Read All Over — Billie Livingston


Read All Over celebrates the bookworm in all of us, showcasing readers in Vancouver and the books they love most.
 Billie Livingston is the award-winning author of three novels, a collection of short stories and a poetry book. Published yesterday, her latest book, One Good Hustle, is a novel about the daughter of two con artists, trying to figure out if she is fated to be a crook or if she’s got a chance at something better.

She lives in Vancouver with her husband, her godparents and a hairy butt-biting Afghan Hound named Rubin.

What are you currently reading? 

Beyond Black by Hilary Mantel. I’m not far in but really enjoying it so far. It’s about mediums, those who talk to or claim to talk to the dead.  Interesting to read right now because I’ve been visiting spiritualist churches of late, doing research for a story idea.  I’m still at the seedling stage with my story so it’s fun to read Mantel and how strongly her book comports with what I’ve seen at these spiritualist meetings.

Photo of Billie Livingston by Braden Haggerty

What’s next on your reading list?

Anakana Schofield’s Malarky is calling me.

Where is your favourite place to crack open a book in Vancouver?

I love to read when I’m working on film sets. My day job, being a film extra or a stand-in, involves an enormous amount of sitting around, waiting. Cracking a book makes all the ruckus disappear and time passes the way it does when I’m talking with a good friend.

How do you like your books served up best – audio books, graphic novels, used paperbacks, library loaner, e-reader…?

I love the tactility of a paper book, new or used. I prefer to own it rather than borrow because I like to be able to scribble in the margins or underline the bits that really strike me.

What books have influenced your life the most?

On a formative level, I’d say the books I read as a kid have influenced my life the most: A Wrinkle in Time, Go Ask Alice, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Black Beauty, The Black Stallion….The books that caught my imagination as a young girl are the books that made me want to read for the rest of my life.  They were also the catalysts for making me a writer in my own right.

Favourite Vancouver/Lower Mainland writer?

There is an embarrassment of riches in the Vancouver writing scene. Caroline Adderson’s work is layered and beautiful, Dennis E Bolen writes smart, diamond-hard stories, Linda Svendson’s work you can read over and over and still find something new, John Moore depicts a raw but soulful Vancouver, Linda L. Richards writes wonderful stylish crime noir books. Oh and Rhea Tregebov, an award-wining poet who turned out to be a terrific novelist too. There are so many Vancouver writers who bowl me over.

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor? 

Flannery O’Connor is a big one for me.  I’ve always loved her characters, their very human instinct for survival clashing with an impulse to self-destruct — all set against the hunger for love and redemption.

The one book you always recommend is…

Depends on the circumstance.  Often, it seems, I meet people who confide that they are in the midst of a spiritual crisis. I frequently recommend Killing the Buddha: A Heretic’s Bible.  It’s a series of essays about the hunt for spiritual understanding. It’s eccentric and funny and honest in its admission of fear and longing.  If it’s fiction that you want, I can’t say enough about Graham Greene’s The End of the Affair.

Your life story is published tomorrow. What’s the title?

The Daughter’s Daughter’s Daughter.  Ha!  Sorry, that’s a bit of an inside joke. There must have been 500 books published in the last few years that follow the template of “The XXX’s Daughter.”  On the other hand, as a woman and a writer, I’m fascinated by the mother-daughter scorpion dance.

Billie launches her new book, One Good Hustle, tomorrow night from 7-9 pm at the Wolf and the Hound (3617 W. Broadway).