fic*tion (fik'shun) n. - an imaginative creation or a pretense that does not represent actuality but has been invented.
-American Heritage College Dictionary
RO: I am about to write an Author's note for my second mystery novel, The Big Dirt Nap. I didn't do it for the first because it didn't seem necessary. After all, I was writing fiction. Did I really need to explain that these characters didn't exist? This town didn't exist? Apparently so.
My editor thinks I need to explain that there is really no native American tribe called the Quepochas, a fictional group that is referenced in the book. While I think this is amusing, she's probably right. One online reviewer complained that my debut novel, Pushing Up Daisies, wasn't accurate because there was no UConn campus where I had one in the book. It didn't seem to bother her that there was no TOWN, no diner and no people there, only that there was no campus. Go figure.
Is it that readers nowadays assume everything is ripped from the headlines, and they are looking for what they believe to be mistakes? Have the lines between fiction and non-fiction become so blurred that people can't tell one from the other?What the hell..I should probably just call it a memoir. Then no one would expect it to be accurate.
Author's NoteThe Big Dirt Nap is a work of fiction. While there is a state of Connecticut and a University of Connecticut, pretty much everything else in the book just exists between my ears. Any other descriptions, laws, people, places or events that are accurate are purely accidental.
ROBERTA: Interesting Ro! There is an automatic disclaimer on the copyright page of all my books, mostly there to protect the publisher from lawsuits I imagine. Do you think some angry fan would assault you (legally) for making up an Indian tribe? I do kind of like the idea of an author's note providing info for READERS, not just for protection. I would put it at the back of the book if you had a choice. And by the way, do you prefer acknowledgments at the front or the back? And how many other obsessive people even look at those pages? (Aside from the aspiring writers who are instructed to look there for agent mentions as a matter of course...and that's not bad advice.)
HANK: I think it's kind of--funny, actually. Maybe it's because you made up such a believable and clever name for the tribe. But I agree--if it's fiction, it's um, made up.
And yes, Roberta, I always read those pages. It's a kind of--six degreees of separation game. I love to see if I know who they know. Or whether the info is illuminating or revealing in any way. Front of the book or back? Hmmm. Put them in the front and there's the problem of: I'd like to thank Dr. Joe Shmo for all his help in learing about how to recognize fake fingerprints.... So much for THAT plot!
In Prime Time and Face Time, I kind of tweaked the geography of Swampscott, Massachusetts and the highway to the Cape. And I just said so in the author's page. And I make up the names of streets in Boston if bad things happen. In DRIVE TIME, I have to make up names of cars! And so far, I've created a problem car called a Calera. Would you pronounce that Ka-LEHR-a?
HALLIE: Interesting, isn't it, how we write those disclaimers--and yet most characters and situations in a novel (or in MY novels, at any rate) are sparked by something real. In my new book, there's a character who vacuums her front walk...I had a neighbor who did that. And there's a Victorian ark of a house on which my husband and I were (fortunately) overbid; the people who bought it found a hidden room. That house, with its leather wallpaper and stained glass, is in "Never Tell a Lie."
I love reading acknowledgments, too. Aren't they kind of a Rorschach? I'm always curious to discover whether writing the book took "a village" as mine do. And what does it mean, I wonder, when there are NO acknowledgments?
RO: Ugh, there was a typo in my acks. After going over my manuscript so carefully, apparently no one looked at the acks, which by the way were PERFECT when I sent them in.
PS.....Don't forget to come back for Wednesday's post when our guest blogger will be Jane Cleland, president of MWA/NY Chapter and author of the Agatha-nominated Josie Prescott series.