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Fictionalizing Real People January 18, 2010

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in fiction, historical fiction, literary fiction, weekly topics.
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Topic of the Week: January 18-22, 2010

Stories told and written about historical characters have been around for centuries. Shakespeare shaped the way many people view the Roman Empire through his Julius Caesar and its offspring Antony and Cleopatra, not to mention the historical views of Britain he made through his Henry and Richard plays. Whether intentional or not, the use of real people in fiction can influence readers in the perception of actual events. Smart people sort the hype from the history, yet ideas and suggestions cling and shade our perceptions whether we want them to or not. This week in #litchat we’re discussing real people as characters in fiction.

Joining us on Friday, January 22 is Melanie Benjamin, author Alice I Have Been, a novel sweeping through the life of Alice Liddell, the real girl who inspired Charles Dodgson’s Alice in Wonderland books published under in the pseudonym, Lewis Carroll. Rumors of pedophilia on the part of Charles Dodgson have tainted the reputation of the man, yet the author remains one of the most brilliant writers of all time.

Written in a first person narrative from Alice’s point of view, the story reads as if penned by a Victorian woman of the era. Many theories have been raised about the relationship between Dodgson and the Liddell girls, particularly Alice. Benjamin takes a fresh and even controversial approach with Alice I Have Been. Guilt, wealth, betrayal and loss follow Benjamin’s Alice through a lifetime of merry-go-round ups and downs. Benjamin’s Alice reveals her penultimate secret–what everyone wants to know–in the final chapter. And it’s worth waiting for.

An avid reader all her life, Benjamin firmly believes that a lifetime of reading is the best education a writer can have. While attending Indiana University—Purdue University at Indianapolis, Melanie performed in many community theater productions before meeting her husband, moving to the Chicago area and raising two sons. Writing was always beckoning, however, and soon she began writing for local magazines and newspapers before venturing into her first love, fiction. As Melanie Hauser, she published two contemporary novels.

By incorporating her passion for history and biography, Melanie, now writing as Melanie Benjamin, has finally found her niche writing historical fiction, concentrating on the “stories behind the stories.” ALICE I HAVE BEEN is her first historical novel; she is currently at work on her second, also to be published by Delacorte Press.

Follow her on Twitter: @MelanieBen

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