Michael Baron: Creating truth in fiction

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I’ve built my writing career around writing nonfiction books. It’s a nice life. I meet many interesting people. My research exposes me to things I never knew before. I have the opportunity to work with different agents and different publishers. It’s good, really. But a couple of years back, I found that writing nonfiction really wasn’t enough for me. No matter how fascinating the topic, I couldn’t find the level of fulfillment I desired. I realized that I needed to write fiction. I needed to do this because I needed to explore emotions that I couldn’t explore in a nonfiction book. Specifically, I needed to write about love.

It’s nearly impossible to write about love – really write about it – when one is writing nonfiction. I suppose I could have hooked up with a celebrity with a great love story for a book, but that would have been that person’s story and that person’s observations (though, admittedly, I always get in plenty of my own observations when collaborating on a nonfiction book). I guess I could have developed a book on the mysteries of love with a psychologist, but I really had no interest in writing about the science of romance. I wanted to wade hip deep in the emotions. I wanted to explore on the page what I’d been observing and considering my entire life about relationships.

In other words, I wanted to get to the truth (or at least my version of it). I recently read an article about conspiracy theory and something called “the fact-fiction reversal.” I guess many conspiracy theorists believe that the real truth about who is pulling the strings in the world comes out in novels because novelists don’t have to back up their statements with “reliable sources.” I suppose in some ways I’ve come to have something in common with these conspiracy theorists (my mother would be so proud), since I now see that, if one is writing honestly about love in a work of fiction, one can reveal so much more than someone writing nonfiction ever could.

My first novel, When You Went Away is a novel about encountering love with a tremendous amount of baggage. It seems that by the time any of us have lived for a while, we all carry around a great deal that filters into our relationships. What was interesting to me was that I was able to write about this and still write about love in the optimistic, idealized way that reflects how I feel about the topic. I have always believed that you can have a realistic view about how hard it is to make love work and still have a romance for the ages.

If I were writing a nonfiction book about this, I’d have to cite any number of case histories, reference authorities on the subject, and make every effort to prove my point. But since I wrote this in a novel, I can just lay out the scenario, treat it as candidly as I’m capable, and hope I’ve convinced you. That seems much more truthful to me.

When You Went AwayMichael Baron is The Story Plant’s Author of the Month. This means we are offering sensational deals on all of his works. You can learn more at our website.

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On July 3, 2013
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