A few years ago I was living in Canada and I edited a book of writing from the Saanich Peninsula, centred around the small fishing town of Sidney. That particular part of British Columbia is home to many writers and my hopes were high for a splendid anthology. There were a fair few submissions and on the whole they were excellent but at the end of the selection process the manuscript seemed a little slender to publish as it was.
I decided to pad it out a bit by inserting a story of my own. But I felt uneasy about this. Editors should be promoting other writers, not themselves, so I made up an identity and Charlotte was born. The story is called 'The Pond Hunters', and could be the best I've written, so it's sad to think that it's Charlotte's and not my own. When Reading the Peninsula eventually came out, of course everyone wanted to know who this Charlotte Biscay was. Sidney is a small town, the literary community smaller, and no one had ever heard of such a person. I had written a contributor's biography, which arguably is even better than my story, and I thought that the bio would give the game away. Perhaps it would have if I'd been able to keep a straight face.
So this is the life I fashioned for her:
'Charlotte Biscay was born in New Orleans. After the death of her musician father she moved with her mother and brothers to Paris, where she later studied Russian history and literature at the Sorbonne’s L’Ecole Normale Superieure. Graduating with honours she then enrolled in a cinematography course and began making documentaries for Cine-Actualité, eventually becoming one of the first women to make a mark in that organisation. After recording the tumultuous events of 1968 with her camera she opted for a quieter life and emigrated to Canada, settling on the Saanich Peninsula with her photographer husband in the 1980s. Ms Biscay, now widowed, is the mother of three grown children: Porthos, Athos and Aramis.'
I realised that in creating her I was entering that infamous, longstanding, Australian tradition of literary hoaxing. I have to admit as well that I was having a lot of fun with it. When people got the joke they laughed as much as I did. Well, almost as much. The only downside was not getting credit for the story, as I said. But Charlotte was born and to date she's still with me. She's got a business name and she's done corporate editing for me, and last year, when I tried my hand at a blog, I called it hers. My aim was to deal with literary subjects but she ended up writing mostly about politics. It's the '68 in her - never to be eradicated, I guess.
Watch this space, then, for more.