These days, with everyone complaining about fake news, I’m glad I’m not a reporter. But yesterday, I got accused of writing fake fiction. I was telling people about my book, Night and Day, and that it was loosely based on the story of why my great-great grandparents emigrated from Denmark.
I told them the reputedly true part of the story. (My great, great grandma was a very beautiful woman. My great, great grandfather brought her and their four children to America to get her away from another man who was in love with her.) I then said that the rest of the book was a product of my wild imagination – one possible explanation of what might have happened in Denmark all those decades ago.
I went on to describe Golden Rod, my most recent release, including the legends and castles that inspired the book. And then I mentioned ghosts.
“So this book isn’t true,” said one of the ladies.
“None of my books are true,” I said. “They’re fiction.”
“But if there are ghosts in Golden Rod, it can’t be based on a true story.”
“But it is,” I said. “We toured a castle in Scotland that has been under a curse for over 500 years. A traveling minister offered to bless the castle, and when his offer was rejected because the owners preferred to wait for the priest, he cursed the castle, promising that no eldest son would ever inherit. In all these years, none has.”
“But if there are ghosts in the story…”
“Fictional ghosts. All of my novels are fiction.” I told them about a second castle we toured, and the legend of a woman who fell from a fourth story window, and the upside down writing carved into the castle wall, 3 ½ stories up where no one but a ghost could possibly reach.
“It’s fiction based on a true story,” I tried to explain. “Just like Night and Day. And another of my books, Blue Belle, which was inspired by the tale of a Spanish galleon that went down in Tobermory Bay in 1588, fully loaded with gold that has never been recovered.”
“But if it happened that long ago, no one knows what really happened.”
“Right. But that’s okay – because it’s fiction, based on an intriguing snippet of history.”
Perhaps the real truth is that there’s a nugget of something that really happened in all my books – or very probably happened – or at least, very probably happened, in some similar form, or in a slightly different way, or at a different time.
The truth – altered just enough to protect the not-so-innocent, which in some cases might be me, and to throw family members, acquaintances, and any others who might judge me off the scent. The truth – transformed just enough to convince the reader that this is a work of fiction, that the characters, incidents, and dialogs are products of the author’s imagination and not, under any circumstances, to be construed as real.
Because the truth is, any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. My books are all fiction and my characters are all fictional, people. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.
I write fiction. Still, everything that filters through my brain is based on the reality of my life, my experiences, and my beliefs. I’m a complex person, and so are my books. Real life occurrences often inspire fictional stories. Imaginary tales sometimes spring from a nugget of truth, either learned or observed.
Fake fiction? You be the judge.