London, 1905. A show. A stuttering romance. Two squabbling actresses.
Is it Shakespeare? Is it Vaudeville?
Not quite. It is Mrs Morphett’s Macaroons, a satirical play about suffragettes which its creators – friends and would-be lovers Robbie Robinson and Violet Graham – are preparing to mount in London’s West End.
It is the play rival actresses Merry and Gaye would kill to be in, if only they hadn’t insulted the producer all those years ago.
For Robbie and Violet however the road to West End glory is not smooth. There are backers to be appeased, actors to be tamed and a theatre to be found; and in the midst of it all a budding romance that risks being undermined by professional differences.
Never mix business with pleasure?
Maybe, maybe not.
– When and where do you prefer to write?
In the morning, at my desk in my living room. I’m at my best (or least worst) in the mornings. I need absolute peace and quiet, no noise. I can work pretty well anywhere so long as there’s no one around. I couldn’t work in a public place.
– Do you have a certain ritual?
I like to get a few thousand words down every day. I try not to go back over stuff as that’s the way to never finish anything. Each morning I begin by editing the work I did the day before. The overnight breathing space is useful. If I get stuck, a walk is the thing to clear the air.
– Is there a drink of some food that keeps you company while you write?
Coffee, of course, and occasionally wine. I used to work in the evenings with a glass of wine by my side, but not any more.
– What is your favourite book?
A very hard question! But I’d say East of Eden by John Steinbeck. He is the master.
– Do you consider writing a different genre in the future?
Quite possibly, but whatever I write has to be character-based. I am more interested in people than in story, both in the books I read and the books I write.
– Do you sometimes base your characters on people you know?
Not consciously! I value my friends too much. Although of course everything a writer writes is based somehow on her personal experience. The exception to the rule is my anthology of short stories Love Is All We Need, much of which is taken from life, and not necessarily my life.
– Do you take a notebook everywhere in order to write down ideas that pop up?
No, though I do make a point of observing things wherever I go. You never know when an idea might pop up – such as the glimpse I had the other day of a couple of guys trying to get a sofa through a doorway that was just too narrow. There could be a story there I thought.
– Which genre do you not like at all?
Horror, and anything with violence in it. I’m not that keen on police stories either – there’s altogether too much of them on our television.
– If you had the chance to co-write a book. Whom would it be with?
That’s a really interesting question. I think I’d choose Christopher Isherwood. Steinbeck might be too intimidating. I would love to learn how Isherwood approaches the writing of his characters, as he is the understated master of characterisation, especially in his book Goodbye to Berlin – ‘I am a camera with its shutter open, quite passive, recording not thinking’ – and Mr Norris Changes Trains.
(I Am A Camera was the title of the stage show that introduced Sally Bowles to the theatre audience and later morphed into the musical Cabaret.)
– If you should travel to a foreign country to do research, which one would you chose and why?
Another really hard question. It would have to be Russia or China, or maybe Syria. A country that is utterly unlike our own. I would love to discover how the people go about their daily lives there, how they view their own country and Western democracies. It would be fun to transpose one of my books to another country to see how much an environment alters people’s behaviours. Or whether people really are the same throughout the world.
Thank you, Patsy Trench and Rachel’s Random Resources
About the author
Patsy Trench has spent her life working in the theatre. She was an actress for twenty years in theatre and television in the UK and Australia. She has written scripts for stage and (TV) screen and co-founded The Children’s Musical Theatre of London, creating original musicals with primary school children. She is the author of three non fiction books about colonial Australia based on her own family history and four novels about women breaking the mould in times past. Mrs Morphett’s Macaroons is book four in her ‘Modern Women: Entertaining Edwardians’ series and is set in the world she knows and loves best. When she is not writing books she teaches theatre part-time and organises theatre trips for overseas students.
She lives in London. She has two children and so far one grandson.
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