When author Candace Fleming writes about murder and other true crimes, you can be sure of two things: that she’s very passionate about her subject; and that the story is 100 percent factual. Yet the author is quick to explain that she is not a fact-teller.
“I am a storyteller. I just happen to tell stories that are 100 percent true,” Fleming told students at Mundelein High School on Wednesday morning.
Fleming spoke to students in the MHS Auditorium during three separate presentations at the request of MHS Library Information Specialist Rebecca Plaza. While Fleming has written many children’s books, she also has authored several books on true crimes. It’s a hot topic for teenage readers and Fleming was thrilled to get a chance to speak to the students.
She also likes writing for them.
“Teens are open-minded,” she explained in between presentations. “But because they have a limited perspective, you have to provide more context they may not have.”
When she chooses a topic, she considers something that appeals to her as well as something that may appeal to her teenage readers. She generally spends about two years researching a story and another two years writing and editing.
“So it better be a topic I’m absolutely fascinated with. It has to be a topic that is going to be able to sustain my curiosity for four years,” she told her audience. “If I find a topic, but it won’t appeal to teen readers, I’m not going to write it. I’m always looking for topics I love that you will love as well.
Fleming, author of “The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia,” “The Rise and Fall of Charles Lindbergh” and “Murder Among Friends,” told Mundelein students that it’s important to understand the truth of these stories.
“I actually believe that we don’t know how to live in the present if we don’t tell true stories from our past,” she said.
Fleming spoke for nearly 40 minutes and then opened the floor for student questions. One student, after hearing Fleming explain how she tries to “get into the heads of her subjects,” asked how she avoids projecting her own bias into her stories.
Fleming explained that she has a purpose in every story that she tells. It may be to ask ourselves if the media still plays an important part in a case’s outcome, or if the crime is a reflection on our society. But where there is a purpose behind the story, there is bias.
“I think every good piece of nonfiction has an author bias,” she said. “Bias in the sense that I want you as a reader to walk away saying, ‘great story, but there’s something more there.’ ”