Frances Wilson longlist author interview
Frances Wilson, longlisted author of ‘Burning Man: The Ascent of DH Lawrence’ talks to us about the exciting process of documenting the life of an antihero, alongside why she chose to mirror ‘The Divine Comedy’s’ structure.
What does it feel like to be longlisted?
A wonderful surprise, not least because of the quality of the other longlisted books. Bringing a book out is a terrifying business, and accolades like this mean everything to authors.
How did you come up with the idea to use The Divine Comedy as a structure?
The structure emerged organically. I was writing about Lawrence being lost in the middle of his life, and so the analogy was there from the start. His sense of his life as a pilgrimage from Inferno to Paradise then became more and more apparent in his descriptions of himself, throughout his writing, as rising from the underworld of the mines to the empyrean of America (which he called Paradise). By the time he reached New Mexico, Lawrence had cast himself, like Dante, as a semi-divine figure.
Is it more fun to write about an antihero?
Definitely! I’ve always been drawn to difficult people who don’t ‘fit in’, so Lawrence was the ideal subject. My frustration with him became part of the book, and his insane levels of energy and totally unpredictable responses kept me on my toes throughout.
What are you working on next?
Lawrence leaves a strong taste on the palate, and so I’m changing track completely. I’m now thinking about Muriel Spark in the fifties, when she was also writing literary biographies.