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Leopards and Other Quirky Characters

By Liz, happy to be sharing release week with Barb and Edith/Maddie!

Hey readers! We’re still celebrating our triple release week, and I’m so happy Tell Tail Heart has made its way into the world.

This book was a lot of fun for me because one of my supporting characters has a starring role. For those who’ve read the series, I’m talking about Leopard Man.

Leopard Man is a Daybreak Island long-timer, someone who was on the island when Maddie, my protagonist was a child. He is what she refers to as Daybreak’s “very own quirky character,” who dresses from head to toe in leopard print garb, including a tail, and speaks only in Shakespeare. He’s endearing to the residents and he’s friends with Grandpa Leo, and Maddie is willing to take his eccentricities at face value for the sake of the mystique. He has no known address–something that becomes important in the book–and most residents think he is homeless. There are a lot of rumors about whether he’s mentally ill, or just eccentric.

What you may not know is that Leopard Man is based on a real person. In one of my old neighborhoods, there was a man who dressed in complete leopard print garb, including boots that looked a lot like these:

And yes, he wore a tail on good days. He was quite the sight to behold, strolling down Main Street with his leopard fedora, giant furry leopard coat, matching pants, boots, and tail. But the real-life Leopard Man wasn’t as happy-go-lucky as my fictional guy.

He was one of the town’s homeless population, and he had a lot of other problems. The town cops were on a first-name basis with him, and not in a good way. The rumor was that he had family, but they had disowned him. He was actually a topic of conversation at my Citizen’s Police Academy the night they covered community outreach.

The story was sad, for sure. But I saw an opportunity to not only develop an interesting character out of a real-life person, but also to try and dispel the notion that all homeless people should be lumped into one bucket and written off. By giving my Leopard Man a different story, I hope people will stop and look twice when they notice a neighborhood “quirky character.” And maybe even stop to hear their story.

Readers, do you have any quirky characters in your world? Tell us about them below–I’ll give one commenter a copy of Tell Tail Heart.

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