January 21, 2019

meet the hero of 'counting on you'

Blogger's Note: Let me take you behind-the-scenes of my latest release, Counting on You. In addition to introducing you to the hero, Ian Henning, I thought I'd give you a little insight into my plotting process by sharing the unedited character sketch of him I developed before I wrote the book. Some details changed while writing and others didn't come into play. 

Name: Ian Henning

Age: 30

Hometown: Originally from Omaha, has lived in Lincoln since college and stayed.

Who would play him? Brendan Penny

Physical Description: Brown hair that would go wavy if he let it get long enough—he usually keeps it cropped tight. (He doesn’t miss many appointments. It’s one of his guilty pleasures—going to one of those dudes-only places where you get a cranial massage with the shampoo and a close shave while ESPN plays on a big screen.) He has serious, clear blue eyes that crinkle around the edges when he’s thinking hard or amused. Strong jaw, which usually has whiskers by the end of the day. He has a little bump on his nose from getting it broken in a pick-up game of basketball in middle school. Though he plays in a Frisbee golf league and continues to play basketball or tennis with his friends, he wishes he made more time to work out, because he is a little self-conscious about how much attention he and the other founders are getting. He feels a bit scrawny, though he’s toned. He’s somewhere between 5-11 and 6-feet tall.

Style: Totally a T-shirts and jeans kind of guy. One of the perks of being a top-ranking guy at a booming young software company means getting to dress however he wants. He has a large collection of shirts with the company logo on it, but also favors plain shirts like Haleigh. He has one suit, which he wears for quarterly board meetings and the occasional fancy dress event that is becoming more and more frequent as the company grows. Has an impressive collection of tennis shoes and flip-flops.

Personality: Task- and goal-oriented, but more of a Type A-minus. He makes goals and sets out to finish them. But he also has dirty dishes in his sink, forgets to put boxers in his hamper, and can’t remember how long the jar of mustard has been in his fridge. Though an introvert, he makes a point to be social. He’s still friends with quite a few of his classmates back in Omaha and tends to make friendships easily. He’s not a natural leader, but has grown into the roll. Though he worries about his work a lot, he is cool under pressure and definitely embodies the role of problem-solver.

Habits/Mannerisms: He has the awful, disgusting habit of popping his knuckles—something his mother hated—when he is thinking. He also leans back in his chairs (which worries Haleigh, who as a teacher is a firm preacher of “four on the floor”).

Occupation: He is the lead programmer at a booming start-up software company. Though not one of the founders, he was the first intern as a college student and first official hire after he graduated college. He is now a vice-president in the company and oversees all of the programming and design. He takes his work seriously and will work overtime without noticing. (He once spent the better part of a month sleeping on a couch in their breakroom, because he wanted to be there to fix any glitches that came up during a new product line launch.) His hard work has recently garnered more attention outside of the company. He was listed in an article of “Thirty Thirty-Somethings to Watch” in the local newspaper and his programming team was listed as one of the top game-changers in a Wired-like magazine. He’s unaccustomed to the attention, being a self-described tech nerd, and isn’t totally sure what he thinks about it.

Hobbies/Interests: He plays some casual group sports, usually with some of the other programmers and employees at his company. He frequents Amarillo Sour a few nights a week and is considered a regular. He also usually goes there with a couple of his co- workers, but has made a couple of friends of sorts with other regulars. A proud nerd, he will watch any new comic book-based movie or TV show. He’s a hug Star Wars fan and one of his proudest moments was bumping into George Lucas at a coffee shop in California where he proceeded to completely fanboy in an uncool way. He collects Pop! Figures (those big-headed dolls) for Star Wars and comic book shows. As he and Haleigh spend more time together, he follows her into a Dr. Who and Torchwood binge- watch obsession. He enjoys travel and wants to see more of the world, but hasn’t done much yet. He’s hopeful his growth in the company will allow him to do so.

Education: He studied computer programming at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln as a member of the Raikes School of Engineering. Prior to his work with the software company, he spent summers interning at a couple of start-ups, one in the San Francisco-area and one in Austin. He recently completed his MBA to help give him more skills in the business-side of his work, even though his heart is in programming.

Family: He is the oldest of three boys. His middle brother is a reporter in Texas, and his youngest is a student at the university. He also has a couple of step-siblings who came around after he’d already moved out of the family house. His parents are divorced and remarried. All fairly cordial. He isn’t particularly close to any of them, but he isn’t estranged either. He and his brothers have a group text, where they keep in touch. He calls his mom—who lives in Denver with her second husband—once a week. He and his dad, who lives in town, hang out once a month or so.

Other Background: He always knew he wanted to be a programmer, but he figured he’d be one, somewhat invisible person on a big team. He came on board the company, because he was friends with one of the founders, and they needed some of his experience from other internships. He has dated casually most of his adult life. He had one or two girlfriends in high school and again in college. He hasn’t used that term to describe any woman since, though. He’s not commitment-phobic, but he’s never really felt that connection to another person to want to put in the time to build a relationship. (Like Haleigh, he has expended a lot of time and energy on building his career.)

Internal Conflicts: Though he isn’t scarred by his parents’ divorce, it has left him a little jaded. He also doesn’t want to repeat them and be in a relationship that involves a lot of yelling without ever talking anything through. He also lacks a lot of confidence. He really see himself as someone who was lucky—just in the right place at the right time. He doesn’t feel like he would have found so much success for himself in his career if he hadn’t been approached with the internship at the time he was. As such, he’s always surprised when something good happens for him. He’s always waiting for the bottom to drop out (kind of like it did with his parents’ divorce—which means maybe he was a bit more scarred).

External Conflicts: His job is requiring him to be out and about in the community more—attending functions and speaking at conference. Though he likes the travel aspect and seeing new places, he’s uncomfortable with his newfound bit of celebrity. (Term used lightly.) It’s strange to him when he’s occasionally recognized, and he’s starting to feel more and more of a sense of responsibility to do what is right. He’s putting quite a bit of pressure on himself to make sure he doesn’t screw anything up for himself, but mostly for the company and the employees who depend on him.

Usual drink: Zipline-like local brew. He should drink more water, which is something Haleigh tells him whenever she has the chance.

"Counting on You," the first book in my Amarillo Sour series
is on sale January 20-27, 2019. 

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