Stranger Than Fiction

Princess Alethea Mermaid

Princess Alethea Mermaid

Raise your hand if you’re a fan of Jude Deveraux.

*raises hand vigorously*

I am a HUGE fan of Miss Jude, having fallen in love with A Knight in Shining Armor when my mother brought it home in a bag of books she’d bought for me from the local Friends of the Library book sale when I was in my teens. (Those book sales saved my life, and if I could be a member of every Friends of the Library branch in the world, I would…but that’s another story.)

Right now, Jude Deveraux is making a rare appearance at the Romantic Times convention in Kansas City this weekend. Lamentably I am not at RT right now–because I am doing 4 conventions and multiple events across the US in the next 6 weeks and my stamina and wallet couldn’t take it–but I really wish I could be.

Happily, in this day and age of social media, I enjoy staying in touch with Miss Jude via her Facebook Fan Page, to which she posts regularly, usually daily, and usually very early in the morning. She posts a lot about what she’s working on, what changes her editor has asked her to make, what side projects she loves working on…it’s so awesome for me as a writer AND a fan to see all this go through her head.

One of the more recent projects has her writing about a girl who is treated very badly by her family, and she’s asked a lot of us if we’d had similar experiences and what our reactions were. At the end of several weeks’ discussion, she’s decided to make the horrible mother and sister step-relatives, more because of the rules of some inheritance plot she’s including than the stereotype of The Evil Stepfamily.

As a student of fairy tales, the whole stepfamily dynamic (and its reputation) has always fascinated me. There’s a GORGEOUS fiction book by Lisa Goldstein called The Uncertain Places (if you’re a fan of Grimm — the TV show or the tales, you must check this out). In the book, Goldstein mentions that the Grimm Brothers wrote about Evil Stepmothers so much because no one would believe that mothers could treat their biological children so cruelly.

I can’t find the academia to back this up (and if you happen to know, that would be awesome), but it makes sense to me. Some truths are just too far beyond the suspension of disbelief a reader allows when opening the cover of a book.

YA author (and fabulous curmudgeon) Richard Peck mentioned this once in a talk he did about a historical novel he was writing, and a French girl he had interviewed for authenticity. Essentially, he could not include all of her story, because no one would have believed it.

From this perspective I can see the fascination of true crime novels (I’m looking at you, Avery Mermaid), because the author is expected to shock the reader with events that are, indeed, stranger than fiction.

It seems a shame that in this world, there are things a fiction writer can’t include in her writing because “no one would believe it.”

Have you ever come across something in a book you just couldn’t believe?

Or have you had something happen to you that you know you could never write about…because no one would believe it?


9 thoughts on “Stranger Than Fiction

  1. My family stories are so crazy no one would believe them. I like finding things that stretch my imagination and knowledge in a book. I marvel at how the writer came up with it.

  2. Hi Alethea Mermaid! Sorry you can’t fangirl stock Ms. Deveraux in person but thank goodness for Facebook 😉 I completely agree with Mary Jo. Trust me, if as a reader, I’m willing to believe in yellow horned heroes whose eyes ooze silver and black, I’m definitely able to believe the stranger than fiction stuff that happens to us mere mortals as well. Great post!!

    1. I’m thinking less about Crazy Over The Top Superhumans and more like “seriously coincidental stuff that looks like lazy writing.”

      One of the reasons I fell in love with SUPERNATURAL the TV show is that they would have all this sort of tropish/cliche/coincidental stuff happen, and then they would ACKNOWLEDGE IT (“Hey, isn’t *that* a coincidence!”) and then move on. I would love to be able to write such tall-tale-type stuff into contemporary fiction.

  3. Alethea,
    Both hands are in the air and waving frantically. I love Jude Deveraux! Those Montgomery and Taggerts! Yum and double yummy. My favorites would probably be THE RAIDER and THE HEIRESS. And I also love the whole “whoever can tell the twins apart” thing. 🙂 I’m using that someday.
    And I’m especially loving your references today because I’m lovin’ me some SUPERNATURAL! And I do love how they acknowledge things like the coincidence thing or the super sappy brother stuff. Love the Winchester boys!
    Okay. Must be in a super duper good mood because I’m loving lots of stuff today. 🙂

  4. You’re right, I loves me some true crime novels. I’m a sicko that way. But I do see the need to make the evil doer a stepparent. We still want to believe that some bonds are sacred and some trusts will always be deserved.

  5. I’d heard that they wrote about Evil Stepmothers so much because women so often died in childbirth and the father remarried so the stepmother was a very common relation. There was probably some implication in there that the stepmother was Evil because she didn’t care for the child as if it were her own. And if the mother had lived she wouldn’t have been evil.

    1. That’s intriguing — If you can point me towards any source/article that backs this up, I’d love to read it! (Because I’m a NERD.)

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