Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Margot Livesey

Margot Livesey's first book, a collection of stories called Learning By Heart, was published by Penguin Canada in 1986. Since then she has published seven novels, including: Homework, Criminals, The Missing World, Eva Moves the Furniture, Banishing Verona, and The House on Fortune Street.

Her latest novel is The Flight of Gemma Hardy.

From her Q & A with Steven Wingate at Fiction Writers Review:

Steven Wingate: I’ve heard you speak eloquently about a subject most writers shy away from: the mid-career challenge of not “recycling” tropes and themes from your earlier work. The Flight of Gemma Hardy is your seventh novel, and it deals with landscapes (rural Scotland) and human situations (a young girl isolated) that appeared in your earlier books. How did you keep your imagination fresh for this novel, and what about the characters and material made you confident you could pull it off?

Margot Livesey: I had of course written about a young girl in rural Scotland in Eva Moves The Furniture but writing about Gemma felt like a different project in a number of very significant ways. Eva is born in 1920 and grows up into the Second World War. Gemma is born after that war and what her future holds is that great tidal wave of feminism and women’s liberation that swept over Britain and the US in the late sixties and seventies. I purposefully set the novel before that tide took hold, at least in my part of Scotland.

Perhaps more crucially Gemma faces very immediate and personal adversity. After her uncle dies she is forced to fight her own battles, and she does so with determination. In writing her story I was trying to create not just a character but a heroine.

Advance reading copies of Gemma contain a “Dear Reader” note in which you speak of “writing back to Charlotte Brontë.” Did she continue that correspondence? By this I mean, did your relationship to her (and to Jane Eyre) as touchstones change over the course of the novel?

From the day I started writing Gemma I have not dared to look back at Jane Eyre but my relationship to the novel has...[read on]
Visit Margot Livesey's website and Facebook page.

Writers Read: Margot Livesey (September 2009).

The Page 69 Test: The Flight of Gemma Hardy.

Writers Read: Margot Livesey.

--Marshal Zeringue