I first got the idea for my novel Fake during the presidency of George W. Bush. I remember him making an off-hand quip about having some “quality time with the first lady.”
What would it be like, I wondered, for a president who loves his wife to lose her while he’s still in office? It’s happened before in history, but not in the digital age — and certainly not with Lark Chadwick as a White House correspondent.
I began writing Fake on the last day of 2016 as the United States of America began to realize that Donald J. Trump would be sworn in as President of the United States on January 20, 2017. That presidential election was the first one I experienced since I retired from CNN in 2013. For the first time in more than forty-five years, I was no longer a journalist required to keep my political opinions to myself.
I was horrified throughout the campaign by many things, but two things stand out: 1. The willingness – even eagerness – of some people to believe things that are demonstrably untrue, and then, 2. To lob those false facts like rhetorical artillery shells into the opposing camp, with no desire whatsoever to seek common ground or civility.
By the time Trump took office, the term “fake news” had come into vogue, but it wasn’t Trump who coined it. Originally, “fake news” referred to false news stories made up by political operatives and then slavishly proliferated online by people who either believed the stories were true – or wanted them to be (e.g. “Pope Francis Endorses Trump”).
It was only after he became president that the Dissembler-in-Chief appropriated the term “fake news” and used it to insult and denigrate any reporter or news organization with the audacity to challenge his veracity. Journalists – whose job description is enshrined in the first amendment of the Constitution – became “enemies of the people.”
At this point in my creative process (spring 2017), I gave this as-yet-unnamed manuscript the working title Fake. But I was repeatedly forced to re-evaluate the plot because real-life events kept making my ideas obsolete.
So, that’s the inspiration behind Fake.
But, as I hope you’ll see, this book is less a commentary about fake news, and more about the need for authenticity, honesty, and trust on a personal level regardless of political affiliation. Another way of saying it: Fake is about fake news, but with a twist.
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