One of the more distressing aspects of suddenly becoming guardian to my young ward is the lies. So many lies. The depth and breadth of the lies a parent must tell are astounding.
I lie constantly to her about matters big and small – the origin of her Christmas presents, the destination of her lost teeth, the reason why she can’t have a toy, and, worst of all, that everything will be okay.
Of course, I was told many of the same lies during my childhood. I hold no grudges against the liars – except one. Roald Dahl, the author of some of my favorite books. He told a lie in The BFG that has haunted me to this day.
Here is the lie: That human beings are the only animals that kill their own kind.
I believed this lie for many years. I thought that human beings were monsters, unprecedented in the animal kingdom. But of course, this is not true. Chimpanzees wage wars against other tribes and kill rivals in gruesome ways. Animals of all species kill their own young. Bees kill each other within the same hive. Human murders are the rule, not the exception.
As a reader, I despise deliberate untruths in books. As an author, do I now have a greater responsibility not to lie to my readers? I believe so. And yet, there are lies throughout THE INVENTORS. They may be necessary for the plot, but they are lies nevertheless. The first lie is that Ada Byron did not build a working airplane. Even if she had, her mother would never have let her take it on a trip without supervision.
I don’t know if it’s possible to write a fictional book that tells only the truth. No one is perfect, after all. However, I will catalogue the lies in THE INVENTORS somewhere so that readers will know what of the book is not historically accurate. As for the lies I tell as a parent, I have no doubt that one day when my young ward is a mother with her own children, she will tell the same ones.