Character Inspirations

Click here to see the rough sketches for many of the characters mentioned below!

Danwyn – This is the bodyguard of young Leonolis. The inspiration behind this character was given by a very good friend – one of my best friends – Danny Dunlap. For years, Danny has accompanied me many times as a technical assistant for my speaking engagements. He has also served as a pilot and a confidante…and is a great protector. It was easy to imagine the loyalty and integrity of Leonolis’ faithful bodyguard because I had such a great example in my real life friend. The Dunlap family and the Jernigan family are knit together at the heart. His children are the friends of my children. I watch out for his children and he and Joanna watch out for mine. What a blessing he is to me.

Troyolin – The inspiration for the High King was none other than another of my best friends, Troy Ambler. Troy and I are so opposite in many ways. He is a burly biker dude and I am a creative artsy dude…but I think that’s what makes us tick. Troy and I have spent many hours talking about life and about the adventure our lives have been. When it came time to think about and write the character of High King of Bren, Troy was the immediate inspiration. He is faithful and he is strong and there is none more loyal than he. He is a great dad and a great example of passion. My desire was to convey Troy’s heart through the heart of High King Troyolin. In addition, my dad was a great influence upon the character of Troyolin. My dad, though very quiet, had a very strong assuring presence in my life. I could always count on him to be there for me, just as Leonolis could always count on Troyolin…even when he was in captivity!

Maison – The character of the wizard, Maison, is a conglomeration of many people that have graced my life through the years. There is a little of my choral director in high school, Mr. Tillman and a bit of my vocational agriculture teacher, Mr. Ross, and a touch of my basketball coach, Jim Peters. Each of these men had great impact upon my life at very crucial times. Of course, I cannot think of someone as a amazing as Maison without using my own dad, Robert, as a focal point of inspiration. My dad is an amazing man, able to take a broken piece of machinery and bring it back to life, able to know a great deal about a lot of different things, and, above all, always ready and willing to help a needy soul that finds their self in a bind. Even my grandfather, Samuel Jernigan, was a great influence upon my life even though he died when I was only one year old. This tells the power of passing down stories through families because my grandmother Jernigan told many of his wonderful attributes and of how proud he was of me. Hearing that the men in my life are proud of me went a long way in helping me develop as a man…and served me well in my creative pursuits!

Lucian – Lucian represents all the evil that this world can embody at times. I believe that just as God exists, so exists his enemy. As a boy, I endured sexual abuse. Just as Lee in the story of Captured, I also endured mockery and ridicule because of my creative (some said effeminate) nature. Many bad things came into my life…but because I learned to view them from a higher vantage point, I became an overcomer – one who does not see the bad circumstance as anything more than a stepping-stone toward something good. I overcame the hurts of my childhood and they have actually been incorporated into the book series The Chronicles of Bren: Captured and The Chronicles of Bren: Sacrifice. Lucian also represents the fact that as long as we are breathing – no matter how many bad choices we have made in life – there is opportunity for redemption.

Regalion – Even though Regalion is a minor character in the book Captured, he represents a major bit of wisdom. Regalion spent his early life rather selfishly. His choices led his son, Lucian, to believe many lies about himself. In a sense, Regalion was in prison long before we meet him in the dungeon. He was imprisoned in his own heart with selfish pride. The simple act of seeking the forgiveness of his son proves not that Regalion was weak…but that he was finally realizing the mighty strength of transparent, honest, owning and admitting failure…and embracing his son in spite of Lucian’s shortcomings. Regalion represents hope. As long as we have breath – regardless of our circumstances – there is hope.

Jidgel – The name for this character was invented by my son, Judah, when he was just a boy. He is one of the most creative people I know. One of Judah’s funniest ideas was the way he spoke about what he would call his one-day children. He told me that when he had a son he would call him Jidgel! I never forgot that and decided that this character’s name had to be Jidgel. Jidgel represents self-reliance and personal responsibility…and also a form of wisdom. Jidgel lives alone and fends for himself in the swamp, daring to live where others fear to tread. As a result, he sees through the trappings of government and superficiality of mankind and evokes a sense of accepting people just because of who they are and not for what they can do for him. Leonolis trusts him quickly once he discerns the wisdom coming from this feisty little man. Jidgel was one of my favorite characters to write. Young men and women, don’t hold others responsible for your attitudes and lot in life. Hold yourself responsible and walk as one who is responsible. Don’t blame others for your misfortunes. Learn to make something beautiful even out of the misfortune just as Jidgel saw beauty in a place most others in the Kingdom avoided.

Arolis – From the time I was a boy I have had a horse…many horses! My first was a pny named Spot. Spot was hit by a car and killed one day, breaking my heart. It was as if I watched a dear friend pass away before my eyes. Big Red was my dad’s horse. He was big and he was red…so we called him Big Red! Clever, huh? I had a pony named Silver who tried to buck me off or scrape me off by running close to a fence or a tree. We had a Welsh pony named Robin. We would tie one end of a rope to Robin’s saddle horn and another to our little red wagon. One brother would ride Robin and pull the other brothers at high speed over the terraces of our farm. At least once a week we had to ask my dad to weld the front wheels and handle back on because we had literally worn it to the point of falling to pieces! All these horse went into the inspiration behind Arolis. But the greatest inspiration of all was my longtime horse friend, Sugar. Sugar was a gelding (meaning he was a male with no testicles) and he was my horse from the time I was about 10 years old until I was a senior in high school. As a boy, I spent so much time on my horse, exploring and enjoying the countryside. I went swimming with my horse and fishing with my horse. I ran races on my horse and I drove cattle on my horse. Every Saturday for years I rode my horse to town picking up pop bottles along the way to sell…and always had enough to buy a burger by the time I got to town! My horse would tolerate four people on his back and I could do all kinds of tricks on him, my favorite being mounting him in a run from behind, placing my hands on his rump as I jumped. He never budged because he trusted me and I trusted him. All those memories and so much more flooded into my mind as I wrote the character of Arolis. On a horse, a boy can become a warrior and an explorer and a hero and ride with the wind all at once.

Rania – The good yet mischievous fairy, Rania (pronounced Rah-nee-yuh) was inspired by my daughter Raina (pronounced Ray-nuh). As a little girl, we actually called her Velceraina, after the velociraptors from the movie Jurassic Park because of her sneaky, mischievous way of dealing with her younger brothers! Raina is so beautiful and so loving and such a servant it was easy to see her as a fairy, flitting around guiding people to where they need to be. Her relationship with her older sister, Galen, inspired the relationship between the Hawken girl, Galenna, and the fairy, Rania.

Galenna – My daughter, Galen, was the inspiration behind the Hawkne maiden, Galenna. Galen has red hair and so does Galenna. Galen is full of wisdom and stands nearly six feet tall. She is radiant in beauty and striking in appearance, just as Galenna when she takes her human form. Galenna represents the guidance and wisdom that comes from unexpected places.

Melania – The many strong women I have known in my life inspired The High Queen of the realm of Bren, Melania. My mother, like Melania, was always my biggest supporter and encourager when I was young, making me believe I could do anything. My grandmother Jernigan was a great encourager when it came to my creativity, giving me a place to practice my piano skills! My wife, Melinda, is very strong in so many ways and actually enables me to do what I do to this day. Melinda is the main inspiration behind the character of Abila in the second book, Sacrifice. Melania represents grace under pressure – which all of the women in my life have demonstrated in volume.

The Founder(s) – The Founder(s) represents God in my life. No secrets there…just my reality. I did not write this story to preach, but rather to encourage other boys and girls to seek out their own adventure in life. Knowing God through faith in Jesus Christ has led me out of bondage and captivity the world says is impossible.

Dreyden – The best friend of Dreyden was inspired not by one person but by my desire, since I was a boy, for a best friend. I was a loner for many reasons while growing up. As with Lee, I was constantly mocked and teased – especially in high school. Though I longed for just one person to entrust my heart and soul to, it was always safer to simply stay to myself. No one can hurt me if I let no one in. Of course, I discovered that the key to life is real relationship – and as an adult, I have discovered I have many best friends…friends I can entrust my entire being with and to. My wife. Danny. Troy. Reggie. Steve. Tom. Charles. Chuck. Jeremy. Jack. Tim. Don. And the list goes on and on, seriously. Dreyden represents the depth of real friendship and the reality that real love – true love – is known by the willingness to lay down one’s life for a friend.

Sniffum and Snuffum – These turtle brothers came to life as a result of my twin sons, Asa and Ezra. Even though they are not identical, they still fooled many people when they were growing up. No one except close friends and family could actually tell them apart for quite some time. This made for many humorous moments. I wanted Sniffum and Snuffum to reflect the joy my sons bring to my life.

The Sleeping Giant –Reuben, the Sleeping Giant’s name, means ‘Behold, a son’. He represents the champion, the hero, the one who delivers. I have had many heroes in my life. My dad was my first hero…and then Captain James Tiberius Kirk of the Star Ship Enterprise! As a boy, I felt so abandoned on many levels and wondered if anyone would ever be able to rescue me. I would go to bed each night and dream I was living in space on the Enterprise. Each night I was captured by aliens and about to be put to death…and my dad, Captain Kirk, rescued me just as I woke up from these dreams! Every morning for years I woke up rescued! When I was in high school, my basketball teammates would never let anyone touch me. I was the only white guy on my team yet they embrace me as one of their own and literally protected and rescued me on several occasion! So many things went into the inspiration of Reuben but the greatest inspiration of all? Later in life, I was rescued by Jesus Christ and He became my ultimate hero.

Bren – I do not know why I chose the name Bren to begin with. I simply wanted to create a world full of adventure that would also tell my story in an allegorical fashion. It was a few weeks after I came up with the name that a friend, Joanna Dunlap, told me the Bren actually meant ‘tears’. My initial thought was ‘how appropriate’. So many tears were shed in my life during times when I felt there was no hope…and then one day, low and behold, hope finds me and I was rescued!

Sylvan – Treesants – These people of the forest – tree spirits, if you will – were inspired by my love for the woods. On our farm, we have acres and acres of forest. In fact, my sons and I have cut trails through the forest and have built a campground in those woods. The campground sits atop a small hill we have dubbed Stirling Mountain after the famous battle of Stirling depicted in the movie about William Wallace, Braveheart.  As a teenager studying vocational agriculture, I actually spent time studying trees and was tested on identifying various species native to Oklahoma. Throughout the history of fantasy and mythological writings there have been depictions of tree spirits. I had to include my own version in this story. The Treesants – Sylvan in particular – represent the mystery of life and the joy of trying to unravel the mystery…which Leonolis never does. But I don’t think he will ever stop trying. After all, isn’t that where the fun is?

Chiroptera – When my children were young, my mother told them many stories. One of those stories was about a little Native American boy called Falling Rocks. This story began when my mom and dad took my nephew and niece on a trip to Utah. Being very young at the time, my niece and nephew asked why there were so many signs that said ‘Watch For Falling Rocks’ along the mountainside roads. My mom came up with this story: there is a little lost boy named Falling Rocks and his mother has placed those signs there so she can get the public to help her find her little lost son. Not but a few minutes after she came up with this story meant to entertain the children than a little Native American boy in full Native American dress was standing on the roadside. My niece burst into tears and asked her grandparents to stop and help him. My mom told the children that she would stop at the next rest area and call the boy’s mother. The children were beside themselves in panic over helping this boy. At the next stop, my mom made a ‘phone call’ to the boy’s mother, relieving the children of this great burden to help Falling Rocks. As my children heard the story from my mother, the legend only grew! To this day, whenever we see a sign warning of ‘Falling Rocks’ we all laugh and enjoy the memory all over again! I had to use the name Falling Rocks for a character in my book. It seemed appropriate to call the leader of the mountainous dwelling creatures, the Chiroptera, Falling Rocks.

Swine Rats – This particular creature was conjured up in my mind by the various wild animals I have experienced throughout my life – especially when growing up in the country. We often see coyotes and deer and bobcats and skunks and woodchucks and raccoons and squirrels and possums. When I was a boy in FFA, I had show animals. I bought my first pig to show at livestock shows when I was a freshman in high school. The pig was purchased from a friend who lived ten miles away. After getting the pig home and placed in the enclosure I had prepared for her, she promptly escaped! I searched for a couple of weeks to no avail. After a futile period of searching, I gave up. A week after my search ended I receive a call from the friend I had bought the pig from. He told me the pig had come back to his birthplace! As I secured the enclosure and went to once again bring my pig home, I could not help but imagine what she had endured and all she might have gone through just to make it those weeks alone in her incredible journey. All of that helped inspire the swine rats. I combined rats with a pig just because rats personify dirty, rotten, scoundrels, soaked in evil to me!

Ollieman – When I was a boy, we had an old barn my grandfather had built in the 1930s and 1940s, complete with an amazing loft for the hay. Each and every year from the time I could remember, that barn was occupied by majestic-flying barn owls. Each spring, a whole new brood would be hatched and the mama owl would never let us near her babies, hissing menacingly if we so much as peeked into the nest! I would dream of those owls and how cool it was that we had our very own set of owls! In the story, Captured, the owl represents the faithfulness of a true friend and is also the embodiment of true wisdom. It is easy to succumb to petty selfishness. True wisdom comes from seeing from a more positive perspective…just as an owl who can soar above and see clearly even in the midst of darkness. As a responsible person, we should determine in our own mind that we will seek true wisdom all our days. You will be a better person for it.

To purchase Book One, go hereBook Two, go here.

To purchase The Chronicles of Bren: Captured – Songs for the Journey go here.