Grab a champagne-absinthe cocktail, close your eyes and think of Montparnasse, and get ready for a wild ride in today's edition of
Get to Know Them First. Amanda Earl's debut poetry collection, Kiki, has been called "deliriously surreal," and "deliciously decadent," as it considers the life of Kiki, the Queen of Montparnasse.
Alice Ernestine Prin became Kiki, the Queen of Montparnasse, during the height of the Crazy Years when creativity and unbridled passion had reached a fever pitch. Kiki performed in cabarets, made art, posed nude, was incarcerated, starred in avant-garde silent films, modelled for Man Ray, Gargallo, Foujita, Kisling, Sandy Calder and others. "Kiki" is an homage to an era where freedom, innovation, l'amour fou, creative risk and celebration of life were paramount. Journal entries, silent film play-by-plays, cut ups, boldfaced lies, gossip and whimsy provide readers with playful and provocative fodder for their imaginations in order to recreate the spirit of Montparnasse between the wars. The author urges you to grab a glass of champagne and dance.
Amanda Earl is a poet, publisher and pornographer from Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Amanda's most recent chapbooks are the 2012 chapbook Sex First & Then A Sandwich (her third chapbook with above/ground press) and Me, Medusa (Red Ceilings Press, UK, 2012). Her poetry appears in magazines such as Rampike, the White Wall Review, fillingStation, in addition to online and print journals in Australia, Canada, England, France, Ireland and the USA. Over the course of her research for this book, she has become fascinated with Montparnasse between the wars and is an avid appreciator of books, films, art and music from the era.
Tell us about the first time you realized you wanted to be a writer.
I don’t remember making a decision to be a writer, but I’ve always written. At first with a thick pencil given to me in Grade School. I wrote limericks in thick, illegible blotches across foolscap. Remember foolscap?
Tell us a little bit about the experience of writing your first book.
I researched and wrote the book over four years and then revised it over two years. It came out of my fascination with not just Kiki of Montparnasse but also with the licentious and creative climate of Paris between the wars. I’ve become obsessed with the writers, artists, musicians and other personalities from that era. Even though the book is complete now, I would still like to learn more about the era and its creative forces. I might have to write more about it in future. I always thought that when I had a book published, my interest in a particular subject or people would wane, but that hasn’t been the case.
What are the first five words that come to mind when you describe your book to someone?
What was your first job? Was it anything close to writing?
I worked cash, broiler/steamer and dining room at Burger King adjacent to Rockwood Mall in Mississauga when I was 16. It was the opposite of writing in that I had to keep a smile on my face when dealing with the public. I don’t have to smile now at all if I don’t want to. And I never have to wear polyester.
What is the first thing you eat in the morning?
The PG Answer: My words.
What is the first book you remember reading?
The Exorcist — I was eight. I probably skipped some pages.
Founded in 2006, Chaudiere Books is an Ottawa-based publishing house run by rob mclennan and Christine McNair, publishing an average of two to four titles a year.
Created to spotlight the literary works of often-overlooked Ottawa-based writers, we have a focus on single-author poetry collections, from first collections to further collections by more established authors, as well as regional anthologies of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction, with the occasional single-author book of prose.
Why do you feel it’s important to publish works by new authors?
Christine McNair: New authors are the lifeblood of publishing. One of the most rewarding things about being a publisher is bringing a writer's first book into existence. It's an exciting, nerve-wracking, once-in-a-lifetime experience for them and we're privileged to play a part in that.
Tell/show us the first cover concept for the book and how it differs from the final look.
CM: Kiki's cover stayed the same from first concept to final design. Amanda sent some ideas for the mood she wanted for the cover. I chose a simple repetition made up of white braces (or curly brackets) in a scarlet background. The colour matches the vibrancy of the title figure while the braces are reminiscent of her famous portrait by Man Ray. They also both imply and delineate a female form, two faces, interior/exterior, the gulf between parentheses, what's unwritten.
When did you first know you were going to publish this book?
CM: We knew of the manuscript by hearing Amanda read from it locally and knew it deserved a space on the shelves. Once we read it — we knew that this was a book that craved some room to dance.
All Lit Up is produced by the Literary Press Group and LitDistCo. LPG and LitDistCo acknowledge the financial support of the Department of Canadian Heritage, the Canada Council for the Arts, and the Ontario Arts Council.