For the first time, we have an interview with a character who has not had his “own” book. Yet. Please welcome President Delano Shafer from the White House Men series. If you haven’t read the series yet, please be aware that this interview may contain spoilers!
President Shafer, thank you so much for making the time in your busy schedule for an interview.
My pleasure, Nora. I was delighted with the books you wrote with the stories of my staff members. I think you did a phenomenal job catching their characters and their stories. I got very emotional reading through them.
It’s been quite the rollercoaster.
Yes. I’ll admit that when President Markinson asked me to become his vice president, I never expected this.
Did you expect to become president?
I certainly hoped so. Conventional wisdom says that you have a good shot at becoming president if you’ve been vice president, though history would disagree. Over the last decades, vice presidents have not been successful in their presidential bid that often. That being said, I never expected to become president in the way that I did. President Markinson had his faults and weaknesses, and he was far from perfect, but he dedicated his life to public service, and he didn’t deserve to die like that. No one does.
Was there even a moment of doubt to accept the presidency at that time?
No. Otherwise I shouldn’t have become vice president. That responsibility was mine, and when the time came, I took it.
How big is the difference between being vice president and president?
Big. I think it also depends on how much power the president delegates to his vice president. President Markinson didn’t entrust me with as much as I could have handled, so for me the transition into the presidency came with a steep learning curve. I couldn’t have done it without my fantastic staff, especially Calix. And let’s not forget Levar, who skipped several rungs on the ladder himself and was thrown into the deep end as White House Press Secretary. I have nothing but admiration for the way he handled that.
What was it like for you to see your best friends, Calix and Milan, find love?
I can’t put into words how happy I am for them. Calix thought he’d had his big love with Matthew, and to be honest, I thought so too. I loved Matthew, and he and Calix were perfect together. When he died… I didn’t think Calix would ever be able to get past that. But Rhett changed that, and when I see the two of them together, I get emotional at times. Seeing Calix smile again, seeing that old spark return to his eyes, I’m beyond grateful fate had granted him a second chance at love.
And Milan… [laughs] Of course he ended up with two guys. I mean, how could he not? But I think out of all of us, he’s changing the most. Denali and Asher bring a softness out in him that’s wonderful to see. It’s always been there, but he’d perfected the art of keeping up a certain image. I’m so glad to see him open up more, to make an effort to reach out to people. He sucks at it, but he’s trying, and it means a lot to all of us. I just wish… I wish Sarah could’ve seen it. She loved her brother so much, but she also worried about him. She would’ve been elated to see him happy and settled.
I’m so sorry for your loss, Mr. President. The First Lady was not only good at what she did, but a great mom and wife as well. I know you and Kenn must miss her terribly.
We do. We really do. [stares into the distance for a moment] You know, when Matthew died, I saw Calix’s grief up close and personal. Hell, I grieved for Matthew myself. But it never prepared me for going through it myself, which is a thousand times harder than I had ever imagined. And Kenn… God, I am so grateful for Warrick. Without him, Kenn would’ve been lost. I might’ve ended up resigning to be there for him.
Would you have done that?
In a heartbeat. I take only one thing more seriously than being president, and that’s my son. If Kenn had needed me, I would’ve walked away from it all to focus on him. He’s… He’s so special. Warm, kind, sweet, smart. He’s his mom, and every time I look at him, I see sarah and I’m reminded that she’s still with us through him. I don’t want him to feel that he has to live a certain way just because he’s a lot like her, but I do want him to know how beautiful she was and how amazing he is.
Your own parents are very different.
[Sighs] Yes. My father is an old school politician, shaped and molded by his father, who was also in politics. It’s the family business, and from a young age, it was made clear that it would be my destiny as well. I would never, ever put that kind of pressure on Kenn. Hell, I don’t even want him to go into politics. His heart is way too tender.
You did go into politics.
I did, but for my own reasons. When I decided to come out as bisexual, my father was furious. He though I was throwing away my future for no good reason. He didn’t understand why this mattered so much to me, but I needed to be open about who I was. The fact that I’m married to a woman doesn’t make me any less bisexual. The bi-erasure is real, and I wanted to take a stand. And I never regretted it.
How did your wife feel about it?
Sarah fully supported me coming out. She’s known I was bisexual from the start. I never hid it from her. But she was never threatened by it. She understood it was who I was, but that it didn’t diminish my love for her.
Did she know about your…close relationship with her brother, once upon a time?
[Groans} Yes. One of the most awkward conversations I ever had in my life, let me assure you. But I knew it would come out at some point, if only because Milan has zero filter, and I wanted her to hear it from me. She was…a little shocked, but then she understood. And to her credit, she also understood that it was in the past. I’m loyal to a fault, and once I’d met her, she had my heart and my fidelity. I would never cheat on her, and she knew that. So Milan and I stayed close friends, and it’s never been an issue. I do want to make clear we never slept together, though. It shouldn’t matter, maybe, but it’s still an important distinction for me to make. Oral sex, that was it.
What does the future hold for you?
I think the presidency will keep me plenty busy. I’ll have to start campaigning for my re-election soon, and I won’t even have time for anything else.
No new relationship?
God, no. I still consider myself married, and the idea of someone else is just… No. I’m not gonna say never because I’ve seen what happened with Calix, but the chances of me finding someone else are…very low. I wouldn’t even have time to date, let alone for a relationship. Besides, can you imagine the president of the United States dating? [laughs] The press would have a field day with that…
I certainly don’t expect you to say anything one way or another, but that last question and answer are reinforcing my suspicion that President Shafer is going to get his own book in the series.
Catherine Smith says
Love your writing! You give us complete characters and informed, believable plots. Just finished Care and can’t wait to find out how the investigation wraps up.
However, unless you are going to add an extensive timewarp into the future, there is no way that I would believe that a man like Del will become involved with anyone after losing his partner of several decades. You can argue that Sarah knew she was sick and had told him to find a new partner after she passed but, like with Calix, that’s a situation that would take years to be ready for.
All the previous pairings have been far more than coincidental but, it’s fictional. I can buy it for the sake of the story. I will never be able to suspend my disbelief enough to accept Del pairing up anytime soon.
If the quirky new ‘body man’ has to become involved with someone, let him be a third (or fourth) to one of the current partnerships. He can even be shared by all of them. Just don’t destroy Del’s integrity by hooking him up anytime soon.