Long-time followers of this blog will know that I'm not shy about sharing his inspiration: comedic character actor James Urbaniak, primarily known for his voice work on Adult Swim veteran The Venture Brothers. He's a little more widely known now for the Hulu series Difficult People, but he took a turn on the dark side for a single season of a show called Kidnapped... and that's where Buster's roots really took hold. Originally, he was meant to be a villain, menacing June Slovich in a storyline that never completely fleshed out. The more I tried to get to know him, the more he defined himself, as most of my characters do: and I got a clear picture of someone who wasn't creepy or awful, just extremely awkward and misunderstood. I started to wonder how someone like Buster could wind up in a villainous role ... but before I could really start thinking about it, my own life kicked into overdrive.
I'd been working an office job for a year and a half: the longest position I'd held since college. Without warning, the business closed because its owner had been involved in illegal activities 99% of his employees had no clue about. I lost my job, then my apartment, and a decent amount of professional credibility. Despite this, I knew how lucky I was to not have been involved. In the aftermath, between looking for a new job and putting my life back together, I found Buster's story without much problem at all. Mind you, Loren Jarvon isn't based on my former boss in any capacity, nor are Daniel and Jeremiah, or any of the victims of their collaboration. But Buster's realization that he had to become his own advocate was a lesson I taught him so that I could teach myself.
A friend on Twitter recently asked which character I thought resembled me the most, and there was no hesitation whatsover: I chose Buster. I like to think I'm not quite as particular, awkward, or as much of a slave to my habits, but we both notice patterns, hate crowds, struggle with the spoken word, and prefer the familiar. We also share a love for old books, puzzles, and diner food. Buster's favorite restaurant, The Fountain, is based on a place I've loved since childhood ... and in an amusing case of life imitating art, I live within walking distance of it. I didn't, when I started writing. Funny how things turn out, sometimes, isn't it? Either way, the muse is quite happy that stepping into his shoes is as easy as stepping out the door... which brings us to something we don't have in common: Buster's love of walking everywhere, or what he and his friends call Wandering. with a capital W.
A lot of events in From the Desk of Buster Heywood revolve around or begin with a Wander, and the origin of this habit was originally a flashback in the first chapter. It slowed down the flow of the plot, though, and it is now a stand-alone story that you can find in "Finders Keepers", the free e-book I offer my readers. I got the idea when I set out to take pictures of a local neighborhood that inspired Buster's, armed with my camera. I didn't walk everywhere, but the more photographs I took, the more I got a clear picture of his favorite habit, and the sort of things he would notice. Ideally, I'd share those pictures here, but an unfortunate hard drive failure in 2014 took them away from me. They live on in words...
Please join me next week, when I'll share the inspiration behind The Fountain in my Sense of Place feature. In the meantime, if you want a decent representation of how Buster gets squeaky when he's agitated, I invite you to enjoy a skit by the inspiration himself. (Word to the wary: he does drop a couple of f-bombs.)