A conversation with author Joanna Trollope


Joanna Trollope is a successful author of popular fiction, having written over twenty-novels including the new release, Unsuitable Match. Amongst her earlier titles are City of Friends, The Rector’s Wife, and A Village Affair. She is associated with several charity organisations and has served as a judge on the panel for several very high profile Literary Awards. Awarded an OBE in the mid-1990s, Joanna Trollope is one of the premier contemporary artists at work in the UK today. We spoke to her about her inspirations, where she likes to go on holiday, and her new book.

Do you have a specific place that you like to write?

I have at last got a study which contains a computer desk and a writing desk – quite separate you notice! Before that, I always wrote my novels on kitchen tables wherever I happened to be.

Have you ever written a book on holiday?

Certainly not! Holidays are time off work and writing is definitely the day job.

Where is your favourite place to holiday in the British Isles, and what do you look for in the perfect holiday home from home?

I couldn’t possibly choose any specific place, having had wonderful holidays all over the British Isles, but there is no doubt that a good holiday home makes all the difference. By good I mean limitless hot water, plenty of comfortable places to sit, excellent reading lights and very good mattresses. Enough bathrooms are a bonus.

I have read that you like to do lots of preparation before each novel. Could you talk us through your typical process?

It isn’t preparation so much as research. Because as all the novels deal with current dilemmas about relationships and situations I have to make sure that I am as accurate as I possibly can be because vast numbers of readers will know much more about this area than I do. So I start with a situation, do between 3-6 months research, which might involve numerous interviews, and then structure the novel and the characters for about a quarter of the novel and I will always plot the end so that I will know where I am going if I don’t yet know how I will get there. This acts as a kind of restraint as I go along but also permits the novel to develop as organically as life does.

Did you meet people who had been through a similar situation to the two families central to your new book – An Unsuitable Match?

Meeting them suggests something incidental! I actually sought out people who were in this position - both parents and grown-up children - and also lawyers in order to be able to define the legal situation precisely. This novel involved very much the same kind of human research that I always undertake – in that it was no different to all those that had preceded it.

How many drafts do you write before you hand a manuscript over to your agent?

I imagine that my editor sees the fifth or sixth draft when I deem it is ready for her discerning gaze. I write in longhand still on the right hand side of an A4 pad and leave the left hand side blank for tinkering, ie editing. And that happens every time I sit down to resume writing. So some passages, particularly in the early stages of a novel, will be edited a minimum of half a dozen times.

How many hours a day do you spend writing when you are in the thick of creating your stories?

Not as many as I used to - I think that might be the result of confidence, and also the result of being older and inevitably writing from a less full tank than I used to, so I suppose nowadays it wouldn’t be more than five or six hours at the most. The days of working for upwards of 12 hours are long gone!

For those unfamiliar with your work, which book would you recommend as a ‘gateway’. And is it your favourite?

My favourite novel is always the one I’ve just finished, largely, I suppose because I am not so – often wearily – familiar with it, but if someone is a novice to my novels, perhaps I would suggest Other People’s children or Daughters-In-Law, but I think you could do worse than start with An Unsuitable Match.

Which books have you read recently that you would recommend?

The two books I have recently read that I would warmly recommend are a non-fiction book by Juliet Gardiner called Joining the Dots, which is a must-read for any woman born before 1960, and a most accomplished first novel by Gail Honeyman called Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine.

Where is your favourite place in the British Isles which is more than 50 miles from your house?

I love holidaying in North Cornwall.

An Unsuitable Match by Joanna Trollope has been published by Pan Macmillan books is available at all good stockists and can be ordered from here

If you're also a fan of author Lucy Diamond, be sure to check out our recent interview with her too!

Posted by Ed on 27th February 2018