philip roth and game of thrones: five questions for david elliot cohen

The Wrong Dog has had an illustrious awards season, winning an Independent Press Award, a National Indie Excellence Award, and an International Book Award! To celebrate, we sat down with author David Elliot Cohen to talk about Alfred Hitchcock, Game of Thrones, and ideal road trip companions. Read on to learn more about the New York Times #1 bestselling author, and look out for The Wrong Dog in paperback this fall! 

What was an unexpected challenge you had when writing The Wrong Dog?

Before I began writing The Wrong Dog, I suspected that the prose would flow pretty easily. It is a travel memoir, so it had a predetermined beginning, middle and end. The physical journey had stops along the way that logically broke the book into digestible chapters.  And it had a built-in “MacGuffin,”(a plot device popularized by Alfred Hitchcock) to keep the reader engaged until the end of the story. In this case, the MacGuffin was whether Simba, the decrepit canine hero of the book, would survive the journey and see his family before he died. I thought I could write the book in three months—mostly because Kerouac wrote On the Road in three weeks.  But unlike Kerouac, I rewrote each chapter a hundred times to make the book sound off-the-cuff. So it took me more than nine months. 

What was a serendipitous moment you had when writing The Wrong Dog?

The Wrong Dog concerns two prospective deaths—Simba’s death and my mother’s death. My mother was a force of nature, who tried to impose her substantial will on everyone around her. And in the last years of her life, she was a very difficult and somewhat unpleasant person. Before I wrote The Wrong Dog, I couldn’t say that out loud or write it down, particularly for public consumption. I figured I owed her so much that I couldn’t say or even think about what a jerk she could be.  Writing this book helped me to understand that you can love people very much while still acknowledging their not inconsiderable faults.

Who is a writer whose work you’re excited about right now?

Two of my favorite contemporary authors, Philip Roth and Tom Wolfe, died recently, so I have been reading or rereading their works. In both cases, their renown was well-deserved and most of their work holds up decades later. 

Who is an artist outside your field whose work you’re enjoying right now?
You’re probably not going to like this answer, but I think some of the best work being done now is in television. I would favorably compare episodic television shows like Billions, Homeland or Game of Thrones, to the episodic novels of Charles Dickens, which were also released to the public chapter-by-chapter.

Who is your dream road trip companion?

I will stay loyal to my actual road trip companions—Erick and Simba in The Wrong Dog and my children in One Year Off.