Interviewing the Inimitable Terry Fallis
Two days have passed since I got to share the stage with two-time Leacock Medal winner Terry Fallis and I’m black and blue from pinching myself (well not literally). However did I manage to be the interviewer sitting comfortably on stage with this Canadian icon?
When I started my journey as an historical fiction writer, one of the first conferences I went to was in Niagara Falls and Terry was one of the speakers there. He had just recently won his first Leacock and was basking in the media and reader attention for The Best Laid Plans. I met him after one his sessions at the concert when a small group of writers and would-be writers (that was me at the time) lounged around a fireplace and chatted. I knew no one at the conference but thought I would be social.
When I entered the small room a very few folks were there with me but one of them was Barbara Kyle and another was, you guessed it, Terry Fallis. Five or six of us enjoyed a couple of friendly hours sipping on something benign and getting to know one another. I subsequently took one of Barbara’s writing courses in Toronto, another significant step in my journey to publication. A year or so later, I was on the speaker committee for London’s Women’s Canadian Club (900 members at the time) and suggested Terry to the group for a speaker that year. They were delighted to think we could get this by now famous icon. Fast forward to the September meeting when we hosted Terry for lunch beforehand at the Hilton and I drove him to Centennial Hall for the meeting. Of course, he was fabulous, sold loads of books and won lots of new admirers, as well.
As we drove back to where Terry’s car was parked he asked me how my first book was coming along on the publishing trail. I told him it was almost out and that it had taken me the better part of six years to get to that stage. Then I took a deep breath, probably endangered both our lives with my driving as I wondered whether to ask him the question that was burning to escape my lips, and spoke. “I wonder if you would consider writing a back cover blurb for me.” And he said yes!
When The Loyalist’s Wife came out the next spring, Terry’s lovely blurb was on the back cover. I’m sure I sold a lot of copies because of his kindness and his growing fame. When my fourth book hit the shelves, Terry again stepped up to help me and before that he had given me a shout out from the stage where he was speaking at the Toronto Inspire Conference. This all leads to my telling people that Terry is not just the smiling and personable person we see on stage but he is that person off stage as well. He steps up to help whenever he can. Success has never gone to his head.
Since then we’ve rarely been in contact except through social media and the odd email, but when the London Writers Society president (who happens to be my husband) contacted Terry through the email I supplied, he was as generous as ever. He agreed to speak at our spring showcase of writers on May 10. Luckily for me the team from LWS decided I should get the nod to introduce Terry and to interview him on stage.
Well, my chest swelled and, of course, I said yes. As the weeks went on and the day came closer and closer that little guy on my shoulder reminded me about the nerves he liked to throw at me. In the days before May 8th, I developed questions, worked on the organizational details with my husband, pictured just how I would do all I was charged with and wondered why I ever said I’d interview Terry. Luckily my years on stage (the small stage, that is) as a singer and a teacher and an author myself stood me in good stead. I forgot about the nerves and just had fun. People loved it. Terry was terrific. I was even witty a few times and Terry taught us all his secrets to success. Three other LWS members on stage did well also so that when the auditorium emptied the words in the air were delighted and delightful. Terry sold loads of books and the other author tables did, too.
My years of teaching high school helped me in several ways to do this gig but the most important habit I’d acquired was to always have lots more prepared for the class than you would ever need. I did that for this gig as well and I’ve included the following list. It will give an idea of where the talk led. I got to use about 15 of these questions.
Interview Questions for Terry Fallis
London Writers Society Event
May 8, 2023
- What is the most important quality for a would-be successful writer to have?
- What is the best use of an author newsletter? (Terry–sign-up sheet going around.)
- How has your laid-back, self-deprecating sense of humour helped you in your writing?
- You’re a twin. Is there anything about your personal experience as a twin that has informed your writing?
- As would-be writers we often hear “write what you know.” To what extent do you do that? I think an addendum to that phrase might be “or look it up.” I remember researching how to skin a raccoon and make a raccoon hat for my first Loyalist book. (Description not in book but I learned enough to be able to write about it with some kind of truth.)
- Tell us that iconic story of how you won your first Leacock medal. What has been the result in your life of winning that well-known prize for The Best Laid Plans?
- Think back to the writing of The Best Laid Plans. How long did it take you to go from conception to self-published novel?
- What was it like having The Best Laid Plans made into a tv series? Is there another tv show/serial in the works about one of your books?
- Have you had a mentor, at any time, to help you on your writing journey?
- Do you see a time when you will run out of stories? Your readers hope not. But, if it happens, will you return to politics?
- Explain why editing is crucial to the writing process and how it has helped you.
- How has your writing timetable changed since leaving your position at Thornley-Fallis? Or has it?
- To what extent does your long-time reading group help in your writing career?
- You sometimes mention being friends with the iconic writers you mention in your Substack newsletter. It must be some interesting conversations you have when you get together in small groups. Have you been shocked by anything one of them has told you? Or helped?
- Can you tell us of a time when you met one of your writing idols and maybe shared the stage with her or him?
- What’s your favourite book that you’ve written? Is it the one that has made you the most money?
- How has the establishment of your Substack weekly newsletter affected your career as an author? (Now to be every other week, I know.)
- What have you learned along your own writing journey that makes your writing life easier now? Anything?
- What is the best thing about being a full-time writer now?
- Do you see ChatGPT, or ‘novels by artificial intelligence’ replacing authors? Why? Why not?
- Care to give us a peek into your new book “A New Season” to be released this August? Will there ever be another Angus book?
- Thank you so much, Terry.
If I can get a few moments to edit the video from Monday night, I’ll put clips in my next newsletter. If you’re not on the list sign up on my website.
Remember to write a book review for one of my books if you haven’t done it yet. They help immensely.