Smoke & Mirrors: An Interview with Liz Declan

by Alvin Park Read the Story June 17, 2019

Your story has this incredible title that leads directly into the body of the text with a profound “but.” What made you decide to start the story this way?

I’ve always loved seeing this done with titles in poetry, and I’ve gotten increasingly interested in what makes something “just for poetry” … and if I can break those rules in prose (especially CNF). This isn’t to say it hasn’t been done–it absolutely has! But my question has always been: can *I* break those rules? I think a lot of my creative writing experience until recently was people telling me I couldn’t do something, was bad at doing something, wasn’t a writer, etc., so I’m only just now letting myself be playful. I’m also really in love with long (almost comically so) titles lately; I like that instead of being a summary or even a ‘teaser,’ my title is doing some really heavy lifting from the start!

You write so masterfully through multiple forms, from flash to poetry to creative non-fiction. What draws you to flash fiction, and why did flash feel like the right form for “The House That Is Currently My Mother’s House”?

(First: thank you!) If I’m entirely honest, most things start as nonfiction for me. I feel like I’m constantly walking around with all these memories—mostly bad but sometimes good—in my head, and if I can write them down, it will ease some of that pressure. Recently, I’ve been trying to channel that into fiction or flash fiction instead. While I need CNF in a lot of ways, I think I like fiction. It can be really excruciating to write through trauma that happened to me. It’s a little easier for me to write from a distance about something imagined, even if it shares elements with my own story, and that ease makes me more willing to be playful or exploratory in a way I often wouldn’t in CNF. That’s kind of what happened with “The House That Is Currently My Mother’s House”—there are a number of things in this story that someone could point to and say “aha! That’s about Liz!” but I wanted to take those bits and build a fictional story around them to play with what is true, what could be, and what different versions of this story might look like.

The story is written as a response to a character referred to as “you.” Can you tell me about the decision to use this “you” instead of a third-person he/him?

A lot of my writing has to do with trauma, and more often than not I leave the transgressor of that trauma unnamed. I’ve seen this in a lot of trauma writing, not just my own, but for me it has to do with: 1. Allowing me to avoid the name of a person who has done something horrible to me/others (which is always a difficult thing for me, even just in my day-to-day) and 2. Take away some of their power. Even in fiction, I like to do this; I don’t care so much about the abuser, anyway. It’s the victim/survivor I’m invested in, and it’s their story.

What is your dream writing project?

If my four-year-old would ever allow it, I’d really love to have memoir out someday. I think I’ve had a lot of weird things happen to me in only twenty-five years (married at 19, dentist pulled the wrong tooth, started a master’s degree with a two-month-old), and I also think a lot of my experiences could help others, too (bipolar, queer, single mom, domestic violence survivor, child sexual assault survivor). Selfishly, maybe, I also just want that for myself—writing has been really healing for me, and I’ve always fantasized about writing my whole life into a book and then feeling like I can move on into writing about something else now. It probably wouldn’t happen that way, but it’s my fantasy.

About the Author:

Liz Declan is a queer single mother, a bi-polar maybe-woman, and in general someone who is confused that they have made it this far. She lives and teaches in Philadelphia. You can find more of her work on trauma, motherhood, and mental illness in Paper Darts, Entropy Magazine, Cosmonauts Avenue, and Split Lip Magazine. Follow her for daily nonsense @Mother_Faulkner.

About the Interviewer:

Alvin Park lives and writes in Portland. He is associate fiction editor of Little Fiction, and his work has been featured in publications including the Mojave River Review, Wyvern Lit, and New South Journal. He has a long way to go. Follow him on Twitter @Chipmnk.

About the Artist:

Paul Bilger's photography has appeared at Qarrtsiluni, Brevity, and Kompresja. His work has also been featured on music releases by Dead Voices on Air and Autistici. When not taking pictures, he is a lecturer in philosophy and film theory at Chatham University. He is the art director at SmokeLong Quarterly.