Interviews

Five minutes with Barbara Kingsolver

Meet Barbara Kingsolver, our 2010 winner of the Women’s Prize for Fiction and author of the Women’s Prize 2023 longlisted novel, Demon Copperhead. The Guardian has described this novel as a “powerful reimagining of David Copperfield” that “follows one boy’s struggle to survive amid America’s opioid crisis”.

The premise of this book is powerful and unique, so what was the inspiration behind the novel? We grabbed a quick five minutes with each of the authors behind the longlisted books to ask that question and more…

Barbara Kingsolver:

Describe your novel in one sentence as if you were telling a friend.

This is one boy’s journey of survival, but it’s also the story of the impoverished, generationally exploited, heartbreakingly beautiful place where I live, America’s southern Appalachian mountains.

What inspired you to write Demon Copperhead?

If my culture and people show up at all in books, movies, or television, we’re portrayed as ignorant hillbillies. I wanted to represent my home with the respect and compassion it deserves.

Are there any locations that have a special connection for you or your book?

The novel is set where I live, but surprisingly, its inspiration came to me the night I stayed in Charles Dickens’s former home in Broadstairs, UK. I got a clear message to look to David Copperfield for guidance. I began the book that same night.

Which part of the book was the most fun to write? Which was the most challenging?

I loved using David Copperfield as a template, dreaming up modern iterations of Victorian professions, escapades, and even Dickensian character names. And sometimes, that very same enterprise was an excruciating challenge.

Which of the characters from the book would you most like to spend a weekend away with and why?

I adore Demon, of course, and would happily spend time mothering him and feeding him. But for a great girlfriend weekend, I would take a road trip with his fabulous Aunt June. She needs it.

What first inspired you to write?

A little red diary I was given for my eighth birthday. Blank pages, asking to be filled! I began right away and have written almost every day since.

What is the best piece of writing advice you have received?

Keep a very big trash can next to your desk. Now we use the delete key instead, but the point is the same. Good writing rises from the ashes of many discarded drafts.


Have you read the 2023 Women’s Prize for Fiction longlist?

Want more book recommendations? Head over to our features section to check out our reading lists.

The Women's Prize Podcast


Tune into host Vick Hope and a line-up of incredible guests on our weekly podcast full of unmissable book recommendations.