People often ask writers how they come up with their characters. Are they based off real people or are they entirely fictional? For me, it’s normally a mix of both. I might give a character the first name of one friend or the last name of another. The bad guy might have the same name as the nasty customer I had to deal with at work that day. And sometimes characters completely create themselves. But I have to admit, that the characters in Phantom were inspired by the people around me more than any other book I have written. I thought it would be fun to introduce some of the people who helped make Phantom one of my favorite novels so far.
Rebecca Hope-Rebecca is the main character, and she gets the lead role of Christine in the play. She isn't really based on anyone in particular, but I did give her a few of my own characteristics. In the first chapter, I mention that she was normally hiding in the orchestra with her violin instead of trying out for a role. That was totally me in high school. I was always too shy to try out for the musicals, even though I really wanted to. But unlike Becca, I was actually a much better violinist than a singer anyway, so I was better off where I was. She also shares my nervous energy, and of course, we are both obsessed with the Phantom of the Opera in all its incarnations.
Jay Kopp - In my book, Jay Kopp is the class clown. The one making jokes at all the wrong times, and who thinks he is a whole lot cooler than he really is. The real Jay Kopp is not much different. Instead of the class clown, he is the office clown. Here is a man who is in his forties, but still makes faces behind the executive president's back while he's handing out awards. A man who every single solitary day, walks out the door at closing time and yells, "Stick a fork in me, I'm done." A man who has somehow wound up with the nickname of "Muffin" among his female coworkers. Some of his other shenanigans include tapping a picture of my husband (than new boyfriend) all over the office, including the toilet seat, and dressing up as Flavor Flav, and no, it wasn't Halloween. As you can tell, our little group had a tendency to stray away from corporate etiquette and we loved every minute of it. All that being said, Jay is actually a really sweet guy, a hard worker, and a wonderful husband and father. I think I stayed pretty close to Jay's real personality in my book. I just made him thirty years younger.
Mr. Russ - Mr Russ is the school janitor. He's a little on the dirty side and he’s definitely not all there. Again, he is based on a real person, but I can't say his name because I don't want to get sued. When I was working, there was an old man who worked in one of the buildings on the same street. I would run into him at Wawa all the time, and he decided he had a crush on me. Finally, he came in the office one day with a pack of tickets for the Lion King on Ice, and wanted to take me and my children. Ummmm...creepy! Of course I told him as nicely as possible that I couldn't do that, and explained I was in a relationship for the hundredth time. He got a little angry, I got a little freaked out, and thus I had to turn him into the creepy school janitor in my book. His name is different, but his physical description is right on. If you read this book, you'll understand why he made me nervous.
Carmen Webber - Carmen is one of Rebecca's best friends. When I created Carmen, I was really thinking about one of my best friends, Viv. I gave her a lot of Viv's personality traits, but when it comes to her looks, I was thinking more about her daughter Sarah. Sarah is closer to Carmen's age. So she sort of wound up being a combination of them both, but she definitely has a little more attitude than either of them. On a side note, their last name is Zarfati, which is also the name of one of the characters in my Destiny series.
Debbie O'Neill & Wendy Wright - Both of these girls got their first names from people I worked with. Wendy is the class snob, and there was a girl at one of our offices in North Jersey that always had an attitude when she called. Plus she sounded like a valley girl. I was trying to decide on a name for Wendy and she happened to call that day in a particularly miserable mood, and so she became my b***h. With Debbie, it was more a physical thing. Someone was leading a meeting and she looked exactly the way I envisioned Debbie, so she took her name.
Darlene & Matt: Darlene is a good friend and was my former High Priestess before she moved out of state. She opened her arms to me when I was new to the Craft and completely on my own, and I learned a lot from her. When she didn't get "a part" in Destiny, I promised to put her name in Phantom. She took it a step further and asked me to add in her best friend Matt as well. So I made them someone's parents. What's funny is, I never really intended to include any parents in the book, but adding Darlene became a big part of one of my favorite scenes. Meeting Darlene & Matt is a fun part of the book, so I can't say too much more. But if you met the real Darlene, you would definitely find that she and her namesake have the same remarkable ability to speak in complete paragraphs without taking a single breath.
Tom Rittenhouse: This is the guy who gets the role of Raoul, the hero. Tom is very much like my first real boyfriend, even though I don't think I realized it myself until I read back through the book when it was done. He was a surfer. He was the star of the high school musicals. He even had hopes of being an actor someday. He did get a few small parts in TV and Broadway in college, but as far as I know, he gave up on Hollywood and is back home now. Darron from Destiny has some of his characteristics as well. I think since he was my high school sweet heart, and my first love, he comes back to haunt my high school characters...
Tempest: Tempest is a Gothic Belly Dancer. I consider myself truly blessed to have not only met Tempest, but to have shared Sacred Space with her on a few occasions. About three years ago, I was introduced to Tempest through my best friend and coven sister, Donna. She was taking her belly dance class at a local gym, and convinced me to come along. The class was fun, but was nothing compared to watching Tempest perform live. When she begins to move, it’s like she is magically transformed into the Goddess herself. Her movements are fluid and graceful. Her costumes (which she often designs herself) are enchanting. She has created her own version of Gothic Belly Dance that is elegant and breathtaking. It literally brought tears to my eyes. Even as a writer, I find it hard to express just how amazing it is to watch her perform. Tempest is one of the most beautiful women I have had the privilege to meet. It is a beauty that emanates from her soul and is transferred to the fluid movements of her body. All the wisdom of the ages is expressed in the poetic motions of her dance. She is a true artist.
Justyn Patko (AKA-Lord Justyn) - When I tell people that Lord Justyn was based on a real person, most of them look at me like I'm crazy. They think he's my imaginary friend. But, nope, he’s is real. Like my character, the real Lord Justyn is a Gothic Pagan who also happens to be a musician and an actor. I have never spoken to Justyn outside of cyber space. We met on MySpace before I met my husband. I don't even remember how. But I do remember how all his notes would have a little old world charm in them. We would talk about books and movies, and, of course, magic and the Craft. He even read Destiny way before it was published. I would be lying if I said I didn't have a little crush on him. But in the real world, when we lived in different states and I was a single mom, there was no way it could have worked. Not to mention the fact that I am several years older, and not really the cougar type.
Maybe in another time or another life it could have happened. But in this life, I could only make him into one of the most amazing characters I have ever created. It all started because I was writing him an email while Andrew Lloyds's Weber's musical was playing the background. I started to think how great he would be in the role of the Phantom...one thought led to another, and Phantom was born.
Finally, Justyn’s last name came from my friend Jared Patko. He was handsome. He was fun. He was hilarious. He was an amazing artist. He also suffered from severe Bipolar Disorder. In 2009, Jared took his own life. I had just started writing Phantom when this happened, and I wanted to immortalize him in some small way. I had promised him I'd use his name in a book eventually, and he had hoped to draw the cover art. Phantom is also dedicated to Jared as well as the real Lord Justyn.
Well, that pretty much sums it up. It’s amazing how even the smallest things that people do and say can touch our lives and bring about inspiration. Whether that's a good thing or a bad thing for these folks will probably depend on who lives, who dies, and who the killer really is. But you'll have to read Phantom to find all that out. I have to wrap up this post with one of my favorite quotes. "Be careful, or I'll put you in my novel!"
Guest post by Laura De Luca. Laura “Luna” DeLuca lives at the beautiful Jersey shore with her husband and four children. She loves writing in the young adult genre because it keeps her young at heart. In addition to writing fiction, Laura is also the sole author of a popular review blog called New Age Mama. She is an active member of her local pagan community, and has been studying Wicca for close to eight years. Visit her on her websites at http://authorlauradeluca.blogspot.com or http://newagemama.blogspot.com.
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