In researching her biography of the artist Gwen John, Sue Roe sifted through hundreds of letters and notebooks, in archives held in Aberystwyth, Paris and New York. From these, she came to know a very different woman from the fragile recluse of popular myth.
We look back on our ancestors and especially our female ancestors or impoverished ancestors from a standpoint of extraordinary privilege. When writing about history we have to overcome that feeling of superiority and change our perceptions.
Chris Arthur struggles with writing his own bio blurb, and criticises the literary bragging that seems to be required, wondering whether he could be more original than the usual claims of ‘award-winning’, ‘critically acclaimed’ and 'internationally recognised.'
The writer gradually learns to believe that even his very dull Midlands upbringing, and the profoundly ‘meh’ life it has spawned, might just contain something worth mining.
Nigel Cliff speaks with James McConnachie about the 19th century 'Shakespeare Riots' in New York, what might be driving his choice of subjects, and the differences between the US and UK publishing industries.
The inspiration here has involved a movement from poetry to prose. This is something that pleases me immensely; one genre fertilising another.
How far does the art of turning ‘true life’ into biography, film or television lead to a dilution of the facts, or a manipulation of the truth, asks Deborah Chancellor. Sometimes the more entertaining the story, the less truthful it may become.