My History and Why FUTUREPROOF Is (and has always been) A Novel
Frank Daniels, age 24 1998
I’ve really struggled on whether or not I was going to go this route, and just dump it all out on the table so that everyone would see everything. But after what has happened with James Frey, I feel that the only option is complete disclosure.
I was raised in what can only be described as abject poverty. My mother and step-father had very little, if any, income. We moved all the time, many times evicted, all of our belongings thrown onto the lawn by Sherriff’s Department deputies in accordance with law. I fucking hated my step-father, who was a total deadbeat and brutal man all around. By the time I was sixteen I was living in different friends’ houses and getting as drunk and high as possible on a daily basis. I dropped out of high school and progressed up the ladder of drug abuse until I came to the grand mother of all drugs, heroin. My heroin addiction progressed as any other heroin addict’s usage does: it got worse and worse and more and more expensive and unmaintainable until I lost pretty much everything. I had an infant son that was taken from my girlfriend and me and placed in state custody. I was told that if I did not immediately enroll in a long-term residential drug treatment center that I would never see him again.
This CRUSHED me.
My son was all I had to live for. I got into a treatment center and after seven long months inside, and another six months living on my own, I proved sufficiently to the state that I was an able and capable father. They gave me back my boy. He is with me today.
About a year later I was given a full scholarship at a very highly ranked college in Kentucky. I wanted to go to school to make something of myself, to make the life for my son that I’d never had. For two years I went to class and my son went to daycare. When I picked him up at 5 o’clock he was my light, the one that made everything worth it. In my second year of college I met a wonderful woman who loved me, and most importantly, also loved my son. We were married soon after, and eventually a baby girl joined our little family. For a while after I graduated (with honors!) in 2002, I attended Graduate School in North Carolina, but hated it. Somehow I got three A’s in that one semester I attended, despite the fact that my work was half-assed, at best. I realized that grad school (at least that one, and, I assume, all state graduate schools) was for serial pontificators and blowhards. I was an English major and these people were desconstructing everything about the field that I loved. They had no love for stories or language. They had no experiences in what I consider “real life”. So I had to make a choice: either I continued on like that or I dropped it and went back to construction work while spending my nights trying to write a book, as I’d always wanted to do. I obviously chose the book.
If a lot of the story sounds familiar, that’s because you’ve read it, in novelized form, in FUTUREPROOF. So why is my book a novel and not a memoir? Because I wanted to have freedoms with my story that I didn’t think memoirists have, and I didn’t want to be forced into the little box that it would seem a memoirist would be forced into. I wanted, if I so decided, to write a book about penguins on Mars and have it still be given the same respect and benefit of the doubt that anything I wrote would get, based on my own life or not. I also wanted to maintain a certain level, or aura, if you will, of mystery, and let the books speak for themselves over the personality of the author. I wanted to carry on the tradition laid down by others such as Henry Miller and Ernest Hemingway and Jack Kerouac, where I used my life as a starting point to some great fiction. But these days, everything is so compartmentalized. We are put in smaller and smaller boxes. Hell, a lot of FUTUREPROOF is about that very concept. But this is where James Frey fucked up. He, too, I believe, wanted to continue that same tradition, the tradition of the Beat writers. But he ran into the same walls I’ve run into, where publishers insisted that there just wasn’t an audience for that kind of writing.
James, as everyone but the most culturally removed knows by now, has been subject to what amounts to a public flogging over his lies and embellishments in his book A Million Little Pieces. From my point of view, it’s a grey area, as far as how far a writer can go in his writing when changing details. I think what ultimately led to James’ current situation is that he opened his mouth too much, was too willing to back up the embellishments in the book in order to continue the illusion that every single detail was accurate. To me it matters not one iota that Lilly killed herself by slashing her wrists as opposed to hanging. That is writer’s license, and I think can also be defended on the grounds that he was trying to protect her identity. The less defendable stuff would be the jail time, and the reason I think it is less defendable is because in interviews to promote AMLP, he continued the illusion that he had spent time in jail, going so far as to call it “boring and scary.” I think James owes everyone an explanation for that, especially long-time defenders like myself. Because once he began talking about details that were in the book (that could have presumably been defended on the grounds of “writer’s license”), he crossed the line into straight-up lying. That’s all there is to it. And I would like an explanation for why he would do that. It doesn’t make sense to me. And no, for the record, I don’t think what happened on Oprah last Thursday was justifiable, either. She treated him like a piece of garbage, which I find inexcusable.
So what does all this have to do with me? I met James in June 2005. I met him at a crucial time in my life as a writer. I had tried for over a year to get an agent who would represent FUTUREPROOF, and to no avail. Nobody would give me the time of day. Then I met James at a booksigning and he told me to send him my manuscript. I don’t know how, but it’s like…..that meeting made something click in my head. Suddenly I had all these ideas of how I could just bypass the houses and take FUTUREPROOF straight to the readers. And that’s what I’ve done.
But why did I have to do that? James has proven that people, yes even now, after he’s been “exposed” as a fraud, still back up his story, still take great comfort from the books he has written. So while I’m not excusing the actions James Frey decided to take, I want to make a very clear and concise point right now, that the publishing houses are fucking retards and don’t rightly know their asses from a hole in the ground. Whether you think James Frey was unethical or not in the moves he made to get his book into print is irrelevant. Because let me tell you, it has been a fucking trial with FUTUREPROOF, especialy since I’ve gotten so many people telling me they’d love to read the book and I STILL can’t get a house to return a letter or an email or a phone-call. So am I resentful? Yes. Will I be changing the category of FUTUREPROOF from ‘novel’ to ‘memoir’ so that it has a better chance of gtting picked up by a house? FUCK NO. Why? For the reasons I already stated, and because this book is a fucking novelization of a life. I am a novelist, not a memoirist. I am a writer, and I back up James Frey as a writer and a fellow flawed human being. I know that he made the wrong choices, but I also know how this industry, with its aging baby boomers at the helm of the ship, don’t know a goddam thing about what people want to read. THEY created James Frey, they also brought him to the brink of ruin, and while they were at it seriously damaged FUTUREPROOF’s chances of ever getting published. So now I could give a fuck. If I have to, I’ll go back to the same work I’ve always done, and continue hoping that my first novel picks up some readers along the way who will continue to spread the word on this underground phenomenon. Thanks for all your support, guys. As soon as the proof gets here from Fed-Ex (it’s supposed to arrive today) and I can make sure all the i’s are dotted and the t’s crossed, it’ll be up for sale. Thank you all so much. Thank you for everything. Talk soon. ~Noah Frank Daniels
P.S. If you’re an agent or publishing house reading this, fucking grow a pair. People want to read this book, and others like it.