Those of you who know me will probably already know this, but I love baseball. As a kid I dreamed of playing professionally and would badger anyone who would listen to toss me ground balls, or hit me flies, or play 500, or get a game of hot box going... I absolutely loved to play. As I grew older the countless hours of practice and play started paying off, and when I was accepted to Bradley University with an invitation to join the team, I was elated. Now, I'm not going to say that I showed up at the Division I level and dominated, because that would be a lie. It was hard. Everyone was big. Everyone was strong. I couldn't throw my fastball by anybody. Somewhere in the start of my second year at Bradley, though, I realized that for all those years, I had just been playing. I had never really focused my intellect on what I was doing and it was going to take hard work that didn't necessarily involve play to succeed. That revelation helped me to turn a corner, and things started to come around for me on the field. Once again, I was by no means dominant, but the improvements were noticeable and my coaches had recognized the change. Then, in the time frame of about 2 weeks, my entire world was put on end.
Whenever I host events or have a speaking engagement I can always see the people lock in when I get to this part of the story. It's the story of a young man with cancer, and if you don't know me and want to hear about it, I'll be happy to oblige, but that isn't actually what I'm thinking about tonight. I was thinking about a question I am asked with regularity. I was wondering to myself if it's a question other authors are repeatedly asked about their main characters and whether or not they had pondered it as often as I.
Question: Did you base Rex Chase on yourself?
Answer: Kind of.
Generic, right? I've thought about this question a lot, and perhaps at the very beginning the idea of Edward Rex Chase was based in my own life. He's a lot smarter than me, and though I have a good memory, it's not exactly photographic. Probably the closest thing Rex Chase and I had at the beginning was baseball, though he is a lot better than me at that too. Perhaps Rex is a projection of the things I would have liked to have been or would have liked to try? Perhaps he's a conglomerate of every hero I've ever read about or seen on the big screen? Perhaps he's the representation in my mind of the most awesome man I can think about? He's big, strong, fast, smart, brave, heroic, handsome, loyal, caring, but not afraid to do what it takes to get the job done. In my mind, he's the epitome of a hero.
That was essentially the answer I had come up with, and then one day I was writing The Sentinel and realized who Edward Rex Chase really is. In the second book, and this has always been the plan, I start addressing character flaws. As I was writing and making sure everything matched up I found myself basing all of his flaws on my own real life interactions. So, it seemed as if Chase was based on me, and then my boys came storming through the room. A lot of the time they don't stay very long and remind me a bit of a two part Tasmanian Devil. They come in, wreck some things, and then move on. After they had moved through I continued to write and then it dawned on me. When I describe Rex Chase physically I picture my own seven year old son in his early 20's. When I describe the way Rex Chase is thoughtful and caring I picture the way I see my five year old son interacting with others. I started going down the list of who Rex Chase is, and it appears now that I have based him on myself, though a lot more indirectly than I had previously thought. He's a fictional representation of my boys and I and everything I hope they can be without having to wade through the trials and tribulations I didn't always handle correctly. Don't get me wrong, I've learned a lot from the path I've taken, but maybe, just maybe, I'll have shouldered enough of the bad that they'll be able to skip it over when it comes time. All of Rex Chase's weaknesses are my own, and all of his strengths are my kids, or what I wish and hope for them. Huh, I think I might just be turning into a grownup.
It's also possible that I just made all of this up, though.... I am a fiction writer... HAVE A HAPPY HUMP DAY EVERYONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1