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This week we have WT Fallon on the Thursday Throng with her timely novel, Fail to the Chief. There is something vaguely disturbing when a novel published in October, mirrors some of the unusual occurrences in the recent US Presidential election, which itself felt rather like a game show at times – at least watching from here in the UK.
What is one thing that no-one would usually know about you?
One thing? That’s kind of hard. I still have one of my baby teeth, because it never fell out. I also have an extremely good sense of direction and never get lost, and I never use a GPS or ask for directions.
What did the best review you ever had say about you and your work?
I actually just received this review for Fail to the Chief recently:
Never has an election of a President cried out more for Satire and Lunacy than the one coming up.
Check out the massive number of liars, idiots, and clearly unqualified dopes who try out for The Next American President.
Yep, the carnival style of our actual run for President has been immortalized into a Game show competition. Honestly, the historical documentation of our actual election year will be considered far more over the top and strange than this book, but the satire election in this book is far funnier.
As in all game shows, the candidates are required to perform jobs they would never do in normal life. But when they work at a burger place, the customers tend to yell at them for their lousy votes when they were a congressman.
While I won’t share much of the plot, what we do learn is American people aren’t really happy with any of their leaders, especially not Congress, yet for some reason, we only focus on the president, instead of the group with the most power. (Wow, that’s the same problem we have in real life.)
I found this satire witty and accurate about many bad behaviors from our elected, and the new impact of social networking sites to our elections.
And you should be worried when Congress holds the people and even the president hostage if they don’t like something. It threatens our democracy as a whole…and that is NOT funny.
Have you ever written naked?
Yes, but only because I had just gotten out of the shower and remembered something I wanted to revise in something I just finished writing, so I just sat down and started working on it. But in general, if anyone were to hack my webcam, they’d probably just see me with my hair uncombed and no makeup on.
Who would you like to play you in a film of your life?
Me! I always wanted to be a famous actress, but sadly Hollywood hasn’t recognized my talent yet.
What is the single biggest challenge you faced when writing your book?
Figuring out how to make the premise plausible. In my book Fail to the Chief, I imagine the presidential election as a reality show, American President. I had to figure out how that would work. I did some research, and learned that our current system that puts in place the electoral college was set up by the Twelfth Amendment. So I imagined a situation where the Twelfth Amendment was overturned by the Twenty-Eighth, which simplified our voting process by giving us a reality show to elect the president.
Then the show proceeds just like a real reality show—contestants are given challenges, selected by the American people, and then a candidate is eliminated each week. Meanwhile, the candidates are followed by cameras 24/7, and when they’re forced to work at real jobs for their first challenge, their aides aren’t allowed to help them. So you have a billionaire driving a bulldozer, an anti-minimum-wage-hike governor working at a burger joint, etc.
Do you have any hints or tips for aspiring writers?
Don’t be afraid to write something that isn’t perfect. Often when I’m writing I don’t have any good ideas for where to go next with the story. So I just write the best bad idea, and usually after a few pages I get a better one. You can always delete the stuff that doesn’t work later, or edit it, but you can’t do much with a blank page. I’ve heard some people say they don’t want to just write something not great for the sake of writing something, but I disagree. If I waited until I had a good idea, I would never finish anything.
Where do you find your inspiration?
All over the place. Random thoughts I have. When I was writing Fail to the Chief, I thought about all the things I always wanted to see when watching a political debate. For example, I always wanted to watch a debate where all candidates were hooked up to a polygraph, and there was real-time reporting on whether they lied or told the truth with each answer. So I wrote that in as one of the challenges.
I also thought about all the drinking games people play during debates—take a drink when a candidate lies, take a drink when you hear something trite—and how I’d always thought it would be more fun if the candidates themselves had to drink every time they used a tired phrase, so that became another challenge in the book.
Other parts of the book were inspired by my own life. My experience at the unemployment office led to a scene where an average American describes his frustration at being ignored by government employees who admitted to not working on the taxpayer’s dime.
What was the most important thing you learned at school?
That spending money on a college degree is a waste of money. I have two, and I spent several years working in retail. Then I finally got a job that paid like I was a college graduate and not a kindergarten dropout, and after six months I was fired and my work divided among $10/hr interns.
Some of that frustration made its way into Fail to the Chief, where I addressed a real issue no politician ever talks about: College isn’t just expensive, it’s also not worth it for a lot of people. I hear politicians on both sides of the aisle talk about making college more affordable. But none of them are willing to admit it isn’t the ticket out of poverty they’ve been saying it is for years. Maybe it was back in the seventies, but it isn’t that way today. Most of the people I graduated with in 2012 are not working in their field, or even a job that requires any kind of college degree. One of them stocks the dairy case at Walmart. One of them sells weight loss supplements door-to-door. I worked in retail until the store closed, then I worked in a call center for $10/hr (ironically helping people with college financial aid questions). When I finally managed to get a job that paid like I was a college graduate and not a kindergarten dropout, it only lasted six months before I was fired and replaced with cheaper interns.
In the hamburger restaurant scene of Fail to the Chief, an employee explains to the anti-minimum-wage-hike governor that he works three jobs and barely makes ends meet. Not only does the governor fail to address the problem that college degrees often have low or no ROI, but he declares himself a success for solving unemployment, since one person was able to find three low-paying jobs.
Have you had to learn new skills and tricks or attempted impossible feats in order to get a book finished?
Well, I wrote 90% of Fail to the Chief in less than a month after getting fired. I started writing it in January and thought it was going to be a short story, but several members of my critique group encouraged me to make it a book. I would probably have taken a year to write it if I hadn’t lost my job in February—two days before my birthday, because nothing says happy birthday like a pink slip.
So at that point, I just said, “Screw it, I’m going to finish my book.” I finished it on March 4th. I wrote for several hours a day, and it’s too bad it wasn’t a Nanowrimo month, because I probably did write 50,000 words in less than 30 days. I’ve done Nanowrimos before (although not always successfully), so I just kept reminding myself, “I’ve done Nano. I trained for this.”
I had the time to write it, I just had to force myself to concentrate on the book every day instead of just screwing around on Facebook and feeling sorry for myself.
If you could commit the perfect murder where would you hide the body?
I think I’d dress it up in nice clothes and stash it at the local funeral home. Let them think they lost the paperwork or something.
WHERE CAN I FIND OUT MORE ABOUT wt fallon and her book?
You can find in Fail to the Chief in paperback format here:
You can also catch up with WT Fallon on her website here: https://sharablesarcasm.wordpress.com
WHY ‘THE THURSDAY THRONG’?
These posts are called The Thursday Throng in honour of the throng that waits eagerly outside the book store when a new author is doing a book signing event or appearance. On this website it takes the form of a ‘Meet the Author‘ online event with some information about our author’s latest book and an interview. If you would like to take part in the Thursday Throng then why not visit Thursday Throng Author Interview Guidelines to find out more.