Recently, I have been talking on Facebook and through emails with a few readers who were kind enough to talk "shop" about the story they read. Their questions were deep. One of the questions that kept coming up was, "Is Last Flight Out based on a true story?"
The answer is, no, it wasn't, however, it was inspired by the true story of Mary Kay Letourneau, and a story I read one day in the Columbus Dispatch. And also, a lot of things in the story was taken from real life, including the characters.
Let's first begin with the truth about "Kendrick South", which includes, "Kendrick Park" and Kendrick High School". In the story, "Kendrick" is the community in which the story takes place. In reality, "Kendrick" is actually a combination of South Columbus, (in Ohio) and a little community known as "German Village".
"Kendrick South High School" was based off of the real life high school known as "South High School" - which is just located East of Parsons Avenue on the South side of Columbus, Ohio.
However, in between South High School and German Village (West of Parsons Avenue) is a middle school called "Barrett Middle School" which covers 6th, 7th and 8th graders if I'm not mistaken. When I describe "Kendrick High School" in the book, I am actually describing "Barrett Middle School" - and here is why: You see, I used to go to Barrett Middle School but I never went to South High School so I had no idea how South High School looked on the inside, which prompted me to go ahead and turn Barrett Middle School into "Kendrick South High School". So when you read in the story that there are three floors to "Kendrick High School", you know I am talking about "Barrett Middle School". They have three floors. I'm not sure how many floors or levels they have in "South High School".
So yes, while the story itself is fictional, the place that inspired it is very real, and once upon a time, was a huge part of my life. And Barrett Middle School is just blocks away, East of Schiller Park.
German Village is most famous for Schmidt's Sausage Haus, located right in the heart of German Village. (I recommend highly you pay them a visit next time you're in town. Very good food!)
I also used to live in German Village and it's quite the beautiful place. It's cobblestone and brick laid streets really jump out during the Fall when the foliage starts to turn. They have (or did have) mom and pop type diners and deli's, a few art galleries, a book store, small coffee houses, and more. In fact, I used to sell my poetry cards in a shop in German Village which is closed down now, but was featured once on an episode of "Ghost Hunter's". (I wish I knew then the place was haunted, wouldn't have minded at all to do my own investigation.) But that was then and now, I'm not exactly sure how much German Village has changed through the years because in all honesty, I haven't been back there for over ten years. Maybe 15. But if memory serves, it was a very expensive place to live.
To the right of the entrance is where the indoor basketball court used to be and is featured in the story. They also have an outdoor basketball court or at least, they used to have one. Since it's been so long on my last visit there, I'm not sure what the place looks like these days.
From the angle of the picture from where the picture was took, it appears as if Kavita could have taken the pictures himself from his front porch as in the story, Kavita moved in right across the street from the park and the recreation center. In the story, the place he moved into used to be a video store, and in real life, it did used to be a video store, however, I did take some liberty in the construction of his building.
And so, as for the surroundings, German Village, and Schiller Park were the inspirations to "Kendrick Park" in the book.
Now for the characters.
Another common question some readers of the story have asked me is; "Are the characters based off of real people and is Kavita based off of you?"
The answer is yes, and then no. Yes, the characters in the book are based off of real life people I met and knew, and lived in the area, however, I did not base the Kavita character off of myself.
I drew inspiration of the Kavita character off of a friend of mine who was in fact a pen and ink artist. His uncle, also a dear friend of mine, is a well known pen and ink artist and this is where I gained my knowledge of that field and was able to apply it to the Kavita character. Now I must say this; that the real life "Kavita" never did have an actual relationship with an under-aged girl. That part of the story is fictional. But the over-all character and mannerisms of Kavita was based off of my friend.
Nick Culberson, Kavita's manager and lawyer, was also taken from a real life friend of mine. And as in the story, my friend was a lawyer, whom I met once while dinning one night in German Village. And like Nick in the story, my lawyer friend was from Seattle, Washington.
In reality, my lawyer friend and the friend I based the character Kavita from, never knew one another.
The character of "Lilly McCourtney" was based off of an actual girl who lived down the street from my sister in German Village. Where this young lady lived, was the very edge just outside of German Village and ironically, was the beginning of the 'poor side' of town. Oddly enough, just east of German Village, you go from the very rich to the very poor. And this real life "Lily McCourtney" did have a troublesome home life, just like the fictional "Lily". I only knew her through my nephew and my sister, who was (and still is I think) the neighborhood babysitter.
Sherry Pence, Lily's BFF in the book, was also taken from a real life friend of my nephew's at the time.
Another common question often asked me is; "Who wrote the poem that Lily recites in the book? And why did I include it in the story?"
The poem in question is titled, "A Dead Eagle's Love". And I wrote it. I actually wrote it about five years before I came up with the story idea for the book. I included it in the story because I needed something to capture Lily's internal pain of being abused. I couldn't come up with a new poem at the time and reflected to "A Dead Eagle's Love" and thought it would be the perfect poem for the story. The poem itself holds its own meaning for me, but could also be related to Lily's plight as well. It was the perfect poem for her to write in the story. (I pat myself on the back for that one.)
Lily's uncle and his family were basically "created characters".
But as you now know, the bulk of the story and many of the characters within were based off of real life places, people and events. They all came together to help me create the story for the book "Last Flight Out". And for those people, they have been somewhat "immortalized" forever. I bet they're happy about that. Maybe.
I also documented Schiller Park in my book, "Of The Light" as well. It's just simply a great place of inspiration.
But as is the case for just about all of my stories, reality almost always meets fiction. The lone exception thus far is my book, "Year Of The Cat", that is totally fiction from top to bottom. No characters were ever based off of real life people, contrary to popular belief. Plus, I have never been to "San Felipe". (Which is the only thing that is real in that story besides the insane asylum.)
There is also a belief that the main female character in my book, "Year Of The Cat" was based off of a real life girl, but that too, I'm afraid, is not accurate. It is true that I told a "then fan" of mine I based the character off of her, but that was just me trying to "be nice". I have since learned a valuable lesson in those regards. So just be cautious when reading reviews of my books, and take them with a grain of salt. I'm sure you will be able to distinguish truth from rubbish. Most of the reviews that are "bad" were taken from the free sample chapters that are offered on Amazon, and nothing more. I'm sure real readers are capable of seeing right through the garbage.
Anyhow, I hope you enjoyed this little peek at the real life inspiration(s) of my book, "Last Flight Out." It's been fun sharing it with you. I also hope you enjoyed looking at the pictures of the "real life" Kendrick Park too. Perhaps now you can see how inspiring Schiller Park is, and why I captured it in the story. If any of you have any other questions, or if I missed anything, feel free to let me know. I always enjoy hearing from my readers. And who knows, maybe I left something out in this post and you can remind me and I can always do an update.