Today marks the 64th birthday of my fictional protagonist, Dallas Green. I have no idea where he is today or how he is doing at this mature age. I have only figured out the trajectory of his life through the end of his 28th year.
I did not know his exact birthday until I began my current writing project. In Maximilian and Carlotta Are Dead I had established that he and his friend Lonnie were both born in December 1952. This was necessary for the plot of the book since they both had to be born with that month-long window which would result in both their graduating from high school and being included in the draft lottery in the year 1971. I myself was born that same month, but I did not want either character to have the same birthday as me. That might be fine for wildly successfully authors like J.K. Rowling, but I want to have a bit of distance between me and my fictional creations. As it is, enough people have accused Dallas of being a thinly veiled version of myself. Hopefully, by the time readers have finished the upcoming book, the ones who actually know me will realize that Dallas is a very different person from myself. If they still persist in thinking Dallas and I are one and the same, then I will have to question how well they actually know me—or else how well I know myself.
In the new book I needed to specify the exact day that Dallas would turn 28, so I picked the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. It seemed as good a day as any and, as it happened, it kind of fit in thematically with what would be going on in his head at the time.
I have reached a midpoint in the first draft of the new book. Dallas has found himself generally at home with his new life in San Francisco but, as in the first book, events conspire to send him fleeing out of the country. The story this time is more complicated, and more characters come and go in and out of Dallas’s life. Plotting from this point onward becomes more challenging because Dallas’s story interweaves with various things that were happening in various parts of the world at the time. The more I have revisited the year 1980, the more appreciative I have become of what an event-filled tumultuous year it was. For one thing, not unlike the current year we are living through, the end of the year marked a distinct turning point in what the American government looked and acted like.
So if you are imbibing anything nice this evening, try to remember to say a little toast to Mr. Dallas Green, originally of Kern County, California. Wherever he is out there, let us hope that the sometimes ill-advised adventures of his youth were prologue to a satisfactory and happy later life.