Hey, guys! I’m so excited to be writing this guest post for my awesome friend Natalie, modelled on her “character interviews” that we all love so much. Today, I bring you an interview between myself and two of the main characters in my World War II/Holocaust novel, tentatively titled Breaking Glass. It’s set mainly in the Netherlands; and, if I had to describe it briefly, I’d say it’s a coming-of-age story about learning to survive in a world that seems to be your mortal enemy.
“When life robs you, sometimes you have to . . .” (AHEM.)
So, without further ado, here it is!
*Note: Interview questions borrowed/modified from the Beautiful People meme at Paper Fury.*
My characters fidget, a bit uncomfortably, on the wooden chairs I’ve set out in my bedroom. One of them—a tiny slip of a girl with dainty, gold earrings and burning, intense dark eyes—stares suspiciously at the shiny black laptop resting on my quilt. The other—a big, broad-shouldered man wearing a leather jacket and a cool, guarded expression—stares intently at the girl.
I’m amused to note that neither of them is looking at me.
I press the Record button on my tape player and put on my most coaxing smile. “Thank you both so much for coming.” The man gives me a polite nod; but the girl just looks at me. “Could you both start by telling my friends here your names?”
He folds his arms, his jaw set. “No.”
“No disrespect, Miss Jessica.” He pauses. “But your friends may not be our friends.”
The girl nods. Barely.
I bite my lip in frustration. This isn’t starting out well, is it.
“Now, listen to me, both of you.” I lean forward, speaking in as soothing a tone as I can manage. “I understand you guys are under a lot of stress, and all that; but there’s nothing to be afraid of here. This isn’t wartime Holland anymore—get that?”
“Where is it, then?” Finally, I’ve at least gotten the girl to speak up.
“It’s the future.”
The young man’s face exhibits massive skepticism.
“No—I promise. This is the future, and nobody here can possibly hurt you.”
“Is that true?” The girl’s deep, dark eyes are scouring my inmost soul—I can feel it.
The things I put up with from her.
“It is one-hundred-percent genuinely accurate.” I do my best to keep the exasperation out of my voice. “Now, will you please do what I asked and say your names?”
“Well.” He studies my face, then seems to make up his mind. “My name . . . is Dirk van Manen.”
“My name is Tammi Herschlag.” The girl won’t look at me.
“Good, good. Now we can get on with the interview.” We’ve wasted at least five minutes, but I know pointing it out will get me exactly nowhere. “So, first question: How did you two meet?”
There’s a pause.
Dirk is looking at Tammi, and Tammi is looking at the floor.
Finally, his low, taut voice breaks the silence. “We met by accident.”
“He found me.” Tammi’s fingers are lacing themselves together. “I was hiding. And he found me.”
I make my next question as gentle as I can. “Hiding from what?”
“The Germans.” She jerks her chin up and shoots me a bone-chilling glare. “Stop it.”
Dirk reaches out a hand to brush her shoulder—his eyes daring me to continue the subject. I quickly change course.
“Here’s another question. How similar are you to each other?”
Tammi’s eyes still show that tense, hunted look, and she doesn’t answer. Dirk does, though.
“We’re not that different.” He watches her as he speaks, not me. “We don’t talk much. Either of us.”
“So, you like to think instead of talk?”
“Tammi thinks a lot. I don’t. I just . . .” He breaks off.
“He just does things.” The abruptness of Tammi’s voice makes me jump in my seat; even though I should be used to it by now. “He does things that need to be done. That’s all.”
I’m not entirely sure what she means, but I know better than to press for a more articulate statement.
Instead, I take a deep breath. “All right, next question. Who has the strongest personality?”
They glance at each other, and I see a small, secret grin pass between them.
At least she’s smiling now.
I clear my throat and look down at my list. “The next one’s kind of similar. Who’s the leader?”
Tammi’s dark eyes are thoughtful. “Dirk . . . probably.”
“I’m not.” He touches her hand, then grips it. “You are.”
She rolls her eyes, but doesn’t pull the hand away. “Yeah? So how come you’re always telling me what to do?”
“It’s not like you ever listen.” His voice is rough with emotion.
“Okay—okay, then, guys.” I feel it best to move on before anything else is said. “Ah, here’s a good one. What do you do that most annoys each other?”
“I told you.” Tammi tosses her head back and brushes the dark, bobbed hair out of her face. “He tries to tell me what to do.”
“Because I have to.” Dirk folded his arms.
“You do not have to.”
“You won’t take care of yourself unless somebody makes you.” The deep, gruff tone can’t mask the tenderness in his gaze.
I see a blush—a faint one—spreading over Tammi’s cheeks.
I wait a few moments, then turn to Dirk with an encouraging smile. “How about you, then? Anything you find a little annoying?”
He ducks his head, staring at the floor. “She . . . won’t tell me anything.”
Now it’s Tammi’s turn to fold her arms. “Meaning?”
“You know.” His eyes search hers. “You’ll be crying, or something . . . and I ask you what’s the matter . . . and I get nothing.”
“So?” A dark scowl creases Tammi’s forehead. “When do you ever tell me how you’re feeling?”
He frowns. “That’s different.”
She tosses her head again. “Is not.”
“Next question, you two,” I interrupt gently. “How long do you see yourselves staying together?”
Tammi hunches her shoulders forward and scowls harder. “Nobody knows.”
I look at her. “What do you mean?”
“This is war.” Her voice is hard. “People die in wars.”
Dirk shifts in his seat, his eyes fixed on her face.
“But—you—” I pause to clear my throat again. “You’re hoping you’ll live to see peace again?”
Dirk pulls her hand into his lap and doesn’t let it go.
And then, as an afterthought, he glares at me.
I cough. “Last one, I promise. What would the ‘perfect outing’ look like for you both?”
“Outing?” Tammi stares at me. “Outing? Are you crazy?”
She’s a handful and a half. There’s no getting around it. “Now, Tammi—”
“I’m in hiding.” Tammi’s voice is crushingly bitter. “I don’t go out anywhere.”
There’s a long pause after that.
Dirk’s eyes are threatening me with slow torture if I don’t say something to make it better.
I take in a deep breath, then put on my most diplomatic smile. “Of course, of course. I only meant—if you could go anywhere you wanted to, where would you go?”
“I know where.” Dirk tosses me a slightly mollified glance, then turns his gaze back to Tammi’s face. “I’d take you to the beach.”
She looks at him with big, dark eyes for a moment. “The beach?”
“I’ve never been to the beach.”
“I know.” I see Dirk swallow a little. “That’s . . . why I’m going to take you.”
Whew—that was so much fun to write!!!! Thank you, dear Natalie, for giving me the opportunity :-) So . . . what do you all think of Dirk and Tammi? Want to read more of them? Think I should continue working on their story?
(JOKE. OF COURSE I’M GOING TO KEEP WORKING ON IT.)
Note from Natalie: Jessica, thank you SO much for guest posting today. Your characters are amazing, and this interview brought a huge smile to my face, Dirk and Tammi are simply precious. <3