One of my favorite books is Mad Girl’s Love Song by Andrew Wilson; so I decided, why not interview him? Since he also has a new book coming out-today in fact-I also have asked him some questions about his Alexander McQueen biography. (Click here to buy.) Also, don’t forget to visit the Savage Beauty exhibition-to do with McQueen-at the V&A:
Hello Andrew, thank you for agreeing to this interview. When growing up, did you ever think you would want to be a writer ?
Yes I always wanted to write, since a child. I wrote stories and made little newspapers full of local news.
Do you have any other experience-such as in journalism?
After an English degree at King’s, London, I did a year MA in journalism at City University in London. Then I got a job in magazines and then worked on staff for a few years before I went freelance, writing for everything from the Face to the Sunday Times to the Independent to the Mail. My first book was Beautiful Shadow: A Life of Patricia Highsmith – and since then I’ve written biographies of Harold Robbins, the survivors of the Titanic, Mad Girl’s Love Song: Sylvia Plath and Life Before Ted and a novel, The Lying Tongue.
Could you please take us through your average working day ?
It depends what kind of day it is – whether it’s writing, interviewing, researching or reading. All this depends on which stage I am at and what I am writing. I also still write journalism so I could be interviewing a writer or an actor. If I am writing I like to do about 1,000 words a day – all depending on the deadline.
Did anything specifically give you the idea to write a book about Sylvia Plath, prior to life with Ted Hughes ?
Basically very little had been done on this. Most books rushed the early life to get to the meeting of Sylvia and Ted. And I also came across a huge amount of new, unpublished material and tracked down friends and lovers who had never spoken before.
How did you begin to research the fundamental basis of the manuscript?
I spent a couple of months in America at the two big Plath archives – one at Smith College and the other in Bloomington, Indiana. At the same time I started to track down people who had known Plath.
Out of all her poetry, do you have a favourite poem ?
Mad Girl’s Love Song – after which I named the book.
Did you come across any surprising material about her ?
A great deal. I like to think I banished the myth of Sylvia as a victim. She was much more knowing and intelligent and, at times, manipulative than that. Also her mental illness started at a young she but wen undiagnosed.
At any time, did your impression/initial judgment of Sylvia change ?
It changed a lot – often several times during the course of one day. That is the difficult aspect of biography – you have to try and represent a person in all their complexity, with often contradictory impulses and desires.
This week you have a new book out ,about Alexander McQueen. Congratulations! What was the inspiration behind the book ?
I started work on a year before the announcement of the V&A’s show Savage Beauty which opens in March. I had always been intrigued by him as a designer and stager of shows that became art installations. I suspected his story would be a complex one which many layers and secrets, hopefully which I’ve teased out. Again I hope to have represented him in all his complexity.
Have you ever worn any of his designs ?
Only the odd T-shirt – some of his clothes are out of my price range! But that is not to say I don’t admire them.
Like Sylvia Plath, would you subscribe to the view that he was possibly a tortured artist ?
Definitely. He was driven by a dark vision.
How would describe McQueen in five words ?
Vulnerable, insecure, gifted, visionary, honest.
How long did the book take to write ?
Two years and this was almost solid work. So I didn’t do much other work during this time.
Are there any other books you have planned, to do with designers -such as Chanel ?
Not at the moment.
For anyone wishing to follow in your footsteps, do you have any tips ?
Follow your instincts, ask questions, work hard. Don’t be put off.
And one random question: do you like pizza ?
Don’t forget to buy Alexander McQueen by Andrew Wilson (click here.) Also, don’t forget to buy Mad Girl’s Love Song (click here.) And finally, don’t forget to book your tickets for The Savage Beauty Exhibition (click here to book.)