Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Ten Questions (Trillium Finalists Series) with Ibi Kaslik

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Ten Questions (Trillium Finalists Series) with Ibi Kaslik

Ibi Kaslik is a novelist and freelance writer who writes for North American magazines and newspapers. Her second novel, The Angel Riots (Penguin Group Canada 2008), has been nominated for the 2009 Trillium Book Award.

Enter Open Book's June contest to win an Ontario Authors Prizepack that includes the nine English-language Trillium-nominated books.

OBT:

First, a huge congrats on being a Finalist for the 22nd Annual Trillium Book Awards! Could you tell us about your nominated book, The Angel Riots?

IK:

The Angel Riots tells the story of Jim, an eighteen year-old prairie girl and Rize, a twenty-six year-old horn player. Both characters are musicians in an independent rock collective ¬–a band¬– called The Angel Riots. Both Jim and Rize become emotionally unhinged as the The Angel Riots tour the States and the band becomes extremely successful. The characters’ family and romances are played out alongside the rise of the band’s success so the “family” dynamic of the music group is intrinsic to the characters as they reflect on their own unfolding secrets and romantic relationships. So, basically, there’s the story of the band and the internal narrative of each of the characters, as well as their present plight of coping with living in a band dynamic and success’ trajectory. There are many threads in this novel; namely the themes are family, love, betrayal and friendship. My first novel was about the collapse of the individual and The Angel Riots details the collapse of the social unit. There’s also just a whole lot of sex, drugs and rock n’ roll in The Riots.

OBT:

Did you have a specific readership in mind when you wrote The Angel Riots?

IK:

Not really a specific readership, no, but I do always try to write books about topics that I think people might be curious about. With The Angel Riots I thought people might want to know about the dynamics of being in a band. With Skinny, my first novel, I thought people would want to read about an intimate and honest experience of anorexia. I try to balance showing the reality and complexity of certain situations with a poetic writing style. I also think story is very important, and drama, along with gripping characters that compel the reader to keep thinking about these people even off the page. I also try to set certain challenges for myself when I write like making unlikable characters sympathetic and giving a voice to people I imagine are voiceless.

OBT:

What were you doing when you received news of your Trillium nomination?

IK:

My boyfriend and I had just come back from a Spanish class and our brains were fried from trying to conjugate “AR” verbs. We were eating Campbell’s chunky soup.

OBT:

Describe your ideal writing environment.

IK:

I love the romanticism of Raymond Carver writing in his car and Faulkner working at a slaughterhouse for eleven hours a day and then writing As I Lay Dying when he was drunk, in a hot barn, at night. Maybe I fetishize these kinds of stories about other writers because a sacred writerly space has never featured prominently in my process. I’ve mostly written in a state of transition: at writers’ residencies, at the kitchen or coffee table (if I’m lucky) and in in-between temporal, emotional and spatial spaces. I don’t have a desk, never mind a study, so I suppose a desk would be a good start. I think I’d like to have a trailer with some trees around for a couple of months to hide out in and write sometimes but I realize that’s a weird writing fantasy.

OBT:

What was your first publication?

IK:

Good question!

I won a short story competition sponsored by the Etobicoke Public Library system in grade seven or eight and won fifty bucks and they printed it in the Etobicoke Guardian newspaper. But I stole the idea for the story from my brother. So, does that count? I think he owed me fifty bucks and they spelled my name wrong so it all worked out.

OBT:

If you had to choose three books as a “Welcome to Ontario” gift, what would those books be?

IK:

The Romantic, by Barbara Gowdy
The Piano Man’s Daughter, by Timothy Findley
Fall on Your Knees, by Ann Marie Macdonald

OBT:

What are you reading right now?

IK:

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers. I love Southern writers but I also have a thing for Scandinavian mystery writers. There is something about the extremes of the high north and the deep south that is obviously fascinating to me.

OBT:

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received as a writer?

IK:

Life is short but art is long. Or, art is short and life is long? I can never remember the order of that saying, so that’s part of the reason I like it: you get to mull it over and twist it to whatever meaning you require. “Don’t read reviews,” is a good one too, although I find it difficult to take this advice.

OBT:

What is your next project?

IK:

A Young Adult/children’s book. I’m working with illustrator Stef Lenk. I had a block with the adult novel I was working on so I decided to switch gears and do something more playful and work with someone in order to have some sort of dialogue. Writing was becoming too isolating.

OBT:

What advice do you have for writers who are trying to get published?

IK:

Read, write and have another job.



Read more about Angel Riots at the Penguin Canada website.

For more information on the Trillium Book Award, go to the Ontario Media Development Corporation's website.

2 comments

Sounds intriguing- a female character called Jim... Can't wait to read this book!

Truly enjoyed your reading at the Trillium awards - will be picking up a copy of "The Angel Riots" as a summer read. Thanks!

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