Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The Lucky Seven Interview, with Alan Mallory

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Alan Mallory

If you think your last family vacation was a little stressful (Who sits where in the car? How to agree on a restaurant?), consider what it might be like to undertake one of the world's most gruelling mountain climbing adventures — as a family.

That's what Alan Mallory and his family did in setting out to climb none other than Mount Everest. After returning home from their successful trip, Alan wrote The Family that Conquered Everest...and the Secrets to their Success (General Store Publishing House). Part adventure story, part family memoir, it also contains ideas from Alan on personal development and leadership.

Today we're speaking to Alan as part of our Lucky Seven series, a seven-question Q&A that gives readers a chance to hear about the writing processes of Canadian authors and gives authors a space to speak in depth about the thematic concerns of their newest books.

Alan tells Open Book about the challenges of the climb, how his family's journey changed his ideas about success and the value of deadlines.

Open Book:

Tell us about your new book.

Alan Mallory:

The Family that Conquered Everest…and the Secrets to their Success, is a true adventure story built around my family’s two-month expedition and journey to the highest point on earth, the summit of Mount Everest. In 2008, my father, brother, sister and I became the only family of four to accomplish such a feat. My mother was climbing along with us at the onset as well but unfortunately had a fall above Base Camp and tore her Achilles tendon, resulting in her having to abandon her climb and return to civilization to medical attention and recovery.

The experiences we encountered during the expedition were as incredible as they were terrifying. From staggering across ladders spanning bottomless crevasses and fighting the many altitude-related sicknesses to climbing through a blizzard in the dead of night and two of us almost losing our lives forever, every segment of the climb was an exhilarating challenge.

The book is much more than an exciting adventure though. It is also very inspirational from the standpoint of family success and family togetherness. Throughout the book, I explore and allude to the many family adventures and the family dynamics that prepared us to take on such a challenge together. There are secrets about the dynamics of high-performance teams as well as close-knit family secrets throughout the book. The trust, camaraderie and healthy competition we had built and fostered throughout our many escapades together, ultimately led to our success not only on the mountain but in family life as well.

I was motivated to write this book by the many people who found my family’s journey inspirational and who wanted to hear more. Although during the expedition, I had no intentions of writing a book, it was fortunate that I kept a journal of our daily encounters, as it made recalling the details a bit easier. It took a little over four years of writing and reworking the text before my goal of producing this book was finally realized but it feels wonderful to share it with the world.


Is there a question that is central to your book, thematically? And if so, did you know the question when you started writing or did it emerge from the writing process?


The question that is central to my book is “What are the secrets to personal and family success?”

When I first started writing the book, I had some ideas of what I believed contributed most to our success but it was through the process of writing that I was able to fully think about and explore what these differentiators were. At first, I was writing mostly about the adventure and the central question of personal and family success began to emerge as I went along. When I was nearing completion of the book I knew I had many short sections throughout which alluded to the “secrets” but I decided to reiterate the main point in the final chapters in order to tie everything together.


Did the book change significantly from when you first starting working on it to the final version? How long did the project take from start to finish?


There were many changes to my book throughout the process of writing but I would say that the original intent or direction did not change significantly. When I originally envisioned the book, I wanted to share my family’s story in an exciting way and at the same time incorporate knowledge and ideas that could improve and enhance reader’s own lives. I also wanted to incorporate input and ideas from each of my family members to make it truly a family story. This was accomplished by including an excerpt from each of them at a time when they had a particularly inspiring or interesting experience to share. I am very happy with how this worked and integrated into the overall story.


What do you need in order to write — in terms of space, food, rituals, writing instruments?


The most important thing for me in order to write is that I minimize the distractions around so that I can focus on what I am doing at the moment. I try to find a quiet place where I can calm my mind and allow creativity to flow.

I seldom write using the pen and paper approach but almost always go directly to digital instead. I do vary my input methods greatly, however. Sometimes I type on a desktop, sometimes a laptop, sometimes a tablet and sometimes even my iPhone. Occasionally, I even record what I want to write on to an audio capturing device and type it out at a later date, either manually or sometimes using a voice-to-text program. The latter almost always requires a significant amount of manual corrections and cleaning up though so I don’t embraced this technology very often.


What do you do if you're feeling discouraged during the writing process? Do you have a method of coping with the difficult points in your projects?


There were many times when I felt discouraged and lacking the willpower to continue writing, like some invisible force was always pulling me in other directions.

I have found that often I need to create some sort of self-initiated accountability in order to stay motivated and continue moving forward with my writing. Usually, I can accomplish this by setting my own deadlines or not allowing myself certain rewards until I reach a certain point. At times this is difficult though and on occasion I engage others to hold me accountable as well, by promising certain people a section of the manuscript to review for example by a certain date.


What defines a great book, in your opinion? Tell us about one or two books you consider to be truly great books.


A great book, in my view, is a book that takes the reader on an emotional and informative journey and leaves the reading with a feeling of “Wow”. Great books also generally give the reader something they can think about and apply in their own life. In general, I don’t enjoy reading books unless I can learn something that I can put into practice or test out myself. I enjoy absorbing other people’s knowledge in order to better myself. Great books also need to have a certain degree of entertainment and humour mixed into the messages in order to keep the reader engaged and eager to continue reading.

Two books that I consider to be truly great books are The Richest Man in Babylon, by George S. Clason and The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Steven R. Covey.

Both of these books are loaded with important lessons and knowledge that a person can take action on right away. They are also both highly entertaining and engaging reads that have left me with a feeling of true value.


What are you working on now?


I am currently working on couple of motivational books although they are in the early stages. I am also continuing the writing of a novel that I started a few years ago. The story takes place in the future and it is quite far removed from the genre of my first book. It is built around a futuristic concept that I conjured up and decided to develop into an entertaining story. It has been a challenge because it is so much different than writing about personal experiences but I like a challenge!

Alan Mallory was born in the city of Barrie, Ontario and was raised for most of his childhood in a little hamlet west of Barrie by the name of Utopia. He is licensed in Ontario, Alberta and Arizona to practise as a Professional Engineer and has worked in many countries around the world. In 2008, Alan and his family set out to attempt to climb to the highest point on earth, the summit of Mount Everest. The resulting journey became the basis for his book, The Family that Conquered Everest...and the Secrets to their Success.

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