Weaving Fact Into Fiction

A few months ago, I came across a tweet from an American woman. She wrote of how she wanted to read true stories of relationships between American expats and the French. Unsurprisingly, that got me thinking.

“Stories” like that, but which are “true?” Hmm. On one level, her observation indicated she could not be alone in that desire. However, I wondered also where that request might leave my effort here?

This is a novel, not a documentary or biography. Yet are fact and fiction always mutually exclusive in novels? Of course not.

When we are reading “fiction,” how often do we ask ourselves, “Where did that really come from?” We assume at times instinctively that an author did not concoct something out of thin air. The writer “must have gotten it from someplace,” we feel.


Briefly, let me put it this way. “Isabelle,” “James,” “Valérie,” “Bill,” and all the others, were not, and are not, real people. Neither are Editions Dupleix and the University of Long Island (ULI) a real publisher or a real college.

That said, aside from obvious public figures and locales, the characters and core storyline institutions here are products of my blending together and fictionalizing various individuals and institutions I have encountered over the years in the U.S. and in France. (In the sequel, I plan some Britain too.) In addition, events I have witnessed, and anecdotes shared with me by others and about others, contribute to the storyline and to the characterizations in numerous ways as well.

The results are the varied people and institutions on these pages. Whatever their inspirations, they are what they are in this book. They are not anyone, anything, or anywhere, else.

No doubt that addresses any questions about, uh, “How much fact is in this fiction?” 🙂


  1. It can all be fiction because if it is not autobiographical, it is fiction. I’ve done this, trying to make part of my life a story. Nope, fiction let me tell the story and avoid unpleasant subjects, realizing how screwed up I was and writing about it. I’m able to replace situations and statements that were awkward and uneasy with situations and dialogue that was brilliant, or at least be a wallflower.
    Anyone looking for something that is TRUE in life or in books has a distorted sense of reality. Human beings may sense or believe when something is TRUE, but is it ever?


    • I agree. Novels are odd creatures: it’s supposed to be “fiction,” and it is. But you suspect it is always rooted in something, or is trying to make a statement. Sometimes the “fictionalized” veneer is really thin; sometimes the author bases the tale on the most distant of sources that are meaningful only to him/herself. It may even be that that episodes were culled from one place and dropped entirely into another context for the book, but you (as the writer) think (hope?) it works.

      Even if we watch sitcoms, we gather the writers culled various story-lines from “what happened at Thanksgiving” at their own grandparents’ houses, etc. The line always (to me) feels a bit blurry. I always suspect “true” stories are never quite as “true” as we think they are, while “fiction” may well be more real than we imagine. What matters most (to me, anyway) in a novel is the ability to convey “reality” successfully.


Comments are closed.