Terry Fallis had the crowd laughing at last night’s Grimsby Author Series. He shared anecdotes with the audience and provided a reading of his newest novel, Poles Apart. This was my second time hearing Fallis speak as he had participated in One Book One Brant last year with his 4th book, No Relation. Poles Apart had me laughing out loud during my commute as I listened to Fallis read this novel in his free podcasts.
Feminism was the first topic of the evening. Fallis spoke of his early days, or his “feminist awakening” while an engineering student at McMaster University. He became involved in student politics, first as a class representative, then as a Vice President and finally as the President of the student’s union. His involvement in student politics led him to a workshop on women’s issues and he started to see how women were objectified in advertising and became committed to equality.
He showed the audience his first edition book, The Subjection of Women which he had found in the bottom of a box of books in a second hand bookstore. This writing was unofficially written by a married couple but only the man (John Stuart Mills) was listed as the author . His wife Harriet was not credited as co-author since women were not recognized as authors in 1869.
Fallis indicated that it is easy to march in a women’s parade or to sit on a board but that it is not so easy to live with equality every day. He tends to write what he knows so he has a main character that writes a blog about equality yet tries to swoop in a save a woman in the story. This character provides a strong social message about equality which Fallis tries to include without being “preachy”. When questioned about his strong, female and senior citizen characters he noted that he appreciates the wisdom and contributions of senior citizens so tends to include characters such as Beverly Thompson (the aging feminist icon) in his novels.
After sharing that I had enjoyed his podcasts which are engaging and “laugh out loud” funny, I asked whether he would continue with free podcasts of future novels. He told the audience that he has an agreement with his publisher to offer these as free podcasts with the theory that listeners will go on to buy the book for themselves or as gifts after enjoyng the audio version. He described how much he enjoys the process of recording the podcasts from choosing the music, to reading, to editing and to uploading.
The audience enjoyed hearing the author describe his writing process. He spends a great deal of time planning his characters and preparing a specific, chapter by chapter outlines before sitting down to write. He laughed as he relayed this and stated that as “an engineer by training – engineers don’t build bridges without a blueprint… and i don’t write without an outline”. He elaborated that “if I don’t know where the story is going, I am not ready to write” and that once he is ready to write, it is a “sprint” to write a 100 000 word manuscript during 4 months of weekends. After spending a year thinking about his story and preparing an outline, he writes the manuscript only once and then edits and polishes it for submission.
Terry Fallis is an award winning Canadian author that everyone should read (or listen to). The Best Laid Plans, my favourite Falls novel (and his first), is on the CBC list of 100 Books That Make You Proud to Be a Canadian which I am slowly working my way through. He does a great job with character development, making the reader feel like they know the individuals and weaving satire and comedy into his novels.
My last comment is about The Grimsby Author series which has brought high calibre writers to an eager audience. The combinations of authors has been fantastic and the moderation and introductions have been thought-provoking and insightful. It was mentioned that there are tickets remaining for the remaining series evenings (in February and April as well as for the night with author Yann Martel (best known for the Life of Pi) so if you are interested connect with the Grimsby Library.