Evan Fal­l­en­berg is the author of When We Danced on Water, a nov­el. He will be blog­ging all week for MyJew­ish­Learn­ing and the Jew­ish Book Council‘s Author Blog.

I am prob­a­bly a writer of fic­tion (as opposed to non­fic­tion) because from a very ear­ly age I loved to tell elab­o­rate lies with con­vinc­ing details. In the first grade I affect­ed a British accent to tell the sto­ry of my birth in the back of a Volk­swa­gen in Lon­don; in the sev­enth grade I con­coct­ed a potion of hand cream and food col­or­ing to give myself a tan fol­low­ing a non-exis­tent fam­i­ly trip to Hawaii, where our fam­i­ly (accord­ing to the extend­ed ver­sion of my lie) was going to be relo­cat­ing.

I was a child with curios­i­ty and wan­der­lust and a col­or­ful, live­ly imag­i­na­tion. My lies were not mali­cious and were only vague­ly self-serv­ing; main­ly they exist­ed to add glam­our to a life that felt too ordi­nary. In bed at night I spoke to myself in faux French, puff­ing out my lips and mak­ing a lot of zh sounds. It fol­lows that dur­ing the day­light hours I would wish to spice things up.

It is impor­tant to note that my lies nev­er con­tained mag­i­cal ele­ments. No one ever flew or was trans­port­ed in time machines. Instead, I took the every­day mate­ri­als of real life (we actu­al­ly had a lit­tle Volk­swa­gen when I was six) and reworked the sto­ry, the sur­round­ings. I took my real self and removed him from Ohio (and usu­al­ly Amer­i­ca), gave him the abil­i­ty to speak many lan­guages, dressed him in fan­cy clothes and then…well, then, my imag­i­na­tion could take me only as far as books and tele­vi­sion had brought me by that time.

My lies brought atten­tive audi­ences, from whom I learned the art of brevi­ty, and the need for cred­i­ble plot twists and sat­is­fy­ing sur­pris­es. I was keen­ly aware of eyes glaz­ing over or peo­ple wan­der­ing away, so I did my best to riv­et them to where they were stand­ing. My lies got me into trou­ble – one such lie caused my demo­tion from vale­dic­to­ri­an to salu­ta­to­ri­an of my high school grad­u­at­ing class – and out of trou­ble as well, as when, in the fourth grade, our sub­sti­tute teacher found a nasty poem I had penned about her cir­cu­lat­ing in class, and in order to gain her sym­pa­thy I told her a hor­ri­fy­ing sto­ry about can­cer and death and sad­ness in our fam­i­ly, none of which was (yet) true.

I am lucky to have found a healthy chan­nel for my need to invent. And like those ear­ly lies, much of what I make up for my books has ele­ments of truth to it. Which is why I am both both­ered and sym­pa­thet­ic when asked how much, or what, in my nov­els is true.

Come back all week to read more of Evan Fallenberg’s post. His new nov­el,When We Danced on Water, is now available.

Evan Fal­l­en­berg is an author and trans­la­tor of films, plays, and books, includ­ing Meir Shalev’s A Pigeon and a Boy, win­ner of the 2007 Nation­al Jew­ish Book Award for fic­tion. He is the recip­i­ent of the Amer­i­can Library Asso­ci­a­tion Bar­bara Git­tings Stonewall Book Award for Lit­er­a­ture, the Edmund White Award for Debut Fic­tion, and oth­er awards in the Unit­ed States and Israel. In addi­tion to writ­ing and trans­lat­ing, he teach­es lit­er­ary trans­la­tion and fic­tion at Bar-Ilan Uni­ver­si­ty in Tel Aviv and is fac­ul­ty co-direc­tor of Ver­mont Col­lege of Fine Arts Inter­na­tion­al MFA in Cre­ative Writ­ing & Lit­er­ary Trans­la­tion. He is a grad­u­ate of George­town Uni­ver­si­ty and serves as an advis­er to the Sami Rohr Prize for Jew­ish Lit­er­a­ture. He lives in Acre, Israel, where he owns a bou­tique hotel and arts res­i­den­cy center.