Monday, April 4, 2016

Can Authors Lie About Fiction?

Do authors have to tell the truth when it comes to fiction?

A recent posting online by Jessica Knoll, the author of the best-selling novel.  Luckiest Girl Alive, acknowledged that the central character in the story is her and that the gang rape of the character really happened to the author while she was in high school.

What a strange situation we have here. You have an author who sold 450,000 copies of her debut novel, who will have her book sold in 30 countries based on rights deals, and who has seen the film rights to her book get optioned to Reese Witherspoon, an Oscar-winning actress.  But she lied when asked at events, questioned by the media, or when responding to fan mail.  She said the story was fiction and that the darkest elements of her book, which center on a successful young woman who battles with the lingering trauma of a sexual assault, were made up.  She assured people (or deflected questions) that she portrayed the rape and its vivid aftermath not from personal experience but from research and interviews with victims.

So, the quandary exposed here is:  Do writers need to tell us the truth when promoting a book?  Is lying about the truth behind fiction as bad as memoirists who inject fiction into their “true” stories?

Maybe the real discussion isn’t about books, but about rape and victimization.  We should applaud her courage to come forward to tell her story. Whether it’s a novel – or her personal experiences – her book and life serve to further the discussion about rape and juvenile sexual excesses that go unpunished.  Though she came forward, she chose not to name her assailants.  Should she?  Why should she have to bear the burden of what happened to her while the perpetrators go on with their lives? 

On the other hand, how do readers know she’s telling the truth now, that her made-up story is true and that she was the victim of a terrible experience?

Maybe it doesn’t matter whether the story is true or not.  The lesson of the book still needs to be learned.  There are many young girls and women who go through something like what the book’s character – or Jessica Knoll – went through.  How should we heal from such things?  How can we find a way to move on?

This book and now the backdrop story really remind us how important our books are in promoting great awareness to significant social issues.  Books can raise questions, expose injustices, and provide a reason for us to look in the mirror and examine what looks back at us.

Luckiest Girl Alive is a story that should continue beyond its pages.

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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2016

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