"It just seems so real" is a high compliment sometimes paid to my work. I write from the heart and from the life that surrounds me so that compliment means my intended honesty and sincerity is coming through.
My characters have been based loosely on the people in my life, not always literally but amalgamations of friends and family. Holly and Alix, for instance, started out as representations of my daughters but after 25 years they have morphed into characters of their own, with opinions and wills I can barely control. Actually, that's also like real life.
My character Wally was created when the strip was fairly new. I didn't have a male character and wanted to be careful in how I developed one. In a female-centered strip it would be easy to develop a guy who was a target, a bumbler who didn't get women and had to be taught. But I dislike that stereotype and didn't want my strip to reflect that cliche.
Enter Wally, an old friend, a gentle, big man who cooked for seniors and took them on outdoor adventures. Played the guitar, loved the company of women (and truly respected them as equals) and was often found doing dishes. I asked if I could borrow his name and his schlump, and Stone Soup Wally was born.
Last Friday, the sweet real-world Wally left us. After years of inspiring a beloved character (an editor of mine once pleaded "Please don't let anything bad happen to Wally!") my good friend succumbed to a lousy disease. Stone Soup Wally will live on, of course, and I hope real world Wally will live on in him. He loved singing and boating and would berate me if I neglected to put life jackets on my characters.
I'll always love August but it's now the month I lost Wally. Long long love, Wallster, from all your earthly friends.