Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Margot Livesey

Margot Livesey grew up in a boys’ private school in the Scottish Highlands where her father taught, and her mother, Eva, was the school nurse. After taking a B.A. in English and philosophy at the University of York in England she spent most of her twenties working in shops and restaurants and learning to write. Her first book, a collection of stories called Learning By Heart, was published by Penguin Canada in 1986. Since then Livesey has published the novels Homework, Criminals, The Missing World, Eva Moves the Furniture, Banishing Verona, The House on Fortune Street, The Flight of Gemma Hardy, and Mercury.

Livesey's new novel, her ninth, is The Boy in the Field.

My Q&A with the author:

How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

For several of my novels I’ve had great difficulty finding a title: asking friends and strangers to vote on long lists of possible titles. The Boy in The Field was at first a working title – a good description of the opening chapter in which three siblings, walking home from school, find a boy in a field who’s been wounded. But as I kept writing, exploring how each of the siblings, in the aftermath of this event, embarks on a private quest, the title began to see more and more appropriate.

What's in a name?

I wanted the names of my three siblings – Matthew, Zoe and Duncan - to fit together and seem like they were chosen by the same parents. I wanted the boy to have a slightly more mysterious name. I called him Karel after a Czech friend.

How surprised would your teenage reader self be by your new novel?

My teenage self would probably be surprised to find me writing about teenagers but I hope she’d be pleased that they have passionate, interesting lives and get to take lots of risks.

Do you find it harder to write beginnings or endings? Which do you change more?

In the case of The Boy in The Field the opening was always very clear to me. There were several wrong turns before I found my way to the ending.

Do you see much of yourself in your characters? Do they have any connection to your personality, or are they a world apart?

The main characters are, I think, usually connected to me but often not in the way that people might expect.

What non-literary inspirations have influenced your writing?

The work of the Italian painter Giorgio Morandi was definitely an inspiration for the novel, not just because Duncan, the youngest of the siblings, falls in love with Morandi’s work but because I learned so much from looking at his paintings day after day.
Visit Margot Livesey's website and Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue