Looking for feedback, I recently asked my sisters to read the close-to-final draft of Ms. Dee Ann Meets Murder. The first comment I heard: “This sounds like the story of your life when you got married and moved to Ahoskie.”
Okay. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I am NOT Dee Ann Bulluck. I should add: Narrow Creek is NOT Ahoskie. Now, having made that clear, let me explain something about writing fiction. As with many authors, my work of fiction, Ms. Dee Ann Meets Murder, is based on my life experiences. Yes, I was a young wife and mother in 1979 who moved to a small town where I knew no one, had no job (other than taking care of an infant), and had to figure out what to do with myself.
I did join the Junior Woman’s Club, go to a hairdresser out in the sticks to save money, and get a part-time job teaching English at the local community college.
But that’s about it. Was there a Gary Whitt character? NO. He and the others in Ms. Dee Ann Meets Murder—notice how many times I work in the title of my book—are products of my imagination. Parts of their personalities may be based on people I knew then or have met since, but there was no Miss Josie, Elizabeth, Marilyn, J.T., and etcetera.
Clyde Edgerton, one of my favorite Southern authors, tells this story about a scene in his novel Raney. Raney’s mama and her aunts come by the house to visit and not finding Raney and husband Charles home, go on in the unlocked house anyway, as many country Southerners used to do, to use the phone. When Charles, an Episcopalian from Atlanta, finds out, he’s upset. “Raney,” he says, “I think you ought to tell your mama and Aunt Naomi and Aunt Flossie to stay out of our house unless somebody’s home.” Raney disagrees, and a huge fight ensues.
Although this scene is fictional, Clyde Edgerton has said it really happened to him in a slightly different way. His wife was the one who protested against his family coming into their unlocked house when they weren’t home.
My point here is that fiction often draws on life. If a book is an actual recounting of someone’s life, it’s called a memoir, an autobiography, or a biography. Ms. Dee Ann Meets Murder is fiction.