"It's taken me 20 years to be an overnight success. I've been a civil servant and a teacher, but writing has been around from the very beginning. I began with the historical novel, which taught me the actual craft of writing. I've never been one of those novelists who has suffered mountains of rejection slips; with me, Hutchinson said yes at once, but then nothing happened! I eventually turned to writing contemporary fiction. The Rector's Wife catapulted me from nowhere to somewhere; that was when I was about 48. Writing must be the only profession where age isn't a disadvantage.
In my novels there are people making the kind of mistakes that we're all making. This is why I think my books are appealing. This business of personal relationships is common to all of us.
I terribly admire the other Trollope: Anthony. His psychological insight and warmth of heart are admirable qualities for a novelist. Of more modern novelists, the one I admire most is Penelope Fitzgerald: she has the ability to create a single sentence which balloons into a whole landscape.
It's never too late to be a writer. I think people can write fiction too young - you have to go out and live life a bit first.
It's also important to train one's powers of observation, so keeping a mental and imaginative scrapbook is really useful. You have to have extra antennae to be a novelist, and that is something which must be encouraged."