Monday, April 1, 2013

Who's an April Fool?

Do other writers know their characters’ actual dates of birth? As a reader, do you know the birthdates of your favorite characters? Today is the birth date of the protagonist of my Tracy Eaton mystery series. Tracy’s birthday is April 1. April Fools’ Day.

I first met Tracy Eaton when she and her daffy mother, movie star Martha Collins, walked onto the page of one of my early short stories, “L.A. Justice.” Tracy presented herself to me as a mystery writer who desperately wanted to become an amateur sleuth. Martha tossed a mystery into Tracy’s lap, but what she gave her daughter wasn’t the usual sort of mystery. After discovering that she’d been framed for the murder of her boy-toy, Martha didn’t want Tracy to merely solve the murder as other amateur sleuths do, but to obliterate any connection to her before the police, the mob, the media, and her husband could learn of it.

That story went on to be published (MURDER BY THIRTEEN anthology; Intrigue Press) and to win the Derringer Award for Best Short Story. From writing it, I learned that since Tracy’s background was more than a little reality challenged, as an amateur sleuth, her approach to crime solving would be unconventional as well. There are now four novels in the series, including the just-released, REVENGE ON ROUTE 66. I wouldn’t have thought Tracy could top the offbeat approach to sleuthing that she brought to that first story, but she has in every book.

I knew someone born wearing a zany filter could only have April 1st as her birthday. It wasn’t until the second book in the series, DEM BONES’ REVENGE, that Tracy shared with me, and our readership, the actual story of her birth. Her mother had picked a fight with her father and sent him away, only to start into labor as soon as he left. Rather than call an ambulance, Martha decided to drive herself to the hospital. Here’s how Tracy explained it from there:

I arrived on the steps of the church she crashed into. Contrary to rumors, it wasn’t St. Tracy’s. There is no St. Tracy’s in Beverly Hill, and wouldn’t that be silly basis for naming a child? The real story is more subtle. You might remember that Veronica Howard and Mother were great rivals at the time. But you might not know Miss Howard’s much younger third husband was having a torrid affair with a mere child named Tracy West. Clearly, a better way to choose a baby’s name; I’m glad I was able to provide my mother with that opportunity.

See what I mean? Gotta be April 1. I wasn’t sure how many fictional characters’ birthdays have been revealed by their writers, but it turns out that many are well known.

Take, for instance, Servius Snape of the Harry Potter series: January 9. Superman’s birthday is February 29 — is that here on earth or on Krypton? Does it make a difference? Eddie Crane, the dog on the TV show “Frazier,” came into the world on May 15. Bridget Jones, of BRIDGET JONES’S DIARY fame, has her big day on November 9, while only two days later, on November 11, the one and only 007 — James Bond — enjoys his birthday.

And Jean-Luke Picard, Captain of TV’s Starship Enterprise, will be born on July 13, 2305.

I even discovered that Tracy isn’t unique in her April 1 birthday. She shares that date with the Weasley twins, Fred & George, of the Harry Potter series, and the cartoon superstar, Bart Simpson. I guess that fits.

You can look up some of the birthdays of your favorite TV, movie, and novel characters here: So, happy April’s Fools’ Day, everyone. Tracy and I have started celebrating her birthday early, and we intend to keep the party going for days to come. You’re welcome to celebrate with us. Incidentally, Tracy tells me that even though she was born on April 1st, and to a pair of reality-challenged loonies, she’s actually nobody’s fool. And don’t you be, either.