Friday, June 10, 2011

J is for Jester

I knew all along that he would have to be a jester. Someone unexpected and yet intriguing. Someone who would take my princess completely by surprise. I knew that their meeting would include an apology. I knew she would “fall in love with him” because he made her laugh.

So the character of Leonard the Jester was born. Loosely based off someone in my own life who, on the surface, was all laughs and jokes, but, underneath a few thin layers, was hiding secrets and deep insecurities.

I think those are the things that make my jester both individual and universal all at once. He is an archetype in the “tragic clown,” sense. The man who makes it his business to amuse other people, to deceive them into thinking him nothing but a fun-loving fool because he is so afraid they will see him for what he truly is.

My jester gives Una small glimpses of his true self. He tells her of his desire to return to Southlands, though it might be a suicidal wish. And later, he tells her his greatest secret, the truth of his identity and heritage. Una, being a simple soul, believes him implicitly . . . Despite the falseness she just experienced from Prince Gervais of Beauclair, she doesn’t think anyone would deceive her like that twice. Surely, that was a fluke, not the standard!

I don’t know that Leonard meant to mislead Una. He certainly appears callous enough by the end of the story, and is cold as ice to her when she comes to him for the truth. But that last scene . . . I think we get a true glimpse into the jester’s heart in that last scene of his. When he is insisting he had no choice, that he did what he had to do.

And the seductive voice speaking in his head promises to make all his dreams come true.

I really fell in love with Leonard the Jester while writing this story. Especially the first draft. When drafting the novel-length version of Heartless for the first time, everything went very smoothly up to a point. Then suddenly I hit a rock wall.

I didn’t want Leonard to be false!

I really, really, really didn’t. I liked him. Very much, in fact. I had purposefully written him to be as likeable as possible because otherwise Una’s disappointment wouldn’t mean a thing. So I had done everything in my power to make him someone the reader would fall in love with.

But I fell in love with him myself. And I wanted him to come through as the hero!

So, for about two months, I set aside my manuscript and focused on other things. But in the end, I loved my story more than I loved even dear Leonard the Jester. It was too good to abandon. Even though it meant sending Leonard a direction I did not wish to send him, I needed to finish the story. So I picked up the manuscript, wrote the confrontation between Una and the jester back in Southlands, and moved on with the story.

But when Heartless sold, and my publishing house said they wanted two sequels, I knew at once that these two stories would belong to my jester.

I hope you will all enjoy reading Veiled Rose and discovering more facets of the jester’s story, things my dear Princess Una could never have known. People are always more complicated than we think. There are always more sides to every story . . .


Faith King said...

I've known very few Gervaises in my life, all flaunt and almost no substance, but I've known plenty of Leonards. Even one actually named Leonard! Wrong as his actions may have been in not keeping his promise, I can't hold him too closely to it, only because in a comparable real life situation, I have no assurances that I would not do the same. Not an comfortable thought, but certainly an important one.

I'm excited to learn we'll be seeing more of him! He certainly is full of the best sort of promise for growth. Plenty of potential and height to accomplish. :-)

Elf said...

I just got Veiled Rose in the mail the other day. The cover is even more beautiful than the pictures! Can't wait to read it!!

Anne Elisabeth Stengl said...

@Faith: Thanks! I found him quite fascinating to develop and suspect that, even 3 books later, I might not be finished with the coward Prince Lionheart . . .

@need2read: I'm so glad you got your copy! :) I really love how the cover looks in person. My sister tells me that she thinks it's even prettier than Heartless, and I think I might like it better too! Hard to say, 'cause I really do love the cover of Heartless.

Looking forward to getting to share the cover of Moonblood very soon now! They let me see it in advance, but I have to withhold my secrets a bit longer . . .

Anonymous said...

Well, it worked. I really, REALLY liked Leonard, until the end. When is Veiled Rose officialy released?

Anne Elisabeth Stengl said...

I believe Veiled Rose is actually being sold even now! Officially, it releases on July 1, but according to Amazon, it is already in stock, so I wouldn't be surprised if many bookstores are already carrying it too. Hope you will enjoy it!