One Book One Brant celebrated their 10th anniversary with a visit from author, Terry Fallis. He is the author of 4 novels including Best Laid Plans and the featured book No Relation. An engineer by training and a public relations specialist, he was introduced by Dave Levac, MPP who praised the audience for promoting literacy since children “pick up the art of reading by watching adults”.
Growing up in Toronto, Fallis attended McMaster University. He attributes his love of language to his father and their discussions at the dinner table and how his father stressed the importance of good grammar. He has spent time working on Jean Chretien’s first leadership bid and then as a parliamentary assistant for Bob Nixon. He noted that Canadian authors were not generally used to speaking to such large crowds, a comment related to the large group gathered today which contrasted an experience he had at an Ottawa Library when there was space for 400 individuals and only 6 showed up, 4 of which worked for the library.
He told the audience that the idea of the No Relation novel was planted in 1988 when he met with a lawyer name Brian Mulroney, namesake of the Brian Mulroney who was running to be the Prime Minister at that time. As he shook this lawyer’s hand, he contemplated what it would be like to share a name with a well-known individual. Twenty-five years later this experience emerged as the central theme of No Relation.
As he spoke about No Relation he shared that he is a member of the “write what you know school of writing” so he made the main character Earnest Hemmingway, a struggling writer despite the fact that he is not a huge fan of Hemingway’s spare and concise writing. He noted that he also had considered naming this character William Shakespeare (Bill), Charles Dickens (Chuck) or F. Scott Fitzgerald. He commented that while these 3 authors are well known for what they have written that Hemingway was known as a writer that had a large literary presence. He shared that he had read the Moveable Feast and was keenly interested in the era of great writers who lived, played and wrote in France in the 1920s.
Originally, the novel was to be set in Toronto but armed with his list of 40 potential famous names, he found that there were not a lot of similar names in the Toronto phone book. He moved on to research the names in on 411 for New York where he found evidence of people with these names. He shared how he had the resources for one research trip and that he had traveled to Paris, writing the scene in the café at Hemingway’s favorite table writing in a moleskin notebook.
The author talked about his need to have readers “enjoy the journey” and that he enjoys writing happy endings with all the loose endings tied up in the end (as a reader, I tend to like this too). He noted about how difficult it is for new writers to get published in Canada and that he had initially self published his first book along with providing free podcasts of his readings of the book on iTunes. He joked that “if you suffer with insomnia, I can probably help with that” and I think that I will be listening to Best Laid Plans during my daily commute this week. Fallis feels that the work of the author includes writing the book, the work to get it published and then the promotion of the work at events such as One Book One Brant and book clubs.
Fallis talked about his new novel, coming out in the fall, which will be accompanied by weekly podcasts starting in July. It will be called Poles Apart and is a feminist novel about a man writing a feminist blog called Eve of Equality. He writes it in his apartment, above a high-class strip joint, sitting with his foot on the bolt that holds the pole in place for the dancing below. The blog is highlighted by a famous talk show host and the author, Everett is found out to be a man. Fallis shared that this novel will have elements of criminal activities and a potential for violence while he chuckles that he has not yet developed his 30 second elevator speech relating to this novel.
The author was an engaging speaker. He read the selection of the book when the main character was running away from Chihuahuas parallel to the street where the running of the bulls was taking place in Barcelona. He read with such feeling and enthusiasm that I am sure his podcasts will keep the audience’s attention. Listening to the author, it almost makes me want to re-read No Relation to further appreciate the humoured satire but I think that I will download the Best Laid Plans Podcasts and listen to those this week instead.
Kudos to the County of Brant for organizing One Book, One Brant! Although I had not been aware of the first 9 events, I will certainly participate in coming years. It is great to be amongst others who enjoy reading and to meet such an engaging author.