Joanna Trollope, queen of the so-called “Aga saga”, makes two statements within the first few minutes of our meeting that swiftly debunk any myth that she is a cosy, cosseted home-counties figure.

The first is that she has just travelled from her home in Kensington, west London, to our interview in north London by bus in the pouring rain. At 73, no one would have accused her of being a diva had her publicist organised a car. “I absolutely adore public transport,” she coos, shaking off her coat. “It’s fascinating watching people and what they give away about themselves.”

The second is that she is a big admirer of Cheryl, the pop princess and former X Factor judge who started life on a Newcastle council estate. “I think Cheryl has done astoundingly well, and all by her own efforts. Remarkable. I don’t think much of celebrity culture, but Cheryl is a very positive example to young girls of how, with grit and hard work, you can turn things around.”

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