Thievery: Black Wolves by Dawn West
19th Apr 2012 in Thievery
Thievery is a series of blog posts about my story inspirations.
One Thursday per month, I invite my favourite writers to share the inspirations behind their stories. Here’s one from the brilliant and dreamy Dawn West.
‘Black Wolves’ is published online in Bluestem Magazine.
Madeleine forms a silent kiss with her lips at the black wolf head tattooed above Amy Harrow’s bruises, the twin of her own; tattoos they acquired the week they turned eighteen and thought they would run away together, a life or nine months ago.
“Somewhere like Iowa, or Montana,” Amy said, sucking a pen cap during the six days she tried to quit cigarettes. Madeleine licked the paper of a joint closed, lit it, blew smoke rings into Amy’s redwood curls, and said, “I love you, Amy, but you’re fucking high if you think I’m moving to Montana.”
I started making collages and moodboards during puberty, which was around the same time I started writing, which was years after I started announcing “I want to be a writer when I grow up.” When I was fourteen I wrote close to one hundred single-spaced pages of a fantasy novel with sighing chain-smoking bookish teens, each equipped with a unique magical power and a secret way to this faerie-populated alternate reality. I called it Quartet, because there were four of them. I thought I was the black Francesca Lia Block. It was serious.
I cut up dozens of magazines and checked out two thick stacks of modern art books from the library as a way of “inspiring” that ninety-something pages. I printed it all and hugged it smelled it caressed it and eventually forgot about writing the ending when I turned fifteen, fell in love with Anne Sexton and became a “confessional poet,” amped up the intoxicants and dating and tripping into hot tubs and hating my body and having in-car dance parties on the interstate and pretending to be straight because oh God, let’s not get into it. I was being an adolescent. All through that, I kept making collages. I also began making CD playlists in coordination with them.
There is nothing like looking at an image, or hearing a song, and feeling something that is not necessarily love. It’s gotten inside you, whatever is so fucking heartbreaking about this song, or this photograph, or this painting, or even this fashion editorial, and then these phrases and independent images are filling you like waves of air.
In my case, with Black Wolves, I didn’t end up making a full-on moodboard. One evening I saw this photo of a girl with a wolf tattoo on her back. How she was curled, how the light met her hair, the unadorned mattress, and that captivating tattoo. I was curious about her, and I was listening to this fucking fabulous song by The Magnetic Fields, and I was somewhat intoxicated, and suddenly it had been fifteen minutes and I had been staring at that image, listening to that same song on repeat, without fully realizing it, because I was preoccupied with this made-up girl with rainbow-rinsed hair and a wolf tattoo like the girl in the photograph and I wanted to know why she scared me. I wanted to make her cry out someone’s name and I wanted to know why and I wanted to know a lot of other things, so I wrote the first draft of her story in a single sitting, keeping a handful of songs on rotation, all by The Magnetic Fields. A few sittings later, the story was over but I’m not done with her. I have more Madeleine Dunn questions to answer, I think. When Stephin Merritt sings, she clamors around inside me, making all kinds of pretty complicated noise.
Dawn West (b. 1987) is a fiction writer and book reviewer living in the American Midwest.
Photo by Angelica Ström.