This is what it says at the outset of my novel: “Although The Atlas of Reds and Blues is inspired by actual events and people, it is a work of fiction. Many of the events portrayed here actually took place, but the author’s rendering of those events and their particulars are invented. The characters’ thoughts, conversations, and actions are a work of imagination.”
The stories that make up are not true and true, imagined and also collage. Composite.
Grace Paley once said, “You write from what you know but you write into what you don’t know.”
So I gave my Mother narrator a few of my histories in order to start from a place of familiarity and explore a wide world of unknown. For example, Greta, the German Shepherd, was real – and her depiction in the book is a writer’s rendering of a beloved pet.
It was a pleasure to go to the library and hit the reference section for such things as weather patterns in the 1970s and the history of Barbie dolls. It was so much fun to search through my memories and connect the many dots between what I thought was the right time and place — with the actual year and location, as found in a history book. Case in point, I thought the BeeGees released “Night Fever” in 1978, but it was the year before.
You can take a girl out of the newsroom but I’m happy to report you can’t take the newsroom out of the girl: still, there were more than a few things I couldn’t find on my own; very grateful to the librarians in the Bay Area. Befriend your local reference librarian. Bring him or her a latte and a pain au chocolat and consider this the small price to pay for invaluable help.