Episode 118B – Bill Kiraly – Real People in Stories

Overview

Bill has written stories that reference real people. This is a hot topic for many authors. We discuss the best way to use real people and whether you should or not.

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Transcript

All right, so let’s talk some other stuff and we have an interesting topic that we’ve not. Discussed with anyone before. So before we get into that, let me ask you you’ve been writing most of your life.

What are some things you’ve learned that you’re doing different now than when you first got started or? When, not necessarily when you’re doing the journalism, but when you were writing books and stuff, cuz that’s two different writings. So what have you learned? What are you doing different from when you first started?

[00:22:10] Bill: Yeah I’m gonna have to say that the stuff I’ve learned a lot, we talked about Dave’s group, but there’s also another group that meets on the west side that Mudcat who you had on as well as part of where we critique each other’s work. And he’s a great writer by the way, he’d be another one of my favorites.

But just learning how to I tend to throw out too much stuff and they’re teaching me and just as I go, I’m learning. Put all this stuff in the first draft and then tighten it up and cut it out and make put in. What’s most important in there. I am learning also how bad an editor, personal editor I am.

I have a guy who’s helped me a great deal on that. And then I’ve also recently purchased in software that I hope will help with that as well.

[00:22:55] Stephen: What’s

[00:22:55] Bill: the software, it just typos. I can write five sentences and. Five typos in there and not see

[00:23:01] Stephen: them myself. That, that’s pretty good though.

I know some authors where there’s more than five, so what’s the software you’re using?

[00:23:07] Bill: I write in Scrivener. Okay. But I picked up one called boy, what is it called? Pro quality or writer? Gimme a second. I can actually, it should be it’s on my computer. Pro writer aid. I think it is

[00:23:21] Stephen: pro writing aid.

[00:23:22] Bill: Yeah. Yeah. It’s. It’s like an AI software. Yeah. And I don’t take everything it’s it suggests, but it helps me with the commas and the punctuation. The thing I seem to do a lot is double words. Okay. Probably when I’m writing and then rewriting and deleting and stuff. And I just don’t see the double word.

It’s so far in the short time I’ve been using, it’s been helping me a lot on that. So I also use that and I’ve been using it to learn and hopefully getting better. It doesn’t seem like I still go, man, how many MIS not mistakes, but how many things do I need to look at? Whether they need change or not every time.

[00:23:58] Stephen: But it’s not always the same things that I used to do. So it is a good learning tool. If you use it as such, you can’t just blanket it except everything.

[00:24:07] Bill: So yeah, my, my old editor back in one of the papers used to put a list of all the words I commonly misspelled in front of my typewriter.

Nice. I learned all those and then she’d replace ’em and I’d have new one.

[00:24:18] Stephen: Yeah. And I talked to teachers and parents and kids. In school they do a little bit of writing, but they really focus on the grammar, the structure, the spelling. And I’m sorry, that’s not for writing necessarily your biggest focus. You lose the story, you lose the flow of the feel of the voice.

And all of those things can be corrected with a couple button presses now, so that I understand it’s school and that kids need to learn that. I think the kids should learn grammar and all that, but. It doesn’t mean you can’t write and write a good story. They’re separate things. Okay. So your book, what are you doing to market it?

I know it’s on Amazon.

[00:24:59] Bill: So far I’m trying to learn this because this is, I work for a marketing company. I work with a bunch of marketers. You’d think I’d know how to do this better. But I am not personally a great marketer. I’m not personally very good on social media per se. So I’m learning and I’m just I’m, that’s another part of publishing.

This book is to just take the time and figure out what’s gonna work. So primarily I’m doing the Amazon ads. I’m hoping this reaches at least a couple people. And I’ve been exploring some other options. Some of the newsletters that Mudcat was suggest. That are recommendations to people where you can plug your own book in.

[00:25:39] Stephen: As well. Nice. Yeah. Okay. And I’d

[00:25:41] Bill: like to do some in-person stuff too. Now that we’re

[00:25:44] Stephen: allowed to yes. I’d like to get into more of that in the area too. Maybe we’ll run into each other at the same event. That’d be cool. or hold the same event together. Yeah. I thought of that too. It’s if you can’t find one, then just create one that’s you know, the next thing I know enough authors in the area between Dave’s group and other people I’ve talked to we could probably coordinate and do our own thing.

Something just even if, just for the little bit of press or whatever okay. So our discussion today, an interesting topic is using real people and mentioning real people, which also could be corporations and products and stuff in your book. So let’s start off. What have you done in your books and why did you choose this as a good topic to.

[00:26:30] Bill: It’s a good topic to discuss because I don’t know whether I’ve really messed up or not. And there’s really only one that I go back and forth. It’s a public figure. I wrote a book. I wrote a story literally with the newly elected president. This was written before the election in 2016 of the newly elected Hillary Clinton, having a poker game with a devil, the devil was.

Said you owe me now. , we’re gonna, we’re gonna play poker. And it’s not anti Hillary Clinton story. I just use her cuz she’s a fascinating figure in my mind. She’s a very strong person. I like any politician and I’ve known a lot of politicians because I was a, for so long. They have to make deals with the devil in the not quite so literal format.

And I did I guess I speculated a little bit about whether she really liked the life that she’s chosen or not, or maybe she would’ve chosen something different and it’s called heart’s desire. And in it, the devil is able to give her heart’s desire. And as in all devil stories when the devil gives you something, no matter, even if it’s something you want desperately, it’s not always what you expect it to be.

I don’t wanna offend her, but I can’t think of any way to write that story without her being the main character. It sounds your former president also shows up in a not particularly flattering light.

[00:27:55] Stephen: But it sounds a little bit of political editorial, which is covered under fair use and protection along with like weird Al parities and the the comedy and stuff there are uses not just, you’re not saying she did make a deal with the devil.

You’re not saying she is the devil that’s where the libel slander stuff starts coming in.

[00:28:16] Bill: And I have some some background in media law just because of what I did. So I figured legally I’m probably. Okay.

[00:28:23] Stephen: Yeah but she could probably afford much more expensive lawyers for a lot longer.

So it may not matter whether you actually win. This is true. It may not be a good situation, but I don’t. Interestingly enough

[00:28:35] Bill: And like I say, I don’t consider it a, an anti Hillary story. I’m really not anti or. Anybody, I didn’t vote for either of them in that particular election. But the strongest reaction I’ve gotten is from a Hillary supporter, really of somebody who was like I don’t like this.

I don’t think this was right. You portrayed her the way she’s portrayed in the media type of thing, which I guess I did because that’s where I got all my information.

[00:29:03] Stephen: So as a a journalist, you go and you talk to people, you interview ’em and you put their words directly out in print.

But usually don’t, you have to get like a permission on that, that they say, yes I give you permission to reprint this and that, or use my name and things is that

[00:29:22] Bill: I think it depends on the story, whether they’re newsworthy or not. I used to do a personality profile. That was one of the fun things.

That I used to do. This is primarily New Mexico, but other places as well, people are perfectly willing to sit down and agree and tell you their whole life story. Good, and bad. And I never felt like there was any they might tell you, I really don’t want you to publish this particular thing.

And I’d be discrete if I, as long as I could be. And if it’s a new story I have pretty much. Full ability to say whatever they say, as long as there’s nothing being given to me specifically off the record. It’s more journalistic ethics than legal protection, if it’s a public figure in the middle of a public.

[00:30:05] Stephen: Then so for journalism, if you’re doing a piece maybe you’re at a thing someone’s talking Whether another journalist is interviewing ’em and you’re just there, whatever, if they how would this work? If they say something that could be libelist against somebody else or a slanderous?

I know one’s in print, one’s spoken. I always get ’em confused. But if they say something about another political party and it could be slanderous, and then you print that, what they said, is there any repercussions on you for that? Or could there.

[00:30:37] Bill: I don’t think so. Yeah. You always quote who said it and specifically, I didn’t say this is what this person said.

[00:30:46] Stephen: Okay.

[00:30:47] Bill: And I think that’s part of the story. If they’re lying about somebody else that’s a real story, but they, what if they came back on you and said, that’s not what I said or something that you changed what they said,

who goes to the editor and the. Plea our cases and explain why. And they may or may not print a retraction. I don’t think I ever had a retraction for that. Okay. Anything like that. So I don’t know that ever

[00:31:11] Stephen: came up. Just curious, just my head think of situations but in fiction that’s totally made up by you.

So you’ve got all the responsibility and being fiction it’s it is made up, but you still can’t. You gotta watch what you say about people. Same as in movies if you’re talking about Ford, but you’re talking about the Mustang and then what a piece of crap it is, blah, blah, blah.

You could get in trouble for using the actual products and names without permission. Have you done anything like that? Or have you like said, you know what, I should get permission to use this my book or anything?

[00:31:47] Bill: Not for that kind of thing. There were a couple. There are two music permission things.

There’s one song that I quoted that I specifically asked for permission to use that. Okay. And was given permission. And another one that I figured David Bowie would never let me do that. So I changed it to a different song.

[00:32:07] Stephen: So the one you got permission for, how did you go about doing. I

[00:32:12] Bill: emailed them.

They’re still active. It was a, it’s a group called October project and they created a song called Mary, my lovely, which is just gorgeous song. I’ve actually met the singer of this song, Mary fall a few times. But I actually asked permission of the people who wrote the song, cuz I, the quoting lyrics.

And I do understand that can be an issue when you’re publishing fiction. You just. Over a certain point. You just can’t use people’s stuff. I use a 4, 4, 4 lines in that song. But I basically emailed them and got the answer back. I figure that’s enough.

[00:32:51] Stephen: So do you know if it was, let’s say the grateful dead or something like that, how you would go about getting permissions for that?

Cause I, I don’t think Emailing them direct. You’d get an

[00:33:01] Bill: answer. Interesting enough. The last story in my book actually involves emailing the dead. Okay. wow. and I guess that you could take that either literally or figuratively in this particular case. I would assume you’d have to go to the, whoever owns the rights and I, I don’t know.

You’d have to research that. OK. All right. I probably wouldn’t use that this particular song inspired this story. I thought I kept thinking, this is such a beautiful song. I I love the music. It creates this whole atmosphere. I wonder what the story behind this atmosphere is. It scared me how dark that went.

When I started writing it really, it’s a good story.

[00:33:39] Stephen: And I think today’s world it maybe even easier sometimes to get ahold of people they have websites with contacts and yeah, it might, if it’s a bigger name that might go to a. A PR firm or contact assistant or something. I get that, but a lot of bands, especially ones that are on the comeback used to be big in the seventies, eighties disappeared.

And now they’re like on some, but it’s smaller. They’re not the limelight. Sometimes it is easier to get ahold of them with uh, so this was a band that was

[00:34:12] Bill: around for a couple years and they really hit the big time and then they, something happened. I don’t know. They broke up and I, I figured they, they don’t, they wouldn’t mind having a little more publicity about their stuff, cause I’m sure.

[00:34:25] Stephen: And to me, I would say I would love to include these lyrics, but also then on my website, put a link to Spotify for people to listen to it. So it’s I’m giving you a little bonus there. Yeah. The bargaining.

[00:34:39] Bill: Anybody who helps me? I figure I’m gonna put a link in there for them.

Nice.

[00:34:44] Stephen: Okay, good. That there’s the advice for authors, it doesn’t hurt to do whatever, to help help others out. Okay. There,

[00:34:52] Bill: there’s another story in the book. Okay. I mentioned in the first segment this, it’s the tomb of Gustav gime. He was an orient painter in France.

There’s not a lot really written about him. At least if you search the internet, there may be some scare book or something. It’s the most beautiful tomb I’ve ever seen. And it was done by a friend of his and both my daughter and I were both really entranced with that. And I wrote the story kind of building a story around his life based on the few little facts I could find about him.

So I’ve created this whole person and this whole adventure that never existed. And I’m afraid I’m doing to him what the movie am did to CEL which is take a person who is a real person. Who’s a real creative, wonderful person and create this strange myth about him. And I think probably a lot of people think that Amadeus is based convict.

And I don’t believe as far as I know it is at. Truly my story is not, but there aren’t a lot of facts to,

[00:35:58] Stephen: so how that story? So how do you handle that? Cause you said it was 16th century or somewhere in there? No he was 19th

century. Okay. Okay. So

[00:36:10] Bill: it’s been a while. What I do for several of these stories were the ones where I think it could be confusing and it’s probably not enough, but I had an author’s note at the end of.

Heart’s desire. I have an author’s note saying this is political parody. It’s not really meant to represent the real Hillary Clinton. And this one I mentioned, okay, here’s I’ve taken bits and pieces of this man’s life. It is not a true biography of this person. I don’t know enough about him to do that.

I’ve seen his work. His work is all over the internet. You can look it up. And the work of the guy who created the tomb is there as.

[00:36:46] Stephen: Okay. And that I, I think that’s covers it. I’ve never checked with a lawyer. But it being that old, it might be different if it was like the Kennedy’s here in America where the family is still around and and some of the.

Direct relations are. But I think it also is how, and this is stupid, but it’s how big are they, if it’s a TMZ level you’ve probably got more to worry about, but a French pay. I

[00:37:16] Bill: also know more about em and I know whether literally this is from the life, the end of the life in the Wikipedia page.

Okay. You couldn’t find a whole lot more about him. He was. He went back to his wife after having an affair and died in, in the BOM of his family, if you will. But there’s not a lot more about that. Nobody knows exactly why, what happened in that.

[00:37:41] Stephen: Like you said there’s unauthorized biographies, which are not approved that come out.

[00:37:49] Bill: I wouldn’t have problem doing that. This is, but this isn’t even a biography. I make no

[00:37:54] Stephen: pretenses the story, but this is anything

[00:37:56] Bill: other than a story that I made out that I think is a pretty good story. Of course I’m who am I to judge When I, and it, I did do a lot of research about the he used to go to Algeria.

Okay. And I did a fair bit of research about the French occupation of Algeria, the very brutal vicious occupation and a lot of that plays into this story as well. And that’s, that is based on fact, even though the actual incidents are completely out of whole cloth.

[00:38:24] Stephen: Yeah. When I Harry turtle does writes alternative.

History and uses real people in it. And then I talked to Armen Shimerman and he wrote about Shakespeare when he was young, but used some fantasy Shakespeare characters in the story, but based on real events. So I would say any author wanting to do that, if you’re concerned, find a lawyer that knows and talk with a lawyer that knows for sure.

If you’re concerned I. I would just guess there’s not gonna be anybody bothering to . Oh my gosh. You wrote about my second. Great. Yeah.

[00:39:03] Bill: So yeah, I’m not worried legally about it. I there’s a part of me that just thinks, just wanna make sure everybody knows. This is just

[00:39:10] Stephen: a story.

A

[00:39:11] Bill: fiction. Yeah. And let, lemme talk real briefly about the other two stories. The two stories that make. My, my time travel historical stories. Boy years ago, I watched this movie called queen Jane and it started this really beautiful young actress turns out to be Helen and bottom Carter.

But I, I didn’t know her then. And Carrie El was from the princess bride, both fantastic. Her and I was just entranced by her. And then 30, 40 years later now, as I’m writing. This story, I’m writing a story about somebody a time traveler who’s entranced with lady Jane Gray. He’s a little obsessed with her.

And so the first story is him going back, meeting her through multiple times in the life. And then the second story is when he tries to take her back to his time and things go terribly. Aw. As they often do. But that’s writing about a real historical character. I did do as much research as I could, and there’s not a lot of stuff.

That’s really sure about her. They don’t even know what year she was born in. There’s one painting, which is a copy of a painting they think might have been a painting her. So I took a lot of leeway in this. I literally joined the tutor. Just to be able to ask questions and find some more resources.

So there’s a society that, that loves the tutors in England.

[00:40:30] Stephen: Nice. And I think. What we were also mentioning is the amount of research trying to find as much as possible. Cause that’s part of it too, is that if somebody gets offended and says you wrote that. And so was like this and you can’t prove it either way.

And you said this is fiction. So I think any lawyer would probably say, there’s really not a case here. It’s not libelist. It’s a fiction piece about someone 200 years old or whatever. So yeah,

[00:40:59] Bill: this is the one was in the 15, 1500. So yeah, a little pulled back and they changed dynasties in England.

So I’m not really worried about the queen. And

[00:41:11] Stephen: what was the last one I thought you said you had two, I’m sorry.

[00:41:16] Bill: There’s two stories in that series. The one where he meet her and then the second story. The novels where they try to come back. And that’s a really interesting story because I try to interweave.

What I think of is her worldview of the time with a modern worldview, cuz I gotta get ’em together so they can do other stories later on. Got it. It’s a really, it’s a cool universe. I think in that I can take it pretty much anywhere I want.

[00:41:44] Stephen: So why did you choose to find real people to write some fiction stories about rather than just make something up, but with a totally fictional character?

[00:41:54] Bill: Cause lady Jane’s story was so interesting. She literally queen for nine days in England, she’s called the nine days queen. She was executed a year or so later after like 17th. Wow. It’s just a, it is a really fun, interesting story. She’s supposedly quite a character of her in her own. I just, I don’t think I could make that up.

I I, a time travel story has to be about real times I can’t imagine a time travel story going back to okay. So yeah, the future they come back to is completely different, but that’s. Yeah, actually me by some of that, but it’s based on, I

had to figure out how to make that future happen based on him taking her.

And bringing her to the future and keeping her from being executed. Okay. It’s just interesting.

Comes to the alternate

[00:42:39] Stephen: history. Got it. Yeah. Me and my son were talking about time travel the other day and I said, oh, I’d like to write a fan fiction piece where Sam from quantum leap jumps into Marty from back to the future.

That just sounded corny to me. Like how would that be? Yeah alright bill, I appreciate you talking today. Before we get going, do you have any last minute advice for any new authors out there?

[00:43:05] Bill: Same thing that gets passed around in Dave’s group all the time, finish the

[00:43:08] Stephen: damn thing there.

Here you go. Finish it.

[00:43:11] Bill: You gotta expect one thing I’ve read in it. I think it’s true. Your first draft is always crap. At least it’s it needs a lot of work, so just get it down, get it done. And then you can go back. The editing is as much fun as the writing sometimes because you see things and you change things and you can then tighten it all up and make it really work the way you want to.

So write it down first and then get back to working on it and work it until you, you got what you.

[00:43:42] Stephen: And honestly I’ve found for myself editing is the best part. It’s where I get most writing done. The first part is actually harder for me just getting that first draft written and not editing myself, not changing things that I wanna get it out and have the story.

Cuz then it’s much easier for me to fine tune it to a better story. Yeah.

[00:44:06] Bill: I’m not an outliner per. I usually know the beginning, the middle and the end of the story. And then I just have to find my way through the various scenes that I’ve imagined. So a lot of times it’s that first writing is just to find a way to get from point a to point B to point C to, to the point Z.

And then you can tighten it up and make sure it all works. Cuz the first stuff you write may not fit the last stuff. You’re right. You have to change. Certainly happening in the book I’m writing now.

[00:44:35] Stephen: yeah. I find that a lot myself. All right. Bill, I appreciate you taking some time today and talking to us, appreciate your,

[00:44:41] Bill: your bringing me on this has been

[00:44:43] Stephen: fun.

Great. All right. You have a wonderful day. Enjoy the weather. It’s nice today. Yeah, definitely.

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