Where characters come from (3): Dylan Lachlan


Ships in the night. The summer I learned what that meant, I was fourteen. And a half. I was on holiday with my family. Camping. That was the summer the realisation of my own mortality struck me so forcibly that, so afraid of falling asleep and never waking again, I spent the whole night nestled in the safety that was the space between my parents. It was also the summer of my not-quite-kiss. His name was Mark and he was not-quite-eighteen. For a few brief days, our lives sailed alongside one another. On the last of those days, for the briefest of not-quite-single afternoons, Mark held my hand. And at the end of that afternoon, for a moment that lasted less than a breath, he brushed his lips across mine and was gone and I didn’t know whether I’d been kissed or not. Ships that pass in the night. Some people are with you for a season, then gone for a lifetime, my father explained as I nursed a heart not-quite-broken. That was the summer I stopped being fourteen and a half. That was the summer I turned not-quite fifteen. 

Years, more than I could ever imagine living when I was not-quite-fifteen, have passed since that summer. Other Marks came and went. Some left my heart more than broken, some limped away with their heart not-quite-intact. The seasons I spent sailing alongside my parents have gone. My eldest child will soon have lived for half of my lifetime. And I thank God for those ships that have passed; for those whose waters I have yet to share. I am even thankful for the times I was so broken I thought I would never mend. I am thankful to have learned about love and loss and the treasuring of times that can never be gone as long as they live in my heart. And I look forward to discovering alongside which of those ships I will sail in eternity.

Mark was the template for Dylan Lachlan in my novel Strong as Death. Dylan has Mark’s eyes …  



19 thoughts on “Where characters come from (3): Dylan Lachlan

  1. This is really beautiful, Julia. My daughter (who shares your name!) is exactly this age and I find it almost unbearable as she starts on a similar journey – partly because of nostalgia for my own 15-year-old self and partly because of my fear of her being hurt!


    • It is a fearful and wonderful age! And as a parent, I don’t think we ever stop wanting to shield our children from what we think may hurt them. Just as the roads we’ve travelled have sculpted our lives, we know there are no short cuts for the shapes our children’s lives will take. Your Julia is lucky to have a mum to support her and catch her, if/as/when needed.


  2. W. K. Tucker

    Loved it! Your words took me back to my own teenage years, years filled with angst, loss and heartbreak. And to later in my life, the situations I lived through that I thought at the time would kill me.
    But they didn’t. 🙂
    And I came to realize–as I’m sure you have–that one can’t appreciate the good in their lives unless one has experienced the bad.


  3. Thank you. Your words have put me in mind of a verse in John’s gospel: ‘Except a grain of wheat fall into the earth and die, it abideth by itself alone; but if it die, it beareth much fruit.’ And of course, hate them as we do, there are always the clichés (which take on that status because they are so often true), clichés such as: ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.’ Let’s hope we’ve now got to a stage where we have learned enough hard lessons to keep us strong for the rest of our lives! 🙂


  4. Okay it’s time to own up on behalf of the boys – it happens to us as well. I won’t set off a tissue-buying explosion with this comment, but suffice to say it took more than one near-miss before I learned my early lessons.
    If you think about relationships in terms of antidotes, it demonstrates the point well I believe. To protect against an alien invasion of our physical body we are introduced to a tiny amount of the ‘nasty’. Our body tastes and reacts. In future meetings with the aforementioned ‘nasty’ we are more prepared.
    Yeah, yeah, I know emotions are a bit more specialised, but you get my drift …
    Another great intro.
    I’ll thank you now Julia, because when I get my ‘new’ website produced for me in a few weeks, I might write ‘intro’s’ for the characters in my novels. A great idea.


  5. How sweet! I love those moments you get to pull from for real life. Here’s to almost-kisses, the impressions others leave on our souls, and the beauty/heartache of growing up. I loved this memory.


    • Thank you! It’s strange how, as characters grow from impression to fully formed personalities, they seem to echo the people and memories, even those who’ve just passed briefly in the night, who have left footprints in our lives. Thanks for dropping by.


    • Thank you so much. So many of the people we meet during the course of our lives leave an indelible imprint. Since I began writing in earnest, I have discovered just how deep those impressions have gone. Words never quite seem enough to articulate what my imagination and heart burst to express; music and image are incredibly evocative ways to sharpen and hone what I strive to say. I love the way you use music to layer your writing, which is already a multi-sensory reading experience. Thanks for dropping by.


  6. Hi,
    I stopped by to read your posts and to let you know that I am reading your book, “Strong As Death.” I have already been brought to tears twice. My daughter says that I am a sap and she’s probably right. I get very emotional over passionate things, people, circumstances, commercials (really), and I feel very deeply. You can call it a gift or a curse. Sometimes, it’s both for me.
    First of all, my great aunt was my babysitter for the first 13 years of my life. When she died, I felt like I’d lost a piece of myself. Her name was Minnie Barry. I’ve never known anyone with that name, except Minnie Mouse and Minnie Ripperton (the lady who always had a price tag on her hat). So when I saw the name of your lead female protagonist, I almost came to tears. Then, when she comments about her name, I DID come to tears. I miss my Aunt Minnie so much. She was an Irish immigrant and had a beautiful Irish brogue. I loved listening to her, no matter what she talked about.
    Secondly, I came to tears when Millie begins to describe Dylan. I have a soulmate, and the way Millie reacts interally to Dylan is exactly how I reacted to my soulmate for the whole nine years we were together! Sometimes, that’s just so unnerving! Butterflies in my stomach, what it would feel like to kiss his throat (which I eventually got to do,) the way I would speak sometimes in his presence, thinking deep down that I must really sound like an idiot.
    I love your book so far and can’t put it down. I’m worried that there’s impending doom about to explode somewhere in those pages, but that’s what makes a really good story. It’s “the wanting to know what happens next” that keeps me attached to a really good book. I just wanted you to know how I feel about it.
    Keep the stories coming!!


    • Oh, Tricia, We are a pair of weeping hearts together! Your beautiful comment has reduced me to tears and yes, I have been known to weep at adverts (the British version of commercials) too 🙂 . My very dear friend always tells me that to have a soft heart is better than to have a heart of stone. I shan’t spoil the unfolding story, but I so hope it doesn’t disappoint! I am just doing a little re-editing of Strong as Death and then will turn my attention to my next novel, which I plan to publish in the late summer/autumn. Then I will turn my full attention to the manuscript I am currently plotting.
      One of my grandmothers was Minnie (there’s a picture of her on the Where characters come from: Minnie Shilling post) and my other grandmother had Irish heritage too. Your Aunt has certainly left her fingerprints on your heart and life and that is a precious legacy.


  7. I am not-quite-sure what to say that hasn’t yet been said about this post. I read the preview of your book Strong As Death on Paul Ruddock’s blog (http://echoesofthepen.com/) and decided to find out what else might be good over here. I must say the little not-quite-fifteen girl in the story is not-quite-many-things yet, but the writer of this blog is quite-many-things, considering the beauty of her prose and the maturity with which the story is presented. “I’ll be back”, like Schwarzenegger, but without guns. I must read more of your posts. Good day.


    • Thank you for your visit and your encouragement. Who knew that memories that have remained mine for so long would be appreciated once I turned them into written words? I will be along to visit your blog properly at some point over the weekend.


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