"So, do you have to pay this guy when you publish one of your stories?"
"What guy?" I respond, knowing in my heart just how baffling the answer was going to be.
"The Nicky guy. The one in your book. Do you have to pay him?"
My friends read fiction. You don't know them, so you'll have to take my word for it, but they do. They read mysteries, science fiction, literary fiction, thrillers. They read a lot of fiction. I don't think any of them actually believes there is a magical castle somewhere north of
That is, until they read my books. Then a very strange thing happens.
(Composite conversation: )
"That character, the music conductor – that's
"Oh. But the guy – the best friend – that's me, right?"
And so it goes. There is an entire group of people on the West Coast who think one of the characters in my first book is based on a theater director we all worked with, even though the book was written before I met any of them. On the East Coast, an entirely different group of people are certain the character is based on a director they and I knew years ago. I've explained carefully that this is not so. They nod their heads as if they believe me, but I can see it in their eyes: "How come I'm not in a book?"
Fine. So I take some joyously idiosyncratic tick from a friend and weave it into a character. What happens? The friend in question never mentions the character who happens to love the exact same type of pickle, squash, and peanut butter sandwich as they. Nope. Instead he zeros in on a character to whom he bears absolutely no resemblance and ask why, after knowing him for twenty-five year, I would be so mean as to describe him as only five-feet four inches tall when he is obviously a prime example of manhood at six-feet one. That's right, my friends who aren't seeing other people in my writing, are busy seeing themselves in all the wrong characters.
Am I upset with people who think I couldn't be making up what I write? Not at all. I'm delighted it's so real to some readers. I'm happy to blur the line as best I can. And I always thank them for reading. It's just that I haven't found the next comfortable response after 'thank you.' What can I say to people who insist that I'm recounting my past and not, in fact, spinning daydreams from everyday life? I cannot possibly be alone in this strange place. What do other writers say?