-- Allison Bially, author of award-winning memoir Booby Trap
From the Author
My book is inspired by a true story. I get questions about this. I'll try and answer a few of them.
Q: What does that mean: "inspired by?" How much of this story is true?
A: All of it. Except for the parts I made up.
The true story is this: I was diagnosed with cancer. A long, lost friendcontacted me out of the blue, and implied she was fighting cancer too. Weemailed for a while. Then: three shocks. 1) She died. 2) On a reality show. 3) Ofsomething other than cancer. Of something that implied that she may have neverhad cancer at all. Was she lying to me the whole time? I had to find what wastrue and what was not in our relationship.
That's what happened, and I almost wrote a nonfiction book aboutit. But it didn't work. Truth is stranger than fiction in most cases, and thistruth supported that maxim. I didn't have enough answers, so, in what I think wasprobably an attempt to process my grief, I made up what I thought had happened,what I wished had happened, and what I feared had happened.
It's fiction, but it's a cut-up collage of small things thathappened during my cancer battle. I plundered my own Facebook posts. Iconstructed a backbone for the book, for Cecily, from my Facebook posts. Icollected tidbits of detritus from this time, from myself, and from my familyand friends. Names, snippets of conversation. If you knew me while I waswriting this, you're in the book. I've stolen the names of your stuffedanimals, I've referenced things we've done and conversations we've had. Forsome people, reading this book will be like "Where's Waldo?" They'll seethemselves everywhere. When you do, imagine me waving at you.
Writing the character of Suzie was tricky. I didn't want to use any of thereal emails we'd written to each other. In the end, I used the first one: the oneshe wrote when she reached out to me the first time. That is verbatim in thebook: the only quote from the real Suzie. The rest is made up. The book followsour conversational arc, sometimes very loosely, sometimes pretty closely. But,in the end, I was writing fiction. Suzie isn't her real-life alter ego.
Q: Are you going to reveal who "Suzie" is in real life?
A: I think I can't, now. Because I've changed everything abouther, and if I went back and said, "It's based on so-and-so," I'd bemisrepresenting her. The Truth About Suzie is inspired by our story, but it'snot our story.
Q: Is [one of the characters] based on me?
A: Do you want it to be?
A: Then it's definitely not.