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

Giving Your Creativity a Chance

By Brian Francis

When I was 26, I signed up for my first creative writing class. By that point in my life, I’d grown frustrated with my lack of discipline when it came to my writing. I had a need to write, but it was too easy to let life get in the way. To talk myself out of it, especially since I was working full time. I was lacking an outlet. A space that encouraged and validated my creativity. I thought that a writing class might give me the structure and stamina I needed. shutterstock_272605952

I remember walking down the hallway towards the classroom. I heard the voices of other people coming from the room. And I did something I never expected myself to do.

I turned around and walked away.

Sure, I was nervous. Walking into a room full of strangers is never easy. And walking into a room full of strangers and sharing your writing adds a whole other layer to it. But I was more than nervous.

I was afraid.

Of what, I couldn’t say for certain. Maybe that the other people wouldn’t like my writing. Or that I wouldn’t connect with anyone in the class. Maybe I wasn’t that talented. Or that I’d come to the realization that, at the end of the day, writing was silly. Impractical. A waste of my time.

Looking back, all these years later, I think what really frightened me was that my writing, something that I clung to desperately to get me through the days, had no value.

We’re living in an age that puts a lot of emphasis on the rewards of publishing. There are more options available to aspiring writers than ever before. There’s nothing stopping anyone from going out and publishing their work and having the ego stroke of a book on the shelf.

But what often gets overlooked is the value of writing, regardless of whether the work ever gets published. We don’t always stop to consider the benefit of putting words on the page. How it’s intrinsically good for us to be creative. It takes a specific kind of bravery to take time out of our busy lives and give our creativity the chance to breathe. To allow our stories to take shape, even if those stories never make it past a few strangers gathered around a table.

Although I’ve moved from student to teacher, I still remember what it felt like to walk down that hallway. The vulnerability and uncertainty. And yes, the fear. And while I can’t promise students that they’ll get published after taking my course, what I can offer is a space where creativityand a writer’s need to writeis respected, encouraged and recognized.

I ended up turning back before I reached the end of the hallway. I took a deep breath and walked into that classroom. I never looked back. It was one of the smartestand most valuabledecisions I’ve made when it came to my writing. I gave myself the chance.

Whether it’s in my writing course or someone else’s, I hope you give yourself the same chance, too. Your creativity deserves it.

Brian Francis’ most recent novel, Natural Order, was selected by the Toronto Star, Kobo and Georgia Straight as a Best Book of 2011. His first novel, Fruit, was a 2009 Canada Reads finalist and was named one of Amazon’s “100 Canadian Books to Read in a Lifetime.” He is a regular contributor to CBC Radio’s The Next Chapter and writes a monthly advice column, The Agony Editor, for Quill & Quire magazine.

Join him for his upcoming six-week course, Becoming a Better Writer, which is designed for emerging and recreational writers who want to take their creative writing to the next level, or simply find the inspiration to get back to writing on a regular basis.

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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