Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Meet Mr. Pidela

Let me introduce you to Robert Michael Pidela. He's 32, dark brown hair, bright, laughing eyes, and a smile to knock you for a loop. I've known him since I was in the seventh grade and he hasn't aged a single day in that time. He's fought pirates and traitors, chased women, drank enough alcohol to be considered an alcoholic, and has shown fierce loyalty towards his best friends.

Robert is an old and dear friend. And he exists entirely in my imagination.

But not for long.

Robert came to me out of the depths of my imagination in the seventh grade. We had been given an assignment to write a short story. I was appalled - a short story? Impossible. I had far greater talent than that. So I launched into a high seas romance complete with pirates (one was aptly named Gold Tooth), crashing waves, tumultuous passion, and of course, a happy ending. My teacher was quite impressed with my efforts. (I still have the note she wrote to me about that manuscript.) Jeremy Pidela and Jussie Lesueur found true love in the midst of treachery. But the story didn't end there. As soon as they reached dry land (and as soon as I could get back to my computer after school let out at the end of the day), Jeremy and Jussie worked their way up the English coast dodging murderers and cutthroats. And Robert was born.

The younger brother of Jeremy, Robert was a rascal in every sense of the word. He loved to gamble, drink, ride fast horses, flirt with women, brawl...anything and everything a young Regency buck was supposed to do. And Robert did it well. So well, in fact, that he has remained with me throughout the years. For over fifteen years, Robert has patiently awaited the day for me to tell his story. I came close with the last novel. He is the hero's best friend. I learned more about Robert in writing that story (which is now sitting on an agent's desk) and I finally decided it was time that Robert have his own story.

Robert has his problems. He is an alcoholic, but likes to bury his misery in the bottle and in humor. Those who know him well worry for his sanity and his health, but none can persuade him to give up his reckless lifestyle. Since Robert has always been like this, from the moment he jumped onto the page of my Dad's old MS-DOS computer, I had to find out why.

We all have skeletons in our past, secrets that haunt us for years, clawing and tearing at our insides. Some of us eventually give up the fight and confront them head on. Some of us bury them in gallons of cheap whiskey. And some choose to allow no one but themselves to suffer the burden of the past.

Such is Robert's fate.

People talk about the "book of your heart." Robert is the character of my heart and I can't wait to tell his story. I think he will find it has been well worth the fifteen year wait.

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