It is 16 June 2022, the 100th anniversary of the publication of James Joyce’s Ulysses, which takes place on a single day in 1904.


It is, not quite coincidentally, the 10th anniversary of my first book, The Worst Country in the World, the story of the beginnings of colonial Australia as seen through the eyes of my ancestors, which I published on 16 June 2012. Far be it from me to bracket myself with James Joyce, but there it is. The date was, in my case, quite deliberate.

So in celebration of the anniversary of my first dip into the world of book publishing I am reducing the price of Worst Country to AU$3.99 ($2.99/£2.99) for just one day. Click here:

Enjoy the day, the sunshine, the blooms and the books!

Patsy Trench
London 2022

Booksweeps competition

Images of Violet (illustrations by Anna de Polnay)

Violet is being offered free as part of a competition organised by Booksweeps. It’s free to enter and all you need to do is type in your email address and click the link and presto! you could just be the lucky winner of 52 books of historical and literary fiction, plus a Kindle.

You can also choose an author whose newsletter list you want to join (which is the ultimate purpose of the whole thing). I am in the throes of learning the whole process so if you want to take the journey with me – and I could really do with your company – just click on my name.

The link to the competition is here.

Good luck! And let me know if you win.

Where do you get your ideas?

This is the one question that writers allegedly dread being asked. But as a writer myself, and a reader, it’s the question I would most like to know of another writer.

Some authors are inspired by a place, or a period in history, some by personal experience, others by a real event read about in a newspaper (or these days on social media). As for me, my ideas always begin with people.

The first book in my Modern Women series, The Awakening of Claudia Faraday, featured a 50-something society lady and mother of three whose moribund life is revitalised by her discovery of the joy of sex. The idea sprang from a short story which in itself was partly inspired by Ian McEwan’s On Chesil Beach, in which a young couple’s married life is ruined on the first night of their marriage by the bride’s deep-rooted fear of sex.

Well now, I thought, isn’t that a common experience? Not all sex entails couples panting up against a wall, or groaning and writhing in a rumpled bed. Sex, particularly for women in the past, was not necessarily regarded or expected to be either joyful or particularly fulfilling. Sex was for procreation only. We have our forefathers (and –mothers) to thank for that.

When I expanded my short story into a full-length novel I decided to set it in the Roaring Twenties, a time of revolutionary change for women: off with the corsets and the inhibitions, in with bohemianism, free sex and Marie Stopes. It was Ms Stopes who first posited (in her book Married Love) the idea that sex could be fun for its own sake and not just for the continuation of the species; who actually mentioned the c-word in print (not that c-word). In my book it was the discovery of the outlandish idea that sex did not necessarily mean lying back and thinking of England that opened Claudia’s eyes to the changing world around her, which in turn led her to realise life can begin at fifty.

Marie Stopes’ groundbreaking book

Then, since one thing inevitably leads to another, subsequent books in my Modern Women series featured women who’d appeared in the previous book. So Prudence, Claudia’s free-wheeling best friend, became the subject of book two, The Purpose of Prudence de Vere; and Violet, Prudence’s unhappy suffragist friend, the subject of book three, The Makings of Violet Frogg and again of book four, Mrs Morphett’s Macaroons.

As I immersed myself first in the Roaring Twenties and then in the Victorian and Edwardian periods – the books went backwards chronologically – I became more and more intrigued by the role of women in those societies. The series title ‘Modern Women’ only occurred to me some way down the line, as I realised Claudia, Prudence and Violet – and indeed Merry and Gaye, two actresses who feature in my later books – were all in their different ways bucking the trend of the worlds in which they lived. They were not campaigning feminists like Mary Wollstonecraft or Emmeline Pankhurst. But they managed, in their different ways, to find the means to live their lives as they wanted irrespective of what was expected of them; whether that meant partying with bisexuals in a flat in Parsons Green (Claudia), or proposing marriage to John Maynard Keynes (Prudence), or breaking away from an unhappy marriage to join the suffragist movement and work for a living (Violet).

Quiet revolutionaries all.

A day in the life (of a writer)

‘The only reason people write is because they are not wonderful men’
Anthony J Carson

Why do so many people want to become writers?

I’ve asked this question of my fellow scribes and the answer inevitably is ‘I have something important I want to say’.

I’m not sure I would respond quite like that. I’m not at all sure I write about ‘important’ themes. I began writing books at a time when I was out of work and looking for something to do, something that did not involve waiting for someone else to give me a job, for instance.

I also needed to be creative. As a one-time actress, which I used to be back in the dark ages, it was fun more than anything to spend one’s time being someone else, to live in a world created by another person. To wear different hair, different clothes – often from a different period – walk differently, behave differently, to be for the time being cleverer, wittier, sexier and altogether more interesting than I really am.

Acting is creative, of course, but it is interpretive. The real power lies with the writer. As a scriptwriter, which I also once was, you are part of a collaborative team involving actors, directors, producers, script editors and all sorts; and among them all – as Robbie, the playwright protagonist of my latest book Mrs Morphett’s Macaroons realises – your baby, your precious creation, no longer belongs to you.

But the author, the novelist, owns her baby from start to finish. A publisher and an editor can cast an eye over it and, hopefully, improve on it. But the baby is still essentially the writer’s, for good or ill.

But are all writers ‘not wonderful’? And who was Anthony J Carson anyway? (I made a note of that quote, and several others about writers, many years ago, and now I cannot find the context.)

Sketch by Anna de Polnay

In my case, just as I became an actress because I did not think I was particularly wonderful as a person, so I suppose I became a writer because in life I am not particularly articulate. I experience all too many ‘esprits d’escaliers’ – the spirit of the stairs – when what you really wanted to say only comes to you when you’re halfway up the stairs and out of the room.

The other reason, in my case and I suspect in the case of many novelists, is the sheer joy of inventing characters. Characters are the driving force behind all my books, both the ones I write and the ones I read. I love them all, even the monsters. I love the way they surprise me, and occasionally frustrate me when they won’t do what I intended them to do. There’s no esprit d’escaliers with my characters, or if there is there’s a good reason for it. I may not be a wonderful person, or even a wonderful writer. But on the page I can indulge in a world filled with people I have never known in a world that, for the duration of the book at least, is altogether more immediate, more exciting and infinitely more joyous than the one I actually live in. (Particularly right now.)

Do I speak for other writers when I say all this? I’d love to know.

The end of another tiring day

Don’t put your daughter on the stage …

… Mrs Worthington’, wrote Noel Coward.

I spent the first twenty odd years of my life as an actress, with mixed success. Since giving up acting theatre has remained one way of another a driving force of my working life; initially as a scriptwriter, a playscout and script editor, and latterly a teacher and lecturer in theatre. So it is not surprising to find the theatre world creeping into my novels.

The writer as Clea in Peter Schaffer’s Black Comedy, Melbourne & Sydney, Australia

It began with the actress Mrs Patrick Campbell, who appeared without notice in book two of my Modern Women series, The Purpose of Prudence de Vere. (I say without notice because her presence was not exactly planned; she just emerged, as characters – real or imaginary – tend to do in novels.) The theatre played an even bigger role so to speak in book three, The Makings of Violet Frogg, when Violet, separated from her husband and looking for a job, found herself working for the famous actor-manager Herbert Beerbohm Tree. It’s no wonder then that book four, Mrs Morphett’s Macaroons, is all about the theatre.

Actors are glamorous creatures, are they not? Up there on stage looking glorious, the eyes of an audience of thousands focused on them, the centre of attention wherever they go. What a wonderful life it is to be an actor!

Well, yes but then no.

In the course of my researches into the lives of actors in the past I was intrigued to discover how similar their experiences were in many ways to my own. The struggle to find work; days and weeks spent on tour tramping the streets looking for digs – actors were not welcome in many provincial towns and you don’t have to go that far back to see signs on the windows of boarding houses: ‘No blacks, no Irish, no actors’; agents who promised the earth and then vanished from it; dodgy managers who quietly climbed out of the windows of the theatres at the end of the run without paying their actors; starvation, penury, misery, freezing dressing rooms . . .

I am talking here about the jobbing actor of course, such as Jerome K Jerome, who spent a couple of years trying to be an actor before, wisely, moving on to greener pastures.[1] There’s plenty to be found about the stars, the Henry Irvings and Ellen Terrys and Herbert Trees. The jobbing actor doesn’t tend to get a look-in, either back in Edwardian times or indeed now. And the jobbing, and largely unemployed, actor represents around 80% of the acting profession at any one time.

The characters of Merry and Gaye, who feature briefly in The Makings of Violet Frogg and reappear centre stage in Mrs Morphett, are loosely based on two real-life actresses of the Edwardian period: one of whom was the daughter of society parents and ignorant of the business, the other who was born into it and began performing in music hall as a child.[2] They represent quite different approaches to the profession: one (Merry) has devoted her whole life to becoming an actress, to the extent that she has been disowned by her family; the other (Gaye) goes about her work almost grudgingly, looking for ways of getting out of the business – or at least away from the chorus – but not quite knowing what else she is capable of doing. (Marriage, the obvious solution, is not the answer.)

The one abiding characteristic, which is shared by so many down the years, from Meredith to myself and unknown thousands of others, is the passion, the willingness to sacrifice everything in order to act. Fame is not the prime motivation in most cases, surprisingly. Nor is money. It is something much deeper and harder to define. A need to be the centre of attention, if briefly, maybe. To get into the skin of another person, definitely. (Many if not most actors are shy, believe it or not.) To be able to transform yourself into someone braver, cleverer, funnier, sexier and more interesting than you are: someone created by someone else. That’s much nearer the mark. To think that so many men and women have willingly subjected themselves to humiliation, poverty, starvation, indifference and despair in order to be given the opportunity to play someone else. That is what makes actors so utterly, weirdly, absurdly fascinating.

© Patsy Trench
London, March 2022

This blog post first appeared on

[1] As recorded in his hilarious book On The Stage And Off

[2] Gertrude Kingston & Mrs Charles Calvert, as recorded in their respective memoirs Curtsey While You’re Thinking and Sixty-Eight Years On The Stage

Publication day!

MRS MORPHETT’S MACAROONS is published today.

Available as an ebook and paperback on Amazon. The Book Depository,
Waterstone’s, Barnes & Noble, Booktopia & Angus & Robertson

© Patsy Trench
30 December 2021

The Makings of Violet Frogg

Book one in Entertaining Edwardians series

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players.
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts.

As You Like It, Act II Scene VII

Violet Frogg, the woman with many lives and many names.

Born Frogg to a straitlaced vicar and his wife, at the first opportunity Violet escapes the family home to become Violet Turnip – wife to a civil servant living in four-storey luxury in Bloomsbury.

When that goes awry, Mrs Turnip becomes Mrs Graham, assistant to the acting manager with Herbert Tree’s theatre company. As an independent working woman Violet at last feels content. But life has other plans – another move, another position, another name and yet another identity.

What is Violet escaping from? How hard can it be for a woman to lead an independent life in the last decades of the 19th century?

Available in ebook on Amazon and in print at
Waterstones, Blackwells, The Book Depository, Barnes & Noble and Walmart

The modern lady milliner

An extract from my forthcoming novel ‘Mrs Morphett’s Macaroons’, as performed by the redoubtable duo, Merry and Gaye. With apologies to W S Gilbert (and Sir Arthur Sullivan).

It celebrates the glorious OTT fashion for hats in Edwardian England. (And the fact that one of my characters is a milliner.)

I am the very model of a modern lady milliner,
I own a little hat shop off the Strand – you may have been in there,
My clients are exclusively the cream of our society,
I’m known for my discretion and my taste and my propriety.

I know the latest fashion and I’d say that I’m ahead of it,
You’ll never find a hat that’s out of style, I just get rid of it,
I’ve simple hats and fancy hats with trimmings and with featherers,
I’ve hats for all occasions and for every kind of weatherers.

GAYE: (accompanying the words of the chorus with a strange little bobbing motion)
She’s hats for all occasions and for every kind of weatherers,
She’s hats for all occasions and for every kind of weatherers,
She’s hats for all occasions and for every kind of weather-weather-ers.’

Each model is unique, you will find there’s only one of it,
Fads and mass production, I’ll have absolutely none of it,
No Merry Widow nonsense and no passing whims or silliness,
For I’m the very model of a modern lady millin’ress.

GAYE: (chorus)
No Merry Widow nonsense and no passing whims or silliness,
For she’s the very model of a modern lady millin’ress.

I’ve curly brims and floppy brims and hats completely brimless,
Panamas with ribbons on, irregular or rimless,
I’ve Buckets, I have Cartwheels, I have Gainsboroughs with flowers on,
Tricorns, tam o’shanters, and a cloche with Eiffel Towers on.

Wedding hats and party hats, Derby hats and toques,
I’ve hats from off the shelf, made to measure and bespoke,
I’ve bretons and I’ve turbans, on the straight or asymmetrical,
Berets plain or stripy or with patterns diametrical.

Berets plain or stripy or with patterns diametrical,
Berets plain or stripy or with patterns diametrical,
Berets plain or stripy or with patterns diametri-metrical.

(The tempo of the music slows)

Each bonnet is a statement, every beret tells a story, 
A hat is so much more than just a mere accessosory,
I’ve sober hats and jaunty hats, for fun’rals or festivities,
Hats for servants, mistresses, and maids of all proclivities.

There are hats to make a maiden swoon, hats to dance a reel in,
Picture hats to hide beneath or cloches all-revealing,
Boaters that will guide you in your speech and your behaviour,
Yes, a hat can be your dearest friend, a hat can be your saviour.

GAYE: (chorus)
A hat can be your dearest friend, a hat can be your saviour.
A hat can be your dearest friend, a hat can be your saviour.
A hat can be your dearest friend, a hat can be your saviour-saviour-er.

From the promenades of Paris to the salons of Sofia,
You’ll find my darlings perched on every noble head you see-a,
In halls of fame throughout the world my name is all-familiar,
I am the very model of a modern lady milliner.

GAYE: (chorus)
In halls of fame throughout the world her name is all-familiar,
She is the very model of a modern lady milliner.

(Images from

© Patsy Trench

Becoming a grandmother

My maternal instinct was absent before and during the whole of my pregnancy until my firstborn appeared, at which time it kicked in with a wallop, like a bolt of lightning. This I assumed was nature at work, and at her best. I had no particular preconceptions, literally, I became pregnant initially mostly out of curiosity. I had a freelance career and a life into which a baby did not fit without some upheaval. But it’s not an exaggeration to say I did not feel I had fully lived until that tiny, yelling creature entered my world.

And now I am a grandma.

It’s been a long long wait, during which my daughter spent the best part of her childbearing years with a partner who did not want children and I had all but given up hope. Little Billy (not his real name) entered this world at the end of March 2021, during semi-lockdown. My daughter was 41 at the time and had a completely uneventful pregnancy which was closely monitored, so there were no reasons for worry. But worry is a part of childbirth, far more I discovered when you’re a grandma than a mother. Will it – the gender was unknown until the birth – be okay? Will it develop normally? Fingers, toes, eyes, hearing?

The Burrito (so-called by his mum), aged 2 days

Billy was a largeish baby, delivered a few days early by C-section. For a worrying few weeks he barely opened his eyes. Worrying for the grandma, that is, not for the mother or father. He fed well. He grew, slowly. He began to open his eyes, and then to focus. Then after around three months the first glimmerings of a smile – not always distinguishable from wind, of course. Now he fixes you with an unblinking stare that appears to delve into the depths of your soul. Babies do not blink much, apparently. What is happening inside that small brain heaven only knows, but there is certainly something.

I have been the good grandma and offered support but not advice.

It is not hard to do. If a baby has two parents who love and cherish him as Billy does there is nothing to be advised. My mother would disagree. In her view a baby can be ‘spoiled’ from the moment it emerges from the womb. It can also be bullied, and neglected, and I have no doubt at all which is worse.

And grandma

Noticing things

There are things a grandma gets to notice that she did not as a fraught, sleep-deprived mother. That a baby’s mood begins in the eyebrows. When they begin to quiver that’s the signal for an outburst, and if you’re quick enough you may just be able to distract him away from what’s to come.

Then there are the toes.

In the year or so before a baby begins to use his feet to keep him upright the toes operate much like fingers. And they are all the same size. They grip onto things, like the window sill on which I perched little Billy one day in order to play a riveting game called ‘guess what’s coming down the road next?’ – car, white van, lorry, or bus. His toes were holding onto that sill like his life depended on it. (There was a window between us and the outside world, needless to say.) Now I understand how it is that people who cannot use their fingers manage to do such astonishing things with their toes.

Of course he is beautiful

As are his parents. But what is astonishing is the almost overwhelming feeling of love that has taken over his grandma. His ageing grandma, whose life truly began with childbirth and is now undergoing whole new experiences in her late seventies. What is that about? I am not particularly a baby or small person sort of woman. I don’t go out of my way to chat or play with other people’s little ones, like so many of my friends do. I would never allow myself to rely on a grandchild to transform my life. But this small creature, this small, fierce, occasionally ear-splittingly noisy creature, has taken hold of my heart and is hanging on with his tiny, powerful fingers.

Ain’t nature wonderful?

Patsy Trench
July 2021