Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Nathaniel G. Moore Talks to Derek McCormack and Derek Talks Back

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Nathaniel G. Moore Talks to Derek McCormack and Derek Talks Back

In Derek McCormack’s panicked new novel, a reporter from Vampire Vogue remarks, “We wear clothes... We’re not werewolves.” Sigh. McCormack has done it again. But he’ll be the last to admit it. His new novel The Show That Smells (ECW Press) is already garnering a bunch of positive attention and a lot of his friends and enemies are calling it his best yet. The copy reads like an experimental film of the Ed Wood variety, “Starring a host of Hollywood’s brightest stars, including Coco Chanel, Lon Chaney and the Carter Family, The Show That Smells is a thrilling tale of HILLBILLIES, HIGH FASHION, AND HORROR!”

Local literary antagonist Nathaniel G. Moore caught up with Mr. Derek McCormack recently to discuss his new literary offering. (In one such encounter, the interviewer limped along Queen West where he encountered the author on a sunny Monday morning, having been “bitten” on the heel by a vampiric construction caution sign, in a fit of publishing irony).

NGM:

You launched The Haunted Hillbilly in Toronto in 2003 (5 years ago). When it came time to map out TSTS, how did you begin to map that out? Had you already thought of the premise?

DM:

No. I had mapped out a completely different premise. It starred Jimmie Rodgers -- I knew from before finishing The Haunted Hillbilly that I wanted to write a novel about Jimmie Rodgers -- but it was a completely different premise. I worked on it for a year. Then I worked on another premise. They both blew. I abandoned them in favour of the current premise, which blows less, I pray.

NGM:

In a previous interview with TDR author John Degen asked, “Why are your sentences so short? And why do you run away from a description you've only just started."

Would you say you’re:

a) I am the same writer I was in 2003.
b) Didn't really think about it or remember the question being asked.
c) maybe have shortened my sentences more.
d) most things make me want to cry.

DM:

Most things make me want to cry.

NGM:

You will be very busy in the next year as the book is coming out in America in early '09. Are you excited to read from the book on tour?

DM:

No! The Show That Smells is a very difficult book to read aloud. There's tons of repetition in it. I have read from it a few times and within minutes the audience was getting angry. That said, I'm excited to tour. I had a hell of a time touring with The Haunted Hillbilly. I did a reading at City Lights in San Francisco -- me, Dennis Cooper, Benjamin Weissman, Martha Kinney. Kevin Killian introduced us. It was a dream.

NGM:

So you and your TRIPLE H novel (HILLBILLIES, HIGH FASHION, AND HORROR!) are ready for the prom so to speak? How much input did you have in the design?

DM:

I adore the design. Do you adore it?

NGM:

I do in fact adore it.

DM:

The script on the cover was concocted by Ian Phillips -- it's an adaptation of the script that Elsa Schiaparelli used in her perfume and cosmetic ads. I have worked with Ian Phillips for many years. He is a genius.

NGM:

I like Ian and I like Ian's dog a lot. Ian is quite amazing yes. You did a book with him a while ago, it had a cowboy on the cover? Do you like denim, dirt? What is it about the country aesthetic that turns you on so much? I like the denim I think.

DM:

Denim? No. I like the scratchy, scratchy gabardines.

NGM:

So the Mirror Maze seems to cause a lot of havoc in this book. Have you been to a house of mirrors? Did you go into one as part of research? What was the writing process for this book?

DM:

Oh, I have indeed been in many a Mirror Maze. As a child, they scared the daylights out of me. I would stand inside and cry. I went to one at the CNE a couple years ago. I was the only adult inside. I felt like a perv. At the end I climbed up some stairs and then slid down a wood slide. I forgot to sit on a carpet to slide -- I burned my hands, my elbows, and I burned a hole in my pants. That was my research. Also, I bought a blueprint for building a Mirror Maze.

NGM:

Tell us about the cover art if you like.

DM:

The cover art is by my friend and muse David Altmejd. His sculptures inspired the book. I wanted to write something that would please him. The cover shows a sliver of a larger sculpture. It shows a dead werewolf in a Mirror Maze. As the werewolf decays, he sprouts crystals and jewels. David is a genius, too. And so handsome. You have no idea.

NGM:

Do you like Vogue Magazine?

DM:

I love all magazines. American Vogue isn't my fave Vogue -- I think that would be Paris Vogue. The fashion magazine of my dreams doesn't exist. The Look was an amazing magazine; David Livingstone is the finest fashion writer in the land. The Look shut up shop a couple years ago. I wish there were a magazine that covered fashion the way that NEST magazine covered design.

NGM:

Can you compare the world of publishing and fashion? Short or long sentences are fine.

DM:

People in fashion have better taste in clothes. And in books.

NGM:

Do you know that TSTS is going to be taught at Concordia? How does that make you feel? Like Eminem?

DM:

No, like Auntie Em!

NGM:

But Derek you must have realized that people will actually read your book, and that they haven't been able to do so in 5 years. So?

DM:

I want my book to make men love me. Would you like to know which men in particular? I will name names.

NGM:

I love you.... In that same interview which is quite good that you and Degen did, you said "I describe exactly what I mean to describe. Or maybe I describe exactly what interests me." So what interested you the most about this book?

DM:

I wanted to write a Lon Chaney film. Lon Chaney, Sr., I should say -- my friend Joe Meno prefers Lon Chaney, Jr. to Lon Chaney, Sr., which is so weird. And wrong. When I was a kid, I loved reading about Lon Chaney. I never got to see his movies. They were never shown on tv. This was before video. Tod Browning, too -- I dreamed of seeing his stuff. I wanted to see Freaks. When I was in Grade 8 I wrote a screenplay for Freaks -- my imagining of what I imagined the movie was like. I still have it. Twelve pages, including cover page. I am almost forty now and I am doing the same damned thing.

NGM:

I still do things I did in Grade 8. It gets me nowhere, but I am good at it. Um, what is your favourite Joe Meno book? I enjoy the detective one a lot.

DM:

The Boy Detective Fails -- that's my fave, too. There is a gay brother in it named Derek. I think he is based on a character in a Belle & Sebastian song. That is my sneaking suspicion.

NGM:

If you could live in any era what era would it be? And why?

DM:

I wouldn't want to live in any other era. I mean, I wouldn't want to live as myself in any other era. I am a pretty aggravating person -- I don't imagine that would change century to century. If I could be somebody else, though....

NGM:

Okay so if you could be someone else then?

DM:

I would do anything to be a handsome man.

NGM:

So with your obsession let's say with Jimmie Rodgers, is this what you meant when you said in an interview you think you write fan fiction?

DM:

Absolutely. I'm not content to just write about the historical figures I admire -- I have to rewrite their lives, and grant myself a starring role.

NGM:

That’s hot. You could get a mixer to repeat the words for you. Like Alexis O'Hara style. You could get a DJ to tour with you. Or just learn some new software. It might sell more books.

DM:

I certainly couldn't sell any fewer books.


The launch for The Show That Smells by Derek MacCormack is on Thursday, October 2 at Trash Palace. See Open Book's events page for details.

Derek McCormack Derek McCormack is the author of The Show That Smells (ECW Press, 2008). The Haunted Hillbilly, his previous novel, was named a "best book of the year" by both the Globe & Mail and Village Voice, and was nominated for a Lambda Award for Best Gay Fiction. He writes fashion journalism for the National Post and other publications. He lives in Toronto.
Nathaniel G. Moore Nathaniel G. Moore is the author of Let's Pretend We Never Met (Pedlar Press, 2007) an obsessive novel-in-poems about the poet Catullus. He is the co-editor of Toronto Noir (Akashic, 2008) and the assistant editor at Broken Pencil Magazine.

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