Actually it’s just a walk in the woods—the Morton Arboretum in Lisle Illinois, to be exact. It’s a great place to clear the mind and get inspiration. And sometimes you might even find a character or two. Last winter while on the trail, I met an elderly man named Lance—the inspiration for Jacques Allegre, one of the characters in my novel.
It was a bitterly cold January day. My brother and I were sitting on a bench, taking a quick break after walking three miles. Lance, who we had passed on the trail earlier, caught up to us and decided to strike up a conversation. He stood in front of us and held court for the next two hours, retelling the story of his life; all the while peppering his recollections with “Question!” He would proceed to ask us about an obscure event from history which both my brother and I had no clue. He would then recite the answer, after which he would shout “So!” and continue on with his life story.
And what a story it was. Lance was taken prisoner by the Germans when Finland fell to the Nazis. Tortured and castrated by the Germans, he eventually escaped and joined the resistance in Norway. After the war he was able to emigrate to America where he married and adopted several children. Lance wrote and self-published a book about his life: Rendezvous With Destiny. I told him I would look it up. When I googled it, I came up with a slew of books with that title, none by Lance. Guess he had a little trouble marketing the book. A story I am all too familiar with. Never did get his last name. But Lance lives on as a character in my book.
“So!” If you want to read a really interesting book, try to find Lance’s Rendezvous With Destiny.
And if you can’t find his book, you can always read mine.
When you get to Chapter 33 think of Lance as you listen to Jacques Allegre talk about The Secrets of Chateau Saint-Julien de Mailloc. And think of me and my brother freezing are rear-ends off as we sat for two hours listening to Lance tell us his entire life story that wintery day on the trail.
You know what? It was worth every second.