Trollope, great-great-great-great-great-niece of novelist Anthony Trollope (The Pallisers; Barchester Towers), is the first in her family to write since the death of her kinsman in 1882. Usually set in the English countryside, her books begin, she says, "the moment trouble appears."
In The Men and the Girls, an elderly man and woman become friends after he hits her while driving without glasses—bringing chaos to his affair with a younger woman. In A Village Affair, it's the relationship between two women that causes scandal. "Villagers are quite prurient," says Trollope. "They count the socks on a washing line."
Her quirky take on English country life—one reviewer compared her to Jane Austen with a switchblade—has made the former schoolteacher a darling of British readers. Now, with the U.S. publication of The Men and the Girls, Americans will have a chance to see how well she travels.
The daughter of a British army officer, Trollope says her "more radical element" came from her painter mother's bohemian family. As for Anthony Trollope, she says, "I feel he is so great, and I'm just good. But having him somewhere in the family—he's like a sort of benevolent shadow."
Since she began writing in 1974, Trollope has published nine historical novels, six contemporary novels and a study of women in the British Empire. She and her second husband, playwright and screenwriter Ian Curteis, 58, spend their time in a 250-year-old stone millhouse in rural Gloucestershire. They have four grown children from their previous marriages. "I'm living exactly the same life my readers are living," she says, "going to the supermarket, visiting an old aunt in hospital"—and occasionally writing a best-seller or breaking up a burglary.