Continuing my conversation with the author Margot Livesey - nine-time novelist, esteemed professor at the Iowa Writers' Workshop, beloved mentor to writers around the globe - about her most recent book, The Boy in the Field.
Margot will be my guest online at Writers in Conversation on Monday March 15, the reading series I run at the University of Southampton's English department. You can click here to set a reminder to join us on Monday. Until then, I hope you feel enticed by these snippets of our conversation from a few weeks ago about this wonderful book (you can read the first chapter here for now).
Carole Burns Did you always know you would write from the point of view of all three siblings?
Margot Livesey At first, I thought maybe I could use the omniscient point of view - something I’ve long wanted to do. I wrote the first chapter that way. But as I got deeper into the novel, I realised that omniscience was at odds with showing how Matthew, Zoe and Duncan each has her or his own version of things.
Carole Burns And how each of them is affected so differently. Matthew wants to solve the mystery. Zoe pushes herself a bit more quickly, perhaps, out of childhood. And Duncan becomes curious about his adoptive mother. How did Duncan's story come about?
Margot Livesey My parents were both only children and they both died when I was young. At the age of twenty-two, I was sure I had no living relatives. But a few years ago, a former student was doing research for me on Ancestry.com, and a woman wrote to her asking if Eva McEwen, my mother, had a living daughter. It turns out that I have many relatives; they just happen to live in Australia. I had already begun The Boy in the Field, when I went to meet them. There was a barbecue in my honour. As I went from guest to guest, I kept wondering if I was feeling something special. I realised I no longer knew what it would be like to meet someone with whom I shared DNA. Duncan already existed but I gave him some of my preoccupations. He's devoted to his adopted family, but he is curious about the DNA thing.