How Much of Themselves Do Authors Put in Their Fiction?


Photo credit: booyaa via Visual Hunt / CC BY-NC-SA

While studying literature in college, I had to take two courses in literary theory, which involved endless debates about how much the author’s life should affect one’s reading of a text. One of the most predominant schools of thought (at least in the halls of academia) is that one should not look at the goals of the author or autobiographical issues when interpreting a work.

But if you go to an author event, or read just about any author interview, inevitably questions arise as to both the author’s intentions and how much of their own life events inspired the work.

Fiction writer Nellie Hermann (@NellieGHerman) reflects on the curious border between fiction and nonfiction in her recent essay at Glimmer Train:

Many people have asked me about the truth of my work—strangers as well as people I have known for years. I don’t deny the aspects of what I have written that are based on my experiences, but I wonder at our desire to know the answers to these kinds of questions, and at what level the answers matter. If I have done my job as a writer, I think, a piece of my writing can stand outside of questions of truth, for it can achieve a kind of truth that is its own.

Read Hermann’s entire essay.

Also this month at Glimmer Train:

Share this
Posted in Creativity + Inspiration.

Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) has 20 years of experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in digital media strategy for authors and publishers. She is the publisher of The Hot Sheet, the essential newsletter on the publishing industry for authors, and was named Publishing Commentator of the Year by Digital Book World in 2019.

In addition to being a columnist for Publishers Weekly, Jane is a professor with The Great Courses, which released her 24-lecture series, How to Publish Your Book. Her book for creative writers, The Business of Being a Writer (University of Chicago Press), received a starred review from Library Journal.

Jane speaks regularly at conferences and industry events such as BookExpo America, Digital Book World, and the AWP Conference, and has served on panels with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Creative Work Fund. Find out more.

Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments