A novelists, we struggle to put the truth on the page. We hope to tunnel so deeply into our characters' lives that what is on the page feels absolutely and complete real-so real that we fully expect the characters to walk past us. But we novelists also deal with some people thinking that what we have written is really about us personally, about our lives, that even though it is fiction, it is also absolutely true. I can't tell you how many times people have asked me what is going on my life because of what I have written. (Sometimes it's nothing!) Or people imagine that the husband in the story is my husband, the main character is me, or that I am opening a window into my personal life, when actually I am inhabiting another world, I am living another life through my characters. While certainly I write about the issues that obsess me, I'm not writing diaries.
Recently, the writer Leora Skolkin-Smith told me that she had gotten a letter back from a great publishing house about the submission of her new novel Hystera, which is this ravishingly good book about mental illness in the 70s. The editor felt the book was halfway between memoir and fiction, something that astonished both of us. What was she saying? That the book sounded so real that it felt like memoir? That she wanted it to really be a true story instead of a made-up one (and why would she want that? Do memoirs sell better than novels?) But don't we want our fiction to be so real that we feel we are a part of that world? Isn't that a good thing?
Causes Caroline Leavitt Supports
The Writers' Strike Writers Against the War PETA