Terry Fallis Interviewby Beth Carswell
It just goes to show - perseverance pays off. Terry Fallis is a Canadian author and business/public relations consultant living in Toronto. He has two novels to his name so far - 2007's The Best Laid Plans, which was awarded the 2008 Leacock Medal for Humour, and then won the 2011 Canada Reads competition, and the 2010 sequel The High Road. Both novels satirize the Canadian political system, of which Fallis was a part for some of his formative years. Fallis was kind enough to agree to tell us about his unusual publication methods, his favourite books, and more.
AbeBooks: For those who don't know,- tell us the story of how your first novel, The Best Laid Plans came to be published.
Terry Fallis : "After I finished the manuscript, I did what most rookie writers do. I tried to find an agent and/or publisher for The Best Laid Plans. After a year of trying, I hadn't received a single rejection letter. I'd been greeted by a deafening silence. So I decided to build an audience for it on my own and self-publish the novel. So I podcast the entire novel, chapter by chapter, and made it available for free on my website (www.terryfallis.com) and through iTunes. Miraculously, people seemed to find it and enjoy it. With positive reviews from my podcast listeners, I decided to proceed with self-publishing and my ten author copies arrived in September 2007. I ordered some copies to take to independent bookstores in the hopes that they'd agree to sell them on consignment. Some did. So I was living the glamorous high life of the self-published novelist! I still had my box of 10 author copies in my office and on a lark I sent them up to the Stephen Leacock Association for their annual humour medal. Winning the 2008 Leacock Medal was the shock of a lifetime. It led immediately to a literary agent, Beverley Slopen, and a publishing deal with McClelland & Stewart. One year after the self-published version of TBLP arrived, the M&S edition hit bookstores."
AbeBooks: You've since published a sequel, The High Road. Do you plan to write more in the series?
Terry Fallis: "My third novel is in the works now but it features different characters and tells a different story. But I think Iíll return to Angus, Daniel and the others in a future novel. I donít think theyíre finished with me yet."
AbeBooks: In The Best Laid Plans, your graphic description of Rachel's infidelity had me laughing out loud. Were their other passages that you particularly enjoyed writing?
Terry Fallis: "While it may be a bit distasteful, I enjoyed writing that early scene when the accident-prone Daniel literally puts his foot in it, as it were. The airport scene when Angus discovers heís been elected was also fun."
AbeBooks: From his frustration with political bureaucracy, to his blatant hope and idealism, how much of the character of Daniel Addison is you?
Terry Fallis: "I confess thereís a lot of me in Daniel. I certainly had a similar experience working on Parliament Hill. The engineering side of me is embodied in Angus, but Daniel gets the rest of me."
AbeBooks: At one point in the book you refer to the 'great paradox of Canadian politics' (about non-candidates having the luxury to speak freely on real issues, while candidates can be mired in non-key local issues). What candidates in Canadian history have come closest to managing that paradox effectively?
Terry Fallis: "Hmmm. Tough question. I think Pierre Trudeau was a true original. I donít think he was often swayed by public opinion. Robert Nixon, the former Finance Minister in the Peterson Government back in the mid-eighties was also a bit of a role model for me in his approach to public service."
AbeBooks: Your descriptions of the Library of Parliament verged on reverence. Are you a library lover, and if so, what are some of your favourites you've visited?
Terry Fallis : "The Library of Parliament tops my list. It is simply breathtaking. Iíve spoken in a lot of nice public libraries in the last few years from Pelham to Port Hope, Dwight to Fort Erie, Kitchener to Etobicoke. Any building with books is all right by me. Iíve also visited the New York Public Library and that was very cool too."
AbeBooks: What are some of your favourite reads, and what works influenced you and helped you research your writing?
Terry Fallis : "This might take a while! In the Canadian writer category, Iím a big fan of Paul Quarrington, Robertson Davies, Mordecai Richler, and Donald Jack, not to mention Stephen Leacock. Looking farther afield, John Irving and Stephen Fry are wonderful, as is Richard Russo. Irvingís A Prayer for Owen Meany may well be my all-time favourite novel. While Iím not a big fan of Stephen Kingís fiction, his little book on writing, called coincidentally enough, On Writing, was very interesting."
AbeBooks: What's next for Terry Fallis?
Terry Fallis : "Well, Iím doing my best to carve out some time to get novel number three finished. Besides that, I have a raft of speaking and reading gigs coming up, which I always enjoy, and somewhere in there, I have a fulltime job to manage too. But Iím not complaining. Iím having a blastÖ"