The Shakespeare Drug Character Bios with comments by author, K. Scot Macdonald:
Julie Stein, MD, PhD: a driven, competitive and successful neurosurgeon at Mount Herman Medical Center. She is a leading Alzheimer’s Disease researcher. Divorced from Tom Tomlinson, she is a single mother raising her football-addicted son, Pete Tomlinson. She harbors a secret life-long desire to become a novelist.
Julie is all the bright, successful women I have known. In a male-dominated field, she knows she is judged differently than men, but instead of railing against the inequality, she faces it head on and succeeds anyway. Even so, she also has grave fears and a lurking lack of confidence in certain areas, such as public speaking and her looks, which she does her best to hide from the world. I have been struck by some of the successful women I have known who confided such lack of confidence; something that I have never heard from a man who has succeeded at all. I am certain men have the same insecurities, but will, in most cases, bluff it out and never admit to such worries.
Pete Tomlinson: football obsessed with little interest in other sports, let alone other subjects. Strong, impulsive and clever, he dreams of playing at a top collegiate program and then pro in the NFL, preferably for his favorite team: the Chicago Bears.
The character of Pete is the epitome of the child who figures out what they want to do with their life at a very early age and sticks with that goal regardless of what adults say or think. I fear we only hear about the few who succeed, but so many do not, even if they do devote every waking hour to pursuing their dream.
I choose football as a contrast to Julie’s writing dream, because the two fields have such different life-spans, in the sense that a writer can keep writing until they die, while football players have a remarkably short career. The average NFL player is in the pros about three years and even the most successful only last about a decade. In comparison, the writer P.G. Wodehouse published for more than 70 years. Living in southern California, I was struck in a similar way by the difference between the career-spans of male and female actors. The males can keep acting into late middle age, if not beyond, while many of the women have great difficulty finding parts past 40.
Tom Tomlinson: Julie’s ex-husband. He is an ex-collegiate football player who understands his son’s dream to be a pro.
Straightforward and blunt, Tom is meant to be an older, wiser and less impulsive Pete. Tom has played college football and understands Pete’s dream, both the potential of it and the pitfalls. In some ways, he might have done better raising Pete than Julie did, which only makes her resist his advice about their son more.
Christy Tomlinson: married to Tom. She buys and sells merchandise online and makes more money than Tom.
Tom married Julie’s opposite in Christy. Julie is pretty, but appears not to care about her looks. Christy is all about her looks: working out, wearing the latest clothes and always outgoing and seeking to be the center of attention. Julie hates being the center of attention. Christy is always upbeat and happy, while Julie has a dark streak that threatens to engulf her at times as she struggles to become a novelist.
Adina Gebreyohannes: a track star at Pete’s high school.
Like Pete, a driven athlete, but one who has far more balance in her life than Pete. Excelling in track and field, she knows she should be able to get to college on a full scholarship, but also realizes that she will need to do far more than run fast to succeed in life.
Jayden Andrews: Pete’s teammate in football, baseball and basketball at Santa Maria High School. Athletic, wealthy and popular, his father played pro football for several years and he is confident he will too.
Everyone in high school knows that popular kid who everyone appears to like, but at some level, do not. Jayden is that kid. Athletic, smart and popular, he is rich and destined for success, all of which makes it hard not to be jealous, even if he is, for the most part, a nice kid.
Amanda: Pete’s girlfriend. Pretty, perky and outgoing, she likes to have fun.
Amanda is Pete’s opposite in many ways. He is driven to succeed; she is driven to have a good time. He is focused solely on football; she is focused on nothing in particular. He works hard; she shops hard.
Rick Severn, MD: a thrice-divorced neurosurgeon who spends his time going out for lunch with pharmaceutical reps and serving on committees. Laid back, he has little interest in anything but having fun, although he still would love to operate—if he ex-wives wouldn’t get the majority of any money he made doing so.
Not all doctors are dedicated and many burn out. The character of Rick was meant to represent this alternative to a life dedicated to healing others. Severn no longer focuses on being a physician, but on having a good time. He is excited by life, but only to the extent that he can have fun. Having seen death as a doctor, he knows life is short and valuable, and should be lived to the fullest every day.
Andrew Baxter, MD: Chair of Neurosurgery and Julie’s boss. Bright, ruthless and successful, he will do anything to maintain his position at the top.
Baxter is like many of the chairs of medical departments I have met. He is extremely smart, highly talented in the OR, as well as politically, and has a narrow-minded focus on success in their field. Their world, in a way, for all their travel and extra-curricular activities, has narrowed to the point where what they do at the hospital is the most important thing in the world, even as they dabble in other areas.
Joe Cain: a transfer student from Texas who is a top linebacker. Fierce, strong and fast, if God ordered up a linebacker, he would arrive in the mail.
Joe is modeled after Mike Singletary, the Chicago Bears linebacker. All fierceness and competitiveness; he is the consummate football player.
Alan Mcghee: an army officer who is Julie’s neighbor. Injured in Afghanistan, he is recovering and deciding what to do next with his career and life. Dedicated and broadly trained, he is Julie’s equal in many ways, which only serves to surprise her.
I tried to create in Alan the sort of Army officer I had met several times throughout my life. Contrary to the stereotype, the officers I have met are highly intelligent, broadly educated and exhibited the highest levels of professionalism. Always alert, aware of their surroundings and caring toward their men, I always felt more secure after having met such men and women, confident that our country is well defended.
Macduff: Alan’s rare, battleship grey Scottish terrier.
Macduff was modeled after the first Scottie my wife and I owned. He was full of piss and vinegar. Even if he was all of 20 pounds, he would take on anyone and anything, acting as if he was 200 pounds. He was all swagger.
Santa Maria, California: although Santa Maria can be found on maps of California, it is not the Santa Maria of The Shakespeare Drug. In the novel, Santa Maria is one of the hundreds of cities that make up Los Angeles. Situated on the west side of the metropolis, Santa Maria is near the ocean, upper middle class and ethnically diverse.