Trinity College grad reflects on how U of T helped him become a better writer

June 3, 2020 by Sean McNeely - A&S News

For  technothriller author and aspiring lawyer Alexander Plansky, graduating from the University of Toronto is a bit of a family tradition. As a member of Trinity College, Plansky completed his honours bachelor of arts, majoring in economics and cinema studies. He’s ready to turn the page on the next chapter of his life, but not before reflecting on his time as an undergraduate.  

As a writer who wants to study law, why did you pick economics and cinema studies?

I've always been a cinephile and I've always found economics fascinating since it's the underpinning of every industry, but I've also known for a long time that I want to work in the entertainment business. The economics background will help me understand the market, cinema studies will help me understand the craft, and a law degree in entertainment or intellectual property law will make sure I fully understand the contracts. 

How did you become a technothriller writer?

Michael Crichton has been my favourite author since I was 10 years old, when I first read Jurassic Park. I always liked writing short stories and knew I wanted to write novels someday. I toyed with the idea for my first novel Safari for years before publishing it the summer after my first year at U of T. My second, Arcadia, was published the following summer.  

They’re fairly different novels, being a sci-fi horror tale of genetic engineering and a psychological thriller about virtual reality respectively, but that’s what I love about the technothriller genre. As long as it centres on technology, your book can be about anything. 

Why did you choose U of T? 

I’ve always wanted to be a lawyer as well as a writer and you can’t go to law school without an undergrad degree. Also, my grandmother went to U of T for music and my father for engineering, so I’m continuing a tradition, though I’m the first Arts & Science graduate in my family.   

Has U of T helped you become a better writer? 

It’s greatly improved my research skills. My studies here have given me a lot of inspiration for topics in future novels. I've met interesting people who would make for great characters and certain topics in my economics classes — such as game theory — would lend themselves well to a thriller novel about financial tech.   

What have been some other memorable experiences at U of T?

I made some great friends at Trinity College. It has some interesting/odd traditions and clubs, which made for a very different experience than my arts high school. I also got to write and direct a murder mystery play for the Trinity College Dramatic Society this past year and really enjoyed working with the cast and crew.  

What's your plan after graduation? 

I’d like to take a year off from school to get some work experience — though we’ll see how that goes in this economy— and then go to law school for either entertainment or intellectual property law. I’ve also been working on a new technothriller novel about autonomous cars that I’m very excited about. I’m aiming to publish it next year. 

What advice would you give current students who are also aspiring writers?  

Write the kind of books you want to read but that nobody else is writing. It’s not about following trends or trying to be mainstream or niche. Write something that interests you whether it’s based on your experiences or it’s just a concept or genre you find fascinating. Your passion for that subject will make it a better novel and if you enjoy the book, chances are others will too.

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