Did Stephen King Actually Have a Rabid and Murderous Dog?
Since I’ve published Beside the Music, so many times I’ve had to explain what it’s about. So I use my usual log line, Beside the Music is the story of a couple that has an 80s metal band move into their home while the band records their comeback album and what that does to the marriage. Then I make a “pow” sound and make the “blowing up” gesture.
And then they ask, “Is it based on a true story? Did this happen to you?”
I thought it was just me. I get asked this all the time. But an author friend of mine was just saying how she was in a local coffee shop, and she overheard this group of women talking about a local author, and said the title of her book. In the book there is a part that deals with an adulterous relationship. Then these women went on to gossip about how the author of that book, my friend, had moved to town because she had had an affair and she moved to that town with her husband so they could start fresh.
None of this is true. And yet my friend overheard these women talking about her in this manner. My friend left the coffee shop in tears. I think I would have said “I couldn’t help but overhear. I am actually the author of that book, and what you are saying about me and my marriage is simply untrue.” Yet these women read the book and concocted this story about my friend and her marriage, and who knows who else they are telling about it?
So, I tried to joke with her about it. But then it got me to thinking. What if we thought that popular fiction writers actually had those things in their books happen to them?
Did Stephen King have a rabid dog who ended up terrorizing the town and killing people?
Well, then I guess we could argue that Stephen King had a pretty messed up life. Because surely he had an old car that he was restoring come to life and try to kill his girlfriend. Or maybe that job he took as a caretaker of that old hotel in the mountains really did end up almost killing his family.
Did Jodi Piccoult have a child so that the child could then be a donor to her older and terminally ill child?
Was Janet Evanovich a clumsy bounty hunter in New Jersey?
Was JRR Tolkien really a very short man who went on a trek to find a ring and fought a dragon?
Was Andy Weir actually trapped on Mars? (Though I did overhear some teenagers talking about this movie. One of them actually said “You know, The Martian is based on a true story.”)
There is an element of true things in fiction. For example the story of how Brenda and Tim met in Beside the Music was actually the story of how Todd and I met. But my mother in law is NOTHING like Portia Dunkirk in Beside the Music—there are certain relationships that you absolutely cannot write to anything like real life, of course. And that’s what’s great about writing fiction—you can totally make it all up.
I wish these gossipy women weren’t going around spreading lies about my friend. And I wish she’d said something to try and shut them down.
But fiction really is just that…. Fiction.
added on 10.02.17