I was stuck.
So what else is new?
Writing a novel is hard work. We are creating characters, worlds, emotions, problems, solutions, eiphanies, black moments, grand endings… all within the context of a readable, relatable story.
My hero, Tanner Burkhardt, in Princess Ever After, was not alive to me. So I decided to interview him.
I asked a few standard questions: dark moment of the past, related to the lie, wound and fear journey. Otherwise, I rambled. I asked and let “whatever” come off my fingers.
I liked Tanner after this. I used about a third of what we talked about but the goal was to get to know him.
Here’s a bit of our conversation.
RH: What bothers you the most when the story opens?
TB: That everything will change. Regina will ruin my country. She’ll fail.
RH: Why does failure bother you?
TB: Who wants to fail? Do you? I don’t want my country to fail or fall into turmoil.
RH: Did you fail at something?
TB: Excuse me?
RH: Did YOU fail at something?
TB: Yes, everything. Let my parents down.
TB: When What?
RH: When did you let your parents down?
TB: Really, that’s where you’re going? (Here, I found his spunk.)
TB: In prep school? You happy? Some blokes and I got into some mischief and I was “removed.” But then I was sent to Brighton and …
RH: That’s a long way away from Hessenberg
TB: Only a 100 kilometers by boat.
RH: Did you see your parents much?
TB: Certainly. Yes. Some. More than some boys, I’ll tell you that…
TB: Holidays. They sent for me. I went home for Festive and Christmas. We always holidayed together in the spring and summer.
TB: They sent money. Gifts.
RH: So you liked boarding school?
TB: I never said I liked it. I said it was all right. Sports were fun.
RH: What would you have preferred?
TB: To not enter this conversation with you. Just what is it you want? (Okay, I really like him now.)
RH: To know what you want?
TB: You want to know what I want? Peace. World peace.
RH: Har, don’t be a wise guy. You want peace for yourself.
TB: Doesn’t everyone? You’re not a very smart writer are you?
RH: Actually, I’m quite brilliant. So, you want peace. Inner peace.
TB: Of course, I’m not an ogre.
RH: Why don’t you have it? What troubles you?
TB: You’re a nosey one, are you not?
RH: You’re an evasive one, are you not?
RH: What is bothering you? You have 2 Ph.Ds. A standing in politics and in the community. A favorite professor. A leader. What’s missing?
TB: You Americans… always want to dig into a chaps heart and dig up all the personal stuff. Well, I won’t fall for it. Speaking out what I want won’t make it true and I’ll be sure to regret it later.
RH: Love? Acceptance? Is that what you want? You mentioned failure. Are you afraid to fail.
TB: Yes, you bloody know-it-all. Who wants to fail?
RH: Some don’t mind. At least they tried.
TB: Well, they can have their try, and the mess it created.
RH: You don’t like messes?
TB: Bloody hell, can we talk about what I do like?
RH: Sure. Go for it.
TB: I love a crisp Hessenberg morning. I love when the snow falls in the mountains and my feet tingle in anticipation of strapping on my skiis. I love the sound of my heels clicking on the polished marble of the university halls. Debating the merits of supply side economics with my students or the merits of a constitutional monarchy. Or the new reforms in the House of Lords. I love sculling on Reems River when the sun is cresting over the mountain. Dipping my oar into the glassy surface of the still waters and surging forward. I love the sound of wild birds nesting. I love racing my car over the back roads, engine at full throttle. I love a good rugby game. I love a good wine, grilled meat with bernaise sauce. I love the sound of rain on my balcony. The rooting of a football crowd. Dancing. The sound of the church choir raising their voices to God in Burkhardt Cathedral. Women with long dark hair. The soft lilt of a the female laugh. Making eye contact when she thinks I’m not looking. A roaring fire. A good night at the pub with my mates, discussing everything from cars to women to the meaning of life.
RH: Any family memories?
TB: Yes. The stiff handshake of my father when he dropped me off at school. The quick kiss of my mother. Saturday evening calls to see how I faired. Mother did love Christmas. She made a point to do it up well. My brothers and I tried our best to get her the best gift we could every year.
RH: What were some of those gifts?
TB: Funny, now that I think about it. It was always perfume. The same one. Channel no 5 cause she told us she liked it once.
RH: Did she wear it.
TB: I believe so.
RH: What about your father?
TB: Books. Always books. The man put a high price on education. And staying educated. When he entered the House of Lords, he was the most knowledgable one.
RH: Did you feel pressure to be like him?
TB: I see what you’re doing.
RH: Pretend you don’t. Humor me.
TB: Of course, I felt pressure. As did my brothers. We didn’t want to let the old man down. He was one of those chaps you felt like you’d spend your whole life trying for his approval. Just one none, one “well done” one “attaboy.”
RH: Did he ever say those words to you?
TB: Still waiting. Though, I think he’s proud. Mum tells me he is. Talks all the time about his boy with 2 Ph. Ds.
RH: Speaking of… two? Really? Kind of overachieving, no?
TB: I’m a diverse fellow, what can I tell you. I loved politics and economics. Figured the two go together anyway. I had a mentor who had degrees in both.
RH: Who is this mentor?
TB: Lord Edmund. He was in some ways like a father to me.
RH: But not your father.
TB: Does it matter?
RH: Did you please him?
TB: I think so? He said as much when I graduated.
RH: You know, God is not like them? Not like any man you’ve ever known.
TB: I know. I understand the word holy.
RH: Do you?
TB: Totally other than. Set apart. Not like anything you’ve ever encountered before. Do you really want to take me on?
RH: No, just trying to meet you. At the end of this story, Tanner, what will you have learned. What do you hope happens to you? What is your epiphany?
TB: I hope that I learn I don’t need man’s approval. That God’s is enough. I hope I know in my heart that HE does approve of me. I hope above all men that I please God. I wish to hear “good on you” from my father but if I don’t, I want my heart to be whole.
RH: What will cause you not to hear it?
TB: If I help Regina. Father is a Brighton man, through and through. He will not want a restarted Hessenberg. He doesn’t believe our economy can afford it.
RH: But you’ll do what’s right, won’t you.
TB: Don’t I always.
RH: Does that make you mad?
TB: Mad. No. Girl YOU are mad. It does make me feel all too safe. I always do what’s safe. I stick to the rules. Even the self imposed rules. Some days I just want to…
RH: Let go? Let God?
TB: If we’re quoting cliche’s yes. I just want to not be in control. To not have it all buttoned up.
RH: You want to fall in love with Regina?
TB: I don’t know, you’re the brainchild author. Do I?
RH: I think you do.
RH: Hey, I’m the one asking the questions here.
TB: Why do you want me to love her? What about this Felicity lass? She seems more my type.
RH: Exactly. Too buttoned up, as you say. Regina is messy. Outside your boundaries. She scales your walls and messes with your heart and head. You can’t contain her.
TB: Sounds like a challenge.
RH: And you like a challenge?
TB: Within reason. Sure. Is she smart?
RH: No, she’s dumb. Of course she’s smart goofball.
TB: Will she love me?
RH: Ah, is that important to you?
TB: Yes. I’ve never been in love. Not that I know of and I’d kind of like the first girl I whisper love to would return the sentiment.
RH: Wow, aren’t you romantic? Good grief, Tanner. You won’t even put your heart out there for love?
TB:Do you want me to get all gobsmacked and mushy?
RH: No, but I want you to loosen up. What about doing something completely selfless?
TB: I can do selfless.
RH: Then let’s see it. Give up everything for Regina.
TB: Is that what I do at the end I can’t do in the beginning? Be selfless? Give up everything — my reputation, my desire to hear good job from my father, my loyalty to Brighton, for her.
RH: Yes for her! For love. For the “kingdom.”
In the end, I understood his heart. Names and situations changed as I wrote the book but this was my introduction to Tanner Burkhardt, kind of a brooding type with a deep heart.
Princess Ever After
'Hauck can be counted on for captivating, page-turning stories and sincere characters with heart.' ---Romantic Times Review, 4 stars5