The most common question I’m asked about my debut novel, THE ROAD AHEAD, is where do the characters come from? Who is Rick Tompkins? I’m pretty sure I recognize. Are you Jerry? I know there has to have been a real Kitty.
Over my public sector career, I’ve worked with hundreds of politicians, political staff and bureaucrats. The characters in THE ROAD AHEAD reflect a compilation of interactions I’ve had with many of those people. However, none of them ended up as characters in the novel. Rick Tompkins represents a broad range of people I’ve met. Some were opportunistic who happened to get swept into office by the success their party. Some were unprepared for life in the spotlight. More than few were bombastic, impatient and bad-tempered. And yes a couple said inappropriate things.
Certain lines and events stuck in my head and ended up in the book. The late Peter Kormos, who represented Welland for many years, often repeated the line “insurance companies have deep pockets and short arms”. I loved that line and had to use it. However, Rick is clearly not based on Peter Kormos.
Some actual events did provide some inspiration. There have been more than one politician caught having a melt down at an airport or being drunk in public. There was even a former Ontario Cabinet minister who resigned after having a “non-sexual affair”. Though, I have yet to uncover a Muse working in a Minister’s off ice.
I actually tried to base two characters on real people. It didn’t work. The characters were shallow and didn’t feel real. One character was rewritten. The other was completely removed from the book.
And no, I am not Jerry in the book.
My next novel is more of a fantasy with lots of Martians. Still, I suspect that people will still be asking me who the characters are based on.