The SF Bay Area ABC-7 News Anchor Dan Ashley has accomplished much in his lifetime, but being a character in a novel was probably not even on his radar.
I know Dan Ashley personally; he is a larger-than-life figure in the Bay Area. For example, aside from his news job, he’s also a rock star having performed solo and with his own band along with huge names in the music business, such as REO Speedwagon, Cheap Trick, and Melissa Etheridge, to name a few. He recently performed at the much-celebrated Outside Lands concert in San Francisco and even has his music, a solo album, on various music sites such as Apple Music.
Dan is also extremely charitable with his time. His philanthropic work includes fundraising for Friends of Camp Concord as well as the Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) for which he holds his annual ‘Rock the CASA’ event at the Lesher Center.
Now, his most recent feat, he is a character in a book that I recently published, “American Dead,” the third installment of a trilogy.
Writing is difficult enough. Developing a story, characters, and plot twists, is time-consuming and challenging. Things became more complex in the series finale, book three of the Texas Dead Trilogy. During a conversation with Dan Ashley, our top ABC-7 News Anchor, and Walnut Creek resident, the question of using real people in fictional books came up.
“When William asked if he could include me in the book ‘American Dead’,” Dan explained, “I was honored by the idea. Truthfully, I did hesitate as I had never been included in a work of fiction before.”
Dan explained. “William is a great writer and also a very dear friend, I knew that I would be pleased with how I was portrayed, and I certainly am. He did a great job from start to finish and the parts that include me are such a treat.”
In addition to recording the nuances of his personality, I also did not want Dan to just be an incidental character. And while he is not the main character, Dan’s presence becomes an integral part of the story’s final chapters. He even becomes an action hero.
“To have been included in William’s great book as a work of fiction was a first-time experience and a lot of fun to see,” Dan said. “I knew that I was in good hands.”
Here’s an excerpt from “American Dead” when the heroine of the book, Detective Maxie Michaels, runs into Dan, whom she has known before.
For the next few minutes, they sat silently and watched the people mill past. Nothing out of the ordinary. Throngs of bodies dragging suitcases, milling in one direction, then another. All going somewhere.
Then her eyes caught sight of a familiar face approaching from across the hall. He was tall, salt and peppered hair swept back, dressed smartly in a suit, immaculate with nothing out of place despite having just landed a few minutes earlier. He was pulling a wheeled suitcase behind him, a silver bracelet on one wrist and a beaded rope bracelet on the other. Maxie stood and strained to get a closer look, but she already knew who it was. Tyson, seeing her stand, also rose to his feet, trying to figure out what she was looking at.
The man walked closer; his attention focused on his cell phone.
“Dan,” she called out. The man stopped, looked up for the voice calling his name, and spotted Maxie just ahead. He broke into a smile and resumed his walk, now towards her.
“Maxie,” he said, letting his suitcase stand and giving her a big hug. “What on earth…? My Gosh, what happened to you? Are you alright?”
“It’s nothing. It’s nice to see you, too, but what are you doing here? You’re a Bay Area news anchor?”
“It’s a secret, I’m afraid,” he said lightly, his eyes now looking at Tyson who was standing and staring.
“Oh, sorry,” Maxie said. “Dan Ashley, this is Tyson G. He’s our ward — long story.”
Dan reached out and shook the boy’s hand. “Nice to meet you, Tyson. Any friend of Maxie is a friend of mine.”
“Thank you, Mr. Ashley,” Tyson stammered.
“Call me Dan.” Turning his attention back to Maxie, his smile became a serious look and he asked: “Your face? What happened? Is everything all right?”
“Not really,” Maxie hastily explained. “We’re after a terrorist. Nasty piece of work.”
‘American Dead‘ is available on Amazon and other outlets, and FREE to read for Kindle Unlimited readers. https://amzn.to/3P366zt
Note: Including real people in your fictional work is not as straightforward as just getting permission. There are legal ramifications if you mess up, and you could be liable should a lawsuit be filed against you. This could happen for a multitude of reasons. Here is an excellent article to read if you are considering this approach. https://careerauthors.com/real-people-in-fiction/
Parts of this article originally appeared in The Diablo Gazette.