Who was Claudia Faraday?


twitter-countrysideI’ve been asked this question a lot recently.

Was she Mrs Dalloway? (a fictional character)

Was she the Duchess of Hertfordshire? (is there such a person?)

Was she the Queen’s long-lost second cousin thrice removed? (No)

She was not aristocracy, that’s all I’m saying.

I also promised to guard her identity with my life. (more or less)






When your characters run away from you

In life I’m a bit of a control freak, but when it comes to creating characters in fiction I don’t seem to be able to have any kind of power over anything they do.

Controlling your characters.jpg
(sketch by Anna de Polnay)

This is annoying for a dyed-in-the-wool planner. As an example in my current oeuvre my central character – a woman in her forties whose husband, who was a spy in WW1, died under mysterious circumstances – has just decided that rather than accepting an invitation to visit Lady Ottoline Morrell in her mansion in Garsington (both of which I have researched industriously) she is going to embark on a quest to find out exactly how her husband died.

This not only alters the trajectory of my book, it threatens to turn what was meant to be a cheerful memoir of a free-thinking woman of the 1920s into a spy thriller. Now I have to down tools and make trips to the Imperial War Museum and read up on what spies did in WW1, mindful of the fact that everything to do with the secret service in the war was by definition secret, which means the answer isn’t going to come easily, if at all. (Though one joyful discovery: it turns out they – both spies and spy-masters – really were known by letters rather than names, as in ‘C’ and ‘R’ and so on.)

Imperial War Museum (2)
Imperial War Museum

How does any writer plan a book so he or she knows what’s going to happen in the end? I guess if you’re writing thrillers, or anything where plot is paramount, it’s easier to manipulate your characters to fit the story; though they are still people, with wills and desires and temperaments and a natural human instinct for disobedience. Or if they’re not they probably won’t be that interesting.

This really all came about as a result of NaNoWriMo (for those not in the know, this is an annual scheme to encourage writers to try to write the best part of a novel in one month, November). When you have to get your 2000 words a day down and you simply don’t have time to go back on things or to change your mind, let alone to research something, you find yourself making decisions on the spot that may come back to haunt you later. Hence the fact that my character married a spy. (Where did that come from?)

Writing books with recalcitrant people in them certainly keeps you on your toes, and it teaches you something else. I know a lot more about WW1 than I ever did, and even a fair bit about spying. Maybe my next book will be a spy novel.

Imperial War Museum Somerset Maugham
Did you know Somerset Maugham was a spy in WW1? (photo in Imperial War Museum)

Exercises in marketing

You’ve written your book, rewritten it, rewritten it, had it edited, cover designed, beautifully produced and published, it looks gorgeous. Nobody is buying it.

Neglected book with border
Sketch by Anna de Polnay

I have been self publishing since 2012 (only 3 books so far) but surprisingly maybe I’ve never before had to find a marketing stategy, perhaps because my first two books are non fiction.

I have however read everything there is to know about marketing, becoming an entrepreneur, building a platform, creating your brand and all those other ghastly business-oriented terms. I have also discovered some useful things, such as:

  • Marketing that works for one author doesn’t necessarily work for another.
  • Marketing that works for one kind of book doesn’t always work for another.
  • Non fiction is easier to market than fiction.
  • Above all it’s vital to find a strategy that you are comfortable with. If you are physically unable to accost people in the street or tell everyone you come upon from bus drivers to checkout people about your book (as am I), then don’t. Think of something else.
  • Try and make it fun.

To this end I am for the first time trying some online promotion sites for my 1920s novel The Unlikely Adventures of Claudia Faradaybeginning tomorrow, December 19. I’ll be blogging about my progress.

Patsy Trench


Sex and the older woman

An interview with the author.

Q:       So – sex and the older woman, is that what Claudia Faraday is about?

A:         Partly, yes.

Q:         And is this her?

Mimi wedding cropped

A:        No, this is my great grandmother. She’s of an era, you could say.

Q:     So the book is taken from Claudia’s diary, is that right? How did it come about?

A:      Through Claudia’s great granddaughter, who I met through a mutual friend. She arrived on my doorstep one day with this diary she’d discovered in the attic of the family home she was clearing. It was her idea I look through it and see if I thought it might be publishable. Once I’d got the hang of the tiny writing and the weird and wonderful way Claudia skirted round the more intimately personal stuff I couldn’t put it down.

Q:      Claudia Faraday is not her real name. Why did you change it?

A:      On request, to protect her reputation.

Q:      So the contents of the diary were pretty salacious.

A:     Slightly scandalous, is how I’d put it. It’s about a middle-aged mother of three discovering the joys of sex for the first time, and how that changes her view of the world.

Q:      Would you describe it as erotica?

A:     If people are looking for erotica they will be disappointed. It isn’t Fifty Shades of Grey, it isn’t even Fifteen. But it is a bit naughty, yes.

This is a woman who was brought up in Victorian times – long skirts, corsets, tidy hair and impeccable behaviour – when sex was considered a duty rather than a pleasure, and only for married women, of course. There were plenty of women like Claudia, who never discovered that sex could be fun, and joyful, and fulfilling. Who’d never heard of the clitoris let alone known what it could do. Marie Stopes was just emerging onto the scene with her book Married Love where she made the shocking assertion that there was nothing wrong with indulging in sex for pleasure, not just for procreation. That is what is so intriguing about Claudia’s story.

Marie Stopes.jpg
But what’s equally if not more fascinating is having experienced her first sexual orgasm and discovered, in a rather unlikely way, that sex was not just lying back and thinking of England, Claudia’s life takes on a whole new meaning. Not only does she see things more clearly – literally – but it jolts her out of the semi-torpor that her life has become now her daughters have left home and she’s on her own with a husband working overseas. So she discovers things about herself, and her friends, she was unaware of.

Q:     So if Claudia’s husband is overseas that implies her sexual awakening is not at his hands, so to speak. Does that mean her marriage is over?

A:      You’ll have to read the book to find out.

Q:      You make references to Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway – why is that?

A:      For fun. As I was reading the diary I kept thinking of Mrs Dalloway, who was of a similar age to Claudia. I had to do a certain amount of background research into the 1920s while I was writing the book, so I embedded references to some of the books and films of that period such as Mrs Dalloway and Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Evelyn Waugh’s Vile Bodies, etc. etc.

Q:      What about Noel Coward? Did he appear in the diary?

A:      No, I made that up.

Q:      How much of it did you make up?

A:     As I said a lot of Claudia’s writing was elliptical, she referred to events and people in a roundabout way which made me wonder whether, even if she wasn’t deliberately writing for publication, she was aware people mind find her diary and at least read it, if not publish it. For example, the ‘inciting episode’ that sets the whole thing off: the surprise visit by a stranger – I could show you what she actually wrote, and you’d be hard-pressed to really know what happened. It’s only as the rest of her story unravels that I was able to figure out what went on between the two of them.

Q:      I’m curious to know more about Gabriel, the ‘messenger’. Is that why you called him Gabriel?

A:      Absolutely. Because that is what he is. The stranger who arrives out of the blue, delivers his dynamic message and goes again, never to reappear. Just as Gabriel did with the Virgin Mary. A lofty comparison, I realise, but it fits. Except he doesn’t make Claudia pregnant. That would be a miracle too far.

Q:      But who is he exactly? Is he really a colleague of her husband’s? In which case, did he send him? Or is he a kind of mythical figure?

A:      That is a very good question: who exactly is Gabriel and why would he do to Claudia what he did? The best answer I can come up with is he’s whoever you think he is. He is the catalyst, the instigator, the one who turns Claudia’s life around without becoming a part of that life. The basic plot is a familiar one: the stranger who arrives out of the blue and changes people’s lives. He’s the Inspector in An Inspector Calls – did he really exist? Or did he emerge from the family’s conscience?

Q:      How easy is it to write about over-age sex?

A:      ‘Over-age sex’, I like that! It’s no different to writing about any-age sex. If a woman – and a man – still have a sex drive in their fifties, or older, then what’s wrong with writing about it? I’ve used a wee bit of irony, because it’s taken Claudia so long to discover the fun in it. The whole book is a light-hearted take on sex in the 1920s, you could say.

FINAL ebook red lips

Available as ebook and paperback from
Amazon, Kobo, Nook, Barnes & NobleApple
and Booktopia (Aus)


NaNoWriMo 2

It is now nearing the end of the NaNoWri month, and no doubt many clever and tremendously hard-working writers out there are about to complete and submit their 50,000 words.

I am not one of them, though at around 33,000, which is maybe half a novel, I’m feeling relatively pleased with myself.


Has it been worthwhile?


Partly for the reasons explained in my last blog, and partly because

  • there have been many times I’ve come to a complete halt and while I would normally have shoved what I’ve done into a bottom drawer (figurately) to get back to later (or not), on this occasion I have ploughed on.
  • there’ve been several times I’ve needed to research something – WW1, the Suffragists, spying in the 19th century – but rather than nipping out to spend several hours or days in a library I’ve done a quick flip through my history books (and yes, Google) and ploughed on. Research and adjustment can come later.
  • not allowing myself to go back on stuff means I’m not getting as sick of re-reading my own writing as I usually am.

Will the end result constitute a viable novel? Maybe, maybe not. Once it’s done, all 70,000 or so words of it, that’s the time for the bottom drawer.

CONGRATULATIONS to everyone who has kept at it throughout the month, whether or not you’ve achieved your 50,000 words. As the NaNoWriMo website keeps telling us: WE ARE AMAZING.


The Unlikely Adventures of Claudia Faraday

Hidden in an attic for nearly 100 years, the secret diary of Claudia Faraday reveals the mildly scandalous adventures of a respectable 1920s society lady and mother of three, as she discovers for the first time that sex, even at her (slightly) advanced age, can be fun.

(Names have been changed to protect reputations)

Claudia ebook final

Now available as an ebook on amazon.co.uk, amazon.com and amazon.com.auBarnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple iBooks and Inktera

The paperback version will follow soon.