Blog tour: The Handfasting by David Burnett, interview, spotlight and giveaway

The Handfasting ByDavid Burnett Blurb Ten years had passed since they had joined hands in the ruins of the old abbey church. Kneeling before...

The Handfasting
ByDavid Burnett

Ten years had passed since they had joined hands in the ruins of the old abbey church. Kneeling before the high altar, they were handfasted in the Celtic custom, engaged to be married.
A rose bush had bloomed beside the ruined altar. Steven had reached out to caress one of the flowers. “I’ll find you,” he had said. “In ten years, when we have finished school, when we are able to marry, I’ll find you. Until then, whenever you see a yellow rose, remember me. Remember I love you.”
In those ten years, Katherine had finished college, completed med school, and become a doctor. For a decade, she had been waiting, hoping, praying, and, today ─ her birthday─ she finds a vase of yellow roses when she reaches home.
Steven, though, is not Katherine’s only suitor. Bill Wilson has known her since they were in high school, and he has long planned to wed her. While Steven and Katherine are falling in love again, he finally decides to stake his claim. His methods leave a lot to be desired, the conflict turns violent, and Katherine must choose the future that she wants.


What does David Burnett want us to know about him?

Can you tell us about The Handfasting?

Katherine and Steven meet in the summer of 1967. Katherine has just graduated from high school, and they are both spending the summer traveling around the UK. They fall in love and are handfasted – a Celtic engagement ceremony – in the old Bellerose Abbey church.
Steven is going on to Italy to study art; perhaps he will go to grad school. Katherine has college ahead, then med school. They know that they cannot be together, now, but Steven promises to find her – in ten years when both have completed school. As they kneel in the abbey Steven reaches toward a rose bush that is growing in the ruins and caresses one of the yellow flowers. “Whenever you see a yellow rose,” he tells her, “remember that I love you.”
In the next ten years, Katherine finishes college, completes med school, and becomes a doctor. For a decade, she has waited, hoped, and prayed that Steven would keep his promise. On her birthday she finds a vase of yellow roses when she reaches home. They meet for dinner, fall in love again, and give themselves six months – until Valentine’s Day as it turns out – to be certain that they still want to marry.
Stephen, though, is not Katherine's only suitor. Bill Wilson has known her since they were in high school. He has long planned to wed her, and when Steven appears Bill realizes that he must finally stake his claim. His methods leave a lot to be desired, the conflict turns violent, and Katherine must choose which future that she wants.

Happy Ever After or Happy For Now? Why?
It’s hard to say. In The Handfasting, “happy ever after” is in doubt from the beginning. Katherine and Steven pledge their love to each other even though they know they will be apart for a long time. Steven promises to find her, but can he? Will he?  If he is able to find her, will their love survive the separation? Or subsequent events? Will they still be in love o Valentine’s Day? Bad things do happen. People change. Circumstances change. Even if a book has a happy ending, it may only be “happy for now.” Perhaps this is why we need sequels.

How much of yourself is hidden in the characters in your books?
I appear in my books in a variety of ways.
Occasionally, events in my books are based on my experiences. In The Handfasting, for example, when Katherine and Steven walk through town, going to the abbey to be handfasted, their route mirrored the one I took one evening through the town of Melrose, Scotland. Like them, I was going to the abbey. While they counted on finding the abbey shrouded in darkness so that they would not be seen, I was hoping to find it illuminated, so that I could take photographs. Katherine and Steven would have been pleased the night that I visited!
Sometimes, characters in my books are modeled on people I know. My wife insisted, for a while that a character in my first book, The Reunion, was modeled on her. She was half-right. In The Handfasting, Mrs., Howard, the matriarch of Hamilton, Virginia, an older woman who takes pleasure in destroying young women’s reputations, was based in part on one of my mother’s friends. We have all known people like Bill Wilson: self-absorbed, self- righteous, only out for number one.
Typically, the principle male character, in my books has qualities that I have or that I would like to have. In The Handfasting, for example, Steven reacts to events in much the way I believe I would react in similar situations.

Describe yourself in five words…
Writer, photographer, traveler, teacher, baker

(In your humble opinion) best and worst book to movie adaptations…
Best: The first four Harry Potter movies.-They followed the books almost perfectly and made the text come alive.
Worst: Hunger Games – If I had not read the book, I would have had no idea what was happening in the movie.

Do you have specific techniques you use to develop the plot and stay on track?
I use a general outline based on one suggested by Allan Watt in his book, The Ninety Day Novel.
I begin with an inciting incident that motivates the remainder of the story. In The Handfasting, that incident takes place in the ruins of the abbey, when Katherine and Steven are handfasted, engaged to be married. As they pledge their love to each other, they realize that they will be apart for the next decade, and Steven promises to find Katherine when they both have finished school. A very different story would have developed if, for example, instead of returning to their hotel, they had next gone in search of a priest.
Following the inciting incident, the story consists of alternating moves by the hero and a protagonist. The hero makes a decision; experiences some success or happiness, the protagonist responds, and conflict ensues. Ultimately, the hero makes a decision from which he cannot retreat. A showdown occurs, and a resolution of some type is achieved.

If you were a character in your book you would be…
Steven, of course. As one reviewer noted: “Dr. Steven Richardson….hmmm I am not sure how to put this but in my head he is hot hot hot and I want him to have a British accent so very bad even though I am sure he doesn’t since he was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia. When he originally reaches out to Katherine with the yellow roses, and then gives her the necklace as a birthday present, I fell for him myself.”
Steven is the type of person I would like to imagine that I am. He is smart. He has a PhD from Oxford and has written several books. He has a glamorous job, curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  He is a good person. He loves Katherine in spite of everything that happens to her and in spite of the way that she treats him. He has good sense. You know that he would like to beat Bill Wilson to a pulp, but he chooses more acceptable ways to deal with him.

Time for favourite: song, color, book, TV series, movie, food, drink…
Color: Blue - I wear blue shirts and suits, drive a blue car, and carry a blue duffle bag. Our cat has blue eyes, and her name is Bonnie Blue.
TV series: Castle, NCIS, Criminal Minds, Black List (See a pattern?) Downton Abbey
Food: Shrimp – boiled, fried, grilled, sautéed, broiled, gumbo, baked…
Drink: Starbucks Misto (honestly)
Song: You Were Mine by the Dixie Chicks
Book: There are so many good books. Among my recent favorites are He Belongs to Me by Theresa Rizzo, When You Went Away by Michael Baron, and Rose Garden by Susannah Kearsley

How (or when) do you decide that you are finished writing a story?
The story ends when the conflict has a satisfactory resolution. Note that satisfactory endings are not always happy endings. Last fall, in a post on Story Addict, I differentiated between the two ( A happy ending occurs when the central character obtains what he wants. A satisfactory ending occurs when he obtains what he needs. In the post,
In the post, I cite the motion picture, The Titanic. In the story, Rose wants to run away with Jack. What she really needs is freedom – freedom from her family, her fiancé, from the constraints that society had placed on her, and it seems as if Jack offers her a way to obtain that freedom. Jack dies as the ship sinks, but Rose is free. The ending is not happy, but it is satisfactory.

What are you working on right now?
To Love Again is the tentative title of my next novel. Drew and Amy have both lost spouses. Both are in their mid-fifties, and find themselves alone for the first time in three decades. Drew’s wife, Di, died of cancer. Amy’s husband, Jack, died in an airplane crash the day Amy filed for a divorce.
They meet as they return from vacations and, over time, they fall in love. However, they come from very different backgrounds. Neither all of their friends nor all of their children support the developing relationship. Drew is still deeply in love with Di, and Amy is consumed with bitterness toward Jack. As the relationship progresses, actions of their friends and acquaintances, their families, and their former spouses converge, some pushing them apart, others bringing them together. Drew and Amy are forced to decide whether they really want to love again, or whether, as Drew says at one point, “I had my chance for love and I made the best of it. I will have to be happy with my memories.”

The good guy, the bad boy and the right guy…could they be one and the same?
Too often, we perceive people as one-dimensional: the good guy cannot be the bad boy. Almost everyone, however, has the capacity both good and evil. We seldom find a saint and we seldom find a devil. So, yes, the bad boy may be the good guy, and he may be the right guy, too.

The old adage “Write about what you know”
Well, you can’t write what you don’t know!
I can, of course, write about people, places, and events that I have never known or experienced. Research can provide the factual information you need. Research, though, cannot give me an understanding of the feelings, the motivations, and the goals of my characters. These must be experienced – they must be known - if they are to be written convincingly. I must have known love to write a love story. I must have experienced joy, hatred, or fear if I am to write characters who experience joy, hatred, or fear.
It is the character’s emotions that must have been experienced, not the character’s life. It is not necessary, for one’s spouse to have died in order to write about the death of a character’s spouse. What is necessary is to have experienced a significant loss. The writer may have lost a spouse to divorce. The writer may have lost a parent, a child, a home, a dream. Unless the writer knows loss, he has no idea where to begin to portray his character’s feeling.


David Burnett lives in Columbia South Carolina, with his wife and their blue-eyed cat, Bonnie. The Reunion, his first novel, is set in nearby Charleston.
David enjoys traveling, photography, baking bread, and the Carolina beaches.
He has photographed subjects as varied as prehistoric ruins on the islands of Scotland, star trails, sea gulls, and a Native American powwow. David and his wife have traveled widely in the United States and the United Kingdom. During one trip to Scotland, they visited Crathes Castle, the ancestral home of the Burnett family near Aberdeen. In The Reunion, Michael's journey through England and Scotland allows him to sketch many places they have visited.
David has graduate degrees in psychology and education and previously was Director of Research for the South Carolina Department of Education. He and his wife have two daughters.

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