Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

On Writing, with Daniel Allen Cox

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Daniel Allen Cox

Daniel Allen Cox is a Lambda Literary Award-nominated writer and a staple of the Montreal literary scene. He's in Toronto tomorrow, Saturday, April 14, 2012 as part of the Wolf Maiden Author Tour, where he will join Toronto writer Tamara Faith Berger for an evening of "dangerous literature". Check out all the event details here.

Daniel's third and most recent novel is Basement of Wolves (Aresnal Pulp Press). He talks with Open Book about the allure of hotels, writing about film and his upcoming projects.

Open Book:

Tell us about your book, Basement of Wolves.

Daniel Allen Cox:

The book is a study of loneliness. Art moves me the most when I receive two simultaneous messages: it’s impossible be alone, we are utterly alone. I think we grow when we realize where we fall between these extremes. Regarding one of the main characters, it’s lonely to be in the public eye. Others have easy access to your emotional life, but you have little access to theirs. Like a one-way mirror. The book is about the desire to break that mirror and connect. And sometimes when you break the glass you bleed? Just thinking out loud here.

It’s also about hotels. I love hotels. There is a small hotel in Beverly Hills with bright yellow walls, high ceilings and dozens of overhead fans. The lobby has a piano and some Chinese screens. Not sure what made me look behind the headboard, but there were two empty water bottles wedged in there, so the bed wouldn’t hit the wall when guests were f**king. You can find brilliant stuff when you look where you’re not supposed to. The night manager told me the hotel hadn’t changed since 1926. That was the year Charlie Chaplin produced a silent film called A Woman of the Sea, which was partially shot in the area, but destroyed and never released. Chaplin’s only “lost film” or something like that.


Your character Michael-David is a film actor. What drew you to writing about the film world?


I recently got to thinking about how I’ve never written about film. So strange, because I’m gaga about so many movies. I watched a lot of films last year, because I was screenwriting, and because it was time to introduce my love of film into my fiction. I saw a lot of work by Bong Joon-Ho. After seeing The Host, and being totally taken aback at what a monster movie can really be, I saw the rest of his stuff, and now I’m hooked. While writing the book, I remembered that when I was a kid, the first film I ever saw in theatres was Deathtrap, where Christopher Reeves and Michael Caine try to bludgeon each other to death, and then famously make out. Happy I saw that instead of E.T.

Writing about film was a good way for me to explore dream imagery. I’ve been dreaming a lot in the past few years, travelling to strange places. I often have dreams about algebra, impossible equations that keep me busy all night. The math of editing a sentence. All kinds of stuff. Anyhow, my dreams forced me to write a book with this shape and feel.


Michael-David's mental state during the book is pretty fraught. What were some of the challenges and pleasures of being inside his head? How would you describe him to readers?


I’m not good at analyzing my own stuff, but I’ll give it a try. Fame has made Michael-David paranoid. He chooses to retreat, to preserve his sanity and to regenerate. It’s wonderful to get into the head of someone who wants to escape. There’s a desperation that is inspiring to me, puts me into the state of urgency I need in order to write. I might have written him as a mature version of Jaeven from my first novel Shuck, so that he could interact with a younger version of himself — Tim, who is also probably modelled on Jaeven. Some weird cross-book radiation going on here, who knows. Overall, the characters are contradictions. I think I find that trait comforting sometimes.


Did you find anything different about the experience of writing this book, as opposed to your two previous novels?


Unlike my last book, and unlike what I usually advise writers to do, this book was totally unplanned. I decided to start writing immediately with little idea of where it was going, coasting on emotion. My artistic process needed to be loosened after a few years of constraining. The book turned end over end a few times, the stories within entwining and separating. I enjoyed the process, which was a bit like cooking. Also, this was the first time in awhile that I opened my writing to other writers, accepting direct feedback. It’s the product of collaboration, and to these writers and teachers I owe a risotto, at least.


What are you working on now?


I’m co-writing a screenplay with dear friend and legend Bruce LaBruce for an upcoming film of his. It’s been a treat to collaborate with him, and it feels great to move in new directions. I’m entering a period of collaboration, trying new stuff with new partners, for my creative growth and also for my happiness. Visual art is really high on my list of things to get into again. Not many people know this, but I used to be a photographer and installation artist and I exhibited some work. It’s once again time to inject colour and sound into my life. I feel very free right now, and very dangerous.

Daniel Allen Cox is the author of the novels Shuck, shortlisted for a Lambda Literary Award, and Krakow Melt, shortlisted for a Lambda Literary Award, ReLit Award and the Ferro-Grumley Award for LGBT Fiction. Krakow Melt will soon be published in Turkish as part of an underground literature series. Daniel lives in Montreal.

For more information about Basement of Wolves please visit the Arsensal Pulp Press website.

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

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