Portrait of a Character – Charlotte Lilienne O’Day
Every author needs a character surrogate. I have a few – Sheilagh Bernstein, Eriecho, Gina Nolan, Ethan Shapiro, Seppa, and HD Avery come to mind. But none are as attuned to me, or as similar to me, as Lili O’Day.
I was thinking about writing Reversal for a while before I started, and I needed a name for my heroine. I decided on her full name for a few reasons. First, the name flows and is pretty. But – bringing her down to earth – her initials are CLO’D. Did her parents really mean to refer to her as a clod? Perhaps, but not in a negative manner. Lili reveals, in Fortune, that her mother was a potter, so perhaps the backhanded reference to clod refers to a moldable clod of earth.
I also liked the short name, Lili, as it’s casual yet feminine, but also feels more youthful than Lili really is (Lili started off, in Reversal, as being 48 years old, just like I was at the time).
It took me several months to come up with a real face for Lili, who is described as having eyes that are the lightest blue – nearly white in appearance, although she is not blind – and hair that is straight and platinum blonde. Her body is a little chunky although not too much, with a decent albeit not a knockout figure. Her lower teeth are a little crooked. She is self-conscious about her belly.
After kicking around and, ultimately, rejecting the idea of the actress Jessica Tuck, I went with actress Naomi Watts. Watts is lovely, to be sure, but is also fighting some signs of aging like parentheses lines around her mouth, much like Lili is. Her eyes aren’t light enough; contact lenses would have to fix that. But she also, to my mind, carries some emotional heft. I like it that she’s not an Angelina Jolie.
Personality and Background
Smart yet not overly so, Lili’s talent is in cooking. But she never would have gotten there if it had not been for some seemingly unrelated events, plus sheer determination. At age nine, her parents die in a house fire at their home on Titan, in New France. Lili, at the time, was visiting her mother’s parents, the Ducasses. This photograph was taken a few weeks before. Lili describes it as one of her best and most enduring memories of her mother. Ironically, this picture is first seen in the Mirror Universe. Lili remembers the events leading up to the fire in her dreams, in the E2 stories, and then her subconscious supplies additional, unseen information, such as her father, Peter, shoving her mother to the floor and laying on top of her, one last act of protection.
Initially afraid of fire, her maternal grandmother, Lilienne, makes her cook. Lili explains to Malcolm, in Together, that she was a difficult teenager, getting into minor trouble such as joyriding. She loses her virginity to her High School boyfriend, Paul Mayer – that act is also recalled in a dream. She is close to leading a dull life when she gets a chance to cook for the head of the Mars Culinary Institute. She makes lobster en croute, which is a kind of strained bisque in puff pastry. On the strength of that dish, she is admitted to the MCI and graduates. Her first job out of school is at the Tethys Tavern, where she not only cooks, but also tends bar on occasion.
Eventually, Lili becomes skilled enough, and is in enough demand, that she opens her own restaurant, Voracious, in San Mateo. The restaurant is described in Reversal (again, this is a memory seen through the prism of dreaming) and Voracious, where the NX-01‘s Chef, William Slocum, goes to dinner. He enjoys her Harvest Salad so much that he talks to her about joining up. The Xindi war is raging, and Lili remembers the attack. The city is still in aftershock mode. Slocum brings in Archer (I have not written that part yet) and Lili sells Voracious and comes aboard the NX-01. Her first day is chronicled in Harvest. She has been hired to act as sous-chef, pastry chef and saucier. Her duties include making desserts and birthday cakes, such as is shown in Protocols, plus she cleans up quite a bit. It isn’t until the E2 stories that she gets any help.
Depending upon the story or the series, Lili experiences deep and abiding love, in a way that most of us can only dream of. While she has had boyfriends and lovers, at least twelve before the start of Reversal, she doesn’t really begin to have love until then.
Lili meets Doug as a part of shared dreaming with the Mirror Universe, as is shown in Reversal. Her relationship with Doug is earthy and very physical, but she essentially tames him. When it comes time to exchange I love yous, they are both indirect. He tells her, “It would be really stupid if we were to fall in love.” And she replies, “It’s too late.”
With Doug, her life settles into a domestic routine quickly. In A Kind of Blue, she finds out she’s pregnant, and they quickly wed. In Pacing, and then The Gift, she receives a truly meaningful gift from Doug, meant to sustain her for their life together. In Local Flavor and Friday Visit, their relationships with friends are shown.
In Together, their relationship is challenged, and it finally comes to an understanding in Temper and then in Fortune. Doug and Lili have two children, Jeremiah Logan (known as Joss) and Marie Patrice (often called Empy).
Doug’s death is outlined in Equinox.
With Malcolm, Lili is different. Their relationship is somewhat freer, but that’s at least partly because, not until much later in life, they don’t live together. Their meeting in Harvest is meant to be a foreshadowing of things to come, as they shake hands for too long, he looks her squarely in the eye and she drops a teacup. Because they are not together (Malcolm is her other fellow in her open marriage with Doug; Melissa Madden is Doug’s side girl in that same arrangement), there are a lot of good-byes and hellos. The homecoming in Temper is meant to be particularly sweet, and their time together at a hotel for a few days after that is meant to almost feel like a honeymoon, as is a shared dream during Fortune. With Malcolm, who is also a factor in the E2 stories, she can trade intellectual quips and insights. They read and talk about Jane Eyre. They play Scrabble and chess together. There is more highbrow business going on than with Doug, who often has trouble expressing himself.
In Harvest, she notices Jay’s eyes when they are introduced, and he tells her that he likes blueberries when she asks about a favorite. In Penicillin, he is coughing and so she makes him (and the rest of the crew) a little Jewish Penicillin, chicken soup with matzoh balls. In Demotion, Hayes disciplines Daniel Chang in front of Lili and her roommate, Jennifer Crossman. He looks and nods at them but doesn’t address them, a prelude to the E2 stories.
In the E2 stories, Jay and Lili circle each other warily (she also circles Malcolm) and do not get together for a few years. He needs to get over Susan Cheshire, she needs to see him as a potential mate. Things are good between them. He is a bit better at expressing himself than Doug, and develops a meaningful pet name for her – Sparrow. In Equinox, after his death, he accidentally refers to her that way, which alarms her. This is because, in Equinox, she doesn’t know about the first iteration in the E2 stories. She only knows about the second E2 iteration.
In Together, Lili reveals to Malcolm that, when they met an NX-01 manned by their descendants, she learned that she had married José Torres. Malcolm reveals that he had not had anyone. His revelation is canon, so this, the second E2 iteration, is the one currently being written so as to dovetail with Star Trek: Enterprise canon.
As an Engineering crewman, José is far from being a romantic guy, which is what Lili craves. But he’s practical, and he cares for her a great deal. Her feelings about him are a lot more mixed, and there is less of the deep and abiding love as is seen with the others. Lili is settling, and she and the reader know it, but there is no one else.
Ian is Malcolm’s Mirror Universe counterpart.
They never actually meet in life. But, as he explains in a dream in Equinox, counterpart to counterpart, he cannot help but be taken by her. In the third of the E2 stories, he meets her on the last night of her life, in a dream, and they dance. And in the fourth, Ian reveals that he has been tasked with guiding her and keeping her company, comforting her in her darkest hours.
She Who Almost Didn’t Breed in Time
This is not only the name of the Xindi Insectoid that Lili kills during an episode of Fortune and feels the aftermath of in The Mess. This is also, in a way, what Lili herself could be called. But she has a total of (as of the time of this writing) seven children, depending upon which stories and series you read.
Joss Beckett and Joss Reed-Hayes
These sons are meant to be nearly identical, with Beckett as the son of the Mirror Universe husband and Reed-Hayes the son of the Prime Universe E2 first iteration husband. Joss is the one she depends upon to keep things together.
Marie Patrice Beckett and Madeline Reed-Hayes
Much like the two versions of Joss, these daughters are, respectively, children of the Mirror or the Prime Universe. However, their personalities diverge more. Marie Patrice is a bit of a materialistic person whereas Madeline grows up to become a Tactical Officer.
Declan Reed and Pamela Reed-Hayes
Both the children of Malcolm Reed, they are in the Prime Universe timeline and the E2 first iteration timeline, respectively. These children diverge the most. Declan is one of my visual artist characters whereas Pamela becomes a doctor, much like Pamela Hudson, who she is meant to evoke but not be named after, as the E2 denizens could not possibly have known about Dr. Hudson.
Maria Elena Torres
As Lili’s only child during the E2 second iteration, Maria Elena (named for Marie Helêne) is a bit of a wild card. As of the writing of this post, I have not yet determined how I want her to be. But the second iteration is meant to be more somber. Maria Elena will be one of the few bright spots in that version of Lili’s life.
Lili is more defined by her subconscious than any of my characters, even the Calafans. When I first wrote her, that first moment, she is in the middle of a dream, and it turns out to be a shared dream with Doug, in Reversal. Her ability to share dreams is enhanced by being in Calafan space and, eventually, she gets dream amplifier alloy to put on her person, in the form of her wedding ring from Doug (A Kind of Blue) and the key charm from Malcolm (Temper). In addition, the Calafans paint her with calloo-like tattoos made from the same material, callidium (Reversal). She is a dream collector and a dream projector in a lot of ways. She interacts in her dreams and utterly believes them.
In the E2 stories, she has no such amplifications. But Ian explains to her that she has some psionic abilities. She’s just not able to really focus them well. Hence, when he is with her in her dreams, she can hear him, and can feel him to hold her while they dance, but she generally can’t see him.
The main characters in In Between Days, except for Pamela Hudson, are all related to some sort of ancient element. Doug is air, Malcolm is water, Melissa is the earth, and Leonora is communication. Lili, because of how her parents died, and because of her skills at cooking, is fire. Doug and Malcolm both refer to her, at various times, as “the white-hot flame”. Jay even mentions that, while on his deathbed.
In Reversal, Lili begins with Roy Orbison’s Sweet Dreams Baby and then segues into Peter Gabriel’s In Your Eyes with Doug. Her next music is in Together, starting with O Pato by Emilie-Claire Barlow, to showcase her love for her family – the duck (Joss), the goose (Doug) and the swan (her). Then she is represented by Crowded House’s Something So Strong and then, with Malcolm, Wishing (If I Had a Photograph of You) by A Flock of Seagulls. That story is continued with her and Doug’s Joe Jackson’s Breaking Us In Two but is ended on a much more positive note with her, Malcolm and Doug’s The Cure’s Love Song. In Temper, she’s represented by Blind Melon’s Tones of Home. In Fortune, she is represented by Fleetwood Mac’s Dreams and then all of them are covered by Sister Hazel’s All For You.
The Mirror Lili (called Charlotte) is at home during the house fire at the O’Day home on June 12th, 2118. She and her younger brother, Declan, die along with their parents. Jay does refer to seeing her in the afterlife during a dream in Equinox, and he reports that one of the pleasant things about heaven is that you can be any age you like, even ones you never attained in life. It’s a comfort to the grieving Lili (she has just lost Doug) to know that her counterpart can be old enough for real love, and can experience it. Given that Ian reveals that the counterparts are also taken with each other, he could very well be a part of the love that Charlotte might be finally experiencing.
“I figured I didn’t deserve to have survived, like I wasn’t good enough and I hadn’t done anything to be allowed to be the sole repository of my family’s memories and their love and their talents and everything else. I got into trouble and I didn’t face it much. I know now what a difficult child I must have been. It wasn’t until I became a master of fire that I began to process it. I began to have a handle on what had destroyed my family, and I could turn it to something that was almost good. And I began to slowly realize that my hopelessly old-fashioned, ancient and unhip grandparents were doing the very best they could for me, and that I should try and, and make it so that things wouldn’t be so hard for them.”
I love this character. I cannot describe quite how much I do. But that’s to be expected, as so much of me is in her. Of course I know where the lines are drawn. I have no children; I have a conventional marriage. I am not a professional chef; my parents (as of the writing of this post) are alive and well. But there is something about Lili – from her vulnerability to her superficial fretting about her less than perfect stomach to her sass to her whacking the hell out of She Who Almost Didn’t Breed In Time to how she sings to Joss to how she brings Jay out of his shell and gets Malcolm to loosen up and feel that even he can cry sometimes – all of this, and more, make her, to me, an utterly irresistible character who I cannot stop writing about. I am all characters, and all characters are me, but Lili hits the most marks.