I’ve decided to share, at least once or twice a month, posts about the authors whose books I am reading (or have read). I found my latest discovery while searching Author/bloggers on Goodreads. I have begun reading W.T. Fallon’s Fail to the Chief, an interesting novel with a premise that really drew me in. So far, it is wonderfully absurd political satire and a little like the movie “Idiocracy,” where the President will be elected via a reality TV show. I am really enjoying it so far and look forward to perusing Fallon’s blog a lot more! The following is W.T. Fallon’s guest post.
W.T. Fallon: Why I Wrote Fail to the Chief
The day I came up with the idea for my novel, Fail to the Chief, I was running on the treadmill, and watching a 24-hour news channel. I realized election coverage is a lot like a reality show—candidates are followed 24/7, commentators yell questions at them, and just when you think you know who’s going to win, someone throws a wrench into things and everything changes.
So if it’s pretty much just a reality show anyway, why not go all the way and let people vote from their couches like we do for other reality shows? I read years ago that more people voted for American Idol than voted for president in the last election. Wouldn’t voter turnout be better if people didn’t have to drive to the polls and stand in line?
Of course, the idea of online voting isn’t new, and usually, the answer to that is, “But, hackers!” But the idea of making the election an actual reality show where people could vote without leaving the couch? That interested me. (Measures to prevent hacking are addressed in the book.)
What would this reality show look like? I immediately pictured the shows I watched, but with candidates for contestants. You’d have your typical reality show host, the obligatory well-tanned guy in a tuxedo introducing the contestants, giving them a shoulder to cry their totally fake tears on, and basically expressing no opinion whatsoever, because that’s what reality show hosts do, right?
Now, enter the contestants. This was around December of 2015, so the 2016 presidential race was just heating up, and there were tons of real candidates on both sides of the aisle for inspiration. I imagined various characters competing on this reality show to elect a president. What could happen on a reality show that couldn’t happen in real life? What would we learn about the candidates if we really followed them around with cameras 24/7?
I had been writing satire about politicians for my local Gridiron Show since 2012, and in December of 2015 there was no shortage of colorful characters in the presidential race, all ripe for satirizing.
Then there are the challenges you see on reality shows. I remembered things I’d always wanted to see in a presidential debate: A boxing match between candidates, a debate where the contenders were hooked up to polygraph machines, candidates being forced to work at real jobs like us regular people, a debate where the candidates had to play a drinking game instead of the audience choosing to do so. Who wouldn’t want to watch a debate where the candidates had to take a drink every time someone said something trite, overused, or eyeroll-inducing? None of those things are going to happen in real life, but I was able to make them happen in my book.
I had been writing about a chapter a week, and would probably still be writing it if I hadn’t lost my job. I was unceremoniously fired two days before my birthday—because nothing says happy birthday like a pink slip—and replaced with a ten-buck-an-hour intern. My employers promised I had done nothing wrong, they were just, “going in a different direction.” Yet when I went to file for unemployment, they claimed I had been fired for cause. At that point, I said, “Screw it, I’m going to finish my novel.”
So I took all my anger and frustration and put it into my book. There are a lot of scenes where regular people describe their problems with unemployment, the economy, etc. Many of those were inspired by my life as a two-time college graduate, living with my parents and struggling to find a job in a bad economy. Going into debt for a college degree that turns out to be worthless, working multiple minimum-wage jobs as a college graduate, and the unemployment office’s efforts to help people “find jobs” were all things I explored.
In one scene, an unemployed worker tells a candidate how the unemployment office required her to attend a “find a job” type class. She was given instructions on how to get her GED (despite having a college degree), how to go to trucking school (despite the fact that for some people, backing up a large truck is a public safety hazard), and how to learn English as a second language (although she already knew it as a first language). That’s the kind of help I encountered at the unemployment office, and it was of no use to me, or anyone else in the room. But that’s our government for you, and I decided to write about its futility through the lens of a reality show to elect a president.
After years of emceeing insipid singing competitions, TV personality Bryan Seafoam can’t wait to host “American President,” the world’s first reality show to elect a president of the United States. Finally, an opportunity to be a real journalist, digging up dirt and playing hardball with the top ten candidates.
But it doesn’t take long for the contestants to start slinging mud at Bryan – literally, when billionaire candidate Ronald Chump is challenged to dig his proposed moat along the Mexican-American border himself. Forced to work in a fast food restaurant, an anti-minimum-wage-hike candidate learns his coworkers are struggling to survive with multiple jobs and claims to have solved the unemployment problem in his state-leaving Bryan to duck ketchup bombs from customers. To make matters worse, Bryan’s producer pressures him to be nicer to the candidates, and his former crush, now an experienced political correspondent, shows up-and shows him up at every turn.
When a cheating scandal rocks the show, Bryan begins to suspect it’s just the tip of a very underhanded iceberg. Will trying to expose a plot to wreck the most hysterical, er, historic election in history cost Bryan his career-and his personal life?
T. Fallon’s Bio
T. Fallon believes if you can’t say something nice, you should say something funny and totally true. She has few marketable skills, but is highly talented in the areas of sarcasm, satire, and snark. For the past several years, she has written for the local Gridiron Show, and last year she started a blog called Sharable Sarcasm. The 2016 election provided so many opportunities for humor that she decided to write her first novel, a political satire called Fail to the Chief. She was recently published on The Satirist, and has been writing for Humor Outcasts since September of 2016.
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Bryan tapped the tablet again. “Here are the suggestions. Number one comes from Avery L. on Facebook, and it says, and I quote, ‘We spent almost ten million in taxpayer money last year for upkeep on the White House, including half a million on flowers alone, and almost three million on annual holiday decorations. Is all that really necessary? I mean, how many flowers do you really need in a ginormous mansion? Couldn’t you cut that spending down to five million?’”
“That sounds like the fiscally responsible thing to do.” Morganstern straightened his tie and turned to face the nearest camera. “When I was the head of Cheatham Bank, the largest banking group in the country, we didn’t waste money on unimportant things like decorations or paid vacations for employees. I even limited the amount of money we spent on toilet paper each month. If the employees ran out, they just had to find another solution.”
“Actually, according to an exposé into your inhumane HR practices, it just caused them to use more expensive printer paper for, ah, alternative purposes.” Haverty stepped between Morganstern and the camera. “I understand some also used the widely-distributed company newsletter with your picture on every cover.”
“Yes, and I installed security cameras to catch every employee who took that newsletter to the bathroom, and I fired every last one of them.”
“Perhaps now would be a good time to hear your plan for job creation,” Haverty shot back.
Bob Fuller stopped twisting his hemp necklace around his fingers long enough to groan. “I hope you at least printed that newsletter on recycled paper.”
Morganstern made a sound that was somewhere between a grunt and a chuckle. “Hmmph. Of course not, recycled paper costs twice as much, and it’s used.”