or Fiction? Does It Matter?
By Anne White
Scene Magazine, April 2006, No. 94
Winfrey smashed James Frey’s reputation as a memoirist
into a million little pieces in January when she withdrew
her support for his book and admitted to feeling duped by the
author she sent rocketing to the top of the best seller lists.
Articulate as always, though visibly shaken, Oprah told Frey
he’d “betrayed millions of readers”
by fabricating key parts of his book.
did you feel the need to lie?” she asked him.
I asked as I listened to their exchange, isn’t that what
writers do—embellish, restructure, exaggerate, even distort
their real life experiences in an effort to keep readers’ eyes
glued to the page?
apologies to Oprah, as well as to David Letterman, newly restored
as her friend, here are the 10 top reasons why, after a lifetime
of espousing honesty, I understand the need to lie—or to
put a better spin on it—take up existence in an imaginary
With the publication of my Lake George Mystery Series, I cease
being a retired librarian suffering serious book withdrawal,
and become the dynamic, 30-something mayor of a lovely, little
upstate New York town.
No longer the harried mother of six with sufficient job and family
responsibilities to send a normal person over the edge, I now
spend my days with a friendly, Hal-like computer dedicated to
serving my every whim.
As I write, I am transported to the charming Lake George home
I’ve inherited from my fictional grandfather. And even
though the house was once sadly rundown, restoration has been
accomplished so quickly and inexpensively I now find myself in
In my first foray into mystery writing, An
Affinity For Murder, my protagonist discovers
a cache of long-lost paintings which may have been left behind
at the lake by Georgia O’Keeffe, a discovery which sends
the real-life me to libraries, art galleries and museums for
the kind of research every librarian delights in.
With the Lake George Region kicking off its 10-year observance
of the 250th anniversary of the French and Indian War, my second
book, Beneath The
Surface, gives me and my alter ego, Mayor Loren
Graham, the opportunity to delve into other fascinating topics,
including long-ago battles and underwater archeological sites.
(Mystery Scene #90, p.59)
In Best Laid Plans,
the third book in the series, to be published in April by Hilliard
and Harris, my hard-working mayor is knocking herself out to
put the finishing touches on a community center she hopes will
attract new waves of tourists to her town, only to be literally
knocked out in an unexpected turn of events. (And haven’t
we all had days like that?)
Even though I’m usually taken for granted in the real world,
as mayor of fictional Emerald Point, I arouse strong feelings
in my constituents, so much so that in every book somebody tries
to kill me.
People I scarcely know—okay, a small number so far, but
it’s growing—have begun asking me, “Aren’t
you the Anne White who writes the mysteries about Lake George?” Heady
stuff for a woman whose bank consistently misspells her name.
Although life in my own world can best be described as soporific,
I’m revved up by the adventures I create for my characters.
(But I don’t pretend they happen to me.)
finally, on a more serious note.
As any librarian will attest, especially those of us who struggled
to catalog books in the days before publishers included Dewey
and Library of Congress classification numbers, one important
determination must be made first and foremost about every book.
Has the author told us what actually happened, given us unvarnished
facts about real people and events?
the answer to that question determines whether a book is fiction
or non-fiction, this standard must be applied to all books. James
Frey’s A Million Little Pieces can’t be
Laid Plans is the third book in Anne White's
Lake George Mystery Series