The Author Spotlight Series shines a light on writers creating heartfelt and original work across genres, giving them an opportunity to talk about their books and why they do what they do.
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“Kelly Rose Pflug-Back is a writer, textile artist, and educator/instructor. Their fiction, poetry, and journalism have appeared in places like the Toronto Star, Ideomancer Speculative Fiction, Briarpatch, Goblin Fruit, Strange Horizons, and many others. Their first full-length book of poems, The Hammer of Witches, was published with Caitlin Press/Dagger Editions in 2020.”
When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
That’s a tough one. When I think about first experiences with creative expression, first desires to live a creative life, I think about who gets encouraged to see themselves as an artist and who gets told it’s not for them. Personally I went back and forth on having the confidence to want to be a writer. I had a poem published when I was fifteen, but I was also dealing with an undiagnosed learning disability, and consistently failed other subjects. I did have a couple teachers tell me I had a gift with language, and I think that kept me going, even after dropping out multiple times. So that’s one reason I try to encourage people to keep creating. You don’t have to meet anyone else’s standards for your work to have value.
Do you remember the first thing you ever wrote?
I’m pretty sure it was a story about a hedgehog who found a portal to an alternate reality where she was not just a hedgehog but a princess hedgehog.
How did you develop your skills?
For most of my life this just involved spending a lot of time alone, reading and writing. I rarely let anyone see my work unless I was submitting it for publication. After my first book came out I felt more interested in doing things collaboratively, with other writers. I started looking for classes and workshops, building creative relationships, and doing editing/feedback trades. I think we can be more accountable when we’re creating as part of a community. It has helped me think more deeply about my responsibilities as a writer, and about ways I can give back to the community and provide opportunities and connections to others.
Who are some of your biggest literary influences? Do you have a favourite book/author?
Lynn Crosbie, Bob Flanagan, and Bob Kaufman have all been big influences on my poetry. Most of my favourite books would fall into the queer horror category, which is one reason I’m so excited to be in this anthology. As a teenager I was obsessed with Poppy Z. Brite/ Billy Martin’s novels, and the Queer Fear anthologies. Two newer queer horror titles that really captivated me were Wrist by Nathan Niigan Noodin Adler, and The Devourers by Indra Das.
How would you describe your work?
I’ve heard people use the term “dark maximalism” to describe a style of dressing, or decorating a home. I think that term also describes my poetry. I’ve had a few people tell me that my work does not fit into the minimalist style which is popular right now in Canadian poetry, and I don’t believe I would be able to make it fit if I tried. It is cluttered with enchanted amulets and grave offerings and animal bones. I have no desire to file them away into Ikea cabinets.
What’s your writing process like?
I work multiple jobs and I am also a parent, so I have to write when I can. I have notebooks and pieces of paper stashed all over the place so I can record ideas when they come to me. Sometimes I’m on my way to work and I pull over to write down an idea before I forget it. If I don’t find ways to prioritize writing, it’s not going to happen.
Tell us about your most recent book.
The Hammer of Witches was published in 2020 with Dagger Editions, the queer imprint of Caitlin Press. The title comes from the Catholic treatise that was used to prosecute people accused of witchcraft in Germany in the 1500’s. It deals with a lot of questions of power, violence, desire, and otherness. The poems in it were written over a ten year span, I wrote it very slowly.
What are you working on now/next?
I’m in the editing stage of a second poetry collection, which I’m pretty excited about. I’d say it’s a lot more accessible than my first one, and for that I really credit the fact that I’ve been working with other people more, rather than just being in my own head. I also have a folder full of short stories in various stages of completion, so once I have the poetry manuscript ready I think it’s time to spend some time on fiction.