A great deal of my writing is rooted in personal experience | Q&A with author Terry Fallis

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Terry Fallis (TF) is well-known and well-loved Canadian author. To date, he has published three novels (The Best Laid Plans, The High Road, Up and Down) and his fourth (No Relation)  will be released to bookstores in May. The Best Laid Plans was made into a television series which aired on CBC (Link to online episodes) back in February. Fallis currently lives in Toronto
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1) So you have been releasing excerpts of your new novel “No Relation” in the past little while. How has it been received so far? Could you provide a brief synopsis?
 
TF: I’ve podcast all of my novels in their entirety, chapter-by-chapter, and made them available for free through my blog and iTunes. It was how I tried to build an audience for my first novel, The Best Laid Plans back in 2007 before it was ever published. Fortunately, McClelland & Stewart have allowed me to continued to produce and release the podcast version of my novels. I’ve just started to podcast No Relation. As of today (March 14), chapters 1, 2 and 3 have been posted. I’ll try to release one chapter each week until it’s finished. I quite enjoy podcasting my novels. They often generate interesting comments from listeners and makes for a more intimate connection with readers/listeners.
 
2) It has been over a month since the last episode of “The Best Laid Plans” aired. How do you feel about the whole situation of your work being made into a TV show. Would you do it again?
 
TF: Contrary to the experience many writers endure, I quite enjoyed the process. While the TV series is not exactly like the book, it certainly captured the themes and ideas I was trying to illuminate. I would certainly do it again. In fact, I’m now active with two different producers who are trying to bring Up and Down, and my new novel, No Relation to the screen. We’re a long way from confirming anything yet, but my fingers are crossed.
 
3) I read on your Facebook profile that “The Best Laid Plans” is being produced as a stage musical in Vancouver. What are your feelings towards that? Are you involved with the production of that?
 
TF: I’d be quite thrilled to see it brought to the stage, though it’ll take a more creative mind than mine. Vern Thiessen is the playwright working on it and he’s a superstar in the Canadian theatre firmament. I have very little involvement in it, but I’m looking forward to flying out to Vancouver sometime for the premiere.
 
4) Who are some of your favourite writers? What are you reading right now?
 
TF: Here are a few of my favourite writers: Robertson Davies, Mordecai Richler, Paul Quarrington, Donald Jack, John Irving, Stephen Fry, William Boyd, and Christopher Buckley. Right now I’m reading William Boyd’s, Restless for our book club.
 
5) You seem active on the social media platforms like Facebook. Do you find such tools useful in helping with your writing?
 
TF: I’m not certain being active in the social media space actually helps my writing, but I am convinced that it helps me forge a stronger relationship with readers, which I think is also very important. It deepens my connection with them.
 
6) How much of your writing is based on personal experience? Do you include other people’s personal stories in your novels or do you rely on your imagination to come up with some of the situations in your books?
 
TF: A great deal of my writing is rooted in personal experience (except for the S&M scenes in The Best Laid Plans). I am a member in good standing of the “write what you know” school of writing. I just find that I can write with more conviction, authenticity and authority if I’m writing about something I’ve experienced, or care about. I certainly use my imagination to extend story elements beyond my own experience, but there’s usually a foundation of personal knowledge on which I’m building (again, except for the S&M scenes in The Best Laid Plans. I just made all of that up.)
 
7) You have a background in Engineering. Do you still do anything in your field? (Maybe building a hovercraft in your garage or a swing to test G-forces out in the woods someplace?)
 
TF: While I do have a degree in Mechanical and Biomedical Engineering, I’ve never practiced engineering in my career. But I still think like an engineer and did so even before I ever went off to McMaster University. A classmate and I built three full sized hang gliders and a twin-engine single-seater hovercraft, all by the age of 15. So I was probably destined to study engineering. But I don’t build very much these days other than stories.
 
8) So you have done some public readings for your novels. How do you like doing those events?
 
TF I’ve done a lot of events and still do (http://terryfallis.com/appearances). I truly believe that hitting the road and speaking/reading at book clubs, libraries, literary festivals, community organizations, and even conferences is a great way to sell books. I’m not very good at saying ‘no’ when I’m invited to speak and/or read. And I seldom want to say no. The more people you can reach, the more books you’re going  to sell, and the more likely it is a publisher will let you write another book. Plus, I actually quite enjoy it, which, I gather, is not typically the case for many novelists.
 
9) There are a lot of people who seem to be writing fiction right now just for their own personal enjoyment. Do you have any advice for people who are doing that task right now?
 
TF: I think that’s the purest form of writing. When you’re mind is focused on landing a publisher rather than honing your craft and making your manuscript as good as it can be, you can’t possibly write your best. Better to focus first on writing something you care about, and then when it’s finished, you can worry about whether it might ever be published.
 
10) So after the dust of “No Relation” has settled, what is next for you? Are you planning any more novels?
 
TF: No Relation will hit bookstores on May 20th. But, yes, I’m currently working on my fifth novel, tentatively called, Poles Apart. I hope to finished it this fall. Not sure when it will be published, but likely sometime around the Fall of 2015.

 

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