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Q&A: Billie Livingston

livingston_billie.jpgTo celebrate this year's Scotiabank Giller Prize longlist, we asked each longlisted author a series of questions to help us gain insight into their work and their thoughts on the craft of writing. Here we have Billie Livingston, author of One Good Hustle.

Q: What inspired you to write this book?

A: For most of my life I've known that my father was a con artist. Growing up, I saw little of him and even less as an adult. A few years back we arranged to meet for lunch and while driving to the restaurant, he suggested that he tell me about the life he'd lived. "Maybe you could make a book out of it," he said. Lunch went completely off the rails, but I was left with the germ of a story. What if my mother and father had both been con artists? How would it have been to be a part of that world?

Q: What would you say is at the core of it?

A: The fear that one is merely a product of his or her heritage and the wonder if there is any such thing as redemption.

Q: If your book was being made into a movie, which actors could you envision taking on the main characters?

A: Jodie Foster, at the age of 16, would have been stellar. Among contemporary young actors, Haille Steinfeld was an incredible Mattie Ross in True Grit and I think she'd make a great Sammie. And there's a Canadian actress named Jodelle Ferland who plays tougher characters. For Marlene, Sammie's con artist mother, I could see Maria Bello or Toni Collette. Deborah Kara Unger could be good too. And for Sammie's father, Sam Sr: I think my husband, Tim Kelleher, who is an accomplished actor, would make a great con artist father.  Gary Oldman could also work. Or Sam Rockwell. 

one_good_hustle.jpgQ: Where is the absolute best place for you to write?

A: It changes: August and September have been beautiful in Vancouver and lately I've been writing in the backyard in the shade. It's good to feel the sun and air around me and still be getting some work done. When the rains come, I'll be lying on the couch with my laptop against my knees.

Q: Is there a specific subject matter, event, or location close to your heart that you'd love to write about in the future?

A: I'm curious about the intersection of faith and superstition, how we struggle to find something beyond the self to believe in.

Q: What book has moved or affected you most in the past year?

A: Raymond Carver's What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.

Q: What is one insight into the craft of writing or the writing life that you wish you'd known much earlier?

A: Early on I thought there might be a secret recipe that I wasn't aware of, some inside knowledge of rules. But there are none. The only secret to writing is the AIC method: Ass in Chair.


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