Monday, March 10, 2008

Fiction masquerading as memoir

Lying about factual book content is a crime. So why do some authors insist on trying to skirt the law with fictitious claims? Over the past 60 years, thousands of authors have claimed to have led fascinating lives and have bared all in gritty, nonfiction memoirs. Yet, some have outright lied.

Who can forget the James Frey scandal that resulted in a public admonishment from Oprah Winfrey?

Or more recently, Misha Defonseca, who claims in her "memoire" that she travelled with a pack of wolves during the Holocaust.

Or Margaret B. Jones...aka Margaret Seltzer...who professed to be part Native American when her parents are white/caucasian and further claimed she was raised in foster care.

Los Angeles Times has a series of related stories based on authors who misrepresent fiction as fact. Just check out some of the posts:

The New York Times has their own list of fraudulent memoir stories:

As an author, I have to shake my head. Fact is fact, people. If you lived it and people around you know you lived it, that's fact. Facts are usually fact-checked by someone. Eventually. FACT...also known as nonfiction in the book world. What part of this don't you understand?

These lies hurt the entire industry--from publishers to distributors to agents to reviewers to other authors and to readers. Especially to readers! By lying, you are shortchanging readers who have invested time, money and emotion in your work. And readers deserve more.

So why do these authors masquerade fiction as memoir? For more "WOW factor", because otherwise their lives would seem just like ours--fraught with bad childhoods, bad parents, bad memories, bad husbands, wifes, children...etc. Let's face it, we all have had challenges in life, but for most of us our lives just aren't interesting enough to warrant writing a book, much less finding a publisher to publish it.

Let's keep fiction where it's meant to be and memoirs filled with good ole honest truth.

On that note: I hope you will all read my memoir The River, which you can order from Amazon...the link to follow.

This is the true story of how I went searching for my father in the Nahanni River area and stumbled into a deadly conspiracy to do with nanotechnology; I barely escaped with my life. My father went missing about 7 years ago and my mother and I thought he was dead. We even had a funeral--even though there was no body. But investigators did find his blood, lots of it and after a while, they presumed him dead.

I would never have doubted it if it wasn't for my father's friend showing up in my university classroom, where I was teaching. I just about passed out when I saw him. He looked really old and was pale like a ghost! He should have been one too because he went missing along with my father. But what this man told me...I could barely believe his words. He said that my father was alive...up north...but that people were trying to kill him.

It didn't take me long to decide that there was only one thing to do--go to the Nahanni and find my father. I managed to convince some really great people to come with me. I could never have done that journey alone. It was exciting at first, but it didn't take long to become the most terrifying time in my life. It makes me shake just thinking about everything that happened...and the people who died as a result of my decision to go to an area of Canada that is nicknamed The Bermuda Triangle. Really! Not kidding!

I can't tell you everything here. My doctor says I am suffering from PTSD and I have to be careful. It was hard enough to get everything written down in my memoir. But if you want to know everything that happened...well, you'll have read it yourself by picking up a copy of my bestselling book The River (by Cheryl Kaye Tardif, in case you've forgotten).

My mother and I are doing better now. As for my father...well...I did find him. But I didn't expect to nearly drown, find a hidden river, or become a prisoner of a lunatic.

Read my memoir.

The River by Cheryl Kaye Tardif.

P.S. I hope you all realize that I was being completely sarcastic about The River being my memoir. It isn't. It's a suspense thriller--pure fiction. But I bet I had some of you going, didn't I? It certainly sounds far more exciting than telling you I was a military brat, moved around a lot and threw orange pop at the first boy who kissed me, doesn't it? :) The point is, this is fine as a joke, but not fine if I made this claim because I wanted to benefit from a lie financially and never told the truth until someone found me out.

P.P.S. I hope you'll still read The River. Everything I told you was from the perspective of Del, the main character, and the plot is as it is above.

I hope you'll read my novel, The River by Cheryl Kaye Tardif.


Beth Fehlbaum, Author said...

As I was reading your "memoir" excerpt, all I could think was, "Damn! When did Cheryl have time to blog?"
ha ha ha
Beth Fehlbaum, author
Courage in Patience, a story of hope for those who have endured abuse

Austin S. Camacho said...

All those fake memoirists ARE criminals, and for no reason. their books would sell well if they made it clear that it's fiction written in the style of memoir. after all, isn't that what all the Sherlock Holmes stories are?

Cheryl Tardif said...

Beth, I think I found time between the thoughts of 'should I go make supper or should I check my Amazon ranks again?' lol

Austin, I so agree. And don't we now have a new book genre term--"creative nonfiction"? (which I think of as something loosely based on truth...but is still fiction.)