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Hello!  I'm developing a book about my father's life in show business as a ballroom dancer in the 1930s-1940s.  He got his start in the dance marathons with a few household names, all of whom I believe are deceased.  Because he died when I was a child, we have no way to gather many facts.  For this reason, I believe that my book must be a novel based on fact. If that's true, how should I name his character and how should I handle the inclusion of authentic dance photos?  Should I include a page to clarify a few key facts for readers?  Anything else related that I should know/do?  If I must contact the legal department, please tell me how to reach them.  Also, how and where may I rate your response afterward?  Many thanks for your time and information.

Answer
Lee:

My heartfelt plea to you here is to NOT do this book as a novel.  

Ask yourself why it is that you want to tell your father's story.  I'm guessing it's more than the fact that he was your father, but that you found his life interesting.  And it's likely that others will, too.  But it has far more appeal as a truthful piece that it would as a fictionalized life.

How has his life (or learning about his life) affected you?  Obviously, if you're willing to invest the considerable amount of time it takes to write a book, it must have affected you strongly.  And maybe that's really the heart of your story.  It's certainly a part of it, anyway.

Since your father is (I assume) NOT one of those "household names," pitching it as a biography would be a tough sell.  But as a memoir about how you came to learn these things about your father - and including how much you don't know and must speculate about - it could have much more draw.  You certainly wouldn't be the first person to write such a story.

The lovely thing about memoirs is they don't have to be written by, or about, anyone famous.  They don't need to be loaded with biographical facts, either.  They just need to tell a story that holds the interest and touches the heart.

Think about it.  If you decide it's a bad idea, then fine... reply and we'll discuss doing it as a fictionalized account of his life.  But let the idea sit with you for a couple days.  

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Vincent M. Wales

Expertise

I am a speculative fiction novelist (fantasy, science fiction, and so on). While I may be able to answer questions on non-fiction, my specialty is fiction. Please keep that in mind when asking questions.

Experience

For four years, I taught a series of fiction writing classes in Sacramento, CA.

Education/Credentials
BA in fiction writing.

Awards and Honors
My 2004 novel, ONE NATION UNDER GOD, won BEST FICTION in Fresh Voices 2006, BEST FICTION and BEST YA FICTION in the NCPA Book Awards, and placed as a finalist in BEST BOOKS 2005. In 2002, my novel WISH YOU WERE HERE won awards for Best Fantasy and Best Fiction/Drama in the 8th Annual SPA Awards. My latest work is a trilogy titled THE MANY DEATHS OF DYNAMISTRESS (a superhero memoir). The first book, RECKONING, was released in 2013 and won the SF category in the 2014 San Francisco Book Festival, took second place in the 2013 Royal Dragonfly Book Awards for the SF/Fantasy/Paranormal category, second place in the SF category of the 2013 Reader Views Reviewers Choice Awards, and was finalist in Foreword's 2013 Book of the Year Awards, Fantasy category. The second book, REDEMPTION, will be released in early 2015 and the final book, RENAISSANCE, is scheduled for release in late 2016.

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