At last Friday’s book launch party for Lesley Livingston’s Every Never After [recap here] out on Queen Street East in Toronto, I had the amazing opportunity to sit down with her for 10 minutes for an interview.
It felt a bit strange at first, to do a formal sit-down interview with Lesley since she’s a friend to the bloggers and we’ve seen her in a more casual setting at so many book events prior to this “proper” interview. Be that as it may, the 10 minutes just flew by and Lesley’s such a down-to-Earth and personable person that it’s so easy to feel at ease, like you’re chatting with an old friend.
Note: Nothing is really spoilery, but there are general discussions about Once Every Never.
Conversations with Lesley Livingston
Your books seem to often be categorized as urban fantasy. What draws you to this genre more than writing full fantasy or full contemporary?
Well, fantasy in general I’ve always been very drawn to. Just because it’s what I read growing up and it’s what I love reading. I just love falling into an absolutely different world from what I know. Whether it’s set in a familiar setting but probably an unfamiliar take on that setting, or whether it’s a high fantasy setting. But I love high fantasy as well. With the Wondrous Strange and Starling books, New York City was absolutely, of course, the urban aspect. And it was so much a character in those series that it just writes itself in. The setting is always very very important to me. Now with the Never books, they’re not quite as urban. They’re more like time travel fantasies, but again it’s sort of the same thing for me in that the setting and the period are very very important to the story for me. They become their own character.
And is that why you chose to set both of them in England?
Yes, absolutely. Because, well Glastonbury is a fascinating place in itself and that’s the place I feature most prominently in the second book, in Every Never After. And in fact Bartlow Hills, which is a lot of the setting for the first book, and the British Museum, I thought I was going to have to make that up but it exists. That place that I described, with the B- no spoilers for anybody who hasn’t read it! – …..there’s a particular place where I describe, that I really thought I was going to have to sort of imagine that into being, and in fact when I started doing a bit of research I stumbled upon this thing almost immediately that was the place that I needed it to be.
And it’s very timely because of the whole Richard the III discoveries lately…
Absolutely! Yeah! and they just unearthed a knight in a casket somewhere else in Scotland, I think. So yeah, all this.. unearthingness… it’s very interesting to me, every time they find something like that I’m just giddy as a schoolgirl.
What influenced your Bog characters? Were they based on folklore or completely fabricated?
Well it’s actually based on sort of conjecture as to .. okay, first of all, the thing that inspired Connal’s character in the book is Lindow Man in the British Museum. And I became fascinated by this guy and I was like, I wanna know what that guy’s story is. I wanna know how he came to be, why in a glass box in a museum, thousands of years he lived and died. And they’ve done research into the bog men themselves and they sort of figured that they were most likely sacrificial victims because they’ve found traces of ergot in their stomach and that was a hallucinogenic slime mould that grows..and if you consumed it, it was toxic. But it would also produce hallucinations. I became fascinated by the circumstances surrounding this guy’s death and the fact that he was killed in what they call a triple-murder fashion: he was stabbed, bludgeoned, garroted – and then thrown into a peat bog to die. I’m like, who was this guy – Rasputin? You can’t just, I don’t know, do one of those and throw him in the peat bog to die? [The triple wounds] seem to indicate he was not dying or it was a ritual killing, sort of fawned the idea.
Did you always know he was going to be the main focus? or did you also plan the queen to be equally prominent?
It’s funny, I’ve always been fascinated by the Boudicca legends and the mythologies surrounding her. And when I sort of decided I wanted to tell this guy’s story, and I wanted to incorporate imagined back story for the Snettisham Torc and Battersea Shield, then Boudicca inserted herself into the story almost immediately. Which is a little scary! Slightly invasive… but thanks. Queen ScaryPants!
With all the time travelling, how much plotting did you have to do to keep yourself on track with not getting mixed. It’s such a tricky thing to tackle.
It’s like [can’t make out] cats in my head. Uncooperative cats.. Yeah, it’s follow the bouncing ball and sometimes the ball ricochets wildly and it’s one of the things that actually drove me completely bonkers about the entire thing. I was having to go back and adjust things and I’d be like okay…. so when Clare has that moment in the first book, when she’s like the girl moving through time from point A to.. and the object moving to point… It is craziness but it’s so much fun when you actually figure it out and you realize that your plot hinges on something that you kind of wrote and you can go back to. It blows your mind. And you’re like oh! That”s why I did that. Yay me.
Like, yes! It all falls into place.
Yes, or sometimes it all falls apart and you have to go back and rip it apart and make it better. Half the fun in time travel novels. It was funny because writing Every Never After was sort a lot like writing the second Back to the Future movie because a lot of the stuff going on in that is dependent on stuff that happened in the first book but then strangely enough a lot of stuff that happens in the first book, it actually winds up being dependent upon what happens in the second book. And I didn’t know that when I was writing it.
Well, I was going to say.. the second one deals with Romans. Does that have any ties to the Romans from the first book?
It may very well. Then again, it might not. I don’t know. You tell me!
I loved the name of the character… Clarinet Reed.. I just thought it was very clever…
Strangely enough, she just started out as Clarinet Reid and I have no idea why. Really. and her orchestra musician parents.. who Clare will never ever ever forgive.
I very much appreciated that. It was actually what initially drew me to the book, being a band geek.
Haha! That makes me happy…
I also love the hot nerd…
Yeah, Milo has a very special place in my heart. Yep. The hot nerd. He makes me happy.
What still surprises you being a published author of so many books now. What continues to surprise you?
That all you awesome people still want to read what I write. Seriously. I’m like uhmmm.. I dunno, I’m having fun amusing myself here, but wonder if anybody’ll- no, the readers. Honestly, that you guys come out and support me in awesome fantastic ways and interacting with you is so much fun. It really is amazing, as an actor for so many years and we’d do school shows and I would get to interact with the audience immediately but getting to actually talk to people who have read my books, and who care about these characters.. you know, it’s thrilling. …. Well maybe not SURPRISING.. because you guys are awesome but it’s very gratifying.. so, you know…. blogger love. <3
I do love that it’s very much your voice in these books, as I was reading it I’m picturing Lesley having this exact conversation.
Yeah, ’cause she has. Usually while I’m alone with the cats but yeah, you know. With this book, and these two characters, especially when Clare and Ali are having their back and forths, that’s pretty much opposite sides of my brain having conversations. You know, there’s panic idiot #1 and then there’s analytical occasionally-panic idiot #2.
Thanks so much Lesley!
Thank you for coming out!