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10 for the Top 10: Terry Fallis answers the Canada Reads Questionnaire

When Terry Fallis, a communications strategist, set out to become a published author, he shopped his manuscript to plenty of publishing houses — but they all turned it down. That didn't stop him, and he started podcasting (for free!) his debut novel, The Best Laid Plans, in instalments in 2007. This Toronto-based author had the last laugh when his satirical take on the worst (or best, depending on which way you look at it) election campaign Canada has ever seen won the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour. Since then, Terry has scored a "traditional" publishing contract and the sequel to The Best Laid Plans, The High Road, hit bookstore shelves in earlier this year.

Considering that the Winnipeg Free Press called Terry's work "the most irreverent, sophisticated, and engaging CanLit has seen since Stephen Leacock," we can bet those original naysayers are kicking themselves now.

Terry Fallis The Best Laid Plans

Pitch Canada your novel in three lines or less.

The Best Laid Plans shines a satirical light on Canadian politics through the clear eyes, full hearts and hilarious antics of Angus McLintock, a crusty and dishevelled engineering professor turned accidental MP, and speechwriter Daniel Addison, his trusty, savvy, yet sometimes hapless guide. The staples of Canadian politics are all here, including punk rockers, studded leather chokers, rogue polluters, a blizzard and a hovercraft.

Which Top 10 book would you want to defend on Canada Reads (other than your own!)?

This is a tough decision. I'm torn between Zoe Whittall's Bottle Rocket Hearts and William Gibson's Pattern Recognition. Both are wonderful, for different reasons. But I've come to know and like Zoe, and therefore feel a more personal connection to her novel. So Bottle Rocket Hearts it is.

What's your favourite bookish place in Canada?

When my wife and renovated our home a couple years back, we added something we've both always wanted, a library. It's up on the third floor with a small deck overlooking the backyard. The built-in shelves are stocked with our books and there's a wonderful chair in the middle for reading. I write in this room and can seldom think of any place I'd rather be.

Which Canadian author (alive or dead) would you most like to meet?

I'd have to say Robertson Davies. His writing has inspired me for a very long time. This past summer, I read Val Ross's wonderful oral biography of him (Robertson Davies: A Portrait in Mosaic) and it just made me want to meet him more. He seems a writer who should have been born in an earlier era. I've always been fascinated by him and have loved his writing, particularly the Deptford and Cornish trilogies.

Who is your favourite fictional character and why?

Without a doubt, Sherlock Holmes. I revisit the Holmes stories time and time again, and never tire of them. Notwithstanding the utterly beautiful writing, the character Doyle created more than a century ago still stands alone in literature.

What did you want to be growing up?

From early high school until I was in third year university, I thought I'd be an engineer. Alas, no. I finished the degree but haven't practised a day of engineering in my life.

What would you be if you weren't a writer?

Unfulfilled. But seriously, I'd probably be in the public affairs/ public relations world, writing for clients. Wait a minute, that's what I've been doing for over 20 years. I'd love to be a full-time novelist but I'd first need a lot more people to buy my novels.

What's your favourite encounter with a reader or most memorable fan moment?

This past September, I was doing a reading in a large church in Waterloo, Ontario. The highlight of the night was when an elderly woman in the front row asked if I were writing a third novel. I replied that I was in fact working on a third, but that it was not a follow-on to The Best Laid Plans and The High Road. I then noted my intention to return in the future to the central characters in my first two novels, Angus and Daniel, observing that they weren't quite done with me yet. In a booming voice, the older woman shouted "Well, don't wait too long, I haven't many years left, and I want to read it!" I, and most of the audience, collapsed in laughter. It was a priceless moment that I'll not forget.

What book has moved or affected you most in the past year?

I thoroughly enjoyed the new volume of Stephen Fry's autobiography, The Fry Chronicles. I've been a Stephen Fry fan for many years and have always admired him as a modern Renaissance man. I also loved John Irving's latest novel, Last Night in Twisted River. His skilled juxtaposition of humour and pathos is always so affecting.

Which Canadian personality do you want to have defend your book?

Over the last few years, I've gotten to know Jim Cuddy, of Blue Rodeo fame, as we both play on the same ball hockey team. He's a great guy, and he kindly read The Best Laid Plans, and seemed to enjoy it enough to provide a "blurb" for the cover of the sequel, The High Road. Beyond being an amazing singer and songwriter (and he's not bad on the blueline either), he's a well-known book lover who I think would do a fine job defending The Best Laid Plans in the upcoming battle. He was also a Canada Reads panelist in 2007 so he knows how to get his elbows up in the corner and support his book.

The Best Laid Planswas originally published in 2007 and is now available through McClelland & Stewart. It can be found at fine independent bookstores across the country.

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