplined. Up, shower, dress, tidy house, scribble scribble scribble till mid afternoon, brief collapse, desk for all admin and business, early bed....See? I told you...
Scene you like most and would never cut.
Anything with children or animals in it.
Thing your heroine would never be caught dead doing/saying:
“All I want is to marry a rich man”.
Scene in the book that moved you the most as you wrote it, or made you the most happy?
The scene that touched me most was a little boy called Rufus, in “Other Peoples Children”, learning, to his utter dismay, that the woman he had learned to love as his future stepmother, wasn’t going to marry his father after all….
Have you learned or found any bizarre facts while doing research?
Plenty – but too many to list….Human beings are much odder than people in fiction!
What is one thing in your history that has influenced your writing, whether it’s a character, your work habits, or your favorite plot conflict?
Probably, boringly, my work habits…I wish it was something more glamorous..
The next book!
What are you currently reading?
Ann Patchett’s new novel “State of Wonder” – brilliant.
Before I let you go is there anything I forgot to ask that you want the readers and fans to know?
Only how grateful I am to them – there would be no point in writing without them!
This context is open to US residents only. Thanks to Joanna's publisher you will have an opportunity to win a copy of Daughter's In-Law. Are you a mother in -law? If so what is your relationship with your children's spouse? If you are a daughter in-law, please share your experience with us. This contest will end May 20th. Please be sure and leave your email address so that you can be contacted.