We had a real treat in Abingdon last night. Around 200 of us spent an evening in the company of best-selling author Joanna Trollope in the superb surroundings of the hall of the School of St Helen & St Katharine. This was the first event organised by our local indie bookshop Mostly Books (link on the sidebar) under the ‘Mostly Booklovers’ banner, and it went brilliantly.
Joanna came on to warm applause, looking very chic-casual, and proceeded to tell us all about the research for her latest book Friday Nights (currently no 1 in the paperback charts). The novel is about a group of six women, of differing ages and situations, but all needing support and friendship which they get from each other on Friday nights. The group dynamic is threatened however when a man is introduced into the mix. Joanna talked about how in modern times, with so many people living alone away from family, that groups of friends tend to take place of family. This was her starting point for the novel.
She also told us about the great fun she had doing the research. One of the women, a 22yr old, wants to be a DJ, so Joanna had to investigate the Club scene. She went to dingy record shops, met a great female DJ, and got an intro into a Club in West London, where the noise inhabits your body and top DJs can keep the dance floor full all night. It was a real eye-opener, and although this glamorous grannie was ostensibly out of place, she said all the young people she met were great and keen to help her understand what it was like. More research was needed for the relationship between the new man, Jackson, and Paula’s eight year old son Toby – they go to a soccer match together. So off Joanna went to Stamford Bridge, and experienced more different noise and emotions, it was good to let go and cheer and shout with the crowd.
She then read a section from the book’s first chapter before taking questions from the audience. These were varied and her answers were illustrated by quotations and comparisons from all over the place, including Trollope himself of course, and his friendship with Tolstoy, as well as many others. She spoke about needing dilemma rather than unhappiness to drive a novel, and how she comes up with ideas – some ferment for years like The Rector’s Wife, and others like Friday Nights are ‘zeitgeisty’ and more immediate. She also spoke about the all the different people she met researching her novel about twins given up for adoption, and the need to know where you come from. This answer showed us the great depth of her understanding and sympathy for them out of which came Brother and Sister.
She was witty, perceptive, erudite and a marvellously entertaining speaker, and happily signed books for ages afterwards for all who queued. She graciously let me take this picture for the blog too – thank you Joanna. Friday Nights has been promoted to the top of my bedside TBR pile. I’m looking forward to reading it immensely.