I just got a text today from a friend who began reading my second novel, The Glow Stick Gods. I didn’t know he was referring to my book, at first, because he just typed, “maltese? a woman? hahahaha.” After few back and forths, I got it. He thought one of my characters was a not-so-clever-disguised version of my best friend, and his husband, who had died in a car accident years ago. For a writer to admit that a fictional character was based on a real person can be a tricky thing. Someone might be offended. Or the public may think that the fiction is true and that might hurt a real person. And then there are the legal issues.
Do you remember when James Frey went on Oprah, the first time? He’s the author of the best-selling book, A Million Little Pieces. The book was sold by the publisher as non-fiction, and I have no use for anything real, so I had no plans to read it; and then I saw that first Oprah show. Oprah asked James how he could be so brave, as a recovering heroin addict, as to go into a heroin den to save a friend? I watched his answer and I listened and watched closer to all of his answers to all of her questions. He was lying!
I may not be a good judge of character when I meet someone, especially in-person. I like everybody, at first. But if I can observe you, say, while cutting your hair, or watch you in an airport, or catch you off-guard while you think I’m not paying attention, I can tell if you are lying. It’s one of my super-powers. When I wrote a blog about how I did not believe this “non-fiction” writer, James LIER! Frey, and how he had not written a word of truth AND I told all my friends this same opinion, I was not very popular. People loved his book and i think they wanted it to be true.
So, I bought his book, and I read it. It was wonderful. I loved it and I could see why is was a best-seller. My friends who had been defending, Jame Frey, when I argued that he probably didn’t do any of the things in his book, had accused me of being a jealous sour-grapes writer because James had a book deal and I didn’t. Okay, true dat. But I didn’t feel vindicated nor gloat when Oprah found out A Million Little Pieces was actually a tome of fiction, just as I had suspected. I quickly discovered that is was his publisher that wanted the book published under non-fiction because they knew they could sell more books, especially if the author could back it up with telling interviewers that it really happened. Author and publisher had no idea the book would get as big as an Oprah book which made it a big target for exposing.
I don’t know what I would have done, prior to the Oprah+James incident. But I know that my books are true in the sense that all of my characters are alive and serve to help me make sense of my relationships in real-life. My characters have never breathed the same air as you or I, but they are as real to me as you are; maybe this is why they come alive for you, the reader as well.
I’ll tell you and my friend who texted me: all of my “characters” begin with a soul that I borrow from a real person. And then I add the pain, torment, hate and a whole lot more of the love I feel for that real person into my character. I always have a true-crime story that has actually happened to me or friend that I put my characters into. In Mafia Hairdresser, I really worked as a hairdresser in L.A. for a mob couple from the Chicago area. In The Glow Stick Gods, I was really a party boy and more than met the aquantance of the Chicago Taxicab Murderer. In Murder: There’s An App For That, I will write about the dark side of social media and the murder of one of my best friends. (Google the title.)
Once my characters go onto the page and interact with each other and the story unfolding, I have no idea what they will do or how they will react because they seem to learn and grow with each scene. So, I get to watch them and tell you about them and what happens to them as the story unfolds. But they are not real, even if they might have been “inspired” by real people, or I gave them a piece of a friend’s soul.
Can I tell you if my books are true or not? Yes. They are all true and real,to me.
You can check out my books here at MafiaHairdresser.com