John Haffenden

John Haffenden talks to Fay Weldon

Author and feminist, funny and mordant, Fay Weldon is a compulsively readable anatomist of human relationships in the modern world. ‘Art’, she wrote in a recent article, ‘is invention and distillation mixed’, it is ‘fundamentally subversive’. She has written several highly acclaimed and best-selling novels including Praxis and Puffball, a volume of short stories, Watching Me, Watching You, and plays for both stage and radio (Polaris won her the Giles Cooper Award for radio drama). Her numerous other credits include the first of the TV series Upstairs, Downstairs, the TV adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, and the screenplay of Erica Jong’s Fanny. Before becoming a full-time writer she worked in market research, in journalism (answering problem letters for the Daily Mirror), for the Foreign Office (‘writing propaganda, really’), and then as a talented advertising copywriter for Ogilvy Benson and Mather and other firms, where the slogan ‘Go to work on an egg’ figured among her successful devices.

Brought up in a family of women – grandmother, mother, and sister – she is now married to Ron Weldon, an antiques dealer (‘I consider it a testimony to the extraordinary qualities of both men and women,’ she has said elsewhere, ‘that we are still together – on and off – after twenty years’), and has four sons. She divides her time between a small modernised terrace house in Kentish Town and a country house in Somerset. She is indefatigable and totally professional in her approach to the job of writing, never intimidated by a blank sheet of paper, and amazingly productive. Her career and achievements exemplify her passionate conviction that a woman can achieve independence, self-confidence and self-motivation. ‘As a writer,’ she has said, ‘I can free myself from the need to be liked and appreciated and not disapproved of by men … I think happiness is a secondary goal to self-realisation. I think a liberated woman is a woman who has freedom of choice.’

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