LIVING

Andre Alexis Wins $100,000 2015 Scotiabank Giller Prize For 'Fifteen Dogs'

11/11/2015 07:23 EST | Updated 11/11/2015 09:59 EST

Toronto writer Andre Alexis said he was feeling "pure, unadulterated joy" after winning the $100,000 Scotiabank Giller Prize for his novel "Fifteen Dogs" — just one week after nabbing the $25,000 Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize for the same book.

"It was really fun doing that, the money part," he said at Tuesday's black-tie Giller gala at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Toronto.

"The other stuff is a little bit tricky, because you're sort of not sure how it's supposed to change how you feel about yourself, or if it'll change how people feel about you, and you hope not. The big thing that you want is to just go on doing your work."

And that's exactly what Alexis, 58, plans to do.

"Fifteen Dogs" (Coach House Books), about 15 pooches gifted by gods with the skills of human consciousness and language, is the second in a series of five planned books Alexis conceived of all at once.

They're inspired by Pier Paolo Pasolini's film "Teorema," about a powerful being that comes down to Earth and influences a bourgeois family in Italy.

The first in the series was "Pastoral." Alexis said he's already written the next book, "The Hidden Keys," which is set in Toronto and was influenced by "Treasure Island."

And he's about halfway through a draft of the fourth book.

With a vision already in place, he didn't foresee being changed by his latest windfall, which he said will help him pay off his mortgage and take a trip to Florida.

"Not at all, not at all. It won't have a chance," said Alexis, whose debut novel, "Childhood," won the Books in Canada First Novel Award, the Trillium Book Award, and was shortlisted for the Giller and the Writers' Trust.

"Although maybe five years from now when I look back and I think, 'Oh my God, I won $100,000!' — then maybe it'll change me. But now, no."

The Trinidad native, who was raised in Ottawa, beat out titles by Montreal's Heather O'Neill, Vancouver-based Anakana Schofield, Montreal's Samuel Archibald, and London-based Rachel Cusk.

"Fifteen Dogs" was praised by jury members as an ``insightful and philosophical meditation on the nature of consciousness.''

The Giller Prize was established in 1994 by businessman Jack Rabinovitch in honour of his late wife, literary journalist Doris Giller.

This year's jury, which was expanded to five members from the usual three, read 168 books submitted by 63 publishers.

The jury included Irish author John Boyne, Canadian writers Cecil Foster, Alexander MacLeod and Alison Pick, and British author Helen Oyeyemi.

"I think they brought a different, more international perspective," said Rabinovitch of the jury. "I would like to continue it. I think it's worked out real well."

Boyne said the jury made their decision Tuesday morning after chatting for about 2.5 hours.

"We look for the book that really, as a jury, we feel we can stand behind the most, that moved us the most, that excited us, filled us with envy as writers."

This year's crop of contenders was touted as an eclectic and vibrant one, and Boyne said the jury heard from some who were surprised by the long and short lists.

"Because we had a lot of books from independent publishers, a lot of new writers, but we didn't do that deliberately. They were just the books that spoke to us at the time. We didn't actually look at imprints or publishers or reputation of authors."

Foster felt the long and short lists show "Canadian literature is in a very good position."

"One of the things that I noticed some of the critics were saying is that this year, the short list and the long list had quite a few books that normally would not be there, and I think that that's a reflection of the breadth that was the jury and what each juror brought to the deliberations," he said.

"I don't have anything wrong with a short list flummoxing people. I think that that's what literature is supposed to do. I think it is supposed to take us out of our comfort zone and get us to see things a bit differently."

Presenters included musician Buffy Sainte-Marie, soprano Measha Brueggergosman and TIFF artistic director Cameron Bailey.

Schofield marvelled at being able to stand next to Sainte-Marie on the red carpet, and getting to be at such a grand gala.

"We have never stopped laughing," she said of her time with her son at the hotel.

"Today we opened the curtains and we danced in the window to One Direction. We're not actually One Direction fans, but it was time to make mischief, it was time to misbehave."

Last year's winner was Montreal's Sean Michaels for "Us Conductors."

Comedian Rick Mercer hosted this year's televised gala on CBC-TV.

Also on HuffPost

25 Canadian Books To Read In Your Lifetime