With 34 novels, five short story collections, five full-length stage plays and numerous TV dramas under her belt, the fruits of a career spanning five decades, Fay Weldon CBE, is a British institution. Ahead of the release of her new book, Mischief, an anthology of her extensive list of short stories, the original feminist tells us what she’s learned…
ELLE: What would you tell your younger self?
Fay Weldon: Nothing ever turns out as well as you hope, or as badly as you fear. Take heart!
ELLE: What have you gotten wrong?
FW: Not writing more episodes of Upstairs Downstairs.
ELLE: What was your best decision?
FW: When I tucked my three-year-old under my arm and ran away from my first husband in the middle of the night.
ELLE: What was your worst mistake?
FW: In 1947, when I was sixteen, and hoping to get to Oxford to do classics, I was the only member of the Upper Sixth in my new school not to be elected as a prefect. So I decided to leave school and enrol as a nurse at a hospital. The Matron just laughed. ‘You’re too young. Go back to school and try to be doctor.’ I did, but found science classes so difficult I never got to be a doctor, let alone go to Oxford. Moral: make yourself popular.
ELLE: What did you get wrong about feminism?
FW: We hoped to bring about a world in which a daughter would be as welcome as a son – and in the UK we almost have. But victory was at a cost: one male wage is now no longer enough to keep a family – so both must earn. We feminist revolutionaries were young, healthy, energetic, middle-class, and longed to go out to work. We thought we spoke for all women when we didn’t.
Fay's new book Mischief, an anthology of her short stories with a new sci-fi novella, The Ted Dreams, is published by Head of Zeus and available to buy now £16.99.