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What's in a Name?

This section is about the names of the characters in the Marc McKnight Time Travel Adventures Series. Most of my character names come from somewhere (other than thin air). In this section, I’m sharing where the names came from and what they mean to me. 

There may be some reveals or spoilers in this section, so don’t go any further if you want to preserve any surprise twists and turns in the books. 

Spoiler Alert

A quick note about all this…

 

I’ll say who I think would play each character in the movies. In reality, all these actors and actresses are of different generations. Some are way too old to play the part now, but I see them in the part based on a role they played at some time in the past.

 

I only mention their name to give you an idea about how I pictured the character.

 

But, if you saw another actor or actress instead in your mind while reading, I’d love to know that!  Please drop me a line and tell me. 

The H.E.R.O. Team

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Character:     Marcus Stephen McKnight (Entire Series)

This character is named after my son, Marcus Stephen Megahee. The “McKnight” part comes from several sources. Marc McKnight is an Army Ranger and a big fan of “The Lord of the Rings”. He’s a lot like the character Aragorn from that book and is also a Ranger and a Knight. 

Additionally, in my pre-teen years, the McKnight family lived across the street from me down in Warner Robins, Georgia. If you can imagine this, we had jam sessions at my house around 1960, with my Dad (also a Marcus) on harmonica, Eugene McKnight on the clarinet, and Eugene’s son Mac on the banjo. 

Special note on this: I realize that most men in the military whose last name starts with “Mc” or “Mac” inevitably end up with the nickname “Mac”. I was tempted to name him Mac McKnight (which is also pretty strong), but “Mac” was really too close to “Marc”, so I resisted the temptation and left it off.

Who would play him in the movies?  

My daughter Megan insists that only Henry Cavill would be acceptable. And I agree. He would be great in the role. 

 

Character:  General Michael Rice (“The Dragon”) Drake (Entire Series)

I wanted to create a character with enormous strength and power who doesn’t feel the need to “flaunt it”. I created a legendary event for him that spoke to his power as a warrior of terrible ferocity. What’s more ferocious than a dragon? Drake is of course used a lot in fiction for the male dragon. 

Michael or Mike is a name of strength. It certainly was for me. Two of my favorite friends as a child were both named Mike Kelly (actually, one was a Kelly and the other was a Kelley).

Rice is my wife Martha’s maiden name and she has a brother and nephew that I admire for their down-to-earth personalities and stoic strength.

Who would play him in the movies?    

I picked Dolf Lundgren for this role. Most people remember him from Universal Soldier and the Rocky movies, but he has incredible presence in a business suit. Go look and see for yourself. He looks a lot like I pictured General Drake and he has the booming voice I heard in my head.

Character:   Trevor Ian George (Entire Series)  

This one is personal. In college, I played in a progressive rock band with singer David George. David and I (plus three other guys) were “quintuple brothers of different mothers”. 

David’s son Trevor died in his early twenties. Many of our wealthier friends set up scholarships and other financial assistance programs in Trevor’s name, but I couldn’t afford to do that. But I could name a character after Trevor and let him continue “living” in a literary sense. The character Trevor, like the real Trevor, plays the saxophone and bass guitar. 

Who would play him in the movies?    

I chose the young actor Evan Peters, because he looks the most like what I remember of Trevor. 

Character:  Roger Anders “Mitch” Wheeler (Entire Series)   

This one is a little unusual. Ever hear of the band “Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels”? One of my favorite bands while growing up. Their signature songs were “Devil With a Blue Dress” and “Sock It To Me” (arguably the phrase that was adopted by Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In, but I’m not sure which came first). I just collapsed the name into Mitch Wheeler, since Wheeler is from Detroit and it felt perfect.

Roger Anders was my next door neighbor on Dewey Street in Warner Robins. He was a couple of years older, so I looked up to him and I learned a lot from him (remember this is a five-year-old learning about how life works from a seven-year-old. LOL).

Who would play him in the movies?    

Despite his name, Wheeler is Hispanic. I pictured Raymond Cruz in this role. My favorite character Cruz played was that of Domingo (“Ding”) Chavez in Clancy’s “Clear and Present Danger”. That character was Wheeler in all his glory.

Character: Winston (“Winnie”) Churchill Tyler III (Entire Series)

I was always a big fan of Winston Churchill, the PM of Great Britain during World War II. He was the right man for the job. I worked a consulting gig for Accenture in Hartford Connecticut years ago and worked with a guy named Tyler Silva. Also, I had a good friend in school named Greg Tyler. Always liked that name. 

I added the III (the third) for a couple of reasons. Tyler’s grandfather (Winston Churchill Tyler the first, or “Churchie”) is an unseen but discussed character in TIME LIMITS. Also, I wanted to contrast Tyler with McKnight – best friends from totally different backgrounds. 

Who would play him in the movies?  

After looking at a bunch of star photos, I think Liam Hemsworth looks the most like Winnie Tyler.

 

Character:  Robert John Astalos (Entire Series)

The original name for this character was going to be Robert Lang, but while I was writing TIME LIMITS, the DaVinci Code was published with the hero being named Robert Langdon. It was just too close, so I decided to look for another good name. 

Robert Astalos is named after a real person – one of the smartest guys I know. I taught Robert math in the eighth and ninth grade at Avondale High School in Avondale Estates, Georgia in 1974-76. He was a straight ‘A’ student with a cool last name. Robert is now a physics professor at Adams State University in southern Colorado. You can see some of his teaching videos on YouTube. 

I find it amusing that I taught Robert math when he was a kid and now he’s a physics professor. Physics is one of the subjects I loved, but I was never any good at it.

Who would play him in the movies?    

The person I saw for this role was Max von Sydow. When I found his picture on the net, I knew he was my Doctor Astalos.

Character:  Katherine (“Kathy”) Wu (Entire Series)     

I wanted some diversity in my stories and there was a Chinese girl in one of my college classes that Kathy is based on. She was witty, smart, and full of life and she was perfect. However, I never knew her name, so this one is completely made up out of the air. I wanted something common and short, so I picked Wu for the last name. I think Kathy is sort of a whimsical name (at least most Kathys or Cathys I’ve known have been very bright and lighter than air).

Who would play her in the movies?  

I love Sandra Oh. While she is on South Korean ancestry, I thought she would be the perfect Kathy Wu. My wife is a big fan of Grey’s Anatomy and I loved her in that show (though the character she played there was more emotional than Kathy Wu).  

Character:   Nancy Karen Hatcher (Entire Series)  

Hatcher’s name came from three places. Nancy Steele is the wife of my band’s keyboard player (in college), Stephen Steele. We always knew Steve would be a lawyer someday; we just didn’t know what kind (family law). Nancy is tall and beautiful, and the epitome of a Southern Lady. She’s also a good photographer.

Karen was an homage to a girl I dated in my twenties. It didn’t end well, but it wasn’t her fault. 

I was telling a good friend where the name Hatcher came from, but before I could say anything, he blurted out, “Teri Hatcher was hot!” And he was right. I remembered her from the role of Lois Lane opposite Dean Cain’s Superman. 

Who would play her in the movies?  

If you check out the modern Wonder Woman movies, you’ll see my Hatcher in Gal Gadot. The actress is very athletic and drop-dead-beautiful. I wanted Hatcher to be pretty in the “girl next door” category. She normally wears her hair in a ponytail, but can "dress to kill" when she wants to. I wanted Hatcher to be a woman who men would desire, but who never depended on a man (or anyone else, for that matter) to get where she wants to go. 

The Villains

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Character:     Rachel Patterson (THE TIME TWISTERS, TIME REVOLUTION, TIME PLAGUE)

This name is completely out of the air, I think. I don’t know of anyone named Patterson except the writer. The only thing I can think of for the origin of the name Rachel is that I  originally thought of Jennifer Anniston’s iconic character on “Friends” for this part. I was looking for a more stately name to give this character and “Rachel Patterson” flashed through my brain.

Who would play her in the movies?  

After seeing her on Saturday Night Live portraying a slightly obsessive Hilary Clinton, I knew Kate McKinnon had to be my Rachel. McKinnon does unbalanced / crazy as well as anyone I have seen. My character Rachel seems perfectly balanced and deliberate most of the time with brief flashes of scary crazy. I think McKinnon could really pull that off.

Character:  Number Four / Oliver Stagne (TIME REVOLUTION)

For this name, I wanted something European because the character was high up in the intellectual elite in Washington D.C.. I thought Oliver sounded very English and Stagne sounded Germanic.

Who would play her in the movies?    

My favorite scary bad guy is Donald Sutherland. Seeing him as Snow in the Hunger Games series and as Die Nadel in “The Eye of the Needle” put him at the top of my list for this character.

Character: Mike Smith (THE TIME TWISTERS)

For this one, I wanted strength and anonymity. I showed a considerable lack of imagination on this one and broke a cardinal rule of novel writing in the process (“Never give two characters the same name because it confuses the reader.”). 

Who would play him in the movies?  

I pictured Mike Smith as looking and acting like Robert Shaw in his iconic role as Red Grant in the movie “From Russia With Love”. He was a certifiable badass and twisted bad guy in that movie. My character Smith is similar to him in that he went rouge mercenary after being abandoned (he believed) in a dark hole in Afghanistan. 

Character:  Number Three / Laura Rand (TIME PLAGUE)

I was looking for a succinct name and came up with this. My sister's name is Laura (not that she's a villain - hehe - A little disclaimer there, LK). For the last name, I wanted something that smacked of big business, but wasn't specific about what that business did. I picked Rand because it was short. I don't mean to imply anything about the real company of that name. I actually have no idea what they do. 

Who would play her in the movies?    

The closest actress I could find to this character is the wonderful British actress Judi Dench. I saw Laura Rand with short hair and to be diminutive, but with a big presence.

Supporting Cast

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Character:     Senator James C. Lodge (TIME LIMITS, THE TIME TWISTERS)

You’ll probably laugh at this one. The last name Lodge comes from the Archie comic books. The girl Archie most desires is wealthy debutante Veronica Lodge. You see Mr. Lodge (her father) frequently, but I don’t remember ever seeing his first name. Anyway, I liked the name for the senator. The “James C.” part came out of thin air. 

Who would play him in the movies?  

I liked actor Stephen Collins for this role. I saw a picture of him in a business suit around age 50(ish), and he looks a lot like the Senator Lodge I envisioned.

Character:  Senator Colleen Myers (TIME REVOLUTION)

The name was originally Kathleen Myers, but then I realized it would cause confusion since it was close to Kathy.  They say you’re not supposed to create two characters with similar names because doing that confuses the reader. So I changed it to Colleen. But Kathleen has been a family name of ours. It is the middle name of my sister Laura, my daughter Kris, and my granddaughter Jordan. The last name Myers comes from our family history. My maternal grandmother was a Myers down in Ocilla, Georgia.

Who would play her in the movies?    

I had a very specific vision for this character. I could see the actress’s face, but I didn’t know who she was. After a lot of research, I found her. It was Michelle Monaghan. Her style and grace made her perfect for the part of Colleen Myers.

Character:  Ed Cutty (TIME PLAGUE)

This name came out of thin air. I wanted a short name for him and maybe something that could inspire a nickname at some point. Somehow, I hit on this name. I pictured this character as an American farm boy from the Midwest. 

Who would play him in the movies?    

I liked Brad Johnson for this role, based on his role in “Always” with Holly Hunter and Richard Dreyfuss. That character was a little too old for Cutty, but reminds me of the personality I envisioned for Cutty. 

Character: Megan April McAlister (ENTIRE SERIES)

This name was an important one and it required some thought. I needed a middle name to obscure her relationship to other characters until the time was right in the first book, TIME LIMITS. Megan is the name of my younger daughter and my son Marc’s twin. April comes from my next door neighbor when I was in elementary school. The only April I know is Roger Anders’ sister. McAlister came out of thin air. Although I have a friend named McAlister now, I didn’t know her when I named the character. 

Who would play her in the movies?  

This was actually easy. It has to be Amy Adams, who played opposite Cavill in “Man of Steel”. From day one, it was her face I pictured as both Megan and Merrie McAlister.

Character:  Daisy (“Daze”) Lagunas (TIME PLAGUE)

For this character, I wanted a name that contrasted her character. She is a strong Mexican-American from South Texas. I picked Daisy because it sounds delicate – to contrast with the strength of this character. The last name, Lagunas, comes from the wife of a friend. She is a tall, stately, and outspoken Mexican woman that Daisy would look up to. When I wrote this character, I pictured my friend’s wife as a model for her.  

Who would play her in the movies?    

My friend’s wife is not an actress, so I’d have to find someone else to play the part. One actress that reminds me of her is Sara Ramirez of Gray’s Anatomy fame. I think Ramirez could pull off the part of Daisy Lagunas.

Character:  Arthur Smalls (TIME PLAGUE)

For this character, I wanted a deceptive name -- a name that would require him to fight his way up and cope with a name that helps people underestimate him.  He's not very tall, but a giant in what he has accomplished (Navy SEALS Team, CIA, etc.). He's a new character the reader will see again. 

Who would play him in the movies?    

As I wrote about this man, I remembered Wesley Snipes as Sheridan in "U.S. Marshalls" with Tommy Lee Jones and Robert Downey Jr. That character was calm, cool, and very resourceful. Perfect for my Arthur Smalls.