Guest Post by Primary Character Tommy Thomlin

DSC02186 (2) (640x460)Okay. Danielle’s been trying to get me to write a guest post here for a long time, and I guess I give. I told her writing wasn’t really my expertise, and I probably didn’t have much to talk about anyway – but apparently she’s okay with that.

Ohhh, where do I start?

Well, I suppose she’d want me to mention my role in the novel. I’ve been captain of the Mailboat for nearly fifty years. I don’t think I planned on doing it that long when I got started, but now it’s kind of a habit I can’t shake.

Just like the Mailboat itself is a habit Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, can’t shake. The postal service is perfectly capable of delivering the mail by road, which it does most of the year, but there’s something that’s both novel and nostalgic about having the kids jump the mail off the side of a moving boat, like they’ve been doing for a century. The residents keep signing up for marine mail delivery, and the tourists keep paying to ride the boat and watch the spectacle, so I guess we’ll keep doing it.

Mail Jumper on the Lake Geneva Mail BoatNow, lest you make any assumptions, based on the title of this blog post, let me just clarify that I’m not the main character. That would be Bailey, one of the young mail jumpers. I had no part in the naming of this blog post, but according to Danielle, a “primary” character is a sort of runner-up to the main character – but more important than a secondary character.

Then in the next breath, she tells me that I count as one of four main characters in the story – which I find confusing, but Danielle and Bailey are both nodding vigorously as if that all makes sense. Obviously, I’m new to this whole novel-writing thing.

Frankly, I did not want to be in this book at all. The events that took place during that time were … well, let’s just say they were painful, and I wasn’t interested in re-hashing them. Bailey’s about the nicest young lady you could ever want to meet – but she can be sneaky when you least expect it. Without telling me, she dug up some information about how to get your story written if you’re a fictional character – and she went so far as to submit a proposal to an actual author. (Danielle.)

So I was pretty surprised when this same author showed up one day and started asking me questions about me and Bailey and everything that happened.

Once I sorted out what this interview was all about, and got over my surprise, I’m afraid I was very blunt. I told her, in no uncertain terms, that no, I was not interested in being interviewed, and that Bailey had never even told me she’d been looking into getting our story written.

As I understand it, Danielle promptly sat down with Bailey and asked why on earth she’d contracted an author without discussing everything thoroughly with the other main characters. I believe she’s now updated her contract so that all main characters have to sign before work can start on the novel. I’m assuming she’s collecting the signatures of primaries and secondaries, too. And thirdindaries, if there is such a thing.

So, my relationship with Danielle really started on the wrong foot. Not only did I have this whole book project sprung on me, I also had no desire to go through with it. Danielle and Bailey literally spent years conniving me. But I just was not interested in revisiting those days. They got pretty bleak. Yes, a lot of good came out of it all, but my only goal was to put the past in the past.

I guess I’d forgotten from my thirty-five-years of marriage that women always get their way.

DSC01843 (2) (480x640)Writing the first several scenes of the book was a pain for everyone involved. I still didn’t want to be there, and I had no idea what I was doing – how this whole book writing process was supposed to work. Danielle and I battled our way through a few chapters. I was so uncomfortable about one scene in particular, that I refused to let Danielle write it in first person. For first draft, she was writing everyone’s scenes in first person so she could get as intimate as possible with us. And … well, that one time I just wouldn’t let her.

It was only shortly afterwards that I realized why.

In a nutshell, I’ve struggled with letting people close to me. It’s one thing to be social; another to ingrain another human being into your life. As in, to let them so close that you give them the power to hurt you if they let you down. There’ve been a few times …

Come to think of it, that might be the real reason why I didn’t want Danielle writing this story. I’ve had to let her get pretty darn close to me – and by extension, everyone who reads the book. Still not sure how I feel about that.

But maybe she and Bailey were right. Getting things off my chest and onto paper has been more cathartic than I anticipated.

Danielle and Bailey found a lot of parallels in their lives while working together. To our surprise, so did Danielle and I. We’ve both been faced with the same question: If our past hardships were the only way to gain the good that we managed to glean, would we live it all over again?

I think we’d both like to believe that there has to be an easier way. But she said something the other day which gave me fodder for thought. “This is my story, and no one else’s. I’m going to embrace it. And I’m going to tell it.”

I guess I am, too. No thanks to two young ladies I know.

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A Note from Danielle 

Seriously, Tommy’s the worst character I’ve ever worked with. (What was up with the day he distracted me so badly, I got on the wrong bus? What the hell?!) I keep telling him he’s lucky I like him. One day, I’ll go into more detail about all the “fun” we’ve had trying to flog the story out of him. But for now, I’m just really proud of him for actually guest posting on my blog. (Go, Tommy!)


Mailboat CoverBailey Johnson landed the coolest summer job ever: mail jumper on the historic Lake Geneva Mailboat. Falling into the lake is pretty much a hazard of the job. Finding a dead body underwater is pretty much not. Turns out the first victim was only the ripple before the storm.

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Guest Post by Main Character Bailey Johnson

So, okay, I’ve never written a blog post before – or anything besides homework, come to think of it – but here goes.

My name’s Bailey Johnson, and I’m kind of the main character in an upcoming novel, Mailboat. Which is weird, ‘cuz I’ve never been a main anything before.

But a little about me … I guess the big thing is, I’m a mail jumper. Where I live in Lake Geneva, you can get your mail delivered by boat, if your house is on the lake. We have this big tour boat, and we board about 150 passengers every morning, and we take them with while we deliver the mail.

Mail Jumper on the Lake Geneva Mail Boat
Neill Frame and Fiona McCarter delivering mail on board the U.S. Mailboat, Lake Geneva, WI. Photo by Danielle Hanna.

My job is to get the mail from the boat to the mailbox on the pier. And with such a big boat and so many deliveries to make every day, we can’t exactly pull up at every pier. So … I jump. While the boat cruises past. And then I have to jump back on before it’s gone. The tourists love it.

I don’t exactly hate it, either. Kinda the coolest thing that ever happened in my life. FYI, I have no idea how I qualified for the job, considering that this is me we’re talking about. Walking down the sidewalk is usually a hazard.

I’m also in high school, and saving up for college. Not a clue what I wanna study. I just really, really want to go to college, ‘cuz … I don’t know.

‘Cuz I guess I wanna believe I’m not gonna be a total failure. I mean, that’s what you hear a lot of people say. You know. About us foster kids.

Like, here I am, sixteen, still “available.” Thing is, nobody wants to adopt a sixteen-year-old. Babies are cuter, and teenage foster kids are “at risk.” If you’re a teenager in foster care, apparently you’re just expected to be doing drugs and flitting in and out of juvenile detention.

So, I have, like, two goals in life: get adopted and go to college.

I’ve kinda given up on the first one. But still saving up for the second.

I decided a while ago that I’d like to write a book about my life – which is bonkers, ‘cuz, like, what teenager writes a memoir?

Anyway, point is, the idea wouldn’t go away. Where I live in Story World, some of us characters get the notion that we’d like to have a novel written about ourselves – and somehow, that idea got stuck in my head.

So the first point of business was to find an author who could do the job. I started hanging out at some online groups for story characters, looking for advice, and this guy named Ian Hunter said he thought that his author, Danielle Hanna, would be perfect for my story. He’s been working with her since she was, like, even younger than me. He said the two of us had a lot in common, which would make her perfect for the job.

So, I got over my nerves and sent Danielle my story idea. I’d never done something like that before, and it’s really bizarre. You actually get inside the author’s head and just … show them your story. Yeah. Kinda creepy. I guess I must have really wanted this – to have my story written.

To my relief, she was thrilled. We started work right away. It was awesome. I just kept showing her scenes from my life, and she started a journal to write it all down.

But I guess Ian wasn’t kidding when he said we had a lot in common.

Like, everything.

Okay, Danielle was never in foster care. But it turns out her dad died when she was two, and then a guy she looked up to as a father figured died when she was eighteen. So she knows what it’s like to think you can depend on someone you love … only to have them, like, vanish on you. And that’s pretty much what foster care was like for me. Not to mention, I have zero clue who or where my own dad is.

She told me she was really sorry, but she couldn’t write the story with me. She said she was still working out a lot of her own issues, which would compromise her ability to approach my story objectively. She recommended I find a different author.

I was totally bummed. Especially when I heard Danielle was mad at Ian for recommending her to me.

After that, I was too scared to try to find a different author from scratch, so I figured that was the end.

And then – to my surprise – Danielle came back. She said she’d thought everything over carefully, and came to the conclusion that writing my book might actually be a way for her to work through her own issues. She would be my author – but we’d progress with the work slowly.

That was about five years ago, in your world. (Time doesn’t mesh well between your world and mine. I was in high school then, and I’m still in high school now. I’m not that dumb.)

And now … (fanfare) … I’m really happy to say that my novel, Mailboatis actually gonna be a thing. After all those years of letting the story “percolate,” as she calls it, Danielle is working on the first draft now, and plans to publish it this summer. I’m so excited!

The manuscript currently looks like a big awful mess, but Danielle told me not to worry. She said they always do. Ian kinda smiles knowingly and says I’ll be perfectly happy with the end results. I hope so! Still kinda nervous, I guess. Anyway, I’m really glad he told me to talk to her. She and I really do have a ton in common – like, more than either of us ever imagined – so we really are perfect for each other.

She even made a research trip last summer all the way to Lake Geneva, WI – the parallel location in your guys’ world – to do research for the novel. She even tried mail jumping!

Anyway, thanks for reading, I guess. Danielle said I should write a post every so often. IDK. We’ll see.

– Bailey Johnson

(Okay, and now I feel really lame, ‘cuz auto correct thinks my first name is supposed to be “Basket.”)


Note from Danielle: 

The novel Mailboat and its setting were inspired by the real-life Mailboat in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Check them out!

2015-02-08 More in common2015-02-08 How I Became the Main Character