The Inventors’ Daughter series is filled with real and imagined characters. Many of those in the first book are drawn from people I know.
The phenomenon is something like people from Kansas appearing in the Land of Oz. My Dr. Cadeus Vulpine, for instance, is a shifty version of my friends Bret and Roy. Both are witty, articulate and precise men who are great fun to talk to. Both are race car drivers coincidentally. Saffron Chilliwack is an expansive, fulminating and bracing woman not unlike my writer friend Joy Laughter. (Yes, that is her real name.) Hildegard Becker (Mom) is a concoction of my aritist mother, a pinch of my sisters and a sprinkle of my friend Hilary, a very nice, real-life scientist.
Dad and Uncle Charles, the two brothers in The Inventors’ Daughter, were created from a pair of real brothers. The men have been estranged since their turbulent adolescence when the older brother broke with his father and lived among the winds. Like Charles, he coiled himself in the mystique of music. For decades he lived in Charleston and New Orleans composing and performing in night clubs and on the streets. And like my Charles Spotsworth, he becomes conflicted by a vagabond’s need of the road and the yearning for intimacy that age laid upon him.
My Gerald Spotsworth character owes his nature to the younger of the real-life pair. Perhaps reacting to the tumult around him, he found comfort in the order of mathematics. Unlike his older brother, he went to college where he did very well indeed. He taught high school math, wrote educational books for children and programs for mathematical calculations for scientists. Later in life, he made a career of supporting large business computers. He too is a musician. I believe this musical thread precedes the brothers’ troubles, and I hope that someday it serves as a bridge to rebuild their relationship upon.
Let me say that I wasn’t aware I was writing about the brothers until the novel was over half-finished. I’m not sure the characters would have worked so well with the story if I tried to force the real events into it.
I suppose I was drawn to pick their story because I have an older brother who is a scientist. He and I are musicians as well. Except for a rough spot in adolescence when he and our father were very cross with one another, we were steady friends, and are to this day. We talk on the phone every week, and every year we get together for several days and reprise our old repetoire. You can see how powerful a family’s history can be.
My inspiration for the new novel The Timearang Pirates is a marvelous woman and her three daughters whose home is a boat they sail among the Pacific ports of North America. Did I mention my mother was an artist? I have not forgotten the many times she packed me, a paint box and an easel around the Western United States in a station wagon. More on that later.