Working Life: Joanna Trollope

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Joanna Trollope is one of Britain's best-selling novelists. Several of her books have been dramatised on television, and in 1996 she was awarded an OBE. Her latest novel, published next month, is Other People's Children.

"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."