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Terry Fallis answers the Stephen Leacock questionnaire

The High Road by Terry Fallis

On April 1, the Stephen Leacock Association announced the five finalists for the 2011 Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour. We sent all five nominees the same questionnaire in order to get a little more insight into who these writers are, what their books are about and what what they think of being nominated for the Leacock!

Trevor Cole (Practical Jean) and Red Green (How to do Everything) have already answered the questionnaire. Next up is Canada Reads 2011 winner Terry Fallis.

The High Road continues the adventures of reluctant MP Angus McLintock and his trusty campaign manager, Daniel Addison. When we first met Angus in The Best Laid Plans (the 2008 Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour winner), he wasn't keen on starting a life in politics, but came around to it after realizing he could do things his own way and still make a difference. After defeating the budget, Angus and Daniel need to decide if they are up for another campaign, and prove that a Liberal has what it takes to win the Tory stronghold of Cumberland-Prescott without a sex scandal to shake things up.

Terry's answers are below the jump!

Q: Tell us what your Leacock-nominated book, The High Road, is about.

A: The High Road is the sequel to my first novel, The Best Laid Plans. The High Road continues the adventures of the accidental MP Angus McLintock and his loyal sidekick, Daniel Addison. The novel pokes fun at the cutthroat, scorched-earth, and vicious brand of politics we now seem to practice in this country. There's another election, the failure of a major piece of Canada's transportation infrastructure, a visit from the president of the Unites State and his wife, a throne speech and a budget. As usual, Angus and Daniel are right in the thick of it and things don't always unfold as planned.

Q: Where were you when you found out you were nominated? What did it feel like?

Terry Fallis

A: I actually found out via Twitter that The High Road had been shortlisted. It left me floating a few feet off the ground for the next several days. It's a real thrill to be shortlisted with the amazing writers who also made the cut: Trevor Cole, Red Green, David Rakoff and Todd Babiak. What an honour.

Q: If you can't win, which other shortlisted author would you like to see win?

A: That's a tough one. I think it's a toss-up for me between Trevor Cole and Todd Babiak. I've really enjoyed their earlier novels and I'm quite sure a Leacock medal is in their futures.

Q: Who are some of your favourite humour writers?

A: I've collected hundreds of comic novels over the years. It constitutes a large share of the fiction I read. I've always loved writers like John Irving, Stephen Fry, Lesley Choyce, Robertson Davies, Mordecai Richler, Donald Jack, Scott Gardiner, Christopher Buckley, Will Ferguson, Ian Ferguson and Paul Quarrington, among others.

Q: What is the funniest place in Canada?

A: Hmmm. Are you trying to get me in trouble here? Pitting one region of the country against another? I'm tempted to say Atlantic Canada given how much time I've spent, and how many laughs I've had, down that way. But I'm not convinced there isn't great Canadian humour in all parts of the nation. I think the funniest place in Canada may well be between the ears of Rick Mercer or the Ferguson brothers, or any number of other hilarious Canadians, wherever they may be this week.

Q: Why humour? What compelled you to write funny stories?

A: Humour was a constant in our household growing up. Having an identical twin brother who enjoys getting laughs from a gathering just as much as I do probably spurred us both to explore humour more thoroughly than we might normally have. I just find laughing strangely therapeutic and wanted to write books that might trigger laughter in others. I think it's also the challenge of writing humour that attracted me to it. It's hard to think up words that when arranged in a certain order on a white page can actually make someone laugh. So when you succeed, it's very satisfying.

Q: What's the funniest book you've ever read?

A: I don't think I could name just one. But a few might be Thank You for Smoking by Christopher Buckley, The Hippopotamus by Stephen Fry and A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving.

Q: Where is your favourite place to write?

A: I write most often in the library we created on our third floor when we renovated our home a few years ago. Most of my two novels were written there and I just feel very much at home amidst the hundreds of our books lining the walls.

Q: What makes something funny?

A: Ahhh, now that's the trick of it. We don't always know completely what makes something funny. And our sense of humour can vary dramatically from person to person. So it's always a risk. It's not just that a line might fall flat, but that it might actually strike the reader in the wrong way and leave them feeling not particularly well-disposed towards the writer. While there are risks, there are rewards, too. I think most readers are genuinely surprised when something they read actually makes them laugh. Hearing from readers about that unexpected moment of laughter can be intoxicating for the writer.

Q: If you could meet Stephen Leacock, what would you say to him?

A: I would thank him for lighting the path for the humour writers following in his wake. He did the heavy lifting in the last century and established a benchmark that we've been trying to reach ever since. He put Canadian humorists on the map and we've been there ever since. I'd probably also ask if I could go fishing with him.


That's three nominees down, two to go!

We also have three Leacock prize packs to give away, consisting of all five nominated titles. To enter, head to the Stephen Leacock Medal discussion group in the CBC Books Community and let us know which title you think is going to win and why!

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