Q&A with DENIS COUPAL

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Letter from Hugh MacLennan / January 1987

WHAT IS YOUR BACKGROUND?

I was a McGill-trained architect, working early on in a traditional role, mainly in the Eastern Townships. I later returned to Montreal and my daytime career became more and more about business strategy and development. I studied Creative Arts - English and Filmmaking - at Dawson College and Pure & Applied Science. Also at McGill Executive Institute for a stint. Today, I’m a business development executive and Chairman of the Board of Dawson College Foundation. Very proud to give back.

WHY DID YOU WRITE BLINDSHOT, YOUR FIRST NOVEL?

I’ve always thought of writing novels, right from a very early age. It took me many years to finally do it. Guess I needed to live a bit before having something to write about, at least in novel form. I’ve written short stories… but who hasn’t? I wrote my first feature length screenplay at sixteen and written more than a dozen to date. One of them was supported by SOGIC (now SODEC) and another by Rogers Pay TV/Greenberg FUND. None were produced so far. Never say never. Blindshot would make a great film, I think!

WHAT IS BLINDSHOT ABOUT?

The novel is a socially-conscious thriller about a family, a mother and her two sons, and how they deal with the mysterious shooting of the husband and father. The two boys demand the truth from their community and when it doesn’t come, they take matters into their own hands, dangerously so. Their mother must choose whether to support her sons or side with the law. Not an easy choice. Or is it? I’m proud that the book is strong on women’s issues. The main character, Catherine, takes the world around her head on and that isn’t any easy thing to do, no matter who you are. Then, there’s the deputy police chief, Tom Doran, mixed up in all this. He’s the type that feels he’s always at the wrong place at the wrong time. Hope you enjoy the book!

WHAT INSPIRED IT?

It was originally an idea I presented to a film producer here in Montreal, many, many years ago. While I worked as an architect in the Eastern Townships, I would sometimes hear gunshots in the middle of the day. It was disconcerting. I found out that local farmers and hunters would shoot at rodents or bigger predators to protect their livestock. There was one recreational hunter, I saw with my own eyes, that liked to park his truck alongside a dirt road, have a drink in his truck, and shoot at whitetail deer that migrated through. I figured sooner or later someone, hopefully not me, would get a bullet. Of course, my novel is fiction and a thriller, so when bullets are fired, they might not be accidental.

HOW LONG DID IT TAKE YOU TO WRITE BLINDSHOT?

I should say half a lifetime, but really the first draft took me about nine months. I’m a weekend and nighttime writer mainly. John Irving started that way, with a full-time job and limited free time. My career in business is demanding, so I need a great deal of discipline to achieve a momentum of ideas and words. Tricky sometimes. Any writer faces the same problem.

WHAT WRITERS INSPIRE YOU?

There are so many. All different. Let’s go by phases. First books I read were The Hobbit and then the Lord of the Rings series. Also, everything by H.G. Wells. and all of the Ian Fleming Novels. One day I discovered Dune. Wow. I wanted to write. Then, or at the same time, came Stephen King and Ludlum, the master, really. Following that, Hemingway… read everything… Steinbeck and Hugh MacLennan. Had the chance to meet him. He invited me to his office after I had sent him some short stories. When it came time to ask him to sign a copy of Two Solitudes, he told me it wasn’t his favorite book. He much preferred The Watch that Ends the Night (I ran to Chapters immediately afterwards for a copy) and that Gabrielle Roy had written a far better book that he ever could. I went to visit him quite a few times around those years, toward the end for him, despite his chain smoking.

Today, I’m a fan of anyone who’s written a book. I understand the monumental work behind it, so I have great respect for any author or editor. But to name names: John Irving is in my view one of the greatest living writers. Marc Levy is up there.

I love Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Unbelievable ideas and words. I love reading poetry by Pablo Neruda, though I have no idea what he’s saying, but the words are beautiful. I went through my Philip Roth phase, Others that have meaning for me are Paul Bowles, Michener, Follett, Richler, Mailer, Ayn Rand, Margaret Lawrence, and the late Michael Crichton, and of course, last but not least Vonnegut! What a mind!

WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE BOOKS?

So many. The greatest book is The Grapes of Wrath (read it multiple times), then Dune, The Bourne Identity, The Great Gatsby, A Farewell to Arms, The Naked and the Dead, Chronicle of a Death Foretold, the Watch that Ends the Night, Es ci c’était vrai, The Shining, The Dead Zone, The Invisible Man, On the Road, Slaughterhouse Five, The Cider House Rules,

WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE MOVIES?

In no particular order. Apocalypse Now, Thief, Being There, The Stunt Man, Lawrence of Arabia, North by Northwest, The Godfather, Jesus de Montréal, The Searchers, Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Duel, Heat, Dirty Harry, The Party, The Pink Panther Series, Goldfinger, Out of Africa, A Clockwork Orange, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, all the Leone movies, especially Fistfull of Dynamite and Once Upon a Time in the West.

WHERE DO YOU FIND THE TIME TO WRITE?

Evenings and weekends, when possible.

WHAT ARE YOU WRITING NOW?

An original on-spec screenplay and a new thriller!