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Joanna Trollope talks to Saga

09 February 2012

To research her novel The Soldier’s Wife, Joanna Trollope braved mud and mayhem with the army. But does she act her age?

Portrait of Joanna Trollope
Joanna Trollope

Most enjoyable part of writing The Soldier’s Wife?

On exercise with a regiment in Northumberland for research. You learn the jargon and jokes; what’s considered a treat, what everybody dreads. I’ve never seen men dirtier or happier.

iPad or writing pad?

Computer for anything businesslike, writing pad for novels. They have to happen manually.

Fan of Valentine’s Day?

I feel sorry for people in the age group pressured by the red-roses romance element.

Your idea of a great date?

The ballet, a proper sparkly occasion at Covent Garden.

Ideal husband material?

There’s no blueprint. If you can go on admiring the person you live with, that’s going to sustain you longer than almost anything.

School swot or tearaway?

Swot. I was the nerdy one in specs and braces. I was grown-up before I did anything naughty…

Something about you we’d never guess?

I have a passion for Elvis. He was so beautiful.

Secret to ageing sensationally?

Work as long as you can. To feel involved is a recipe for feeling life has substance.

Most annoying misconception of you?

Oh, all the ‘Aga saga’, ‘ladylike’ rubbish. I’m weary of it. It’s so patronising. It assumes my readers haven’t got a brain between them.

Football or flower-arranging?

Football. For my book Friday Nights, I went to see Chelsea for research. I was blown away. I go regularly. There’s something primitively releasing about being in the centre of the yelling.

Town or country?

Town. I was a country person for years, then the last of a long line of Labradors went to the great dog basket in the sky. I’ve lived in West London for six years. I like the energy of a big, working city.

Exercised in the past ten years?

I do pilates and walk everywhere. I never take a lift and I walk up escalators. A bit swotty, isn’t it?

Learned any new technology recently?

I’ve got an iPad, iPhone and Kindle. I was in bed last night watching David Attenborough's Frozen Planet on my iPad, thinking, ‘This is magical’.

Two things you do to conceal your age?

Highlights in my hair and veneers on my teeth. Do they count?

Novel you’d enjoy being a character in?

I don’t yearn to be somebody else. I’m very happy in my own life. I have wonderful work, independence, family, friends, good health thus far… Love it.


Joanna, we admire your gumption and unerring ability to put your finger right on the pulse when chronicling the dramas of contemporary life in your novels. For that reason, we reckon you act around 48.

The Soldier’s Wife is published by Doubleday. 


The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.

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