Joanna Trollope was born in her grandfather's rectory in the Cotswolds in December 1943, and although her actual childhood was spent in the Midlands and in Surrey, she always felt that her real "home" was her birthplace. 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 is the eldest of three, the mother of two daughters and the stepmother of two stepsons and now a grandmother. She once saw a car sticker in the States. It read: If Id known how wonderful grandchildren were going to be, Id have had them first.
Joanna admits that her school days, in Surrey, were really not a happy time and, in fact, she 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 tiny scholarship to Oxford, Joanna went on to a spell in 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 Britannias 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 five more contemporary novels: The Men and the Girls, A Spanish Lover, The Best of Friends, Next of Kin, Other Peoples Children, Marrying the Mistress, Girl from the South and Brother and Sister. All of these have attracted considerable critical acclaim as well as commercial success. Joanna was appointed the OBE in the 1996 Queens Birthday Honours List for services to literature.
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 six particular charities . At present she is the Patron of the March Foundation; Patron of for Dementia. Joanna also supports RNIB especially the Right to Read Campaign; the Meningitis Trust; Macmillan Nurses, Breast Cancer Care and the Gloucestershire Community Foundation.
When asked to comment on who, or what, has been the greatest influence on her writing Joannas 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". Experience is dearly bought, heaven knows, but goodness, it is worth it. To write means, for me, that I have absolutely come home - it's not just a job and a career but what I am, too. This doesn't mean it isn't hard - of course it is, as everything really worthwhile always is - but it gives me a satisfaction that nothing outside important personal relationships give.
Joanna Trollope has been married twice and now lives alone and divides her time between London and Oxford. Women friends have always been a vital part of Joannas life. She maintains the core group of friends that she has had for the past thirty years, and writing has also brought her many friends in the world of writing. When she considers what has happened to her career in the last ten years, she often thinks, as her friend Jilly Cooper once said, Youd believe it, wouldnt you, if it happened to someone else.
This biography was last updated on 06/13/2006.
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