Kara Alloway, the Real Housewife of Toronto, former magazine editor, and reality TV show producer, is about to turn the page on a new chapter in her life. Her debut novel Most Hated is out right now and could be an ideal cottage or beach read for the summer. Alloway provides readers with an inside look at the life of a reality TV villain. The book explores the journey of six women as they join a reality TV show to transform their lives, showcasing the makeup, breakups, and manipulation that make for captivating entertainment behind the scenes of Talk of the Town. Here, we chat with Alloway about her new book, and her favourite things to see and do in the city.
What inspired you to write this book?
I always knew I wanted to write a book about female relationships. I come from a family of all girls, I have a sister. We are very female-centric in the sense that most of my cousins are girls. You know, very matriarchal women, women organise everything. And I went to an all-girls school. And so I knew that there was a book in me that dealt with female relationships. I can remember being eight years old on the playground I went to, it’s now Toronto French School, but I went to Ursuline School for primary. And I remember sitting on the playground and watching these girls interact. And they were having a dispute. Actually, one girl didn’t like the other girl, because she wasn’t keeping in step with the hierarchy on the playground. And she held a rotten apple on a stick very close to her face as she was swinging. And within a month, that girl that she had, you know, do we call it bullying or whatever. I mean, it was surreal. But that girl left the school and I can remember so vividly observing this from the playground and thinking, wow, that’s interesting. And you better watch your step Kara.
So you’ve had the seed of the book all these years?
I just needed to find that setting. Then, a lot of what I experienced during the course of Housewives (Desperate Housewives of Toronto TV show) in terms of emotional anxiety, and other emotions, the gamut that I went through, really helped to inform the characterization of the characters within the pages of the novel. And it is that. It is a novel; it is a story.
There are so many Housewives memoirs, did people assume that’s what you were doing?
I was talking to someone yesterday that said, ‘oh I took your book on vacation with me. And I was so surprised to read the first page because I thought it was going to be an autobiography.’ And I said, kill me now. If I joined the league of Housewives who have written autobiographies, please, or, like, how to entertain like a housewife or something like that. No, no, no. That’s so not me. So I was very happy to say no. I’m glad you enjoyed the story, because it is a story.
And what are you hoping readers will take from the book?
So after I did Housewives, I was ricocheting and it was pretty brutal. I was not in a good place. Mentally, it was bad. I hadn’t anticipated the fallout being as bad as it would be. And someone put into my hands a book by Dr. Phyllis Chesler. Bless Dr. Phyllis Chesler. She is this 80-year-old, second-generation feminist who lives in the 80 blocks in Upper New York. And she wrote a book several years ago, and I really hope that they have to do a reprint of her book from the press I’m giving her. It’s called Woman’s Inhumanity to Woman… And what it is, is the way girls and women interact with other girls and women and reading the book, I think it’s important for me to say, like, you know, I am every bit as complicit of this behaviour.
So is that something that you you experienced as well on the show?
You know what, like I said, I’ve been on both sides of that coin. I mean, there were moments when I watched that show, I seriously would roll my eyes at myself and say, honestly, Kara, did you have to die on that hill? By the same token, I went on don’t really come on seriously. But by the same token, I went into the show, I got involved with the production company, because I had pitched to them an idea I had for a reality show… So being involved in the show as a producer meant I have a lot at stake. I needed this show to be great for a spin-off. So while I would sit there and say like, Come on, guys, we need to bring the drama. If nobody was bringing the drama, I would step up and say okay, I’ll take the wooden spoon and stir this pot, no problem. Let’s get it going. And there were times near the end of filming when I was exhausted. I knew I was the villain. I knew I was the monster. And I was like, no, not today. Today, someone else is going to carry this on their back, not me.
What what do you think is what was the worst part of that experience for you?
The worst part of filming housewives? Okay, this is going to sound crazy coming from the person that was the villain. But inherently I don’t enjoy conflict. I really don’t. It’s not you know, I will step up to the plate I was a child actress, I will take direction well, I will bring it when it needs to be brought. But I certainly don’t enjoy it.
Okay, so let’s talk about growing up in Toronto. What was Kara Alloway’s first job?
Oh, boy. You know, I had a summer job as a boat tour guide around the Toronto Harbour. It was when the tall ships were in… This is funny because we have a fishing boat that we keep in Key Largo now, so I tell my kids this, then that I hadn’t had a lot of exposure to boating. And I was not aware that when you spend it eight hours a day on a boat, when you get off, you get something called the stillness illness, which is like I would be coming home from work and I would still be on the water with the waves and I’d be lying in my bed going, are you kidding me?
What’s the worst piece of career advice you’ve received?
I’ve had people say like, I don’t know how to phrase this correctly, but ‘let the professionals handle it.’ Sort of assign the responsibility for your progress. The flip side of that, which I always say to my kids, is to not assign the responsibility for your success to a third party like my kids. I’m like, if you want that job, you’ve got to annoy them. You’ve got to get in there and send the letter and if they say stop annoying me, you think of another way, send them a cookie basket or something. You know, I’ve done that. Oh my gosh, praise cookie baskets for getting my kids good placement in dorms. If I had a dime for every time I tend to cookie basket to a housing director…
That’s such a good insider tip. I love it. All right. Next question. What is your favourite Toronto view?
Oh, I love. Okay, I hope this doesn’t sound effective. But I love the view from the deck at the Granite Club for brunch. I absolutely love that. I love the view from the balcony of Hotel X. It’s such an interesting view… When you’re up there, you don’t feel like you’re in Toronto. I also love the view from the Writers Bar in the Park Hyatt Hotel. That’s a traditional one, you know, facing down to the CN Tower. That’s gorgeous view.
Where would you take visitors to the city for the first time?
Well, you know, there’s the whole Queen Street West thing, the Junction, the Annex, I find that whole area is just so cool for restaurants, for bookstores, for cool boutiques and things like that. And Kensington Market, all around there, I think that’s so captures the vibe of our city that makes it such a nice multicultural mecca.
What Torontonian would you most like to hang out with?
Margaret Atwood. Can someone to introduce me to her? I would love to meet her.
What’s is Kara Alloway’s favourite Toronto restaurant?
Oh, that’s a big one. Okay, I have to say. For us uptown, Auberge du Pommier. I love it. We go there all the time with my mum. I also absolutely adore Sash. I think the food there is phenomenal. Absolutely phenomenal. And then you know for a casual place, my good friend who I have known for 30-plus years Janet Zuccarini, her collection of restaurants I think just knock it out of the park. I love (Trattoria) Nervosa, the OG. I think Nervosa is still the OG I think if you want to be casual and grab a bite. That’s so good.
And what is your idea of perfect happiness?
Perfect happiness is being with my family. I’d love to say nobody has any issues but that’s dumb because there’s always issues in life. So being with my family and we’ve all decided to park our issues and hang out for a day of fishing on our boat in Key Largo. It’s not dead flat calm because then it’s too hot, but it’s very calm. So there’s just a slight breeze and the fish are biting and we are just filling the boat with the monsters of the deep and screaming ‘oh look there goes a hammerhead shark.’ And oh my gosh, there’s a turtle and we catch our Mahi then we take it, we cook it and we eat it. That is happiness for me.
What is your greatest fear?
What is my greatest fear? You know what I hate highway driving.
What is the trait you most deplore and others
Well, I have really little patience for braggadocious. But I understand it. Because I think sometimes when people have achieved things, they’re so thrilled with what they’ve achieved that they want to talk about it. But that’s a little bit like nails on a chalkboard for me.
And what is your greatest extravagance?
Which talent would you most like to have?
I would like to be able to imitate people and do impressions of people.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
My kids, my three boys. And my marriage too right on the heels of that I don’t know which comes first the chicken or the egg. But my husband and I have been married for 28, it’ll be 29 years in September, and that’s a that’s a pretty big achievement.
What is the most treasured possession of Kara Alloway
What is your greatest regret
What’s my greatest regret? Probably not getting rid of that whole pleaser mentality earlier in life. Because I wonder what would have changed and who I might have met had I not been such a pleaser.
If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what would it be?
Maybe I’d like to come back as my dog. If I could my dog Samsung because my goodness that dog had a good life. By so much love for my boys. Holy cow. He could do no wrong.