Fay Weldon CBE FRSL

English author, essayist and playwrigh Fay Weldon CBE FRSL was born 22 September 1931 in Birmingham, England, to a literary family, with both her maternal grandfather, Edgar Jepson (1863–1938), and her mother Margaret writing novels (the latter under the nom de plume Pearl Bellairs. Weldon spent her early years in Auckland, New Zealand, where her father worked as a doctor. At the age of 14, after her parents’ divorced, she returned to England with her mother and her sister Jane and never saw her father again. While in England she attended South Hampstead High School.She studied psychology and economics at the University of St Andrews, Scotland, but returned to London after giving birth to a son.

Soon afterwards she married her first husband, Ronald Bateman, who was a headmaster 25 years her senior and not the natural father of her child, and moved to Acton, London. She left him after two years, and the marriage ended. In order to support herself and her son, and provide for his education, Weldon started working in the advertising industry. As Head ofcopywriting at one point she was responsible for publicising (but not originating) the phrase “Go to work on an egg”. She once coined the slogan “Vodka gets you drunker quicker”. She said in a Guardian interview “It just seemed … to be obvious that people who wanted to get drunk fast, needed to know this.” Her bosses disagreed and suppressed it. At 29 she met Ron Weldon, a jazz musician and antiques dealer. They married and had three sons, the first of whom was born in 1963. It was during her second pregnancy that Weldon began writing for radio and television. A few years later, in 1967, she published her first novel, The Fat Woman’s Joke. For the next 30 years she built a very successful career, publishing over twenty novels, collections of short stories, films for television, newspaper and magazine articles and becoming a well-known face and voice on theBBC.

In 1971 Weldon wrote the first episode of the landmark television series Upstairs, Downstairs, for which she won a Writers Guildaward for Best British TV Series Script. In 1980 Weldon wrote the screenplay for director/producer John Goldschmidt’s television movieLife for Christine, which told the true story of a 15-year-old girl’s life imprisonment. The film was shown in prime-time on the ITVNetwork by Granada Television. She also wrote the screenplay for the 1980 BBC miniseries adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, starring Elizabeth Garvie and David Rintoul. In 1989, she contributed to the book for the Petula Clark West End musicalSomeone Like You. In a 1998 interview for the Radio Times Weldon claimed that rape “isn’t the worst thing that can happen to a woman if you’re safe, alive and unmarked after the event.” She was roundly condemned by feminists for this assertion.

During her marriage to Ron Weldon, the couple visited therapists regularly. They divorced in 1994, after he left her for his astrological therapist who had told him that the couple’s astrological signs were incompatible. She subsequently married Nick Fox, a poet who is also her manager, with whom she currently lives in Dorset. In 1996, she was a member of the jury at the 46th Berlin International Film Festival . She was also chair of judges for the 1983 Booker Prize. The judging for that prize produced a draw between J. M. Coetzee’s Life & Times of Michael K and Salman Rushdie’s Shame, leaving Weldon to choose between the two. According to Stephen Moss in The Guardian, “Her arm was bent and she chose Rushdie” only to change her mind as the result was being phoned through. In 2000 Weldon became a member of the Church of England and was confirmed in St Paul’s Cathedral, which was perhaps appropriate because she states that she likes to think that she was “converted by St Paul”.

In 2001 Weldon’s novel The Bulgari Connection became notorious for its product placement, naming the jewelers name not only in the title but another 33 times, while 12 times at least was appointed in the £18,000 contract.In 2006 Weldon was appointed Professor of Creative Writing at Brunel University in West London: “A great writer needs a certain personality and a natural talent for language, but there is a great deal that can be taught – how to put words together quickly and efficiently to make a point, how to be graceful and eloquent, how to convey emotion, how to build up tension, and how to create alternative worlds.”In 2012 Weldon was appointed Professor of Creative Writing at Bath Spa University where she shares an office with Professor Maggie Gee. Weldon serves together with Daniel Pipes as the most notable foreign members of the board of the Danish Press Freedom Society (Trykkefrihedsselskabet).

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