Five Questions with… Liz Worth

Liz Worth, author of Amphetamine Heart and an upcoming IFOA participant, answered our five questions!

IFOA: What inspired Amphetamine Heart?

Liz Worth: Amphetamine Heart was written over a three-year period. I wasn’t setting out to write a poetry collection, necessarily; I was just writing poems throughout that time, and a lot of them tended to be autobiographical in some way. Worth, Liz (c) Shawn Nolan
The writing itself is a bit surreal, a bit opaque at times. Even though it’s a personal collection, I was also trying to push my own boundaries with my writing. But the experiences behind the poems were the driving inspiration. I was going through a lot at the time.

I was living in a really terrible apartment. I had developed a lot of anxiety and had trouble sleeping, so I started taking sleeping pills and chasing them with a bottle of wine every night. I was living on artificial rest and was really edgy a lot of the time.

I wasn’t feeling very hopeful for my future, either, and I was also realizing I had a lot of issues from my past that I still had to work through. Eventually I took steps to reconcile a lot of that and turned my whole life around. When I read Amphetamine Heart now I can still feel the heaviness of that time of my life.

IFOA: Talk to us a bit about the connection you make between punk music and poetry in this collection.

Worth: I’ve always been really interested in punk’s literary connections. People like Patti Smith and Lydia Lunch and Exene Cervenka, who are all really important figures in punk’s story, have been really successful in showing they are multitalented as musicians and as writers. Worth, Amphetamine

For me, that connection in Amphetamine Heart was really to draw inspiration from those mentioned above, as well as writers like Kathy Acker and Daniel Jones, who were really writing in this very in-your-face kind of way. I like how punk is about brutal honesty and authenticity. I like how it reinforces the importance of not worrying about what other people think: if it’s the truth, it should be out there.

So that was what I kept reminding myself of with Amphetamine Heart. Even though I put a lot of myself into this book, I wanted it to be honest and unsettling and true to what I had experienced, and was experiencing.

IFOA: Have you ever set your poetry to music?

Worth: I have had two different bands that were more like art projects, and we were setting poetry to music. The most recent project I had like this was called Salt Circle and we were pretty minimal: we had a drum, a keyboard, a theremin and a kalimba, and we tried to really focus on creating an atmosphere for each of our songs.

I’ve also used my theremin in some of my readings throughout the years, though these days I tend to just go up on stage without any instruments. I do have some plans to get back into more adventurous spoken word projects in the future, but I’m waiting to wrap up a couple of other projects first.

IFOA: Name one poet who has made a lasting impression on you.

Worth: Lynn Crosbie. The way she uses words is astounding. I would love to know how her mind works when she’s writing. But it’s not just her style. It’s the things she writes about, the experiences she captures. So often I find myself thinking of her work even if I haven’t read a poem of hers in a while. But I always come back to it eventually. Her books are often revisited.

IFOA: Finish this sentence: “I write best when…”

Worth: I’ve had a good night’s sleep, the coffee is ready and I don’t feel like I have to rush off anywhere any time soon.

Liz Worth is the author of four books, including PostApoc and Treat Me Like Dirt: An Oral History of Punk in Toronto and Beyond. Currently, she is working on an occult-inspired vampire novel and is rewriting Twin Peaks scripts as original poetry. Worth presents Amphetamine Heart, a collection of poems channeling punk and heavy metal influences to explore the dark undercurrents that often permeate party culture, as well as No Work Finished Here: Rewriting Andy Warhol, in which she appropriates the original text of Andy Warhol’s a, A Novel and turns each page into a unique poem.

Five Questions with… Deanna Young

Deanna Young, author of House Dreams and an upcoming IFOA participant, answered our five questions!

Share this article via Twitter or Facebook for your chance to win two tickets to her event October 27. Don’t forget to tag @IFOA!

IFOA: Tell our readers a bit about your third collection of poetry, House Dreams.Young, Deanna (c) Rémi Thériault

Deanna Young: The title refers literally to dreams involving houses. Ever since I can remember, houses have featured prominently in my dreams. I’m in an empty house filled with light, or a house crammed with furniture and shadows. I’m approaching a house that stands alone in a field and am overcome with sadness. I’m climbing stairs to an attic, in search of something I never find, or descending stairs into a basement. When I began assembling poems for this collection, I saw houses everywhere, and that some of the poems were dream based. The psychologist Carl Jung theorized that the house is an archetypal symbol of the self or psyche, and that makes sense to me. The poems inhabit a range of eras in my life and are arranged, roughly, from recent experience to past. They sometimes call to one another across the eras. I’ve recently started referring to the book as a “reverse memoir in verse.”

IFOA: What draws you to poetry as a form?

Deanna Young: I am drawn to the gaps, the leaps, the terrible fear and thrill of the next image. Nothing in life makes sense, nothing is complete, nothing is perfect, nothing can be resolved, not one hundred percent, and poetry admits that, it embraces that mystery and the tragic human struggle toward meaning. It aims for what cannot be said—maybe bravely, maybe foolishly—and is incinerated just before impact. At its most successful, it gets as close to the sun as any earthly thing can. I was recently helping my son practice long division, and so I will say that with poetry (and I mean the real thing here) there is always a remainder. But the remainder is not just at the end of the poem, it must be scattered throughout. I think I am drawn as much to that remainder—the lingering buzz of “that which was meant”—as I am to the near-truth of the near-perfect image or metaphor.

IFOA: How has your work developed or changed since your first collection?

Young, House DreamsDeanna Young: In terms of technique, I hope it has changed dramatically. My first collection was published prematurely (and utterly unedited) when I was 20 years old, and I would be glad if no copies of that slim volume remained in the world; except that the first small murmurings of my voice are there, clearly, and so I try not to be too cruel when I look back at the book. I remind myself that I was young, a mess, and trying to do my best. Thematically, I believe my work has changed very little. So far I keep pacing the same field—trauma, grief, redemption, the soul’s survival.

IFOA: What is the best thing you’ve read in the past six months?

Deanna Young: There are two best things:The Gathering and The Green Road by Anne Enright.

IFOA: What are you working on now?

Deanna Young: I’m working on a book of poetry that is also a gathering of voices.

Deanna Young’s writing has appeared in journals across Canada and in 2013 she received the grand prize in the PRISM international Poetry Contest. She lives in Ottawa where she co-directs the Tree Reading Series. Young presents her third collection of poetry, House Dreams, which was a finalist for the 2015 Trillium Book Award for Poetry. House Dreams is a haunting sample of the life we all live underground, and a view beneath the foundations of the various eras and places that make up one woman’s life story.

Five Questions with… Sara Blædel

Sara Blædel, author of The Forgotten Girls and an upcoming IFOA participant, answered our five questions!

Share this article via Twitter or Facebook for your chance to win two tickets to her event October 23. Don’t forget to tag @IFOA!

IFOA: What inspired The Forgotten Girls?Blaedel, Sara

Sara Blædel: Over the years, I have looked at topics like prostitution, internet dating, drug abuse, peer pressure, assisted suicide and much more. In The Forgotten Girls, the story takes place in the historical setting of an all girls home where unwanted girls were abandoned. Fifty years ago, it was custom for local authorities to look after children who, for one reason or another, could not get the care they were entitled to from their own families. When the girls registered at the orphanage, parents were asked to forget that they ever existed. Two of these girls, a pair of twins, appear many years later, many years after everybody thought they were dead. I read about these forgotten children in a Danish newspaper, and the story just would not leave me. It made me really curious.

IFOA: What first got you interested in writing crime fiction?

Blædel: I have enjoyed telling creepy stories since I was a child. And I have always had this voice in my mind saying “What if …”  I am a very curious person, I’m afraid. The first crime novels I read were Enid Blyton’s Famous Five seriesand I was completely and forever lost to crime fiction. I think it is a gift, if you already, as a child, discover the pleasure of sinking into a good story and letting everything else go. I really appreciate children’s literature, when it is able to awaken a love of reading, such as Famous Five did it for me.

In the early 90s, I established a small publishing house dedicated to crime fictionit was long before crime novels became fashionable, I’m proud to say. I have just always had a passion for crime fiction.

IFOA: Do you have a favourite crime fiction writer?Blaedel, The Forgotten Girls

Blædel: Where should I start? I know it sounds diverging to say that I have lots of favourites, but there are different favourites at different times of your life, I think. I enjoy the genre and do read a lot of different writersalso to keep up with what’s going on.

IFOA: Do you have any rituals associated with your writing?

Blædel: Oh yes, but I think I’ll keep my neuroses to myself.

IFOA: What is next for Louise Rick?

Blædel: The next book is going to be published in February 2016 by Grand Central Publishing. It’s called The Killing Forest and it picks up from where The Forgotten Girls ends. Louise has never been more vulnerable, fragile and at the same time strong as she is when The Killing Forest begins. I really hope you’ll like it. It’s about people’s right to choose, how easy it is to judge other people and how easy it is to be stuck or keep oneself fixed in a certain conception of reality and to carry guilt. And the story is also about bonds so strong that even murder may be justified within a group.

Sara Blaedel is the author of the #1 international bestselling series featuring Detective Louise Rick. Her books are published in 23 countries. She lives in Copenhagen and was voted Denmark’s most popular novelist for the fourth time in 2014. Blaedel presents The Forgotten Girls, which introduces readers to the fantastically smart Detective Rick, who is investigating a murder in a local forest. With a startling plot ripe with mysterious crimes, memorable characters and a disturbing ending, fans of dark Scandinavian thrillers will not be disappointed by this unforgettable story.

Supported by Danish Agency for Culture

Five Questions with… Flavia Company

Flavia Company, author of The Island of Last Truth and an upcoming IFOA participant, answered our five questions!

Share this article via Twitter or Facebook for your chance to win two tickets to her event October 24. Don’t forget to tag @IFOA!

© Margarita Sánchez

© Margarita Sánchez

IFOA: What inspired The Island of Last Truth?

Flavia Company: I wanted to explain the two main ways of understanding life and the world around us: give or receive. One way leads to peace. The other way leads to war. I thought I would represent this struggle by the encounter and confrontation of two different men on a deserted island.

IFOA: What part of fiction writing do you find most compelling?

Company: Writing is a way of life. A belief. A moral duty. One lot and one conviction. I feel fortunate to have been chosen for this way, and never forget that it is to be as honest as possible, as humble as possible, as grateful as possible. Writing is living life from within and outside at the same time.

IFOA: How has your approach to writing changed over the years?Company, The Island of Last Truth

Company: I used to write for myself. Now I have learned to write for others. I mean I used to write absorbed and now I am well aware that I make my exploration to offer it to others.

IFOA: If you could have lunch with one author, alive or dead, who would it be?

Company: The Brazilian Clarice Lispector. And Marguerite Yourcenar too. May I choose two authors?

IFOA: Is there a book you’ve read recently that you can recommend to our readers?

Company: Of course. I just reread the complete short stories of Flannery O’Connor. Amazing author. Put her on my lunch with dead authors too, please!

Flavia Company is a writer, journalist and translator who writes in both Catalan and Spanish. She has worked as a literary critic, a teacher at literary workshops and a presenter for television. She is the author of essays, short stories, poetry and novels, for which she won the Documenta Award and been a finalist for the Rómulo Gallegos Award. Her work has been translated in many countries, including Brazil, France, Germany and Holland. Company presents The Island of Last Truth, a story of many mysteries, principal among them the true identity of the enigmatic Dr. Matthew Prendel, a shipwrecked expert sailor.

Supported by Institut Ramon Llull

Five Questions with… Russell Smith

Russell Smith, author of Confidence and an upcoming IFOA participant, answered our five questions!

Share this article via Twitter or Facebook for your chance to win two tickets to his event October 24. Don’t forget to tag @IFOA!

IFOA: Confidence paints a satirical portrait of urban city dwellers and their dark secrets. Where did you gather inspiration for your characters?

Russell Smith: They are basically me and my friends.  Smith, Russell

IFOAYou write a weekly column on the arts in The Globe and Mail. How does the process of writing a novel or a collection of short stories differ from writing a column for a newspaper?

Smith: Fiction and non-fiction exercise different muscles. I find non-fiction much easier to write: it is explanatory, linear. The object is clarity. Information is conveyed differently in fiction: it is imparted obliquely. The explicit must become implicit. Writing fiction requires entering a kind of trance in which one must imagine a spacethe light in it, the smells in itand make oneself hypersensitive to emotion and irrationality. I can write a newspaper column while having a fight with my wife and answering calls from my mechanic. I can’t do that with fiction. That’s why novelists like to isolate themselves. A newspaper writer must be fully present to the world and its phone calls.

IFOA: When and where do you write?

Smith: You know, it’s funny, that question: it is the one that is most commonly asked of writers and it is the one whose purpose I understand the least. I don’t get how it is important or could be important to anyone reading the story. I understand that lots of readers are also writers, and so they are interested in questions of process because they feel they might glean some secret from them, but the truth is that the process really doesn’t matter. Some people write in cafes, some people write lying on their backs, some do it drunk; there’s no secret, no technique that will actually change your sentences. Anyway, the boring answer is that I write on my computer at my desk in my study in my house between the hours of nine and five.

Smith, Confidence

IFOA: What other short story writers do you read and enjoy?

Smith: Ernest Hemingway. J.D. Salinger. Guy de Maupassant. Edgar Allan Poe. Julian Barnes. Michael Winter. Caroline Adderson. Annabel Lyon.

IFOA: Finish this sentence: “When I’m not writing or reading, you can find me…”

Smith: Mixing techno in my basement on my Traktor S4 controller.


Russell Smith is one of Canada’s funniest and nastiest writers. His previous novels, including How Insensitive and Girl Crazy, are records of urban frenzy and exciting underworlds. He writes a provocative weekly column on the arts in The Globe and Mail and teaches in the MFA programme at the University of Guelph. Smith presents his latest collection of short stories, Confidence, which shows a darker side of urban dwellers, including mommy bloggers, PhD students and experimental filmmakers.


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