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Avanti Centrae Asks Is Good Fiction Entirely Based in Imagination?

Avanti Centrae is the author of the VanOps series of thrillers. You can find out more about her here, see her books here, and read her last post here.

Beginning with my debut novel, VanOps: The Lost Power, I’ve included an author’s note at the end of each story where I parse fact from fiction, drawing the line between reality and imagination. There are three standalone novels in the VanOps series, and each combines intrigue, history, science, and mystery into a pulse-pounding action thriller. As you can imagine, including history and science into a work of fiction involves a fair amount of research, and can make it exciting for the reader to guess how much of the novel is true.

The Lost Power is about an aikido black belt, a deadly Russian sniper, and their race to find Alexander the Great’s mysterious Egyptian weapon.

I’ll admit up front that Alexander may not have had a mysterious weapon from Egypt. His grand accomplishments, however, led me to speculate on whether he may have had some sort of help in conquering the known world. I decided that a superconductive meteorite that could be utilized to throw ball lightning would certainly give him an unfair advantage, and featured shards of the meteorite as the dangerous object the protagonist and antagonist seek.

Like the superconductive meteorite in The Lost Power, I often have one large speculative leap in my novels. In my latest, The Doomsday Medallion, the prophet Nostradamus encodes his forecasting formula on a bronze medallion and then hides the pendant. It’s a powerful hook. How far would a country go to learn the future?

To counter my outlandish hooks, I like to utilize facts for the remainder of a story to build credibility. Usually, I keep locations true to form and render the science and history as accurately as possible. Even the more bizarre elements of my stories are rooted in truth. Readers often tell me they were surprised to learn how much of the story was based in reality.

Book Cover. VanOps: The Lost Power by Avanti Centrae. Red cross-like symbol with lightning in the background.

Returning to The Lost Power for some examples of facts that lend credibility to the outlandish Egyptian-weapon premise, scientists have found two meteorites that actually do contain superconductive bits. The Mundrabilla meteorite, found in the Australian Outback in 1911, and Graves Nunataks, a meteorite discovered in Antarctica in 1995, both have superconductive properties. Also, most researchers today agree that ball lightning is real, yet its nature remains controversial. It often appears as a glowing sphere which moves or drifts horizontally through the air. Typically, it’s the size of a softball or grapefruit but sometimes appears as small as a dime, or as large as a bus. It can hover or bounce and lasts for only a few seconds, but can linger for longer. Sometimes it disappears quietly, and other times, explodes violently. Perfect for an action-packed thriller.

An author’s job is to spin a convincing tale that readers can escape into. Creating suspended belief involves working like a mason…an author must apply layer after layer of information so that even the more imaginative elements rest on a factual basis. It’s tricky, but a lot of fun when done well. Readers who enjoy a blend of real history and science with their action thrillers can download the first six chapters of The Lost Power free from my website at www.avanticentrae.com.

Avanti Centrae

You can find out more about her on her website, www.avanticentrae.com, or follow her on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

This Post Has 18 Comments

  1. I agree that clinging slavishly to the facts can make for some very dull stories. The whole point of fiction is to challenge our imaginations. And there are ways to “play” with the facts believably.

    1. Avanti Centrae

      Thanks Laurie!

  2. Great post, Avanti! I love that you give readers a note to explain what is fact and what fiction in your books. Very interesting stuff about meteorites and ball lightning!

    1. Avanti Centrae

      Yes, ball lightning is intense. Check out Tim’s comment!

  3. saralynrichard

    You do a great job of hot-wiring readers’ brains with this method. I know, because I’m one of them.

    1. Avanti Centrae

      Thanks Saralyn!

  4. Tim

    Saw ball lightning once while driving a back road in Wyoming. Knocked out my lights and radio when it exploded. Scared heck out of me. Seems like the perfect weapon for an ancient conqueror!

    1. Avanti Centrae

      Hey Tim – that’s an exciting experience!

  5. Sherrill Joseph

    I agree with Anne Louise Bannon and Laurie Buchanan. Your term “one large speculative leap” but based in truth is a powerful tool for fiction writers. You excel at it. I’m working on it as I incorporate more history into my mysteries.

    1. Avanti Centrae

      Thanks Sherrill – it’s a lot of fun!

  6. Jackie Vick

    A superconductive meteorite certainly WOULD give one an advantage! The blurry line between fact and fiction is what makes your books so intriguing. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Tracey Phillips

    Avanti, you blend fact and fiction so well! That’s why I can’t wait for your next thriller!!

  8. Sharon Lynn

    When I read your books I love to finish a chapter and then look stuff up. Separating the fact from fiction is a part of the mystery for me. Does Spain still have a monarchy? Why yes, yes they do, and I wouldn’t have even thought to look it up without reading about it in a work of fiction. I do the same with historical fiction – was that person real? Is that a real town? Finding an author who can weave fact and fiction together elegantly is a gift and makes for thrilling reading!

  9. joyribar

    Avanti: I need to brush up on my science after reading this splendid post! The face that you can explain ball lightning and meteorites with superconductivity means you’re authorized to use that in your fiction (at least in my opinion). Your topic is a solid reminder of why readers enjoy fiction, but also want to believe the plot.

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