Fagan touches up Jacob Two-Two

By Cam Cotton-O’Brien

Cary Fagan spent a decade unable to publish a book. Then he published three in one year.

Since that initial blitz, the Toronto-based author has penned a plethora of children’s and adult fiction, including the recently released continuation of Mordecai Richler’s Jacob Two-Two series.

Fagan notes that writing Jacob Two-Two on the High Seas presented some unique challenges.

“The others, of course, were written by Mordecai Richler and I wanted a kid reading to think he or she was reading another Jacob Two-Two story, not think, ‘Oh, this was written by a different writer,’ ” explains Fagan. “At the same time, I wanted it to be a good story and the only way it could be a good story was if I really made it my own.”

The 2007 Wordfest alum says that, though he felt some pressure at the outset of working on the book, he overcame this after a draft or two. He started to have more fun with the book, inserting his own style of humour and writing it in the same fashion as his other works.

These other works comprise a long list, amongst which rests Gogol’s Coat, a children’s book based on Nikolai Gogol’s crushing story The Overcoat — the same story credited with inspiring no less an author than Dostoevsky.

Though he is coming to Wordfest primarily to discuss his children’s work, Fagan also writes adult fiction. Cormorant Press in Toronto recently released his fifth adult novel, Valentine’s Fall.

“I’ve been working on it on and off for about 10 years, so I’m pretty glad to have it out there,” says Fagan.

Fall, originally set entirely during the characters’ high school years, underwent a transformation after Fagan had worked on it for a couple of years. After completing some children’s books and another novel, Fall was rewritten, with Fagan deciding that the high school setting wasn’t enough. He wrote an essentially new novel set 25 years after the first one, allowing his characters to reflect on their lives and what had transpired since their youthful high school hopes. He then incorporated some aspects of the original manuscript, oscillating the narrative between the two time periods.

Fagan explains that setting aside Valentine’s Fall to work on other books followed his usual working pattern. Typically at work on a novel, Fagan usually leaves it aside after a few months to work on children’s books, squeezing picture books into two-or three-day blocks when he can.

“As long as I’m working on something, I know that something will eventually get finished,” he says.


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