Updated: Apr 19, 2019
It’s never been a secret that a major part of Without a King is the friendship between Finn and Tannix, and in my original outline, that was all it was going to be. My first rough outline ended with Finn chasing after Kassia, and some sort of vague idea that he would be torn between turning her in or protecting her. Yes, Kassia was originally both villain and love interest. But all that changed before I’d finished writing Part One, because I’d met Tannix.
In my experience with writing, the best characters tend to teach you things about themselves. They get away from you, and Finn did exactly that. As I wrote, my clever little thief showed me that he was also a bit cockier than I’d thought, and quite a bit smarter than I had planned. But he didn’t just teach me things about himself. Finn showed me his entire world. Writing in first person meant that everything I wrote was filtered through his point of view, and so I saw Zianna the way he would. And that’s what happened with Tannix.
Of course, I knew who Tannix was. A young lord, training at the mysterious Order. Someone entirely different from who Finn was. But even though I knew who Tannix was, I met him through Finn. As the two of them interacted, their friendship became more than just a single note on a piece of paper, and I started to wonder why it worked so well. I had two characters who mostly stuck to themselves, so why did their friendship come so easily?
At first glance it seems pretty clear why Finn would like Tannix. The Order offered food and things worth stealing. When he realized that Tannix was more or less untouchable due to his status, it makes sense that Finn would hang around him for protection. But why would Tannix put up with Finn? That became clear after some thought. Tannix grew up rich and powerful and doted on, which he hated. He wanted to be respected for his actions, not his status. He spent his entire childhood with no real friends because everyone saw him as the son of Lord West Draulin. But Finn had little to no respect for inherited authority. He immediately treated Tannix like a peer. So Tannix felt like he found someone he could actually befriend. And Finn realized Tannix wasn’t just some rich Teltish lord.
So by the time I started writing Part Two, I knew what was going on with them. For maybe the first time since I’d started writing, I was ahead of Finn. I knew more than he did. Because Finn, who spent most of his time and energy just making sure he (and his family) survived, didn’t think much of his friendship with Tannix. He didn’t think much of romance at all.
Tannix was a little different. If I had written the book from his point of view, we would have seen him contemplate the easy friendship with Finn. In the four years between Part One and Two, we might have seen him wonder what his feelings for Finn meant, how that would affect his betrothal to Lady Mayah, if he liked Lady Mayah, if he even liked women. Tannix had time to think, so he did, and by the time Finn reappeared with that letter, Tannix sort of understood how he felt. But we didn’t see any of that, we saw Finn. While he may be good at reading other people, he isn’t necessarily good at reading himself.
When they reunited, once again I found myself getting to know Tannix through Finn. They’d both changed, of course. Finn had joined the other thieves and had taken on a bit of a leadership role with them, he was still cocky, bold, a little reckless. He was more confident in himself and his skills. The eighteen year old Tannix that Finn and I met was also more confident in himself, his skills, and his status. He was willing to use his name to get his way. He was also generous, protective, and interested in the problems of other people. He wanted to use his power to help. Finn admired him, and so did I. Even though Finn didn’t see it, it was fun to write little hints here and there about where their relationship was going.
The ending of the book was actually pretty close to what I had in my original outline. Kassia was always going to lock Finn up and leave him behind. She was always going to kiss him in order to distract him. The second kiss was something I planned almost the moment I realized Finn and Tannix were falling in love. It seemed like the perfect time for the romantic side of their relationship to become something tangible. Tannix was scared and desperate, part of him knew it could be his only chance, and he took a risk. For Finn, it was unexpected, but it made everything click into place. Ending the book right there meant I didn’t get a chance to really explore his reaction, and his thoughts were immediately taken over by his imminent arrest, anyway. I do love a good cliff-hanger (when I’m the one writing it, at least).
I finished the first draft of Without a King on September 13th, 2012. In the years since then I’ve worked on the next four books, and I’ve gotten to know Finn and Tannix even more. I think this was a huge benefit in terms of making sure the first book makes sense. I had plenty of time to go back and add details to the world building, and fix up bits of the characters’ behaviour. I have learned (not decided, I learned) that Finn is gay, whereas Tannix is demisexual. These aren’t words they know, in their medieval-esque world, but they’re words I can use.
The relationship between them (upcoming spoiler, I guess) remains an important part of the following books. But it is never the focus of the book, which I think makes their story a bit unique. Their story is an adventure, mixed in with family, loyalty, knights, thieves, and some romance. I tried to treat the fact that the two male leads fall in love the same way any relationship would be treated in an adventure novel. That’s part of why I didn’t advertise their relationship, even though I know it would have grabbed some people’s attention. I felt like it shouldn’t be considered something special, just something normal.
I didn’t set out to write a story about two boys falling in love, but as I said before, Finn was telling me his story. This is who he and Tannix are meant to be, and I must say, I’m glad I got to know them properly. The story of Finn and Tannix is much better than whatever I had loosely planned with Kassia. I can only hope that my readers love them as much as I do.
I know I’m biased, but I find Finn hard not to love. Evidentially, so does Tannix.