Terry Fallis's publishing journey is a cross between a Cinderella story and a DIY show. When his manuscript for his first and very funny book, The Best Laid Plans, was passed over by literary agents, he began podcasting the story, one chapter at time, in 2007. The podcast became so popular that Terry decided to self-publish his manuscript.
Then, on a whim, he submitted his book to the Stephen Leacock Award for Humour. It won! The following week, Terry signed with McClelland & Stewart and the happy ending to this Cinderella story seemed complete.
But there were more glad tidings to come. The Best Laid Plans made it onto the Canada Reads Top 10, and subsequently was selected by Canadian-born CNN broadcaster Ali Velshi for this year's debates.
The Best Laid Plans is set in the world of Canadian federal politics, which is like home to Terry. He spent several years as a staffer on Parliament Hill and at Queen's Park in Toronto, working for the Liberal Party at both federal and provincial levels, before venturing into the private sector as a consultant in 1988. He didn't sit down and write The Best Laid Plans until several years after that, but much of what Terry knows and loves — from eager engineering students to complicated chess strategies — are inspired by his own experiences.
Terry admits that he doesn't believe that his personal tale is fiction-worthy. Rather, this busy family man was working full-time and was looking for a challenge. Why not write a novel?
"I just wanted to see if I could string 100,000 words together in a way that approached coherence," Terry told Shelagh Rogers in a recent interview on The Next Chapter. "I had never written fiction before and just chose something that I knew something about that didn't require three years of research."
And so this personal project turned into the tale of Daniel Addision, a former speechwriter who tries to get out of politics forever by running an unwinnable campaign. However, thanks to a political scandal, things don't go as planned for Daniel and his unlikely (and reluctant) candidate, engineering professor Angus McLintock.
The zany antics of Daniel, Angus and their cast of supporting characters may make you roar with laughter, but Terry hopes readers get more out of the book than plenty of puns.
"I always think of [The Best Laid Plans] as satire. Comedy makes you laugh. Satire, if it's working, makes you laugh and should make you think," he said. "I'd be delighted if people just read the story and laughed. That would be fine. But I'd be more fulfilled if they give some passive thought to the issues it tries to illuminate. I think what it illuminates how bitter, acrimonious and nasty politics has become."
Despite that not-so-favourable diagnosis for the state of Canadian politics, Terry is a bit like his jaded but hopeful protagonist: He may fear the worst, but he's hoping for the best.
"I'm an eternal optimist," he said. "I hope this book leaves readers some hope for the future."
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The Best Laid Plans will be defended by CNN broadcaster Ali Velshi in this year's Canada Reads debates, which will air on CBC Radio One on February 7, 8 and 9 at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. (2:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. in Newfoundland).
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Visit the Canada Reads website.