Writing books is hard work. Okay, sometimes reading books is hard work, too, but creating a story out of thin air, and adding believable characters, a plot arc, and relatable themes to it is downright impossible, not to mention getting the thing published. That’s why it’s remarkable when someone who isn’t even a real person authors a book. You’re making us living, human writers look bad, you fictional jerks!
Okay, so fictional people don’t actually write books, or rather, they can’t, on account of how they don’t exist. But publishing a book by a TV, movie, or literary character can work as a marketing tactic, an inside joke for fans of an existing property, or it can add an extra level of fun or irony to a project, blurring the lines between fake and not-fake. Here then are some books that were published under the names of some famous and famously not-real individuals.
A Date with Murder, by Jessica Fletcher
Murder, She Wrote has been off the air now for more than two decades, but its 12-year-run was so successful that there’s a nice cottage industry of delectable little mystery novels ostensibly written by Jessica Fletcher. Portrayed by Angela Lansbury, she was a successful author who wrote murder books when she wasn’t solving actual murder mysteries (and getting ideas for more books) in her quaint Maine hometown of Cabot Cove. Apart from the opening credits, viewers rarely saw Jessica Fletcher actually writing, what with the time-consuming nature of sleuthing, but she was apparently hard at work because 50 Murder, She Wrote-branded books (which are security blankets that read like long-form episodes of Murder, She Wrote) have been published, written by a handful of talented mystery writers.
Marriage Vacation, by Pauline Turner Brooks
At the center of the TV Land show Younger is Broadway legend Sutton Foster as Liza Miller, a woman in her early 40s who pretends to be a woman in her 20s so she can land a job as a PR assistant at a youth-obsessed publishing company. Eventually, she gets the chance to edit Marriage Vacation, a salacious, tell-all by Pauline Turner-Brooks, ex-wife of the company boss, Charles…whom Liza happens to be having a fling with. Liza needing to make a good book that pleases the writer without upsetting her boss raises all kinds of ethical and professional quandaries, and now Younger fans can actually read the long-talked about book, which provides both backstory to several Younger characters as well as many subtle and obvious references to the show, which, amusingly…is based on a novel by Pamela Redmond Satran.
Snow Falling, by Jane Gloriana Villanueva
Jane the Virgin is a soap opera or telenovela in the form of a drama-tinged comedy. It’s got a wacky premise: Having never “been” with a gentleman, Jane Villanueva (Gina Rodriguez) nonetheless becomes “with child” and decides to raise said child, with her wacky family, romantic life, and career aspirations serving as a backdrop. As the series plays out, Jane, who wants to be a writer, goes to grad school, gets a Master’s in creative writing, lands a job at a publisher, and gets her romance novel, Snow Falling, into bookstores. The text itself is a fictional roman à clef, if you will, as the not-real Jane wrote something that details her own life story, as depicted on Jane the Virgin, only she changes the setting to the early 1990s instead of current times. So who actually wrote this cheeky romance novel? Caridad Piñeiro. She even provides a “blurb” on the cover, recommending Snow Falling to readers: “Jane’s novel is so much fun I wish I’d written it myself!”
Let Me Off at the Top!, by Ron Burgundy
Around the time of the release of Anchorman 2 in 2013, the movie’s star and co-writer Will Ferrell took to appearing in public as his boorish, ‘70s newsman character. Part of the promotional shtick was this book, a mock version of the chatty, self-aggrandizing, celebrity memoir, the kind they used to make back when Ron Burgundy was “kind of a big deal.” But unlike Liberace or Elizabeth Taylor delivering only the non-controversial parts of their rises to fame, this real book about a fake person is full of actual weirdness as it gives the backstory to one of film’s great comic characters. You might be one of those people who quotes Anchorman all the time, but did you know that Ron Burgundy collects Spanish broadswords, or that he’s from an Iowa town sullied by the stain of a cult murder?
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, by Newt Scamander
Seven huge novels weren’t enough room for J.K. Rowling to build her vast and spectacular “Wizarding World.” In creating an entire alternate Earth where magical beings are alive, well, and dealing with the rise of Voldemort, Rowling provided so many delicious details, down to things like textbooks that Harry, Hermione, and Ron (okay, not Ron, because he was a bad student) read in their Hogwarts classes. In 2001, Rowling made those casual references into actual books for Muggles like you and me. Along with Quidditch Through the Ages, this slim volume is a mini-encyclopedia of magical creatures, which creates another big world inside of Rowling’s already big world, to the point where they made this one into a series of movies about the 1930s-set adventures of its author, ex-Hogwarts student (he was a Hufflepuff) and enchanted game keeper, Newt Scamander.
What’s your favorite book by a fictional character?