Friday, October 18, 2013

Notes and Acknowledgements

We had quite a flurry of discussion in the Poisoned Pen Press newsletter over The New Yorker blogger who dissed all the notes, acknowledgements and thank yous contained in books. He maintained these additions were unnecessary and no one reads them.

I heartily disagree. I read all notes. I love them. I even read footnotes in academic books. Often they add so much to my understanding of a book. When I began the Lottie Albright series, I knew I had to explain to Kansas readers that Carlton County was fictitious and so was Gateway City. But if I had not mentioned that, a lot of Kansas would have written (or called) to set me straight. If I had used a real county, all hell would break loose. Irate residents of that entity would point out every mistake regarding the placement of buildings, civic events, and the quirkiness of various residents. I was plenty nervous enough to learn on a trip back to my home town that friends knew exactly “who I was writing about.” I made everyone up. Honest, guys! That’s why it’s call fiction. Nevertheless, reality keeps cropping into my books because I’m a historian. I can’t resist little historical tidbits that relate to my plots.

One of the creepiest ones incidents of creeping reality occurred in the creation of Hidden Heritage, which will be released in November. Two days before I submitted the final, final draft to Barbara Peters, a newspaper in New Mexico reported about a lawsuit filed by an ancient Spanish family. The issue was the same one I used in my book and the family had the same name. The book began over an imaginary “what if” situation. The article gave me the creeps. I alerted Barbara at once and there was a global name change.

As to the superfluous “thank yous” he referred to, I don’t know where to start. I’ve often thought about my extremely good fortune in living in a country when I can write whatever I please. That’s a fundamental freedom writers take for granted in America. I’m thankful for the gift of parents who loved books. Children who grow up in households that appreciate the written word have a joyful introduction to the world. I’m thankful that I was raised in a small agricultural community where children safely roamed the streets and countryside and we had time to savor a childhood spent exploring pastures and ponds. Kansans write the prairie because it plays such an important role in shaping our psyche.

I doubt if any authors will cut acknowledgements and notes as a result of the blog. It would be a great pity if they did.

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