Local Face: Will Burns
Will Burns was born in London but moved to Wendover, a move back to the village for his parents Pete Donne and Shell Burns, at the age of 9. He attended the Middle School in the village and then Aylesbury Grammar School. From an early age Will was interested in books and reading, and at the Grammar School he found himself gravitating towards the study of literature, eventually taking that interest to university in London.
Through his twenties, living in the capital, Will had a band with his brother Greg, releasing two albums and playing gigs across the country. When the band decided to call it a day, Will began to concentrate on other kinds of writing, and began publishing his poetry. His first short collection was published in 2014 with the prestigious Faber & Faber as part of their New Poets scheme, aimed at finding new literary voices. A couple more short poetry collections followed, and a first book of poetry, Country Music, in 2020. During the first lockdown in that year, Will began work on a series of journalistic prose pieces, commissioned by his friend and fellow Wendover resident Carl Gosling, for his Social Gathering website. These pieces became the basis for a first novel, The Paper Lantern, published in July 2021, set in a fictional version of Wendover, and more specifically in his parents’ pub, The King and Queen.
Wendover has played a hugely formative part in Will’s life, and it is here that he cultivated lifelong obsessions with wildlife, walking and cricket, and Will was very happy to have the chance to move back to the village from London with his wife Nina in 2016.
They live on Pound St and together run a small publishing business, Rough Trade Books, from an office on the High St.
“Wendover has always loomed large in my imagination,” Will says, “so that even when I haven’t lived here, it has seeped into my work in different ways. That might be the landscape or the people, the ideas I have about what makes village life so interesting and often misunderstood. I always had a dual pull to both London and back here to Wendover, and feel very lucky to have sort of lived out both versions of a life. I’m also very pleased to have been able to attempt to translate the life of the village as I see it onto the page. It might not be a universal story, it’s my own, after all, but I hope I’ve managed to capture the colour of the place a little bit, and to communicate my love of the place, which is deep and complicated.”
The Paper Lantern by Will Burns is out now, including from the King & Queen.