More on Authentic Fiction – books I recommend. In my last post I offered an explanation of authenticity and how it correlates to writing fiction. If you missed it, you can read it HERE.
Others don’t necessarily agree with me. Some claim that fiction shouldn’t be authentic—that fiction shouldn’t lean into reality other than having plausibility. Or, that in fiction the limit of authenticity is that is it rings true to the human condition.
But my point of view leans a different way. I’m more about the authenticity of the writer—whether she (or he) is writing from her heart, her passion, and her experience.
Don’t you somehow recognize this when you read a novel–that the author has lived the story? Not literally, but indirectly. The character suffers a loss, and the emotions are expressed so vividly and you also feel the loss. You are transported into the situation. Maybe the author exposed her own raw pain over her own loss and gifted that to you through the story’s characters.
Great novels speak to readers, make them think, make them feel, make them care. They go beyond entertainment and escape. They effect change.
I promised you a list of some authors whose books I identify as “authentic fiction.” Again, the kind of books I like to read and the kind of books I hope to keep writing and publishing.
- Catherine Ryan Hyde – best known for her best seller, Pay it Forward, that became a film in 2000. She has an impressive catalog of novels that often deal with the father/son dynamic (even though the characters are usually not actual fathers and sons). I find her stories to be rich in their exploration of relationship, communication, issues of the heart, and self-discovery. This is what identifies them as authentic fiction.Some of my personal favorites are Take Me With You, When I Found You, and most recently, When You Were Older. By the way, if you are a Kindle owner, her books are available in the Lending Library. For a complete list of her books, visit her site at catherineryanhyde.com
- Charles Martin – writes southern fiction, and he does so with his soul. I recently reviewed his 2005 release Wrapped in Rain that you can read here. Another favorite of mine and many others I know is When Crickets Cry. His themes are deeply rooted in the human condition: betrayal, abuse, trust, hope, and faith. I love the complexity of his characters—their needs, their weaknesses, and their perseverance. The stories are fictitious, but the conflicts and resolutions within them vibrate with truth. That is authentic fiction. Visit his website at charlesmartinbooks.com.
- Amy Sorrells – How Sweet the Sound (2014 David C. Cook), a coming-of-age novel about family secrets, also explores the difficult topic of sexual abuse. She says: “As with most writers, words strung from the heart to the page cannot exist without a certain degree of autobiography, for as artists, our calling is to create from what we know and feel most deeply.” Sorrells nails this concept of writing authentic fiction in those words. However, she also says this story is not her story, but the story of another. I’ll let you read the book to discover who and when. You might be surprised. Learn more about Amy at amyksorrells.com
- Janet Fitch – White Oleander (1999 Little, Brown and Co.) explores the angst and anger underlying a teenage girl’s journey through the foster care system. The deep point of view perspective puts the reader into the head and heart of a girl forced to grow up too quickly. Some scenes are hard to digest, but the level of authenticity is spot on. The book was a NYT Bestseller and Oprah Book Club selection, praised for its lyrical beauty and narrative power. I agree. The “voice” of Astrid is so penetrating—so honest. And the mother-daughter dynamic (aka struggle) compels the reader to keep turning the pages to see how it is going to work out, or if it will. In the meantime, Astrid fights her way into womanhood by any means. Janet blogs at janetfitchwrites.wordpress.com
- Anna Jean Mayhew – The Dry Grass of August (2011 Kensington Publishing) inspired me because it took the author 18 years from conception to finish it. She says “it had to percolate, to find its center …” (I feel the same way about my novel, that took six years to “mature.”) Mayhew give us a compelling protagonist, thirteen-year-old Jubie, and an equally compelling setting: the South in 1954. So, as you might imagine, the themes deal with segregation, racism, and what being white meant in those times and places. When the family’s black maid goes with them on vacation in Florida, Jubie discovers the heart-breaking results of the evil in men’s hearts, and has to take a stand. Discover more about this wonderful “later-in-life” published author at annajeanmayhew.com
- Anat Talshir – About the Night (2016 AmazonCrossing) This novel slayed me. The language. The characters. The theme of “star-crossed lovers.” The setting. The author wove together a story of the power of love in spite of nearly insurmountable obstacles: a Christian Arab and a Jew in 1947 Jerusalem; the partition dividing them. One who stays loyal to the undeniable connection and passion. Who one is forced to move on. How will they survive without each other? Or will they? The author is an award-winning Israeli investigative journalist who draws on her culture, her history, and certainly her understanding of the power of true love.
So, quite the list, yes? I’d love to have your feedback about these recommendations. Feel free to comment below, especially after you’ve read a few of them.