Thursday, March 28, 2024

Q&A with Margot Livesey



Margot Livesey is the author of the new novel The Road from Belhaven. Her other books include Eva Moves the Furniture. She grew up in Scotland, and lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.


Q: What inspired you to write The Road from Belhaven, and how did you create your character Lizzie?


A: My parents were both only children and my mother, Eva, died when I was two and a half. After my father died, when I was 22 I believed myself to have no living relatives.  


But in 2017, via, I received a letter asking, “Did Eva McEwen have a living child?” It turns out that I have many relatives. They just all happen to live near Brisbane in Australia.  


A few months after that letter, I went to visit them and they told me about my great grandmother, Lizzie Craig, and her gift of second sight.


I had already written a novel about Eva and her relationship with the supernatural (Eva Moves the Furniture) and I had no thoughts of writing about Lizzie until March 2020.  


Then it dawned on me that I wasn't going to be able to go back to Scotland for many months. I determined to write a novel that allowed me to go there every day.


I had only a few stories about the real Lizzie which was hard at first and then liberating. The Lizzie in my pages is largely imagined.  


Q: How did you research the novel, and did you learn anything that especially surprised you?


A: I reread the novels of my childhood which I also made Lizzie read.  I found an encyclopedic diary kept by a farmer who lived near Lizzie’s farm and I consulted newspapers of the time.  


I also delved into my own memories of a farm kept by a brother and sister where I spent many days of my childhood.  


I was surprised to discover that a hot air balloon had landed not far from Lizzie’s farm and that golf was already a popular game.

Q: The Boston Globe’s review of the novel, by Daneet Steffens, begins, “Margot Livesey is no slouch when it comes to casting a mesmerizing spell with her language; one of her other indelible and pleasure-inducing trademarks is lacing her fiction with shimmers of otherworldliness.” What do you think of that description?


A: I’m honoured by the reviewer’s perception of what I aspire to. I wanted The Road from Belhaven to be as accurate as I could make it but I also wanted it to hover slightly, to be a story in which inexplicable things might happen.

Q: How was the novel’s title chosen, and what does it signify for you?


A: I had first thought of calling the novel Lizzie Craig in the tradition of e.g. Jane Eyre and David Copperfield. But I wanted a title that suggested Lizzie in motion. That it’s The Road from Belhaven, not “to,” is crucial; Lizzie’s journey is as much about leaving as arriving.

Q: What are you working on now?


A: I am trying to write a novel, set once again in Scotland, but much closer to the present.

Q: Anything else we should know?


A: Both my mother, Eva, and my great grandmother, Lizzie, had a strong relationship with the supernatural. So far, I don’t, but I keep hoping that will change.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Margot Livesey.

No comments:

Post a Comment