IN-JOKES & BACKGROUND
Ever since I can remember, I have been fascinated with the evolution of stories. I've always been very interested in the scenes that authors cut, or names that changed, and any in-jokes that might have been made. I'm not entirely sure why I have such a fascination, but it did persuade me to create a page like this for like-minded individuals who are so inclined towards similar questions with Partners in Time.
Anytime I write a story -- be it a long novel or a short story -- I always incorporate a variety of in-jokes, and generally have methods behind my madness. Many of these in-jokes relate to names, dates, and places. PIT, being a series that I intend to spend a lot of time with, has a number of these. Below are some explanations and insight into the crazy brain of this particular writer. Be aware, possible spoilers may lurk!
Sam's name has several in-jokes to it. From what I recollect, I settled on the first name of Sam for two reasons. One, it was the name of actor Michael J. Fox's eldest child, and he was my favorite actor. Two, it was the first name of the main character in a time travel TV show I really loved, "Quantum Leap."
Michael, Sam's middle name, is my homage to Michael J. Fox, I suppose. (And his son also has the same middle name.) My brother is also named Michael. I know too many of 'em!
Foster came about for two reasons, again. One, it reminded me a little bit of Fox. Two, according to Merrian-Webster's dictionary, the word "foster" means "affording, receiving, or sharing nurture or parental care though not related by blood or legal ties." The key words here were "nurturing...care." I saw Sam as the "caretaker" of Time.
Margaret Rebecca Clayton (link)
Meg's name isn't as complex or symbolic. I simply liked the name Margaret. I was given a pretty contemporary name when I was born, which I couldn't really nick that much. So I liked how you could get several nicknames from Margaret -- Maggie, Marge, and Meg, of course.
I've had a few people ask me if I bestowed Meg's name on her as a nod to the fact that the character of Marty McFly's mother was named Meg in a very early draft of the original Back to the Future screenplay. (Seeing as I do have many BTTF in-jokes scattered in the books.) The answer to that question is "nope." By the time I learned about the name coincidence, PIT1 had already been published. It was simply "an amazing coincidence" (in the words of Doc Brown). When I heard this piece of trivia for the first time, in December 2002, I actually cringed a little, knowing that people who knew me would assume that Meg's name was selected for an in-joke reason as that.
Meg's middle name, Rebecca, is partially due to that being her mother's first name. But why Rebecca? I suppose the phrase "Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm" is partially to blame. (Though I've never read the book...yet.) It just seemed fitting.
Clayton is my blatant homage to the Back to the Future film series, of which I am a massive fan. Doc Brown falls in love with 1885 schoolteacher Clara Clayton.
Alexander Martin McCoy (link)
Alex's name is basically a labor of love. I love the name Alexander, perhaps for the same reasons as I love Margaret -- a great, formal sounding full name, and nice nicknames out of it. (Alex. Xander.) Also, Alex was the name of Michael J. Fox's character in "Family Ties."
Martin is another homage to Back to the Future. I see Alex being like Marty McFly in physical appearance.
McCoy has two aspects to it. One, it's the married name of my childhood best friend. And since Alex is Sam's best friend since childhood, it seemed fitting. McCoy also reminded me of McFly...which is related, of course, to the Back to the Future films.
There is no such place as O'Hara, Oregon. Don't look for it on a map; it's wholly fictional. It's better having a fictional town to work in, I think. It gives you the freedom to create aspects that fit your vision and stories. I calculate the approximation of it being about 60 miles southeast of Portland, near the real-life towns of Sublimity and Silverton. I suppose that I'm basing certain parts and features of the town on my own hometown of Beaverton, Oregon.
There is no real reason for the selection of the name O'Hara. In a story that I was working on when I was 13 or 14, I dubbed my main character's hometown as O'Hara, Oregon, so I took that for PIT when it was clear to me that the story would never be completed. I liked the alliteration, I suppose.
And Oregon is the state where I was born and raised. It's also rarely mentioned in literature as the setting, so I decided to change that....
Dave's original name was Buck Hughes. My choice of such a name was rooted in my past. As a child, we had some strange neighbors. One of these were the Buckmasters. The father lived alone, a divorcee, and his rebellions son (a couple years older than me) would spend summers there and be a sort of bully. The Hughes were other memorable neighbors. They had two sons who ran wild -- Troy and Derek. We called them (unoriginally) the "Phews!" because they didn't like to bathe. Ick.
Hughes was also the surname of a real psychotic girl in my freshman college dorm. She was sort of my mortal enemy. So, Hughes it became.
When I changed the first name, I was inspired by a guy who lived in my college dorm for two years. I knew two Daves from McClain Hall -- one of them is a friend of mine. The other was this decidedly offbeat guy who walked around constantly smiling. And whining about how he didn't have a girlfriend. While he was smiling. He had a kind of serial killer vibe, so it seemed appropriate to me to name someone who was mentally unstable with the same first name.
Incidentally, the Hughes character was originally written as a random, crazy carney. I have some weird ideas.
Sidney August & Virgil Lewis (PIT1)
Sometimes I choose names spur of the moment. Pretty much, that is what happened here.
One of my friends from high school had a son in 1999 that she named Sidney. Sidney was born in the month of August. Eh, what the hell. (Adding to the in-joke factor, my friend later bore a daughter in 2002, whom she named Bethany. So I used that name in PIT2 for a mentioned-but-never-seen character.)
Virgil seemed like an appropriate western name. And I think the Lewis part was inspired by singer Huey Lewis, who wrote two songs for...yes, Back to the Future.
Geoffrey of Rosemont (PIT2)
There's really no major in-jokes with Geoffrey's name. The first name seemed appropriate for the times, and perhaps was inspired by accounts written by Geoffrey Chaucer that related to Arthurian legend.
Incidentally, when one of my friends heard the name I had selected for the character, he snickered and went, "You realize that I picture the Toys R Us mascot!" Heh.
The town of Rosemont (PIT2)
I spent a lot of time thinking about the name of the fictional medieval town where I would have Sam and Meg arrive. This included the consultation of some documents about names and their meanings for that time period. I created a list of about 5 different potential town names, then I ran it by some friends. Rosemont was the favorite, with the town of Chaseney coming in second. (Chaseney was mentioned as an aside in PIT2.) Ironically, I had no idea at the time that I would have my first job interview for a teaching position in Roseville, California at Oakmont High School. Freaky coincidence, but the universe of PIT has several such those oddities.
Tobor & Diordna (PIT2)
The names of two characters at the end of the story. Read them backwards and you are instantly enlightened by information about these two characters. ;-)
Stan Wilson (PIT3)
When I was younger, I remember having a nightmare about a guy who matches Stan's description chasing me, trying to kill me. So, that's about it for that joke. I suppose his name was more of a "Hey, Mr. Wilson!" thing that just seemed appropriately random. The fact he was a lawyer was a last-minute joke, a stab at the future lawyers I know who are friends of mine.
Captain Byron Slate (PIT5)
During my time teaching in California, I spent four years at one high school. I decided to take a gamble and leave the place where I was tenured partially due to the arrival of a man who inspired Slate. The new vice principal had been a teacher at the school during my first year there, and power - let's just say it can corrupt with some individuals, and he was definitely one of them. The physical stature of Slate, as well as his "by the book" attitude, was absolutely true of the real-life person who inspired the character. I had a lot of fun with Slate, to be honest, even if I had moved on and no longer worked at that school during the writing of this book. Writing is often fantastic therapy.
* Sam's home address, 1026 Elmdale Drive. 1026 or October 26th, is the date Marty first went back in time. And Elmdale was an alternate name for the town Marty came from in an early draft of BTTF's script.
* Sam's dog is named after Doc Brown.
* As mentioned previously, Meg's last name -- Clayton -- is an homage to Doc's love interest Clara Clayton from Back to the Future Part III.
* Other names in the book -- including the names of Sam's parents and the doctor in 1850 -- are deliberate nods to people involved in the BTTF trilogy.
* The microchip that Sam needs to fix the time machine has the serial number of BTF1105Y55 -- a reference to the date Doc Brown discovered the flux capacitor, November 5, 1955.
* The name of the series itself, "Partners in Time," is partly an homage to Doc's inscription on the photograph he gives Marty at the end of Part III. It also fit extremely nicely with the series.
* Cover illustrator Nicholas Murchison made his own BTTF reference -- without consulting me first! If you turn the cover sideways, the symbols on the face of Sam's time machine form a vertical DMC-style logo, a nod to BTTF's DeLorean time machine.