Daniel Allen Cox, author of Tattoo This Madness In, bribed me with baked goods. OK, so I was planning on interviewing him anyway, having heard that his recently launched book had acquired a cult following here in Montreal, not to mention the fact that it was apparently one of the most successful book-signings in Chapters' history. In the interest of full disclosure, however, I must admit that the offer of free desserts caught my attention. Sorry, first-year J-schoolers, but a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do!

I met up with Cox (and before you ask: yes, that's his real name) at Expozine where I was forcibly (if temporarily) tattooed. In the spirit of his book's main character, the disfellowshipped (or 'DF'd') former Jehovah's Witness Damian Spitz, Cox was branding 'Expozinesters' with their choice of images. I chose a pink cat face for my inner right forearm and, thus initiated, I asked what the deal was with the JWs and Smurfs. He told me that if you were to ask a Jehovah's Witness about 'the Smurf ban of the 1980s, "they'd probably deny it," as it was unofficial.

"A rumour began somewhere around that time that a stuffed Smurf jumped up out of a seat at a JW meeting and said "'I've had enough of this shit!' before storming out on its own plushy legs," he said. "The next thing you know, everything Smurf-related had to be either burned or shredded because it was possessed."

With Smurfs singled out by the church as tools of the devil, Cox said that he "thought it would be neat for the characters in [his] book to adopt Smurfs as a symbol of their break with the religion, as their rebel mascots." In honour of this strange censorship, all of the book's characters get homemade Smurf tattoos when they leave the church to join Damian's group of teen dissenters.

As a former JW himself, Cox obviously has the inside scoop on the church's lengthy list of banned items, some of which are listed in his book, including "smoking a cigarette, jacking off, going trick-or-treating, eating an Easter egg, celebrating a birthday, decorating a Christmas tree, pursuing higher education, buying a lottery ticket, humming the national anthem, voting, joining the military, accepting a blood transfusion, or finding something beautiful in a human being of the same sex."

If these sound restrictive, let's not forget the equally fun church mandate to go door-to-door selling your religion to uninterested "or even hostile people," which Cox describes as "a question of duty," explaining that "the Gospel of Matthew apparently issues the command to preach and spread the good news." He also points out that the Jehovah's Witness doorstep preachers are, in fact, called "publishers," an interesting concept that prompted him to consider selling his book door-to-door, JW style.

On the topic of publishers, Cox says he did a lot of research and hard work before settling upon Dusty Owl Press, an Ottawa-based company, based on their presence at Expozine in 2005. As he tells it, "I was walking through the aisles of Expozine when I suddenly smelled fresh celery, and I turned around and commented on this crispy freshness to a man in goggles who would be my eventual editor. I took a flier and didn't even email Dusty Owl until a few months later, when I remembered that he had been yelling 'looking for new writers!' when I smelled his celery."

Celery-munching publishers from Ottawa aside, Cox thinks Montreal is a great city for writers, saying "it's inspirational to buy bagels from the same place Saint Leonard does. Who am I kidding?"

As far as getting actually published, Cox says "you just have to be resourceful. With the indie press flourishing in Canada, and publishers starving for submissions because writers keep sending them the wrong material, why do first-timers mail their manuscripts straight to the Random House recycling bin? Self-publishing has also definitely opened up a lot of options, and people have to stop hating on writers who go that route. Ultimately, research, persistence and ingenuity will get a writer published."

For more info, check out dfmenow.blogspot.com, or hit up Cox's MySpace book tour at myspace.com/danielallencox.