When I published a personal narrative about growing up in East Texas, I stirred up a hornet’s nest. I caught flak from relatives whose shared DNA is less than that of an aquatic ape. Individuals I hadn’t thought of in eons imagined themselves to be the subject of an unflattering, anonymous character.
Growing up in a small town in the south, during a certain era, many of us shared a background that resonates a William Faulknerish energy. If you grew up with eccentric people and family situations, why not laugh. After all, you survived. I thought of it as backing into a character building exercise, sort of a guide of what not to do.
In my family, when someone gets bent out of shape, the telephone brigade begins. Not even the pentagon can match my family’s ability to launch attacks.
Cousin A calls cousin B. “Did you read JoAnn’s book? No, well she has her nerve. The whole thing is a pack of lies. I think we should sue. The character called Lilly Bell is actually Jane. Of course Jane is a nut but we don’t discuss it outside the family.”
The telephone trickledown phenomenon eventually reaches my sister who phones to tell me about everyone I’ve pissed off. I immediately count the people in our extended family and calculate how that might convert to book sales. I have a very large extended family and if half of them were angry enough to purchase the book that would be a nice chunk of change.
Someone forgot to remind the cousins our family is not famous. No one had to hire a spin doctor to salvage our tarnished family reputation. If we were public figures, the narrative could have made me wealthy. I probably would be included on the trickle down phone list.
So, if anyone is considering publishing anything, be aware you most likely will not become famous. But, far as family is concerned, there’s a better than average chance you will be joining the infamous.