The Devil You Know: Writers Read in Conversation with Elisabeth de Mariaffi

Writers Read: Elisabeth, The Devil You Know introduces us to a character that I can imagine reoccurring in other narratives. Are you tempted to write a series of literary thrillers?

Elisabeth de Mariaffi: I certainly didn’t set out to start a series with The Devil You Know. To be honest, I didn’t even really know I was writing a thriller for the first while, but once it began to develop that way, it got really exciting. I love Evie, and I really enjoy writing her and now that I’m face and eyes into a new, entirely different novel, I find that I am beginning to miss her. So the short answer is: Not right now. But maybe in the future? I have my current project and I think I know what the next book after that will be as well — and I really want to write those — but just in the last couple of weeks I’ve started thinking that after that, it might be fun to write another Evie book. (I recently did a panel with Danish crime queen Sara Blaedel, and that also lit a fire for me. Her job looks awesome.) The other option, or addition, to this is the idea of Evie crossing media. The Devil You Know was optioned back in the spring and is currently in development for television. We have a really fabulous show runner signed on — Karen Walton, who you may know as a lead writer on Orphan Black, and the creator behind the cult horror movie, Ginger Snaps — but in the lucky instance where we find a network for the show, I’ll get to be involved in writing Evie for TV. TV-Evie. Sounds fun.

WR: I loved the urgency of The Devil You Know. The pacing, the energy. Was that something you consciously constructed, or is that–by some lucky miracle–simply how you approach prose?

Elisabeth de Mariaffi: The Devil You Know started, for me, with an image: There’s a young woman standing in her bachelor apartment. It’s night time, and she’s got her all the lights on; outside it’s just black. As she’s standing there, kind of looking at her black windows, something happens. A cat and a raccoon get into it on a back fence someplace and one of her neighbours motion sensor lights kicks on — the window lights up — and she’s there’s a man standing on her fire escape, just outside, looking in at her. Then the motion sensor goes off. The young woman is paralyzed. Is there a stalker outside her window? Is he going to come in? Or is he a product of her imagination, her anxiety?

Originally, I thought I might write a short story about this. But this presented a few problems: I had one character inside the house, and one character outside the house, and they never talk — and also, one of them might not actually exist. So this had huge potential in my mind to be a boring story. I knew I didn’t want to write a boring story, so I scrapped that.

Once I figured out that Evie was going to be a news reporter, the story really started to pick up speed. It gave her some real agency, and she was also young and new at it and committed to overcoming whatever life had thrown at her, in terms of her own fear. So, I guess what I’m saying is: It’s both. I naturally lean to writing tension into my pacing, but also, for me, The Devil You Know is  a book about fear. And I think that in order to understand this kind of fear, you have to be made to feel afraid.

Elisabeth de Mariaffi is the Giller Prize-nominated author of one book of short stories, How To Get Along With Women (Invisible Publishing, 2012) and the new novel, The Devil You Know (HarperCollins, Canada; Simon & Schuster, USA 2015). Her poetry and short fiction have been widely published in magazines across Canada.

She will be headlining Writers Read Concordia’s #NOFILTER event with George Murray at Concordia University on November 17th, at 7pm in the John Molson Building’s Floating Box, room 2.130 (1450 Rue Guy). 

The Line Break: An Interview with Mary Ruefle

The 2015-2016 season of Writers Read continues with a Master class and a reading by Mary Ruefle on September 25th, 2015. Join us!

An interview, suggestions for writing exercises, and a reading from Mary Ruefle in which she reminds us that “there are people who forget that writing is a joyful activity.” From the Campus Poetry SchoolCulture Laser Productions and the Scottish Poetry Library. Listen here.

A Year of Collaborations: The 2015-2016 Season


This year Writers Read is bigger than ever, with authors from across Canada, Ireland, and the US. So far we have confirmed fifteen authors beginning with Jordan Tannahill (Sept 22nd), Mary Ruefle (Sept 25th) and Major Jackson (Sept 30th).  This year we are in collaboration with the Department of Canadian Irish Studies, the Centre for Expanded Poetics,Universite de Montreal, and Librarie Drawn & Quarterly. We are also collaborating with our very own creative writing students–who will curate part of a literary festival in March 2016. Off The Page marks a major evolution of Writers Read. We are scheduling our spring events to coincide with the student driven festival to ensure a melange of emerging and established authors, both local and from afar. We offer a list of events here, with a request to mark off March 17-20 for our festival that we hope offers even more surprising collaborations of readings, panels, and literary detournements.

To keep up to date with details follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook

Hillman on Hass

HassAndHillmanQandA-webCheck out this short essay by Brenda Hillman, where she discusses “A Supple Wreath of Myrtle”, her “favourite poem” by Robert Hass. The poem, which “suggest that the daily and the heroic are always intertwined”, is featured in Hass’ 2006 collection Time and Materials, winner of both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize. Both Brenda Hillman and Robert Hass will be joining us this Friday, March 27, 2015, for a free public reading in Concordia University’s room EV 1.605 (1515 St Catherine), at 7 pm.

Robert Hass’ Faint Music

robert-hass Most of you are probably already familiar with our next guest, Robert Hass, who has published nine volumes of poetry, shared the 2008 Pulitzer Prize and served as US poet laureate from 1995-1997. For those of you who aren’t (yet) check out Hass’ poem “Faint Music” for a preview of what to expect March 27 (that’s next Friday!) when Robert Hass joins us with Brenda Hillman for a free public reading. The event will held at 7 pm in room EV 1.605 (1515 St. Catherine Street). See you there!

Our Next Event!

Hass Hillman WR POSTERB&W copy-page-001

Writers Read is excited to welcome internationally acclaimed poets Brenda Hillman and Robert Hass on Friday, March 27 at 7 pm for a public reading in room EV 1.605 (1515 St. Catherine West). Brenda and Robert are also offering a master class that morning, at 11 am in room LB 646 (1400 de Maisonneuve). Spots are limited and a sign up sheet will be posted this Friday outside Professor Queyras’ door.

Robert Hass was the poet laureate of the United States from 1995-1997.  He won the 2007 National Book Award and shared the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for the collection Time and Materials: Poems 1997-2005. In 2014 he was awarded the Wallace Stevens Award from the Academy of American Poets.

Brenda Hillman is the author of over ten full-length collections, most recently 2009’s Practical Water, winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Award, and 2013’s Seasonal Works with Letters on Fire, which received  the International Griffin Poetry Prize. Her additional awards include the 2005 William Carlos Williams Prize for poetry, the National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, and the Guggenheim Fellowship.