​In conversation with Danielle Daniel

Danielle Daniel/Instagram
I first met Danielle Daniel in 2014. We were both attending the inaugural Lemon Tree House, a writers’ residency that’s now held twice a year in Tuscany. 

About 10 days into the two-week-long program, after we’d shared many meals, drinks, and conversations together, writers were given the chance to share their work. 

I remember all of us huddled up on couches and sitting cross-legged on the floor while a fire blazed (in a fireplace) and we sipped on glasses of cheap sangiovese when Danielle Daniel read a chapter called "Free Fall" from her then-unpublished memoir. 

I’ve never seen a more captivated room. And before she finished, I thought, One day, I’m going to read this on paper in an actual bound book.

And here we are. The Dependant: A Memoir of Marriage and the Military is Daniel’s unflinching story about her relationship with herself—and her husband Steve, who was a paratrooper in the Canadian Armed Forces for 14 years, before a parachuting accident left him paralyzed from the waist down. Their son, Owen, was just two years old. 

In May, Danielle and her family—who live in Sudbury where she was born and raised—attended the Invictus Games in Orlando Florida where Steve won a silver medal in the indoor rowing event. (He also met Prince Harry!) She’s also written and illustrated an award-winning children’s book, Sometimes I Feel Life a Fox, which beautifully illuminates her Anishinaabe roots and culture. Before her interview on The Social, I had a chance to catch up with Danielle. Here’s our conversation on writing, and the TV show she can’t live without. 

A photo posted by Danielle Daniel (@danielledaniel) on

Jess: Where is your favourite place to write? 

Danielle: My home studio. It’s tiny but it’s got a huge window. We’re in a court, so it’s suburbia but I can see everything, including one single tree, which is kind of sad. But the studio is filled with art and art that I collect from friends, and books, journals. It’s really an inspiring place.

A little more progress... (Stopping here for the day! The sun is calling...) #wip #danielledaniel ☀️

A photo posted by Danielle Daniel (@danielledaniel) on

J: And when is your favourite time to write?

D: First thing in the morning! 4:30-5:00 a.m. I love getting up when it’s dark and nobody is up and making that first cup of coffee. My dogs, they drive me a little crazy, but I get in two to two-and-a-half hours of writing, and then I wake up my son for school.

J: Is it difficult for you to switch from being an artist/illustrator to a writer? 

D: At the beginning, it was hard because I thought I’d never be good at anything! You know that whole notion of dedicating 10,000 hours and concentrating on one craft? But now I realize how I need both: they do help to balance me out. If I just had the one, I think I would be unstable because I tend to lose myself in my art, but coming out of it and working on something else really helps. And I think my art is a reflection of my heart but my writing is deeper: it’s soul stuff. That’s how I see it. 

J: Now that you’re on the other side of writing and publishing your memoir, what’s the one piece of advice you’d give yourself if you were just starting out?

D: To just keep showing up. And even when it’s hard, to just keep pushing through because there is an ending. But when you’re in it, you don’t believe that. You think there are a bajillion books—why would they need another one? But you will finish. I think I would tell myself to just sit in that chair and keep going. 

J: Hypothetical situation: Steve and Owen are out for the night. You’ve got the house to yourself. What do you cook for yourself. And what movie do you watch?

D: Well Jess, first of all I don’t cook! So I’d order in Italian. And red wine. Was a beverage allowed?

J: Yes.

D: And what would I watch? I am completely obsessed—100 per cent—and I might even admit how many times I’ve seen the whole series…

J: How many times?

D: Thirteen times. I’ve watched Gilmore Girls thirteen times. I am absolutely, unequivocally, madly in love with that show. 

J: Uh, have you seen the new trailer?

D: Uh, yeah! 

J: And?

D: Mixed emotions. But I’m so excited because this is really a dream come true. I also listen to the podcast Gilmore Guys that talks about every single episode. It has changed my life. My husband and son think that I need help. But it’s my happy place. And when I was writing this memoir it was so hard and so depressing that watching the Gilmore Girls, where nothing bad happens in Stars Hallow, was like medicine! I just can’t get enough. I actually don’t travel without it because if shit goes down, I need to have it with me. 

J: Who do you think Rory should’ve ended up with?

D: I’m team Jess. I know there’s controversy but I think that he and Rory are of the same mind as far as their literature and their writing—and there’s passion there! It’s hot! Team Jess all the way. I’ll even get the T-shirt. 

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