“Valentine’s Day” was the second Kepler story I’d ever written. It was also the second one published, having appeared in Nefarious: Tales of Mystery, which is still around after all this time.
This was an odd one. The character of Greta Rensileer came first. She was based on someone I knew from an Internet discussion group who was obsessed with William Shatner. Now, she wasn’t the only one I knew like that. I had a really good friend who started a podcast about all things Shatner that recently has added digs at Chris Pine (aka the new Captain Kirk) to its snark repertoire. However, my friend is amused by her own crush. Greta’s inspiration?
Not so much. In fact, my friend and I were discussing how creepy this person was. Casting about for new trouble to get Nick into, I thought of our mutual acquaintance and thus Greta was born. Of course, like any character inspired by a real person, they generally take on a life of their own. Greta was no exception. She bears no resemblance to my creepier Shatner-obsessed acquaintance.
I started with Shatner himself and found a photo of him online from his pre-Star Trek days. I thought he looked like Clark Gable without the mustache. I didn’t want to use Shatner himself. Kepler would likely recognize him, especially with a Star Trek-obsessed pal. So I used the description for the photo and worked from there.
Was he real? Was this person actually Sam Jameson (Trek fans will get the inside joke with that name) a living, breathing entity? As time goes by, and Nick runs into more and more brick walls, and occasionally fists, he’s not so sure. Moreover, Greta’s attention toward him becomes more and more uncomfortable. She’s a strange one, taken to doing bizarre sculpture in the nude, finding Nick’s apartment without his telling her. Nick concludes he has a stalker.
It was a fun story to write, one I sent to my friend, she of the Shatner podcast. She immediately knew who had inspired it, even if Greta was her own living, breathing person. A cruel joke? I didn’t crow about it. I generally try not to base characters on real people if I can help it. Public figures are an exception, but we only see public figures’ personas, seldom their private lives. And Greta’s inspiration? Never met her in real space. So Greta is quite likely unlike the person we saw on the Internet.