John Spurling was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 2010.
I seldom join clubs or societies. I disliked my schools because they constantly threatened my individuality. To set oneself up as a writer is in itself a claim to individuality. But all the living writers I admire are individualists as well as Fellows of the RSL, so I gladly accepted the invitation to join them. My latest book, Arcadian Nights – published last September, was the consequence of buying a house in Arcadia. My schools did at least give me a love of Greek and Roman history and literature and here I was in a place whose people and landscape embodied for me as much history and fiction as present reality. Most of the books re-telling Greek myths are either for children or reference. So mainly for my own enjoyment I set out to tell some of these juicy stories just as stories, with some variations and re-interpretations. At the age of eleven I almost knew Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar by heart – something to be said for school there too – and ever since have been fascinated by the end-game of the Roman Republic. Robert Harris has now completed his trilogy on the subject with Dictator, and I have just devoured it with the same astonished admiration for his style, imagination and narrative drive that I’ve felt for all his other novels.
John Spurling’s most recent novel, The Ten Thousand Things, won the 2015 Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction. Arcadian Nights is published in Britain by Duckworth and will be published in the USA by Overlook in February 2016.