Picks and Pans Review: Talking With...

updated 11/06/1995 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/06/1995 AT 01:00 AM EST

>Joanna Trollope

LITERARY LEGACY

When the youngest of her four children was 3, Joanna Trollope started writing. "And it only took me 20 years to become an overnight success," says the author of The Rector's Wife and now The Choir (Random House, $22), a sharply etched chronicle of power struggles in an English cathedral town. The writer, a "fifth great-niece" of Anthony Trollope, the esteemed 19th-century novelist, lives in a Cotswold village near Oxford (she won't reveal its name because fans have been turning up in disquieting numbers) with her playwright husband, Ian Curteis, two dogs, two cats, seven hens and a cockerel.

The settings for her novels are no less bucolic. "One reason for choosing the provinces and small, rural communities is that they're so dramatic from a novelist's point of view," says Trollope. "Any incident that's slightly out of the norm is more pronounced and has so much more visibility. It's like a skyscraper in the desert."

Trollope is not the least put off by comparisons to her celebrated ancestor. "It's inevitable," she says. "We both look behind the facade of the church, but it's more accurate to say that our concerns are the psychology of the human dilemma, the map of the human heart."

Trollope has just finished her next novel, which is set on a dairy farm. The author is no doubt bracing for more comparisons—and more tour buses. Her neighbors, however, show no signs of being bothered by the celebrity in their midst. "They all read The Rector's Wife and saw the television adaptation, but they would never talk about it," says Trollope with a laugh. "This is England, you know."

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