|Me and my Dad, in student housing in the fifties.|
I idolized my Dad, and I'm pretty sure he's turned up, subconsciously or consciously, in the male characters in all my novels. I've written twice about fathers explicitly, in Ophélie and Twelve Nights. Both are complex men who embody aspects of my own Dad.
The father in Ophélie doesn't appear directly in the story, but his legacy shadows Ophélie's life. When she was a girl, he dove into a river in front of her, to try to save a woman from drowning. He died, and Ophélie feels abandoned. My father died of cancer when I was 30. Though the circumstances are different, in some primitive emotional core, I also felt abandoned.
|Link to an essay on Sir Toby|
Aggie and Angela's father, Gordon, in Twelve Nights is a comic character, modeled loosely on Sir Toby Belch in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. Sir Toby marries Maria, and Gordon's girlfriend's name is Mary. Like Sir Toby, Gordon is a problem drinker. I indulged in some wish fulfillment in the novel, because Gordon joins Alcoholics Anonymous and begins to make amends. In real life, my mother was the drinker, and she didn't join AA. My Dad didn't drink much, but neither did he curb my mother. My Dad was also a prankster who loved to tell jokes. Families are complicated, both in real life and in fiction.
Other male characters also embody aspects of my Dad. Jimmy Buko in Twelve Nights and the Master in Beauty of the Beast are both powerful, hardworking, hard driving men. Both also retain their compassion and empathy, empowering those around them. My Dad rose from a high school dropout before World War II, to the Dean of Arts and Sciences of the University of British Columbia. He was beloved for his championship of students and university office workers.
Bran in Fantasy Impromptu is modeled directly from a beloved friend. Keith Ditto was a principal male dancer in ballet companies around the world. Before he died, he asked me to put him in a book, and I did. Along with Keith's love of music, Bran shares my father's love of learning. My Dad was a psychology professor for many years. Bran is also a wise teacher, always a step ahead but sensitive to the needs of Chantal.
These are some of the Dads and Dad-figures in my novels. Happy Father's Day to them all, and to all the Dads out there enjoying your special day! Would you like to share a story about your Dad? If you're a writer, do your male characters reflect pieces of your father? Fire up the barbecue and grab a beer. Let's have a lively conversation in the comments!