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André Alexis: How I Wrote Fifteen Dogs

André Alexis talks about how he wrote his Scotiabank Giller Prize-longlisted novel.
Fifteen Dogs is on the longlist for the 2015 Scotiabank Giller Prize.

André Alexis' remarkable novel Fifteen Dogs is about a group of Toronto canines who've been granted human consciousness by a pair of drunk gods. Brothers Apollo and Hermes bet a year of servitude on whether the dogs will be happier than humans, a psychological experiment that ends up being crueller than either of the two gods anticipate.

Fifteen Dogs won the 2015 Scotiabank Giller Prize. It is longlisted for Canada Reads 2017.

ON SMELLING HIS WAY THROUGH TORONTO

"While I wrote the novel, I had to try to imagine, or I had to try to figure what does Kingston Road smell like? What does it smell like to be in Roncesvailles? What does it smell like to be in High Park? I have within myself, just as we all have within ourselves, memories of the sensual that we sometimes just let go. But now I was forced to meditate on that sensuality, to go back ot he Beaches, to go back to High Park and experience them on a more sensual level - and try to work out what does this smell like? What's in there?  I had to be specific about those smells. It was wonderful for me because it brought the city of Toronto in the most lively way into my consciousness. I came to know Toronto through the senses, but I suppose I was able to do that to Toronto because I had already fallen in love with it."

ON THE TIME OF DAY HE WROTE FIFTEEN DOGS

"Each novel is different. I remember the first novel that I wrote, Childhood, was a novel written in the morning. It was just a morning novel. The next novel, Asylum, wouldn't be written in the morning. It just wouldn't be. For some reason that time of day was inimical to the imagination of Asylum. It was written at night. You accommodate the impulse behind it Fifteen Dogs wasn't a morning novel - it was an anytime novel and that's kind of what distinguishes it from the others. Are you coming out of dream conscious? Morning. Or going into dream consciousness? Late night. Didn't matter. For some reason, with Fifteen Dogs, I was always in the state of readiness to dream."

André Alexis' comments have been edited and condensed.

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