Interviewed by Kyla Jamieson
Billie Livingston is the author of seven books, including her recent novella The Trouble With Marlene, which has been adapted for the screen and will be released this year (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2814080/). Billie’s first book, the novel Going Down Swinging, was published by Random House in 2000. Her debut short story collection, Greedy Little Eyes, won both the CBC Bookie Award and the Danuta Gleed Literary Award; the Globe and Mail called it “dark, funny, graceful, witty.” One Good Hustle, Billie’s most recent novel, was long-listed for the Giller Prize, and her essay “Hitler Sea Skank” (http://eighteenbridges.com/story/sea-hitler-skank) earned her a nomination for a National Magazine Award. Her recent stories have appeared in both print and online editions of Hazlitt (http://www.randomhouse.ca/search/node/billie%20livingston).
Billie and I met for coffee and continued our conversation over e-mail. Up for discussion were Evil Application Forms, mental furniture, and the job of the writer.
You’ve said you once thought of writers as “those people,” referring to the Oxford and Harvard-educated, and I’m wondering when your perspective shifted: When did being a professional writer start to seem possible?
In hindsight, my feelings were a sort of familial hangover. My mother was of the opinion that only people from the other side of the tracks wrote books, people with PhDs. My perspective shifted when I started reading and submitting to literary journals. I couldn’t get published to save my soul in Canada. What I was writing didn’t seem to be in vogue in this country, so my first publications were in England, Ireland, Australia and the U.S. The journals were often independent—i.e. they didn’t come out of academic institutions—and they published fiction and poetry with an urban feel, which was more in line with what I was doing. Having said all that, Banff was the significant turning point in terms of seeing myself as someone who could be a professional writer. [Read more…]