We had the honour of interviewing the incredible Joanna Trollope over email (she’s based in the UK). Her latest book, Mum & Dad is out now, so she’s here to give us some insight into her process and new book.
What was the catalyst for writing Mum & Dad?
The catalyst for Mum & Dad was exactly what it is for all my novels – a contemporary situation and dilemma where social attitudes haven’t caught up with the reality of the way people live. In this case , it is the situation of the Sandwich Generation, whose parents are declining at one end of their lives, and their children are acutely needy and complicated the other, and yet the social attitudes are still those of long ago – that caring for anyone is Womens’ Work, and that men shouldn’t be asked to do anything about their parents or their children. But what this old fashioned attitude ignores is that most women work these days – in fact, they might well be the breadwinner of the family – so they have no time for caring. Add to that the fact that increased longevity, the medical prolongation of healthy pregnancy and the perils of adolescence intensify the possibilities of complexity in any family situation, and I have more than enough to write about!
What one thing do you wish you knew about writing before becoming an author?
I don’t think there is any one thing that would have made all the difference, actually… I was lucky enough to become a fully fledged writer in the old days, those days of hand written manuscripts and gentlemens’ agreements and individual publishing houses – long before the behemoth companies and screens dominated everything [Joanna has been an author for more than thirty years!]. I still firmly think writers are interpreters and translators rather than prophets – we explain the world and its customs to our readers, in just the same way that historical novelists explain the people of the past to the people of the present. We writers are there to entertain, to understand and to empathise – but I am definitely of the school of thinking that we are certainly not there to instruct!
What are the next three books on your to-be-read pile?
The next three books are a real treat.
Which of your books would you recommend for a first time reader and why?
I’d suggest the latest – Mum & Dad to any first time reader. They have to see if they like my style and voice and approach to begin with, and it concerns such a very pressing and contemporary issue to go on with. Then, if they like the former, they can go on to read the backlist [which we’ve handily included below]!