By Robin Kaye
My hero in Too Hot to Handle is named Dr. Mike Flynn and I have to tell you, I’ve taken quite a lot of ribbing because of it. It all started because I’m terrible with names. I have a hard time remembering my own name, no less those of my secondary characters.
When I wrote Romeo, Romeo, I needed a doctor. Since I had no plans to make this doctor a central character in the book, I called him Mike after my personal doctor so that I’d remember his name. That seems harmless, doesn’t it? After all, it wasn’t as if I used his last name, too.
Well, was I ever wrong about the fictional Dr. Mike being just a walk on character. After writing the scene – a conversation between Nick, the hero in Romeo, Romeo and Dr. Mike Flynn, I fell in love and not just with my hero. I’m fickle that way. I was head over tongue depressors in love with Mike. Who knew?
At one of my appointments with Dr. Mike, he asked how my writing was going. Since I eventually had to tell him that Too Hot to Handle was the fictional Dr. Mike’s book, I figured that was as good an opening as any. I held my breath and waited for him to give me a hard time. He just laughed and asked if he could tell his wife I thought he was hero material. Everything went along swimmingly until all of the real Dr. Mike’s nurses read Romeo, Romeo. I began getting questions about whether I modeled Mike Flynn after the real Dr. Mike. I felt like asking “Have you not read Romeo, Romeo?” The answer to that is NO!!! There would be way too much of an ick factor if the similarities went beyond first name and specialty. My character and my doctor look nothing alike, they sound different, they’re different ages, and I certainly don’t want to know if my personal physician wears boxers or briefs. My hero on the other hand is a briefs man—of this I’m sure.
In the nine years I’ve been a patient, my doctor and I have become friends. Dr. Mike’s my go-to guy whenever I need medical advice—real or fictional. When I had to cure Rosalie of pneumonia, I ran it by him. Of course, we argued about the treatment. He said I had all the medicines correct but that he’d make Rosalie stay in the hospital for a few days. I told him that Rosalie refused to stay in the hospital, that she was carried, kicking and screaming into the ER in the first place. I suppose there is a reason people say that art imitates life because he shot back “Oh, so she’s like you.” The only time my wonderful doctor gets mad about it is when I forget to mention that the person in need of medical attention is a fictional character. One day I said that Annabelle had ripped tendons and ligaments in her ankle and he thought I was talking about a one of my daughters who are named Anna and Isabelle. He actually got upset. You gotta love a doctor who really cares that much about you and your family. It took him a few minuets to calm down at which time he made me promise to begin each research question with “I have a fictional character named…”
Dr. Mike is also a fabulous resource when it comes to plotting. I take him out to lunch sometimes and grill him. He was extremely helpful when I was researching an external conflict for Too Hot to Handle. He told me all about nightmare partnership scenarios a few of his friends had gone through, listened to ideas for a conflict and debated them with me and has also read through a few scenes for authenticity.
I’ve met people who have become huge assets to me and my career in the most unlikely places but like every good story, there should be a moral…maybe this one is, naming a character after a friend/doctor is probably not a good idea, but using him as a resource is.
I'm on my way to Chicago today and since I'm the one doing the driving, I probably won't be able to check in until very late tonight but I will check in eventually. I'd love to hear all about your resources.