Everybody who knows me (often even in real life, much to the chagrin of the hapless woman behind me at the grocery store) has heard about Maximillian Beauregard Lancaster the Third, aka, Max, the talking donkey. He’s one of the main characters in my Witches of Keyhole Lake series.
Even though he was only supposed to be a side character, Max has managed to butt his furry nose into many scenes, often stealing them altogether in his attempt to cajole an extra shot of Glenlivet, add some levity, or impart some introspective wisdom. Max is a little different than my other characters, even to me.
Max makes me laugh whenever he shows up in my mental living room or barn. Not just smile – that grizzled, cantankerous ass (literally) with a smart mouth and a heart of gold makes me laugh out loud whenever something clever, sarcastic, or just flat-out funny he’s going to say pops into my head. He’s also one of the few characters who's made me cry more than once.
When I write, I’m right there with my characters. I know I’ve nailed a scene when I have to reach for the tissues because my sleeve is already wet from wiping my eyes. Max has been the instigator of many of those scenes, whether they’re joyous, poignant, or sad.
But why? Why has a side character taken on such an integral role in my Keyhole Lake world? How is it that the series wouldn't be the same if I took him out? Readers write to me about him. I imagine scenes that focus just on him. He’s as dimensional as any of my characters, and I think it’s because he’s not just a pet. He’s a critical part of the family dynamic, and eventually, I’m going to have to write his back story.
Without giving too much up, Max started life in the sixteenth century as a lesser noble. As most of the upper crust were back then, he was entitled, self-centered, and didn’t believe his actions had consequences until one finally did. You see, he was seeing a beautiful redheaded witch who loved him. He led her on, but she wasn’t quite like the other women in his world. When she caught him with another paramour, she turned him into something she felt better reflected his true self—an ass.
Throughout the series, I’ve hinted that Max may be able to redeem himself if he changes and begins to put others above himself. For now, he’s had a spark of that here and there, but he’s still very Max-centric. Those small glimpses of his heart keep me pulling for him, and I think that’s part of his appeal to readers, too. Everybody loves a good redemption story.
Before you think too ill of him, let me give you his backstory. I haven’t even shared this in my books, but Max hasn’t had an easy go of it. He’s been living in this form for five hundred years now, and most of those years weren’t pleasant. He didn’t land among witches, so he couldn’t talk. No, Serena just turned him and left him, not that she was entirely in the wrong to do so.
That left Max adrift in sixteenth-century Ireland in the form of one of the lowliest pack animals. He couldn’t speak because he would have surely been burned at the stake as a witch, and he couldn’t exactly explain his situation to his friends. That left him in the company of other farm animals. What a lonely existence that must have been.
Now, fast forward five hundred years to when the Flynn witches find him and give him a home where he can be himself, whoever that might be. They’re brassy, sassy, and kind, so Max finally has a place to flourish. Maybe having all of this backstory in my head is what makes him such a dimensional character for me, so perhaps readers imagine all that rich background, too.
Regardless of why, Max is about to get his own story. Look for it in a 2022 Halloween anthology. After four years, it’s time to lift the curtain and let everybody know exactly how he and the Flynns met, so maybe, finally, we’ll all understand why a smart-aleck talking donkey has managed to steal the show!
This is going to be a great story, so if you’d like to be notified when it and my other books release, I welcome you to join my readers group, follow me on Amazon, and/or hang out in the Cracked Cauldron, my Facebook Readers Group and ePub, and if you haven't read any of my Witches of Keyhole Lake books, I invite you to check them out!