Q&A with author of 'Under Another Sky' Charlotte Higgins
How does it feel to reach the longlist for the Samuel Johnson Prize?
I'm delighted, surprised and honoured to have been chosen by such a distinguished panel of judges and alongside such extraordinary fellow authors.
What research did you do for writing your book?
The book was four years in the making. The research was twofold: intense stints in the British Library and the Institute of Classical Studies Library in London; and long periods in the field. I spent two summers on the road in an old VW campervan seeking out Roman remains from Perthshire to Penzance. And there were lots of walking trips, journeys by train and weekends away that I managed to transform into research trips. All of that was incredibly pleasurable. I felt as if I was discovering Britain afresh, through the lens of its Roman history.
How do you feel about the status/ popularity of non-fiction books in general?
Looking at the other works on the longlist, it seems clear that we shouldn't be worried about the state of non-fiction. What an incredible range of books - from bees to Jewish history and from D'Annunzio to Diana Vreeland.
What is your favourite non-fiction book and why?
Horrendous question. It would have to be Herodotus's Histories for its humour, sweep and bold embrace of so many areas of human endeavour (and frailty).
What are you working on next?
At the moment, my job at the Guardian is getting all my attention, but I hope to have another book on the go soon.
Charlotte Higgins is the author of longlisted book Under Another Sky (Jonathan Cape)